Jim Leyland possesses the admirable quality of not overreacting to short-term player performance. If asked about Victor Martinez hitting only .221 at the end of April, he would respond that there were no worries. "Look at the back of his baseball card" he would say, and expect similar numbers at the end of the season. Leyland does seem to put a lot of weight on five to ten at bats against a specific pitcher, but that is another story. When it comes to player performance over short time periods, he intuitively understands the issue of small sample sizes.
Early season player performance can create a narrative for that player's season that is hard to shake. Matt Tuiasosopo hits six home runs in 85 at bats in the first half, and becomes a brilliant solution to the need for a right-handed hitting outfielder. Torii Hunter has an on-base percentage of .352 and is everything we dreamed he would be in right field.
What would happen if the season were reversed? What if the season's second half came first? It is an interesting thought experiment. There are problems with this approach. The bullpen really was a problem in the first half. One player may have needed the time to find his stroke, and another may wear down over a long season. But it can help put some performances in perspective.
Using the triple-slash line of batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage, these would be the narratives at the All Star break were the season reversed.
Alex Avila: .313 / .376 / .545 Alex has returned to his 2011 form and solidified his position as one of the best hitting catchers in the game. With Brayan Pena hitting .349 / .352 / .482, the Tigers have the best catching tandem in the game.
Prince Fielder: .302 / .366 / .465 Prince has nearly matched his career-best batting average from 2012, but only eight home runs are too few for a first baseman with 30 home runs a year for six straight years.
Omar Infante: .325 / .336 / .442 The trade for Infante has paid huge dividends as he has solved the second base problem with a career year, though injuries have limited him to only 31 games.
Jose Iglesias: .288 / .328 / .390 Iglesias was supposed to be a good-glove-no-bat shortstop, but an on-base percentage above league-average, and the addition of speed, is a plus for the offense.
Miguel Cabrera: .314 / .407 / .608 Despite injuries he has maintained his on-base percentage and slugging percentage from his Triple Crown year, but RBIs are taking a hit due to injuries. He is not on track to repeat as MVP.
Andy Dirks: .289 / .360 / .407 Dirks has delivered as the starting left fielder against right-handed pitching. Jim Leyland's use of Dirks is getting the most out of his talent.
Matt Tuiasosopo: .190 / .271 / .238 Tuiasosopo has not panned out as the right side of the left field platoon. This is the only hole in an otherwise deep offense.
Austin Jackson: .269 / .335 / .441 Jackson's power is a plus from the leadoff spot. His on-base percentage is acceptable for a leadoff hitter, but a second-half improvement would help.
Torii Hunter: .261 / .286 / .444 Nobody was expecting Hunter to repeat his .313 batting average from 2012, but the on-base percentage has taken a big hit. Over his career he has reached base one third of the time, and there is every reason to expect this to return.
Victor Martinez: .364 / .407 / .477 Victor's return from a knee injury has plugged the hole in the lineup's fifth spot and led the offense.
Despite the injuries to the best hitter in baseball, the Tigers' deep offense has led to a .618 winning percentage and kept them neck-and-neck with the Kansas City Royals.