2005 - .713 (2)
2006 - .704 (1)
2007 - .706 (1)
2008 - .712 (1)
First, a little explanation. The first number is obviously the year. The second number is the defensive efficiency of the team that won the American League pennant, and the number in parentheses is that team’s rank in the American League. Bottom line, over the past four years, defense has helped win championships. You have to go all the way back to 2004 when the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners finished first and second in the American League and neither team made the postseason.
I think that having Inge back at 3rd, Everett and short and Laird at Catcher will make a huge difference for a team that was nagged by poor defense all last year (below the league average in fielding percentage). But I do have a follow up concern: Aren't Carlos Guillen (Knees, Back, not an Outfielder) and Magglio Ordonez (Knees, Slow, slow, slow) liabilities in the Outfield? Granderson has shown that he can help out with his impressive range, but he can't shade to both directions at once. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up seeing some younger blood in the outfield and a rotation of Sheffield, Ordonez and Guillen at DH to make up for it.
Tigers fans, I fully recommend reading this article. For everyone else, The Hardball Times has been doing this for all of the teams, and it is worth checking out.