Jim Leyland is a genius. As self-evident as this might be, he certainly has a way with lineups, a way of massaging players into ill-fitting roles to surprisingly positive results. Fueled by caffeine and hate, Leyland convinces his players to run through brick walls in his name (right up until the point they decide that isn’t their cup of tea.)
As Jonah Keri outlined today on Grantland, the Tigers offensive strategy amounts to little more than “hoping one of the good players hits a home run.” This isn’t a bad strategy at all. It might be, in fact, the very best strategy to avoid managerial malfeasance. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their batting order is often compiled in a less-than-optimal fashion.
With public service in mind, let’s take a shot at re-ordering the Tigers order and hope, somewhere, Jimmy Leyland is listening. This strong series needs to drag on as long as possible as to wash the foul Cardinal taste from all our mouths.
When the Tigers took the field against left-hander Derek Holland for Game Two, their lineup looked like this:
- Austin Jackson CF
- Ramon Santiago 2B
- Delmon Young LF
- Miguel Cabrera 1B
- Victor Martinez DH
- Ryan Raburn RF
- Jhonny Peralta SS
- Alex Avila C
- Brandon Inge 3B
Injuries removed Delmon Young from the equation early, though he is technically still an option for Jim Leyland. If Delmon can go but it less than 100%, the decisions become difficult. Delmon Young at 100% is no great shakes so getting a diminished version of a limited player. What do to with him? You leave him on the bench and construct a lineup that looks like one of these (note: this isn’t going to happen).
|Vacuum Lineup||“Hot Hand” Lineup|
|Jhonny Peralta SS||Ramon Santiago 2B|
|Alex Avila C||Jhonny Peralta SS|
|Ryan Raburn RF||Ryan Raburn RF|
|Miguel Cabrera 1B||Miguel Cabrera 1B|
|Victor Martinez DH||Victor Martinez DH|
|Austin Jackson CF||Alex Avila C|
|Ramon Santiago 2B||Austin Jackson CF|
|Brandon Inge 3B||Brandon Inge 3B|
|Don Kelly LF||Don Kelly LF|
The “Hot Hand” lineup is a tacit acknowledgement that Alex Avila doesn’t look so hot at the plate right now. In a perfect world, he’d get lots of at bats ahead of Miguel Cabrera with Ryan Raburn’s power there for good measure. Moving him there now might not be such a wise decision when you consider in his recent struggles.
As for Jhonny Peralta, I simply cannot imagine a world in which he gets fewer at bats than most Tigers hitters. He has enough power ability to get on base that I want him at the top of the order.
Austin Jackson is a weird fit. I don’t like him a leadoff hitter and he doesn’t have much power to speak of. He drew more walks against left-handed pitching this season but still sports some odd reverse splits, likely fueled by insufficient reps. He did show more power versus LHP this season so slot him lower in the lineup after better on base threats.
Brandon Inge isn’t a terrible hitter against left-handed pitching but handcuffing him to Don Kelly seems like a good idea. Starting Kelly over Dirks is Binge insurance: once the lefties is gone from the game Kelly moves to third and Dirks moves to right with Raburn shifting to left field.
If you can figure out Ramon Santiago, I’m all ears. Hit him at the top or the bottom, whatever. His ability to “handle the bat” and “give away outs” is key to Jim Leyland’s elaborate kabuki theater which precedes the inevitable Miguel Cabrera extra base hit a.k.a. the “Genius Maker.”
Should Delmon Young decide he can play…hit him sixth? Between Cabrera and V-Mart? The threat of double plays with Young following is real but whaddayagonnado? The number of bullets in Jim Leyland’s gun seems limited.
None of these changes are likely or even plausible this late in the season. For all the good-natured ribbing directed at Leyland, it is only fair I dip my toe in the waters. The Tigers lineup is very “middle heavy” as Keith Law stated on the Baseball Today podcast yesterday. Giving the good hitters as many opportunities to come to the plate with runners on is the best you can hope for, I suppose. That or prayer, whichever comes first.