Results tagged ‘ Austin Jackson ’
Austin Jackson’s Fielding Bible award in center field will have to do as the Tigers’ defensive honor for the season. Jackson and catcher Alex Avila were left winless when the Gold Glove awards were announced late Tuesday night.
Jackson and Avila were among three finalists listed at their respective positions by ESPN2 in a press release promoting the special on the network to announce the awards. But Avila lost out to Baltimore’s Matt Wieters, while Jackson finished behind Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury.
Major League managers and coaches vote on Gold Glove honors.
While Avila’s day-in, day-out work earned him a good amount of respect, Wieters had the statistical advantage of fewer passed balls and wild pitches on his watch while throwing out a higher percentage of would-be basestealers. Ellsbury and Jackson were very comparable on traditional statistics, though Jackson had an impressive resume in more specialized stats.
Avila still has a chance at an end-of-season award. The Silver Slugger awards, which lean on the offensive side at each position, will be announced Wednesday night at 6pm ET on MLB Network. Avila and Mike Napoli both have solid cases at catcher, while first base should be an interesting debate between Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Konerko. Jhonny Peralta and his former Cleveland teammate Asdrubal Cabrera are candidates at shortstop.
Lot of updates from president/GM Dave Dombrowski today in his talk with reporters. More in-depth stuff coming, but here’s the rundown …
- Dombrowski said there won’t be a “real strong push” to bring a lot of their free agents back. Most likely, he said, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen are done as Tigers. “I would say in their case it’s highly unlikely they’re going to be back. In both cases,” said Dombrowski, who said he let both of them know that in the last month of the season.
- Brad Penny also won’t be back. “With the young pitching we have coming, I would doubt we would re-sign him,” Dombrowski said.
- Dombrowski wasn’t completely clear on the fifth starter situation. Ideally, he said, they’ll have a veteran as “protection” in case Jacob Turner or one of their other young guys aren’t ready. At another point, though, he said that if they sign a veteran for the job, Turner would start the season at Triple-A Toledo.
- Here’s the main quote on the rotation: “The most likely scenario would be that those young guys come to camp with the four guys that are set and compete for the fifth spot, and we have protection of a veteran type pitcher that can fill that if they’re not ready. But I also would say that, hey, if there’s some great starting pitcher that we really liked and was available for us, and we thought it was the type of move that made the most sense to get us better, would we be open to it? Yes. We like them all. We like every one of those pitchers. But can I tell you 100 percent that they’re ready? No. Now, can they be ready? Yes.”
- Ramon Santiago is basically in a bad situation, at least as far as returning to Detroit goes. There’s mutual interest, but Santiago wants a more regular role, and the Tigers don’t see him that way. “I think our feeling has been that we just don’t see him as the guy going out there and playing – we may be wrong – 150 games a year,” Dombrowski said. “We just don’t happen to see him as that guy, and we may be wrong. He’s done a very fine job for us and we like him a lot, but that’s not the role we see him in. If we thought he was our everyday second baseman, we’d go out and we’d make that move.”
- This quote from Dombrowski on the market for free agents at second and third base is pretty telling: “I don’t think they’re real strong. And that’s why, too, not only free agents, you’d also have to talk about the possibility of trades, too.”
- His evaluation on how slow this market will move compared with the way they took care of business quickly last year was also telling: “I don’t think we’re going to be rushing out like we did last year. We’re in a different situation than we were last year, where we identified a couple guys right off the bat in [Victor] Martinez and [Joaquin] Benoit. We’re still prepared; I don’t mean to say that we couldn’t make a move if the right move came about. But I wouldn’t think we would make a real quick move. I think we’ll take more time to go through it and let it work itself out.”
- The Tigers are open to re-signing Joel Zumaya, but it would have to be a minor-league contract with a Spring Training invite. At this point, it sounds like the Tigers expect Zumaya to wait and see if another team offers him a Major League deal. “He’d like to come back, and we would like to have him back,” Dombrowski said.
- While Dombrowski didn’t anoint Delmon Young as the starting left fielder, he said he looks at his outfield being Young alongside Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. But he left open the possibility they could try to upgrade in left, and he acknowledged they have time before they have to decide whether to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible Young.
