Iglesias' impact on two races gives him ROY edge
His bat, versatility with Boston and glove with Detroit were key to division titles
DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias had his slick-fielding hands involved in two playoff bids. For half the season, he was the stopgap third baseman who helped the Red Sox defy expectations in the American League East race. For the final two months, Iglesias helped save the Tigers' season from potential disaster.
Though the stats would suggest otherwise, Iglesias was a bigger part of the latter than he was the former. But in both cases, he had a bigger role than simple hitting numbers would suggest, which could give him a better chance at garnering AL Rookie of the Year Award votes than the statistical comparisons would suggest.
There's a balance to pinning down Iglesias' value this past season and comparing it to the other two finalists. He spent more time in the big leagues in 2013 than pitcher Chris Archer and outfielder Wil Myers of the Rays, but he spent it in two completely different roles.
In Boston, Iglesias was essentially a utility infielder called up to handle third base when Will Middlebrooks went on the disabled list. Iglesias hit up a storm -- at least for batting average -- and fielded the hot corner deftly, but it wasn't his natural position, and it wasn't a spot where he was ever going to have the biggest impact.
That changed when Boston dealt Iglesias to Detroit in a three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and Avisail Garcia to the White Sox. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski acquired Iglesias to be Detroit's shortstop for the next five years, but with Jhonny Peralta on the verge of a 50-game suspension, Dombrowski also needed Iglesias to be the team's shortstop for the next two-plus months.
Dombrowski not only got a shortstop, he got a shift in the Tigers' infield defense. Whereas Peralta was a reliable shortstop who consistently made plays on the ground balls he reached, Iglesias changed the definition of "reachable grounders."
Iglesias not only made plays on 69 of the 83 balls in his defensive zone, according to Fangraphs, he also made 17 more plays outside his zone. That difference helped him to a 2.0 Ultimate Zone Rating over just 46 games at short with Detroit. Over 150 games, that would equate to an 8.1 UZR that would've ranked Iglesias among the AL's best shortstops.
Iglesias' bat did not have the same production with the Tigers as it did with the Red Sox, which played a factor in his relatively low 0.8 WAR with Detroit. Add together his Boston tenure, however, and his 1.8 WAR topped Archer (1.8) while ranking behind Myers (2.4).
What Iglesias meant to the Tigers' drive to a third consecutive AL Central title, however, went beyond the statistics. To his right, his defense helped fill part of the defensive gap left by a hobbled Miguel Cabrera. It also provided a boost for a Detroit rotation that included ground-ball pitchers Rick Porcello and Doug Fister.
Iglesias was a unique player for a unique situation, and it's difficult to envision the Tigers putting away the AL Central quite so easily without him.