January 29, 2013 at 1:00 am

Kurt Mensching

Tigers eye any baserunning improvement

New baserunning consultant Jeff Cox could help players such as Andy Dirks steal a few more bases in 2013. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)

Watching the Tigers on the basepaths can sometimes feel like watching Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the road runner.

Dust is flying, but they just don't seem to be getting anywhere fast - and when they finally do arrive, it's just in time for the catcher to drop an anvil on their head.

It's frustrating to watch, obviously. And third-base coach Gene Lamont took plenty of heat for it, some well-deserved, some not.

Lamont has been relegated to the bench in 2013, with Tom Brookens guiding runners home, but don't expect wholesale changes in approach.

As manager Jim Leyland told reporters over the weekend at TigerFest, the fans might want to see more action on the bases, but that's not the kind of team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski has built.

This team hits singles, doubles and home runs. It won't often leg out triples or go from first to third on a base hit.

And that's perfectly fine, so long as the team's hitting doubles and home runs.

It's those power outages that cause concern and send fans' blood pressure through the roof when runner after runner is stranded.

You can't always wait for the home run. Even the best power hitters only average three home runs for every 10 fly balls.

Sometimes you need to force the issue or score that key late-innings run.

That's why the Tigers have to be better on the bases in 2013.

Baserunning statistics are imprecise, but a scan of some of the more popular sabermetric versions agree: The Tigers were pretty bad last year, just as they usually are.

Baseball Prospectus' Base Running Runs put the Tigers at about 10 runs worse than an average team, which gave them a ranking of third from the bottom.

Using a different formula called Ultimate Base Running, Fangraphs.com also came up with the 10 runs, which ranked fifth from worst.

In simple terms, if a baserunner takes an extra base, he earns credit. If he gets thrown out, get docked for it.

It's more complicated than that, but visit either site to get more detailed information about its particular stat.

Quintin Berry (5.9), Don Kelly (1.4) and Omar Infante (1.2) were among the Tigers' leaders in UBR.

Jhonny Peralta (-3.5), Delmon Young (-3.0) and Miguel Cabrera (-2.8) brought up the rear.

Austin Jackson, surprisingly, was nearly a run worse than average at -.7.

Despite what the Tigers tell the fans or the press, they must know this is a problem.

So they brought in baserunning consultant Jeff Cox, who will at least help Jackson, Andy Dirks and a few others to steal bases.

They added utilty player Jeff Kobernus during the winter meetings, after he was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft and then traded to Detroit.

Kobernus stole 42 bases in Double-A in 2012 and has 95 across the past two years.

And, of course, they could potentially see some gains in taking the extra base if Brookens does a better job directing traffic than Lamont.

The Tigers cannot change who they are. Players like Cabrera and Fielder are never going to become base-stealing threats.

But if the Tigers want to do their part to keep blood pressure in check around the state of Michigan, the team simply must do a better job on the base paths in 2013.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.

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