Yesterday, in these pages, I suggested that possibly — if not probably — Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander could have entered the seventh inning of his Sunday start against Pittsburgh in pursuit of his third career no-hitter. The basis for that suggestion rested on the fact that both of the hits he allowed before that seventh inning were (a) of the infield variety and (b) hit in the direction of Miguel Cabrera, who is generally speaking considered to be something of a defensive liability at third base.
With that in mind, I provided video footage of the two hits — a bunt single by outfielder Alex Presley and an infield hit for catcher Michael McKenry — allowed by Verlander through the first six innings. With regard to each hit, I asked the learned, bespectacled readership to answer a single question — namely, “Do you think a league-average third baseman would convert this batted-ball into an out?”
Now here are the results:
• Of 785 respondents, only 213 (or, 27.1%) thought that the league-average third baseman would have converted Alex Presley’s bunt attempt into an out.
• Of those same 785 respondents, a more robust 638 (or, 81.3%) thought that a league-average third baseman would have converted Michael McKenry’s ground ball into an out.
From these results, we might conclude — for what it’s worth — that, of the two hits Justin Verlander allowed through the first six innings of his Sunday start, about one of them was his and one of them was Miguel Cabrera’s.
Among the commentariat in that original post, there was considerable discussion — regarding Cabrera’s performance to date (with which, anecdotally speaking, Tiger fans seem pleasantly surprised), the question of positioning (and to what degree the Tiger coaching staff might be responsible for the pair of hits in question), and whether Presley would have attempted a bunt in the first place had a league-average (or better) defender been playing third base.
Another narrative strain that arose among commenters: whether Cabrera’s third-base defense is an issue or not, there are other Tigers — Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, Delmon Young — who have been even less able afield, while also providing less in the way of offensive returns.
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