Tigers' Lineup Needs Consistentcy

Seriously, how tough can it be? Jim Leyland has managed over 2700 major league games, plus an addition 49 playoff games and countless more in the spring training and the minor leagues. During that time, he has been responsible for filling out the lineup card for each and every one of those games. Recently, Leyland seems to have forgotten how to do it.

With the offense struggling as much as it has this year, Leyland needs to establish consistency with the lineup. The constant shuffling has not worked. Perhaps, Leyland purposely tries to illustrate to Dave Dombrowski that he needs another hitter by running out lineups that would rival those of the MudHens. The top three in Sunday’s game were Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, and Josh Anderson. Seriously? I’m half expecting to read Dane Sardinha’s name in the three spot tonight.

My hope is that is exactly what Leyland is doing. It’s as if he’s saying “See? I need another bat so I can field a decent lineup, because this is the best I can come up with from what you have given me.” I really can’t say as I blame him, but a face to face meeting might be a better option for sending a message.

Conventional wisdom says Placido Polanco is going to hit, and that Magglio Ordonez will find at least some of old form, so maybe this whole problem will correct itself. But we now stand more than 1/3 through the season, how much longer do we wait?

The Tigers need to go get another hitter. He should be left handed and be able to play a corner outfield spot. He should also feature the ability to hit the long ball with some regularity. We have seen so far that that hitter is not Clete Thomas, and is not Josh Anderson. I doubt that he is Don Kelly, either. It is time to make a deal.

A quick check of the standings show Baltimore, Washington, Oakland, San Diego, and Pittsburgh as likely sellers. Aubrey Huff would be a nice fit from the Orioles, though his price tag may be too high. Adam Dunn could be had, as could Nick Johnson from Washington. Dunn is terrible defensively, but his bat would be a welcome addition. Johnson would be a better fit, as he can play outfield, though usually doesn’t, but the Nats have been asking the moon for their OBP machine. The guys in Oakland and San Diego don’t seem all that attractive, outside of Matt Holliday who is right handed.

That leaves just the Pirates, and the player that Detroit should target is Eric Hinske. Hinske can play first, third, left, and right. He has good power, he has twice clubbed 20 HR seasons, including last year. Plus he has played for the past two American League champions, so he may just be good luck. The Pirates have used Hinske only sparingly, as he has just 86 at bats in 2009, so he may come cheap. Which is key, because Detroit probably can’t offer much in a trade.

If they can acquire Hinske or someone like him, the lineup can be re-assembled. I would personally like to see Granderson find a home batting third, but another lefty bat would allow him to move back to the top of the order. Either way, Detroit needs to find a lineup and allow it the time needed to work consistently.

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Tags: Clete Thomas Don Kelly Eric Hinske Jim Leyland Lineups Magglio Ordonez Placido Polanco

  • J Ellet Lambie

    Hinske could be an option, I like your line of thought there, as he should be cheap. I just wrote this morning about how the Tigers don't have much to offer in terms of prospects or money, would love your feedback.http://jelletlambie.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/why-the-trade-deadline-may-be-disappointing-for-tigers-fans/

  • Kevin

    I honestly don't think that acquiring Aubrey Huff would be all that expensive (comparatively, of course). He's in somewhat of a down year so far, he's an older player (with old player skills), and he's in the last year of his contract (thus giving the Orioles more incentive to trade him, with them being the Orioles).Even if Huff only hit around an .800 OPS, that would make him a complete monster on this team, and a welcome addition.

  • Kurt

    On the other hand, maybe there's a reason even the Pirates don't want to play Hinske. I find Huff interesting and more realistic than the names we'd really like to see acquired.

  • Anonymous

    The guys doing the most damage to the Tigers offense this year have been Ordonez, Polanco and Laird. I suppose I could include the Santiago/Everett team at short, but if anything they've hit better than expected. They have all been genuinely terrible. I don't see any 'moves' pushing those guys out of the lineup, we just have to hope they turn things around.

