With Maybin out, Gose takes over in CF

Tigers need speedy outfielder to be ready from get-go

March 4th, 2016
Anthony Gose said his late-season struggles happened because he didn't adjust to pitchers' adjustments. (AP)Carlos Osorio/AP

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Anthony Gose isn't a fan of defensive metrics.

"I think that whole analytics thing is a big scam anyway," the Tigers outfielder said Friday morning. "That's what I think personally."

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Gose does believe in scouting. And he thinks scouting got the best of him down the stretch last season.

Gose tore up the Grapefruit League at the plate last spring, creating momentum that carried into the regular season and earned him the bulk of the playing time in center field. After hitting .314 with a .355 on-base percentage over the first two months, though, he batted just .225 with a .305 on-base clip the rest of the way. His .396 OPS in June was the fifth-worst month last year of any Major League player with 75 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs.

He didn't wear down, he said, so much as opposing teams caught up. After being traded from Toronto to Detroit in the previous offseason, teams that hadn't seen much of him in a Blue Jays uniform had to formulate their scouting reports.

"I don't think there was as much history on me," he said, "so I got away with a lot of things early in the season. Down the stretch they made adjustments, and it showed in the second half -- the adjustments they made and the adjustments I didn't make."

With Cameron Maybin out for the next four to six weeks with a fractured left wrist, Gose's ability to adjust becomes critical.

What was expected to be a battle for playing time in center is now Gose's job. Even if Maybin recovers in four weeks, it's difficult to see him ready for a major role, even in a platoon, atr that early point.

More than ever, the Tigers need Gose to be ready. Fortunately, he has a history of that. He hit .299 (20-for-67) with four doubles, three triples and six stolen bases last spring. Much of that damage came early in camp, going 13-for-25 in his first nine games.

He's showing hints of that fast start again. He singled off Braves lefty pitching prospect Sean Newcomb on Thursday, then doubled off righty reliever Chris Volstad.

"I did the same thing last year, and look what happened," Gose said Friday, tempering the encouragement.

What happened, he said, was a different mix of pitches as the season went on and teams tracked his at-bats.

"They threw me a lot of different pitches," he said. "They kept me off-balance. And my job as a hitter is to make adjustments to stay in rhythm for longer periods of time. And last year in the second half I struggled with that. This year, that's the focus, on trying to be able to [hit] consistently throughout the whole year. …

"I don't think it was anything physical. I didn't do anything different this year in the offseason than I've done in the past as far as staying strong. I think it's more I didn't adjust well to the adjustments they made to me."

Defensively, he felt good about this season. He finished in the top half of center fielders in Range Factor. Metrics were more harsh. His minus-10.4 Ultimate Zone Rating was second-worst among Major League center fielders. His negative-12 Defensive Runs Saved was tied for fifth-worst.

"I play shallow. I know that," he said. "I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but I feel like I'm one of the better ones. And to not be rated very high, I just think it's a big scam. How can you put numbers against that?"

The Tigers have worked on playing him deeper. But as manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged, there's a comfort level involved.

"Guys are comfortable in a certain area, and when you get them out of their comfort zone, they tend to creep back to it," Ausmus said. "You have to remind them."

With Maybin out, the manager will get plenty of time to remind.