- Tigers will look at both free agents and trades to upgrade at second. They will look at possibilities at third as well. That said, Dombrowski left open the possibility they upgrade at one spot and platoon at the other. They could also go with grinders there. “You can never have enough good players,” Dombrowski said, “but you don’t want all star players. You want some of those gritty role-type players. Jim likes those on his club and is very successful at fitting them into his club.”
- Dombrowski confirmed that the Tigers will look for a backup hitting catcher, preferably a right-handed hitter, to back up Alex Avila. The challenge, Dombrowski acknowledged, is convincing a good catcher to sign with a team where he isn’t likely to play very often. Even with a drop in playing time, Dombrowski said Avila could catch 120-125 games next year. He is an All-Star, after all.
- The Tigers are open to possibly beefing up their bullpen with one more veteran, Dombrowski said, but he probably wouldn’t be a seventh- or eighth-inning setup guy. They like the core they have with Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Daniel Schlereth.
- No chance of Phil Coke returning to the rotation.
- Dombrowski basically threw down the challenge to Ryan Perry. ” He’s at the point where he needs to step it up for us,” Dombrowski said.
- The door is open for the Tigers to add a leadoff hitter, but that isn’t a sure thing. “We need to get better offensive production out of Austin [Jackson],” Dombrowski said. “We think he’s capable of doing that. Will he be our leadoff hitter next season? We really can’t answer that question.”
- Chances of the Tigers shifting Jhonny Peralta to third base and pursuing Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins? Not likely. Peralta is sounding very likely to stick at short. “I would think so,” Dombrowski said. “Would I say 100 percent? No. Would I say most likely? Yes.”
- Another factor seemingly working against a Reyes pursuit: The Tigers have their quota of $20 million players for the foreseeable future. “I would think so,” Dombrowski said.
- The entire coaching staff will be back for next season, Dombrowski announced, unless somebody gets hired for a managerial job elsewhere. Dombrowski said he has not received any calls so far asking permission to talk with McClendon for such a job, but he would have no problem granting permission.
For the first time that I can remember, the Gold Glove awards have a list of finalists, which not coincidentally sets up Tuesday night’s Gold Glove special on ESPN2. The side effect is that is sets up who has a realistic chance to win an award that doesn’t always follow the expected candidates.
In the Tigers’ case, they have two chances. Austin Jackson is one of three finalists for AL center field honors. Alex Avila is the same at AL catcher.
Because the outfield Gold Glove awards recognize center, left and right fielders separately, rather than three outfielders in general, Jackson has some of the toughest competition of any AL position. Jacoby Ellsbury and Peter Bourjos are two of the fastest men in the AL, and they use that speed to their advantage in center. Bourjos, in particular, showed a gift for running down drives into the gaps.
So, of course, did Jackson. And as the Fielding Bible awards suggest, he gets to way more balls than the average center fielder.
A day before the Gold Gloves are announced, ACTA sports came out with its annual honors to recognize the best Major League defender at each position in a given season. The Fielding Bible award in center field went to Jackson.
Unlike Gold Gloves, which are voted on by Major League coaches, the Fielding Bible award weigh heavily towards advanced defensive stats. Winners are decided by a 10-person panel that includes Fielding Bible co-author John Dewan, statistical analysis pioneer Bill James, MLB Network great Peter Gammons, acclaimed columnist and author Joe Posnanski, and former Major League outfielder Doug Glanville.
In the latest release of the Bill James Handbook, Dewan wrote that Jackson’s advantage was in the stats.
“He topped all center fielders with 21 Runs Saved in 2010, but Austin Jackson had to do it even better (with 22 Runs Saved) in 2011 to earn his first Fielding Bible Award,” Dewan wrote. “Jackson has made 63 more plays than an average center fielder over the last two years. That’s an incredible total. It’s on the plays over his head that AJ really excels (43 of the 63). Making 43 more catches than an average center fielder on balls hit deep is where those lofty Runs Saved totals come in, as he is saving doubles and triples when he makes these catches.”
Jackson got as many first-place votes (three) as Arizona’s Chris Young, but the difference was the five second-place votes he received, compared with just two for Young. The only vote that put Jackson outside the top three was something called the Tango Fan Poll.
Avila finished eighth in voting among Major League catchers, a category won by Matt Wieters. Not coincidentally, he’s one of Avila’s fellow finalists for the AL Gold Glove, along with A.J. Pierzynski (???). Avila threw out just under a third of would-be basestealers (40-for-125) while posting a .995 fielding percentage (five errors in 1,018 total chances). He was charged with seven passed balls, and Tigers pitchers threw 56 wild pitches with him behind the plate.
