This isn't working.
Let’s just be honest and admit that the Tigers don’t have an adequate major league starting shortstop. One third of the way through the season, Andrew Romine is hitting just .200, with a .252 on-base percentage, an identical .252 slugging percentage, and a .231 wOBA. To put that in perspective, his wOBA and slugging percentage are among the three worst in the American League -- out of 133 hitters with at least 120 plate appearances this season.
I’m not here to beat up on a weak-hitting shortstop, but Romine's advantage is that he's supposed to be providing the team with solid defense, and that isn't happening either. Romine’s defense has been anything but consistent.
According to Fangraphs, Romine has recorded an out on 50 of the 75 balls hit within the shortstop zone. That's a revised zone rating (RZR) of just .667. The zone is defined as the area where a play is made at least 50 percent of the time by a shortstop. Romine ranks 12th out of 14 shortstops with at least 300 innings in the field this season. He has made fewer out of zone (OOZ) plays per inning than any of his peers. That could be a function of the number of grounders hit by opponents, but it speaks to the value provided, regardless.
And that's not all. In ultimate zone rating (UZR), Romine is on pace for a minus-19.6 UZR/150, and a minus-4 defensive runs saved (DRS). But you don’t have to rely on those small samples to see for yourself that he is not making the plays he should -- especially for a shortstop who provides little offensive support. The base hit up the middle in the ninth inning against Toronto Tuesday is just the latest example of that.
Meanwhile, since being promoted from Double-A Erie last month, Eugenio Suarez -- who was added to the 40-man roster last November -- is hitting .333/.447/.590 for a 1.037 OPS and a wOBA of .465 in Toledo. In Erie, Suarez hit .284/.347/.503 for an .850 OPS and a .379 wOBA. The kid is absolutely raking at the plate. Whether that would carry over to the major leagues is unknown, but he couldn't be any worse offensively than what the Tigers are currently experiencing.
Defensively, Suarez is said to have the tools to be a major league shortstop, but he doesn't make all the routine plays with consistency just yet.
Jordan Gorosh had this to say about Suarez’s defense:
On defense, he is still a bit raw, but the tools are certainly there for him to be an everyday shortstop. His arm is major league average, and the hands are good as well. The actions and demeanor are superior to Hernan Perez and it's no contest, to me at least, who of the two of them is the long-term shortstop. Suarez has a bit of a ways to go, as he still needs to work on qualifying runners and making routine plays, and that's fine.
When the Tigers made the move to bring Suarez up to Triple-A Toledo, they moved Hernan Perez -- who is on the 40-man roster and has a bit of major league experience -- over to his more natural position of second base. After hitting .300 between Erie and Toledo in 2013, Perez is batting .252/.303/.320 this season in Toledo. I took it as more of a sign that they like Suarez long term as a shortstop, rather than giving up on Perez at the position completely.
I am one who liked the trade of Jose Alvarez for Andrew Romine, and I still like it, as long as Romine is used in a utility role. But I've never been behind the idea of a defense-only shortstop in the starting lineup. I watched quite a bit of Romine with the Angels in a utility role, where he was very good in three defensive infield positions, and actually hit more like .250. He can be the new Ramon Santiago, but he's just not a starting shortstop.
Something has to give. Jose Iglesias is
likely out for the season, the Tigers didn't really pursue Steven Drew, and Steve Lombardozzi was traded for Alex Gonzalez (who ended up being a complete bust). They told us how they felt about Danny Worth when they brought in both Romine and Gonzalez and put him through waivers.
If the Tigers were to call up Suarez , he would likely see the bulk of the playing time at shortstop. They’re not going to call up a promising prospect to collect splinters and watch Romine or Danny Worth from the bench. Both Romine and Worth are out of options, and would have to be put on waivers before being sent to the minors. Romine would likely get to stay, as he bats left handed and would be a better complement to Suarez. Now that Romine is proving to be inadequate, they have to do something, and Suarez is just a phone call away. And he may just be called up to Detroit sooner rather than later.