Omar Infante's hot start has made the Tigers lineup even more dangerous in 2013

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Omar Infante has had a profound impact on the Tigers' offense so far in 2013 despite hitting at the bottom of the order.

Omar Infante has zero extra base hits and zero steals, and has three times as many strikeouts as walks so far in 2013. Now that we've covered the "bad" stuff -- and the strikeout/walk thing isn't even bad, just cherry-picked -- it's time to give him some credit.

Infante is hitting .333 in his first 10 games with five runs scored and four RBI. He has four hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position and is hitting .357 with two outs. His .351 BABIP is well above his career mark of .308, indicating that some regression is in his future, especially considering that his current line drive percentage (19.4%) is slightly lower than his career average of 21.2%. He is still the same dead-pull hitter he has been throughout his career, with six of his 11 hits going to left field.



Even then, that doesn't tell the whole story. Small sample caveats apply from here forward.

When Infante reaches base, the Tigers' hitters following Infante in that inning are 12-for-40 with an on-base percentage of .400. More importantly, the Tigers have capitalized on these opportunities. In innings where Infante has reached base, the Tigers have scored 20 runs after Infante has reached base (this number includes Infante's four RBI). That's 27% of the team's total offense (74 runs), and Infante didn't even play in two games! Also, keep in mind that the Tigers have scored 10 runs in the first inning of games this season.

So, let's put these numbers into context. Because he is sitting at the bottom of the lineup, Infante hasn't batted in the first inning in any of the 10 games that he has appeared in. If we take away all of the Tigers' first inning runs and the runs that they scored in games without Infante*, we're left with 53 runs in situations where the lineup turning over from Infante to the top of the order has a chance to make an impact on the game. Those 20 runs represent 37.7% of the team's offense in situations where Infante could have made an impact, a whopping percentage for someone at the bottom of the order.

*For those who need to see the math, 74 total runs minus 11 runs in games without Infante minus 10 first-inning runs in games Infante played in equals 53 runs where Infante could have been involved.

While a lot of credit goes to the Tigers' top-four hitters for their respective scalding starts, the turnover from Infante to the top of the order has been a key reason for the team's offensive success thus far. Last season, players in the ninth slot of the Tigers lineup hit just .231/.295/.308 with 55 runs scored and 33 RBI. Infante's current run and RBI numbers don't project to be much better than those figures unless he plays 150+ games (not likely, unless he continues this torrid pace).

However, the impact Infante is having on the team's ability to score runs so far this year is huge. He is hitting well with two outs, extending innings, and turning the lineup over to the top of the order. These are all things that you want out of your ninth hitter, and Infante is filling this role to perfection so far in 2013.

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