Wieters threw out 34-of-92 would-be basestealers, allowed one passed ball, and watched his pitchers deliver 25 wild pitches.
Among those left out among Gold Glove finalists was Jhonny Peralta, who statistically had a very underrated season at shortstop. But so was Texas’ Elvis Andrus. Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera and J.J. Hardy are the three finalists, though Peralta statistically had a pretty good case for a better defensive season than Cabrera.
Once the Indians took a 6-4 lead into the ninth inning, everyone expected Chris Perez to take the mound and close the game against the top of the Tigers lineup. Manager Jim Leyland’s counter-move was very much unexpected: Andy Dirks pinch-hitting for Austin Jackson, whose job as leadoff man is to get on base for the middle of the order.
Left-handed batters hit 50 points higher than right-handed ones against Perez, but at .229 to .179, it’s not necessarily a vast difference. However, that wasn’t the reason for Leyland to make the move.
“It was very simple,” Leyland said. “That guy, obviously, has been throwing very well. But at times, he can get wild, and I felt like Dirks had a better chance to walk than Jackson. We were taking strike one, obviously to try to get the tying run to the plate, and just felt that he had a better chance to walk maybe than AJ.
“You know, AJ might have gotten a line-drive base hit. Who knows? I just felt like in that situation, that guy gets a little wild, then I think he’s got a better chance to get a walk, get on base. I’m trying to get one guy on there for the big guys coming up.”
For what it’s worth, Perez’s splits show left-handed hitters drawing 10 of Perez’s 12 walks on the season, an imbalance that far outweighs the at-bat difference. For the season, though, Jackson’s walk rate is just about equal to that of Dirks since the Tigers called him up last month, albeit with far different sample sizes.
Perez was among the surprised, and he wasn’t shy talking about it.
“I was,” he said. “I’ll take it. Jackson is a better hitter than Dirks, in my opinion. But I’ll take it. I know my splits against lefties or righties aren’t the best, but it doesn’t matter. I’d much rather face a rookie in Andy Dirks than Austin Jackson, who finished second or third in the rookie of the year voting last year. And he’s seen me six times so he knows what I’ve got. Dirks had never seen me before so I think the advantage was me.”
Dirks struck out on three pitches, with a swing and miss at a slider.
How much stock do the Tigers put in moving into a virtual tie atop the AL Central in June? Depends on who you ask.
- Alex Avila: “It’s nice to get there. It definitely means something, because that’s what we’re working towards. We want to win as many games as possible and be in first place [at season’s end]. That’s the goal. But at this point, that’s not something we’re focused on. We’re trying to win the game that day.”
- Brennan Boesch: “It feels good. It’s a long way to go obviously, but the Indians were playing such good baseball early on that it just shows that this team, when we put our heads down and play hard, that we can be a force to be reckoned with and it feels good to be there right now.”
- Max Scherzer: “Yeah, it feels good, but we’ve got [about] 100 games left. That’s a lot of games. A lot of things can happen. But you’ve got to love the talent on this team. You’ve got to love what our offense is doing, love what our pitching staff’s doing. We’re in a real good position, and we’re starting to really come on strong. I definitely like our team.”
- Austin Jackson: “It definitely is [a sense of satisfaction], but we’ve still got a long way to go. We understand that. We just need to keep playing good baseball and just take care of what we can take care of.”
Jim Leyland had talked about getting Jackson out of the lineup for a day Sunday, but held off in favor of the matchup. With hard-throwing Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando on the mound, though, Jackson is off.
“I’m going to get him away for a day,” Leyland said. “He’ll work with Mac a little bit.”
As I write this, Jackson is taking batting practice with the team. After he finished his round, McClendon talked with him about his lower-body footwork in the box.
- Will Rhymes, 2B
- Brennan Boesch, LF
- Magglio Ordonez, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Don Kelly, CF
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Brandon Inge, 3B
P: Justin Verlander
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Elvis Andrus, SS
- Josh Hamilton, LF
- Adrian Beltre, 3B
- Michael Young, DH
- Nelson Cruz, RF
- Mitch Moreland, 1B
- Yorvit Torrealba, C
- Julio Borbon, CF
P: Alexi Ogando
The question came up to manager Jim Leyland after Saturday’s loss: Is Austin Jackson, who went 0-for-4, pressing?
