Andy Dirks' time is now

Jim Leyland congratulates Andy Dirks on a home run August 14, 2012 at Target Field - Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Will Andy Dirks be the Tigers' left fielder come October?

Andy Dirks made his Tigers' debut on May 16, 2011 and played in about half of the games that season.  He missed all of June and July in 2012, but otherwise had a breakout season hitting .322 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .487 slugging percentage.  If he could come close to those numbers in 2013, left field would be his.

During the off season Detroit searched for a right-handed hitting left fielder to platoon with Dirks, and in spring training Matt Tuiasosopo came out of nowhere to fill the role.  Tuiasosopo has cooled off from his hot start, with a triple slash line of .203 / .288 / .254 in the second half.  That has quieted demands for him to take some of Dirks' at bats.  But Nick Castellanos has arrived, and if he has a hot streak the talk will be whether Castellanos should be the starting left fielder.

Andy Dirks was a weak link in a very strong offense in the first half of 2013, hitting .243 with only six home runs.  He was still drawing walks to keep his on-base percentage over .300.  But since the All Star break, Dirks is hitting much like last year with a triple slash line of .296 / .384 / .429 going into Monday's game.

Oddly, Dirks has shown no platoon split over his career.  The vast majority of his plate appearances have been against right-handed pitching, with this line:

.278 / .333 / .419

and in limited action against left-handed pitching:

.275 / .339 / .413

Dirks has shown great range this year.  Fangraphs has him ranked fifth among all left fielders with 9 fielding runs above average.  Dirks has some speed, enough to fill in adequately in center field, but has only 13 stolen bases in his career.  He can hit and walk enough to be on base a little above average, and he adds a decent amount of power.

When Dirks is using all of his tools, he is an above-average contributor and worthy of a spot on a playoff team.  The Tigers need Dirks to step up his game in September as they sort out who should be playing in October.  With two hits yesterday, and a triple in the seventh inning today to spark the winning rally, he is off to a great start.

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