The D on Austin Jackson’s Tigers cap also stood for defense
Black History Month continues with a celebration of the wonderful defensive work Austin Jackson did while playing center for the Detroit Tigers.
In the five seasons Austin Jackson played for the Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera was the team’s best player at the plate. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer were the best performers on the mound. On defense, Jackson was the Tigers’ best player in the outfield.
From the start of the 2010 season to the end of July 2014, Jackson made 667 appearances in center field for the Tigers. In 1,693 chances, he had 1,648 strikeouts and 29 assists with just 16 errors.
His first two seasons in Detroit were his most dynamic. According to Fangraphs, he led American League centers in defensive runs saved with 12 in 2010. That was good for third among MLB centers. In 2011, Jackson led the majors with 26 DRS in that position.
He’s never won a Gold Glove Award, but he did win a Fielding Bible Award in 2011, when he led all major leagues in WAR defensively with 3.1 (Baseball-Reference calculations).
Playing half of his games at spacious Comerica Park, Jackson was a key contributor during a highly productive time in franchise history. He was part of three AL Central Division champions (2011-13) and played in the 2012 World Series. Jackson’s teammates recognized what his defense meant to the team. During the Tigers’ run for the 12-year division title, Verlander said,
“Without a doubt, he is a great athlete. We’ve been spoiled with Curtis (Granderson) here for years, and I was a little concerned when he (Jackson) came here, not knowing much about him. But he stepped in the right direction and did a great job. This is not an easy field to navigate. There’s so much room, but he’s been one of the best.
A quality defense in the middle is an essential part of a successful team. From behind home plate, catcher Gerald Laird had an excellent view to watch Jackson show off his skills. Laird, also speaking in 2012, said:
“Austin gets to balls that you don’t see guys hit, and he gets there easily. He had a few home runs that saved games. Sometimes I’m like, ‘God, I can’t believe how high it can get sometimes.’ »
It will always be fun to reminisce about Austin Jackson’s biggest and most memorable plays during his tenure with the Detroit Tigers.
April 5, 2010: a debut and a decisive pass
The Tigers opened the new decade in Kansas City against the Royals. Detroit’s new lead hitter and center Austin Jackson was making his major league debut. In the first six innings, he hadn’t been very busy on the field. The Royals have picked three times at center, but Jackson hasn’t been involved in any play otherwise. It was only a matter of time, however, before the 23-year-old rookie made his mark defensively.
Detroit rallied for six runs in the top of the seventh to take an 8-4 lead. Jackson contributed an RBI double, his first major league hit, and also scored for the first time that inning. After the seventh inning, the Royals got to work. Jason Kendall and Chris Getz started with back-to-back singles. With one out, Scott Podsednik dropped a single into a shallow cross.
Jackson was playing a little lower than where the ball landed. As he arrived to field it, Kendall rounded third base and headed home. Jackson’s pitch bounced once on the path to home plate, but it arrived before the runner. Tigers receiver Gerald Laird was ready and scored Kendall’s slip. The Royals’ best hitter and biggest power threat, Billy Butler was in the circle on the deck. Had Jackson not made what was hailed as the game of the match, Butler would have represented the possible draw. The score of 8-4 was maintained in the final.