  • BigJP

    Thanks for all the comments, I agree wholeheartedly with Anonymous, the real key to the offense going forward will be the levels that Polanco and Ordonez are able to play at. Adding Huff or Hinske or Hawpe would certainly help lengthen the lineup, but if Polly and Maggs aren't getting it done, the offense won't improve that much. Maybe it's time for a new voice? Could Legendary Lloyd be on the hot seat?

  • Anonymous

    This makes me really sad to think, much less write, but the guy the Tigers need right now is… Gary Sheffield. He's only playing about every other day for the Mets – but he's got an .862 OPS, better than anyone on the Tigers bar Cabrera, and he has started 20 games in left. And don't lets forget that we (not the Mets) are still paying him $13 million this year! Ugh. Hindsight is a terrible thing.

  • BigJP

    I think it's dangerous to assume that Sheff's numbers would be similar in Detroit. While he has shown this season that he can still play in the outfield, it was obvious that Jim Leyland did not agree and would not have played him in the field. Sheffield would not have been happy DH-ing, as he has shown in the past. It's easy to say he would have been the answer, but an unhappy Sheffield doesn't produce like a happy one, and he wouldn't have been happy with his role here. The answer to add production to this lineup is Marcus Thames, but again, JL doesn't seem to agree.

  • Anonymous

    Nonetheless, I have to think that if Guillen's injuries had been forseen (which, of course, they were not) there is no way the Tigers would have pulled the plug on Sheffield. I agree absolutely concerning Thames. He needs to be in the lineup every day. If Dusty Ryan could provide what they call 'replacement level' production at BP, he needs to be called up. 3 hits in 48 at-bats is all we're getting from the backups – that's worse than a lot of pitchers.

  • BigJP

    That's worse than almost every pitcher. I know Sardinha doesn't play that much, but that's part of the problem. If they had a competent backup catcher, Laird could get some days off and probably improve his numbers offensively. Bringing up Ryan to catch two or three days a week would go a long way toward improving this offense, both on days he plays, and to provide a fresher Laird.And if they could have forseen Guillen's problems, he should have been the one released.

  • Anonymous

    Laird is somewhat of an issue unto himself. I can't tell if the problem is that the hits just aren't falling for him, or if we all expected starter-level production from a backup. The only plus is that he has been drawing more walks than anyone could have predicted.

  • BigJP

    I think he's overworked. If Sardinha could hit at all, he would play a little more often and give Laird a chance to re-charge his batteries. Catchers wear down quickly, but not having a capable backup has meant that Laird has had to work much harder than he should, and his offense is suffering because of it.

  • Anonymous

    I really, really hope you are right – but I remember when he was signed the press spin was that he hadn't played enough in Texas to be productive. It looks like the Tigers' best options going forward are all in-house – we're just going to have to hope we can continue to stagger to an 85-win pennant in a weak division.

  • Anonymous

    Josh anderson needs to be in the lineup. We are a better team when he plays. And its interesting that you're ragging on kelly. Yet he's hitting lights out. Huff or any of the guys mentioned would not give us what josh does. Speed.

  • BigJP

    Anon- I agree that Anderson gives the Tigers a good option to use on occasion. His speed has been an asset that shouldn't be overlooked. And i am hopeful that he becomes a lead-off guy so Grandy can move down in the order. The point that I was making when this post was written, was that the lineup lacked pop. Since this post, Thames has been hitting cleanup and doing well, which negates some of that need. I have been watching Kelly closely, and am very pleased with what I have seen. He has a good swing, and is playing very well right now. My point was that he is a carrer minor leaguer and he's not young. You would think if was going to be a big league hitter, he would have done so before now. I'm not suggesting he isn't the answer, he may have finally figured it out, what I was saying at the time was that I doubted if he was the answer. Obviously, if Kelly plans to hit like he has, there is no need to add another bat. But he doesn't have a track record that would make you think he will. All that being said, so far so good. Hopefully Kelly and Anderson can keep up their recent performances, I would love to be proven wrong.