Leyland did not have to pause to think about the answer.
“I would say so,” Leyland said.
Thus, Jackson is going to get Sunday off, his first game out of the starting lineup since the season began a week and a half ago. Don Kelly will most likely get the start in his place.
Victor Martinez is the only other Tiger to have started every game so far this season, and all but two of those have been at designated hitter.
Jackson, of course, plays a more demanding position in center field. With a mix of Magglio Ordonez, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn rotating in the corner spots most games, Jackson has had a good amount of territory to cover.
Jackson, also, of course, bats leadoff, which has demands of its own. Setting the table for a lineup that needs to score runs more consistently, it’s moreso.
Before the game, Leyland lectured that seven games is a short amount of time to make judgments.
“I think everybody has a tendency to put way too much emphasis, good or bad, [on results] early in the season, after 6-7 games,” Leyland said. “If a guy’s 0-for-6, people are panicking. If a guy’s 1-for-9, people are panicking. It’s nine at-bats. If a guy’s 5-for-9, people go, ‘Oh, man.’ We’ve played seven games. It is what it is.”
That was before Saturday’s game. After the game, Leyland was cautious about not reading too much into his decision, but also indicated these are real struggles for Jackson.
“He never gets too high or too low. But, at the major league level, he hasn’t really gone through this just yet, either. You have to watch it. I’m probably going to get him out of there tomorrow.”
Leyland was asked if he thinks it’s mechanical.
“I think people have a tendency to think that every time you’re not hitting, you’re doing something mechanically wrong. That’s not always necessarily true,” Leyland said. “Sometimes, you’re just not staying on the ball. He’s gone through a little bit of a streak where he’s swinging at balls and taking strikes. So I think he’s been caught in between just a little bit. And that’s usually a telltale sign of a little slump.
“But he’ll come out of it. He’s just not in a real good groove right now, where he’s feeling really good, getting the foot down, boom, then the timing. But he’ll get that. He’ll be fine.”
Jackson has not had a ton of ugly at-bats. When he entered Tuesday’s off-day batting .200, he led all major league hitters in pitches seen. He had a lot of deep at-bats, but not the results he wanted. He led the American League in strikeouts, and a lot of them came on 2-2 and 3-2 pitches. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon liked the at-bats part, and both he and Jackson felt he was seeing the ball well.
He has had some quicker outs the last few days. He ran the count full before taking a called third strike in the first inning Saturday, but then struck out quickly in the eighth inning with runners on first and second. He also hit into a double play on a 1-0 pitch Friday.
Jackson ended Saturday batting 6-for-34 with 13 strikeouts, having struck out at least once in every game so far this season. When he gets on base, though, he tends to get around and get home. He has reached base safely nine times and scored five runs. But four of those runs came in the season-opening weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Remember Jim Leyland’s running challenge to Justin Verlander on PFP grounders in workouts last spring training? Leyland would crow whenever he got a ground ball past Verlander, who’s competitive enough that he wants to win at that. Kept waiting to see if they renewed the challenge Monday, the first day of spring workouts, but Leyland found a new target for his fun: Jose Valverde.
“I set you up, baby! And I can do it again if I want,” Leyland bragged when he got a tricky ground ball past his closer.
“Anytime I want. Just a little on, a little off,” he said after another one.
Valverde loved it. He had a good laugh whenever Leyland said it. And then he came up with some pretty impressive grabs for a Big Potato.
Leyland loved that, too.
“He’s a fun guy,” Leyland said of Valverde after the workout. “He’s really got one of the better personalities I’ve ever been around. And I guess when you’re that big and strong, it’s probably a good thing you’ve got a good personality.
“He’s legitimately fun to be around. I like him a lot.”
Leyland also likes the PFP drills a lot, because the way they set it up, pitchers see a good number of ground balls without a lot of standing around. They separate the pitchers into groups and split them onto the four back fields of the Tigertown complex, then rotate them around. Each field emphasizes a different area.
“I think it’s a good drill,” Leyland said. “And I will do it for as long as I manage.”
