As a partial season ticket holder for the Tigers, I (along with many of you I'm sure) am trying to make sense of the offseason moves the Tigers have made. I mostly was looking at the starting lineups, even though I realize that there will be a lot of Pinch Hitters and Pinch Runners next year, as the Tigers may look more and more like a National League Team. Here are my ideas on Starts for next year.
These guys will have to be in the lineup almost every game as they provide almost all of the pop with the departure of Prince Fielder. They should be a staple at the 3 and 4 spots in the lineup. I have them penciled in for an optimistic 160 games each next year. We learned last year that Cabrera is actually partially human (although mostly superhuman) after suffering some oblique/groin injuries. By Cabrera switching to 1st and spending some time at DH as well, he'll be a little better preserved this year and for years to come.
The left handed Avila should get all of the starts against Righties and even a few starts against Lefties. Avila has had a few poor seasons, but still seems to be the chosen guy for the starting position. Avila will need breaks as he seems to get hit by foul balls as well as bats more than any other catcher. Holoday is not great offensively, but he has put up .353/.421 against lefties in limited appearances, so hopefully he'll be a serviceable backup after the loss of Brayan Pena to Free Agency.
1B: Miguel Cabrera 130 games, Victor Martinez 32 Games
See DH above. No brainer. No one else should play DH or 1B besides these 2 guys (barring injury of course).
Kinsler should provide a slight/moderate upgrade over departing Omar Infante. He has better speed with 15 sb last year and 66 sb over the past 3, and more power with 13 hr last year and only 2 years removed from a stellar 32 hr season. However, he only played 136 games last year due to injury, and he is not getting any younger at 32. Lombardozzi is a switch hitter that bats better from the Left side (.269/.305 as a lefty and .249/.273 as a righty) and should be able to give Kinsler a break occasionally against Right Handed Starters. My understanding is that Lombardozzi is a gritty guy who was a fan favorite in Washington and could become a favorite here as well. At only 25 years old and making only .5 mill per year. He is a cheaper, younger, faster version of Ramon Santiago, and as an added bonus, he can also play OF.
SS: Jose Iglesias 140 games, Steve Lombardozzi 22 games
Iglesias provides the other half of the double play combination with Kinsler. His sensational defense and speed are big upgrades from the departing Jhonny Peralta, however his bat is a severe downgrade. Jose has similar numbers against righties and lefties .272/.321 vs. RHP and .276/.323 vs LHP. He should be a consistent starter for the Tigers this year, but expecting more than 140 games after playing only 109 last year is asking a lot. New utility man Lombardozzi will once again relieve Iglesias in about 20 - 25 games.
Anyone who remembers the Scott Sizemore experiment cringes at the idea of handing a rookie infielder a starting job, (especially one that has played OF the last 2 years) but Castellanos is the Tigers top prospect. Castellanos batted .276/.343 with 18 HR and 74 RBI in Toledo last year, and the Tigers are in desperate need of his bat in the lineup with Fielder and Peralta gone. However, new manager Brad Ausmus will likely want to rest the rookie regularly as he adjusts to the big league game, especially against Right Handed Pitchers. DKB should see a healthy number of starts against Righties. Cabreras games are for interleague play only, the Tigers will need to keep that bat in the lineup as much as possible (along with VMarts).
Like it or not, Andy Dirks is in line to be the regular guy in LF. I estimate 112 games since 70% of the starting pitchers in baseball are Right Handed. Dirks should see the starts against Righties. Newcomer RH Rajai Davis will see the starts against lefties as he is considerably better against lefties (.255/.297 vs Right, .294/.354 vs Left). However Davis should get into most games as a PH/PR. The Tigers seem to be building a team based on speed and defense and Davis would fit well into that plan. Steve Lombardozzi will get in against Lefties (batting right handed for Austin Jackson on occasion - see CF below) Again, Castellanos could see limited action in LF during interleague play if Cabrera is shifted to 3rd.
CF Austin Jackson 130 games, Rajai Davis 32 games
Strangely, the right handed AJax hits better, make that much better, against Righties than lefties (.291/.349 vs RHP and .246/.332). AJax fell out of favor last year during the playoffs and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup in 2014. Davis and Lombardozzi will spell Jackson against LHP.
RF Torii Hunter 140 games, Don Kelly 22 games
The 38 - soon to be 39 year old Hunter will begin his 15th full season of MLB as the starting Right Fielder for the Tigers. He played in 144 games last year, and its optimistic to hope for him to start 140 this year, but the Tigers will also need his bat this year. Many (including myself) have him projected to bat 5th in the lineup and backup VMart. Superutility DKB will probably start 20+ games to give the aging Hunter a break.
Here are the final estimates for Starts:
The Tigers only have 3 guys that will bat left handed in their "normal" line up (VMart, Dirks, and Avila), so it seems likely that either Kelly or Lombardozzi will get starts in basically every game against a right hander, and 70% of the starters in MLB are Right handed. This gives them four Left Handed Bats plus the unique Jackson that bats better against RHP.
I'm a newcomer as a poster to Bless You Boys, but I'm a regular reader and I look forward to any feedback.