Iglesias' defense more glitter than gold? Ausmus isn't buying it

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Jose Iglesias

Toronto -- At least as conventional numbers and video highlights attest, Jose Iglesias has been more than fine in his first full season with the Tigers.

He was batting .301 as the Tigers got ready for Saturday's game against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. His defensive wizardry has made him a popular replay guest on ESPN's Web Gems.

That Iglesias has been able to work regularly is triumph enough for a Tigers team that entered spring camp not entirely sure how a missed 2014 season, due to stress fractures in his shins, might affect a 25-year-old shortstop. Especially when he was considered basic to any up-the-middle defensive integrity the Tigers would sustain in 2015.

But defensive metrics are, at best, mixed on Iglesias in 2015, as was detailed in an expansive article written this week by Neil Weinberg on the New English D website.

Iglesias also has an unremarkable .722 OPS, which is primarily due to a light .373 slugging percentage.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked Saturday how he assessed Iglesias' 2015 season, particularly when sabermetricians are handing Iglesias undistinguished grades.

"Defensive metrics are a little shaky, anyway," Ausmus said as his team tried to even its series against the Jays, as well as shake a bad stretch of baseball that has seen the Tigers lose seven of their last eight games.

"He's one of the most talented shortstops in the game, definitely."

Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias

Offensively, Ausmus said, Iglesias has "hit a little better than expected," adding that a wiry man, listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, "is not a great run-producer -- he doesn't have that kind of bat."

Ausmus, though, defended Iglesias against stats that have left Iglesias in the middle on two mainstream metrics – defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating – and less than average in wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and defense against BABIP (batting average on balls in play).

"To me, they're just a little too subjective," Ausmus said of defensive statistics that can rely on individual assessments more than anything empirical. "I don't pay too much attention to it. To me, I think it's a little overdone."

Among some national critics, Iglesias has been earning a certain reputation for form over substance – for sizzle more than steak – because of his penchant for highlights and, perhaps, for too little attention paid to more rudimentary plays.

Ausmus isn't buying it.

"I think he enjoys himself, he's entertaining," the manager said, discounting thoughts that teammates might also, on occasion, be impatient with Iglesias' flamboyance. "As long as you make the plays. You don't want to take the fun out of the game.

"He's a little flashy. But as long as you make the plays."

The Tigers, of course, won't split hairs with Iglesias when a man who made this year's All-Star team is the least of a struggling club's worries.

But that won't stop deeper analysts from using numbers to wonder if he's having quite the season some have assumed he is crafting.

Even if a man named Ausmus isn't having any of it.