Other things worth noting on the first day of official workouts:
- Leyland mentioned this as a key camp for Tigers pitching prospects Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner and Charlie Furbush, even though their chances of making the team out of camp are slim (Furbush might have a better chance as a potential lefty reliever). Barring injuries, they won’t be part of the starting five, but they stand as the Tigers’ best options for insurance starters if somebody gets hurt, either here or during the season. “We want these guys to start this process today to get themselves prepared to get as close as they can,” Leyland said. “And if something does come up, maybe somebody is ready by the camp.”
- For someone with such a key role on this team, Austin Jackson had possibly the quietest entrance of any potential star player this spring, which probably says a lot about how much he has learned in his second year. He showed up Monday morning after the clubhouse had emptied and pitchers and catchers had taken the field, then got in his work.
- Among the arrivals Monday was Max St. Pierre, who reported to camp noticeably lighter. That wasn’t by design. He said he had two bouts of stomach virus and the flu, the combination of which dropped 15 pounds off his frame. He’s fine now, but he wants to regain some of that weight before the season starts.
- Speaking of weight loss, Joel Zumaya said he’s down to 230 pounds, but wants to put on some weight before the season starts. “I want to be at the 240 range,” he said. “I’m at 230-231. But that’s just getting muscle and eating a little more. … If I can stay between 235 and 240, I think I’m good.”
- In case you were wondering, Don Kelly was not among the catchers who took their place for bullpen sessions Monday morning. He was working with the other position players. That’s fine, because Leyland said a month ago that Kelly didn’t have to report with the catchers. Kelly was here early by his own choice.
- Remember the ill-fated mohawk idea that went through the Tigers clubhouse last year? Detroit’s bullpen might have a replacement for it. Because right now, there are a lot of beards among the relievers, and not many plans to shave them anytime soon. Zumaya has pretty much a full beard and says he’s keeping it when the season starts. Schlereth has a beard fit for his native Alaska. Ryan Perry has a bit of one going. If it catches on, it’ll be a little cleaner looking than the mohawk one.
Austin Jackson will have to settle for the respect of his peers among American League rookies. The Tigers center fielder finished as the runner-up to Rangers closer Neftali Feliz in balloting for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
In the end, though, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America valued Feliz’s contribution to on a division champion over Jackson’s all-around game for the .500 Tigers. Feliz took 20 of the 28 first-place votes, with Jackson taking the rest along with 19 second-place votes and one third-place nod.
Fellow Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch, a strong contender at midseason before he fell into a second-half slump, garnered three
second third-place votes to finish tied for fifth.
Jackson still ended up with the best finish by a Tigers position player since Lou Whitaker won the award in 1978. Justin Verlander remains the last Tiger to win the award in 2006.
In a year when few American League teams had rookies last the entire season in meaningful roles — remember when another Tigers outfielder, Brennan Boesch, was a midseason sensation — the choice essentially came down to Jackson or Feliz. While Jackson’s supporters could argue he had more of an impact as an everyday player, Feliz had the advantage of tangible results for a contending team.
There’s a belief out there that once a player is among the best at his position, it usually takes him an extra year or two after that to be recognized for it with a Gold Glove award. It’s just that difficult for new candidates to get into the thought process of coaches and managers. So even if Tigers rookie Austin Jackson deserved recognition for his defense in center field this year, he wasn’t going to get it.
And he didn’t. Nor did any of the Tigers, who were shut out on Gold Gloves for the second time in three years.
With Gerald Laird’s numbers down this year, Jackson and Brandon Inge were the two Tigers with any sort of chance this year. Inge really didn’t have that much of a chance, the way Evan Longoria handled the hot corner this season. Fittingly, one of the defensive highlights MLB Network showed for Longoria tonight was the double play he started against the Tigers back in July at Tropicana Field, the play that left Inge and Jim Leyland marveling.
As for Jackson, again, he’s a rookie, and while his over-the-shoulder catches gave him some much-deserved highlight time, they didn’t give him enough votes. There were two first-time winners among AL outfielders, but it was Carl Crawford and Franklin Gutierrez, who joined mainstay Ichiro Suzuki.
Gutierrez has built his reputation over the last couple years as a great center fielder ever since joining the Mariners from Cleveland, where he was stuck in a corner spot with former Gold Glove winner Grady Sizemore entrenched in center. If Jackson can build off this past season with improvements in some areas — he had a couple late-season lapses — you wonder if he could break into the group.