By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Following Wednesday’s game, the Detroit Tigers had stolen 35 bases. Their total going into the game, 32, tied them for third in the major leagues. In 2013, the Tigers stole 35 bases over the entire 162-game regular season.
As had become customary over the last few years, the Tigers came in dead last in steals last season, the final year for former manager Jim Leyland. In 2012, the Tigers finished 29th in steals, an ever-so-slight improvement over 2011, when – just like in 2013 – Detroit ended the season as the team with fewer steals than any other.
In seven of the eight years of Leyland’s tenure in Detroit, the Tigers ranked 24th or lower in steals.
When new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus spoke before this season about how the team would look different with him at the helm, Ausmus often mentioned wanting more movement on the base paths. Clearly, he was not messing around.
If Detroit keeps swiping bases at the current clip, the Tigers could end up with more steals in 2014 than they had in 2013, 2012 and 2011 combined.
For most of Leyland’s tenure, the Tigers lagged well behind the league average in steals.
Year MLB Avg. Tigers
2013 90 35
2012 108 59
2011 109 49
2010 99 69
2009 99 72
2008 93 63
2007 97 103
2006 92 60
Leaving behind the strictly boom-or-bust offense of the Leyland days constituted something of a risk for Ausmus, considering the old strategy got the Tigers three straight American League Championship Series appearances.
So far, though, the approach is working out. With a 24-12 record, Detroit is one of the hottest teams in baseball.
Leyland, for his part, heartily approves of the changes.
“It’s a different type of club, I think more exciting to some people,” Leyland said Saturday. “My excitement is winning. That’s what we did and that’s what they’re doing now, at even maybe a little better pace. It’s exciting.
“I think the fans were ready for some people that could steal bases and go first to third,” Leyland added. “I think they enjoyed our doubles and homers, but it’s a good little different-looking type club, and very good club, and the one constant thread is that they’ve – common thread is that they have a good pitcher going out there … and as long as you have that, you’re going to be successful.”