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The Tigers should consider moving Jeimer Candelario up in the lineup

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Candelario’s history and a rough opening series suggest he might perform better in a table-setting position.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Small sample alert! As the Tigers finish their first series of the 2019 MLB season against the Toronto Blue Jays, the offense has yet to fully reach its potential. In 39 innings of play so far this season, the Tigers have only scored in three innings. They have been outscored by six runs (12-6) in three games.

A big reason for the quiet offense has been Jeimer Candelario, who, in the first three games, went 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts batting in the cleanup spot.

On Sunday, manager Ron Gardenhire batted Candelario in the leadoff spot — where he spent the majority of his time in the last two months of the 2018 season — while regular leadoff hitter Josh Harrison was taking the day off. Candelario immediately responded by going 5-for-6 with two RBI, including this beautiful RBI single where he extended his bat outside of the strike zone to poke a ball out to left.

Jeimer Candelario 2-RBI single
Edited by Adam Dubbin / Property of MLB.tv

Candelario’s big day helped lead the Tigers to a 4-3 victory, and a road series split.

Now, the typical knee-jerk response would be to keep Candelario in the leadoff spot. Do not mess with something that is not broken.

Taking a look at his split stats, there may be some validity to this.

Jeimer Candelario batting order splits

Split PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Split PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Batting 1st 226 5 10.2% 26.5% 0.242 0.327 0.374
Batting 2nd 268 8 12.3% 22.8% 0.255 0.354 0.459
Batting 4th 100 2 6.0% 37.0% 0.149 0.200 0.234
Baseball-reference.com

Candelario has spent the majority of his MLB playing time batting in the first, second, and fourth spots in the lineup. His best performance, by far, has come batting second (.255/.354/.459) while the weakest performance has come with him batting fourth (.149/.200/.234). These are small samples, of course, but just like we hypothesized with Josh Harrison, mentality could play a part in the approach that Candelario takes at the plate.

In the first few games of the season, it seemed like Candelario put too much pressure on himself, perhaps because he was batting fourth in the lineup and counted upon to drive in runs. We don’t know for sure, but the stats (small samples and all) indicate he may be more relaxed batting anywhere else. Harrison should probably stay in the leadoff spot for now, while Candelario could take over batting second.

This means shaking up the lineup

Nicholas Castellanos has been batting second so far this year, and many people (myself included) believe that this is the best spot for him in the Tigers’ lineup. Having power in the No. 2 spot is a strategic measure, as it immediately puts pressure on the pitcher only two batters into the game.

However, in Castellanos’ case, his best performance just so happens to be in the cleanup spot, where he is batting .333/.381/.550 in a handful of plate appearances.

Nicholas Castellanos batting order splits

Split PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Split PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Batting 2nd 410 15 5.6% 23.4% 0.252 0.305 0.459
Batting 3rd 497 19 8.2% 22.5% 0.298 0.360 0.515
Batting 4th 268 11 7.1% 17.5% 0.333 0.381 0.550
Batting 5th 432 14 4.9% 24.8% 0.381 0.296 0.453
Batting 6th 818 23 6.8% 24.9% 0.296 0.320 0.435
Batting 7th 487 9 5.5% 25.1% 0.264 0.304 0.417
Baseball-reference.com

Castellanos has batted anywhere from the No. 2 to the seventh spots in the lineup. His lowest sample size by far (268 plate appearances) comes while batting fourth, so take that for what it is worth.

Castellanos has enjoyed a breakout year in 2018, batting .298/.354/.500 with a 130 wRC+. So far in 2019, he is hitting .294/.333/.471 and he seems to have success wherever he bats in the lineup. Over a large enough sample size, split stats usually even themselves out, and it is not something to get overly excited about. However, the Tigers’ offense could use a jump start, and moving hitters into positions they may be more comfortable in could help provide that spark.