Austin Jackson is on fire, figuratively

Austin Jackson singles against the Red Sox - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Jackson has an on base percentage of .529 since his return, providing Cabrera and Fielder plenty of RBI opportunities

Austin Jackson is starting a day game after a night game. Normally this is not news, but as he recovers from a hamstring injury it is an encouraging sign.

Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have combined for 138 RBIs in just under half a season. That requires frequently batting with men on base, and Austin Jackson is the key to that formula. Since Jackson's return from the disabled list he has played in 11 games. He has 51 plate appearances, resulting in 18 hits and 9 walks for a .529 on base percentage. One hit was a homerun, and he was caught stealing once.

So in only 11 games he has provided 25 opportunities for an RBI. His BABIP of .472 indicates that this pace will not be sustained. But he only has five strikeouts since his return, or less than 10% of his plate appearances. This suggests that he can continue to reach base closer to 40% of the time rather than the 35% than has been his career rate.

The Tigers need this level of production from the top spot to help spark the offense. The starting pitchers can't be expected to have a quality start each and every outing. If Jackson needs an occasional day off to stay healthy and be at full strength in the fall, Leyland needs to make it happen. And if Austin's quasi-beard is helping, it should stay.

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