DETROIT -- The Tigers spent most of the season trying to outplay their reputation as a subpar defensive team. Austin Jackson wasn't one of them.
On a team with precious few defensive standouts, Jackson was far and away the best. When the time came to select a Tigers nominee for the inaugural Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award, Jackson made it no contest. The Braves were named the top defensive team while Mike Trout (AL) and Michael Bourn (NL) were named their league's top defensive players.
The award, announced Sunday night on MLB Network, was determined by the statistical analysis of the "shredder system" used on the Network's Clubhouse Confidential show, as well as input from MLB Network analysts.
Not only is Jackson the heart of the Tigers' outfield defense, he covers most of the outfield himself, ranging around Comerica Park's vast outfield gaps. He didn't have to do as much of that this year, thanks to a pitching staff that set a franchise record for strikeouts, but his impact in the field was nonetheless vital for the Tigers to win the American League with what amounted to a rotation in the outfield corners.
No American Leaguers with at least 1,100 innings in center field this season had a higher Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) than Jackson's 4.1 this season. Drop that qualification to 850 innings in center, and only Trout and Denard Span beat out Jackson.
Jackson had a 174-game errorless streak, before a knuckling drive from Kendrys Morales fooled him in late August. Two days before that, his diving catch in the gap in right-center field robbed Anthony Gose of an extra-base hit and kept the Tigers tied against the Blue Jays in the 10th inning before winning it in the bottom half.
His consistent play and blanket coverage of Comerica Park's vast outfield has earned him the respect of his peers.
"I think he's really getting comfortable in the Major Leagues and starting to figure this game out," nine-time Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter said in August. "He's probably one of the best center fielders in the game."
Jackson could have a chance to earn another award when MLB.com readers vote for their Defensive Player of the Year as part of the annual GIBBY Awards.
The GIBBY Awards will feature nominees in 21 categories. Individual honors will go to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, hitter, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 topic and postseason moment, from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels. Winners will be presented their GIBBY trophies at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 4.