Lynn Henning published an article today describing his idea of what he thinks the lineup would be. Now he's a dedicated writer who's take on things may or may not fit with your opinion on the Tigers, but he is always a good read. But when I saw his lineup, well, if I had more than two eyebrows, it would have raised a third as well. Here's what he came up with, and some highlights of his thought process.
1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Andy Dirks*, LF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
4. Victor Martinez, DH
5. Alex Avila, C
6. Austin Jackson, CF
7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
8. Torii Hunter, RH
9. Jose Iglesias, SS
*Rajai Davis or Hunter will likely bat second against a left-handed starter.
Interesting would be a good adjective to start with in describing this lineup. Preposterous would be another.
I don't really disagree that much with Kinsler leading off. He's a qualified candidate for that spot.
But Dirks batting second? With all the hitters we have, and the success Torii had up there last year? I don't agree at all, but let the man speak.
It makes sense for one specific reason: On most days the Tigers will confront a right-handed starter, and Dirks bats left-handed. Assuming Kinsler follows past scripts and makes it to first base every three at-bats or fewer, there will be a right-side infield hole as the first baseman attempts to hold Kinsler hostage at the bag. That leaves a lovely gap between first and second. Dirks, whose knee is now pain-free, should be able to steer his share of sharp ground balls through that unguarded border crossing and steadily become more of the near- .300 hitter he was before he silently endured last season’s aches.
If I believed Dirks was a genuine .300 hitter with pop, sure, play him there everyday. But he's not. He's not even a .300 hitter against righties in his career. Yeah, injuries may have played a part in that but that's a lot of hope to place on a guy with 1 good season when he was a part time player. As for getting hits though the right side because he is a lefty, Dirks pounds GBs against righties at a rate between 33 and 42% depending on the year. Eh, there might be advantage but honestly I'd rather have a more reliable hitter batting 2nd to move our runner over, than a guy who MIGHT hit .300. Moving on. though.
Cabrera 3rd, Martinez 4th, fine with both.
Avila 5th. Let me say that again so it sinks in. Avila....5th! What is the wide world of sports is going on here? Mr Henning the floor is yours.
Batting fifth is Alex Avila. His many critics will be horrified, but this is where the Tigers catcher belongs, assuming he returns to the brand of hitter he has shown he can be (.876 OPS during the 2013 season’s second half; .895 OPS during his All-Star season of 2011). Avila, who next week turns 27, could and should bat near .300 with a .500-plus slugging percentage. Those are numbers nicely tailored to the No. 5 niche. For now, consider Avila your man at No. 5.
"Could and Should bat near .300 with a .500 slugging percentage." If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts. The Tigers have a lineup overflowing with "coulds" and "shoulds". Avila has about a season and a half of production at those levels, and about 2 and a half seasons with stats equal to or worse than the hypothetical "replacement level" player. Could Avila repeat his 2011 season? Of course he could. Do I think he will? Not really. So far that's 2 of the first 5 spots devoted to "could" and "should" guys.
Jackson is batting 6th. Henning alludes to the idea that Jackson seems to be an "every-other-year batter". If hes so high on him, why isn't he batting leadoff, or 2nd? I like the idea of 2 high OBP speed guys at the top ahead of Cabrera, the reigning batting champs 3 years running.
Castellanos is 7th. At this point in the lineup, I'm fine with him here.
Hunter is 8th. UGH! Why, why, Why, WHY???
Our eighth contestant is Torii Hunter. You could always bat him second against left-handers, but Hunter turns 39 this year and there is no harm in wanting a seasoned stick at the eighth slot. Something about No. 8 and Hunter seem to fit.
Seriously? Yeah there's no harm batting a seasoned bat coming off a .304/.334/.465 season, except when you have 3 giant question marks batting ahead of him! 2nd, 5th, and 7th are all guys who are anything but certain to out hit Hunter in 2014. Why bury a veteran proven bat so low in the lineup in favor of a rookie and 2 guys who may or may not hit above .250? Are you hoping Ausmus will punk all the Tigers fans as new way of breaking the ice and showing us he has a sense of humor?
Iglesias 9th. Cool. Whatever. But seriously Hunter 8th???
He does add at the end that against LHP Davis or Hunter could bat 2nd. I have no qualms with Hunter 2nd, but Davis I might be hesitant to hit 2nd right away. But I would take both of them 2nd over Dirks.
Its clear Henning is brimming with optimism about Dirks and Avila. I can't knocking him for having the optimism, but I'm not sure Ausmus will see it that way. But hey, if Avila and Dirks really do step up like he thinks they should, This is going to be an awesome year.