BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was 5-for-8 lifetime against Doug Fister when he was called upon to lay down a sacrifice bunt on Monday in the seventh inning of a 2-0 game. When Red Sox manager John Farrell was asked about it afterward, however, he was more worried about the matchup with the Tigers' defense than Saltalamacchia's matchup with Fister.
The Red Sox put eight people on base over Fister's seven innings, and three were erased on double plays. Jose Iglesias played a role in all three, including the whirling tag and throw that erased a leadoff runner in the sixth. That's the difference Iglesias makes in the Tigers' defense.
"He's improved their infield defense with his range," Farrell told Boston reporters before Monday's game. "I don't know if any of us even in this organization have ever seen a better defender at the position. I think that's a pretty strong statement for a guy who's in the early stages of what should be a long career."
Defense can be a difficult facet of the game to gauge with statistics, in part because of small sample sizes. Some evaluators believe it takes three seasons of stats to get the same read on a player's defense as one season will do for offense. In the short amount of time Iglesias has manned shortstop as a member of the Tigers, however, the direct numbers on double plays are promising.
According to STATS, Jhonny Peralta was the pivot man on 50 double-play attempts and turned 29 of them, for a 58 percent conversion rate. Iglesias has turned the pivot 10 times and gotten the second out on seven of them. It's a really small sample, and it doesn't include such factors as the hitter's speed running to first, but still, it's encouraging.
From April 1 to Aug. 4, the day before Iglesias took over at shortstop, the Tigers ranked 26th in the Majors -- and 13th in the American League -- with 56 double plays turned over 109 games. Since Aug. 5 the Tigers lead the AL, with 22 double plays turned over 29 games. Only the Marlins had more among Major League teams in that span.