Weighing the running game
The Tigers want to be a team that can run a little more. Austin Jackson has set a goal of 40 stolen bases. Yet there’s still the matter of having guys on base for Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
“If you’re on first base and [Cabrera] is up, you’re in scoring position,” said Will Rhymes, who pointed out the percentages often suggest not running.
So how much more can the Tigers really run? Can they be more aggressive stealing bases, or is it more about taking the extra base on a hit?
It’ll be an interesting facet to see develop as spring training unfolds. If you’ve followed for a while, you know the Tigers have talked about being a better baserunning team seemingly every year since Jim Leyland arrived. But at the end of the day, they’re a certain style of team. So you have to take some of this with a grain of salt.
That said, they haven’t had a player with Austin Jackson’s combination of speed and on-base ability in a very long time, and Leyland wants to utilize that talent. Jackson has the green light, but Leyland has the ability to put on the stop sign. But Leyland liked the aggressiveness he saw Jackson develop a bit as last season went along.
“The thing with Austin Jackson you’ve got to remember is he’s going to get better,” Leyland said. “At the same time, they’re going to be more aware of Austin Jackson than they are somebody else.”
It takes time, Leyland said, for baserunners to learn pitchers and read their moves, even though scouting reports on those things have come a long way.
Ultimately, Leyland said, he’s more focused on getting guys who don’t run very often to take their opportunities.