Oct 13, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Delmon Young (21) in the fifth inning of game five of the 2011 ALCS against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

Should Andy Dirks Be The Starting LF?

One of the more interesting dynamics that Jim Leyland is going to have to deal with in 2012 is the left field position. If we take Tigers management for their word, and operate under the assumption that Ryan Raburn is the every day 2nd baseman to start with, that leaves Andy Dirks and Delmon Young as the Tigers left fielders.

Early this morning, MLive’s James Schmehl, posted a story in which Delmon Young came out and said he preferred not to be the every day designated hitter. I don’t have a problem with that, Young in fact mentioned he doesn’t mind being rotated into that spot. A lot of players prefer not to be a full time DH, and it’s not like the Tigers are going to lack the ability to rotate guys through that position. Half of their defenders on their team should be designated hitting, and I have no doubt that Leyland will likely give some time to the DH role to multiple guys including Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Ryan Raburn, and maybe even Jhonny Peralta on occasion.

As of right now, the Tigers have come out and said that Delmon Young is their LF. But is that the best option for the team? Given Victor Martinez‘ ACL injury, and what we have seen from Andy Dirks so far, does it make more sense to have Dirks playing almost every day in LF?

The short answer here is yes. Andy Dirks, when compared to Delmon Young, should be the starting LF. That might not be a popular sentiment in Detroit given the success that Young had with the Tigers after he was traded over here, and I concede that Dirks himself hasn’t been impressive thus far. There is support for my statement though, and this isn’t just some reaction to the word that Dirks is having himself a nice go of it in the Carribean.

Let me tackle the offense first. What most would consider an edge to Delmon Young here by a considerable margin, when I look at the numbers, I just cannot concede that. Dirks body of work is pretty limited in the major leagues, and maybe that is why I believe he can be just as productive, if not more so than Young. However, if you look at both of their numbers from 2011, the numbers are really similar. Their walk rates are almost identical, and while neither strikes out a ton, Dirks makes a little more contact than Young. The real difference is that Dirks actually shows a little more power than Young. Dirks’ ISO last season was .155 to Young’s .125. Dirks wOBA number was .308, while Young’s was .303. In wRC+, Dirks again barely toppled Young at 89 to 88.

Let me be clear. Those numbers aren’t good for either guy. In fact, for what is considered an offensive position, those numbers for Dirks and Young are pretty terrible. Easily below average. The tough thing is to decide who can be better going forward. Young’s 2010 season would suggest that he has a lot more in the offensive tank than what he showed in 2011. However, his production prior to that fantastic 2010 suggests that 2011 was his normal offensive output. If that is the case, Dirk’s BABIP in 2011 suggests there might be some more in his tank than Young’s. Dirks posted a .273 BABIP in 2011, suggesting that he suffered from a little bit of bad luck. Young posted a .302 BABIP, which is in the normal range.

Defensively is where the big separation comes in. Delmon Young is just not a good defensive player. Never has been. Year after year, Young posts negative UZR/150 numbers, and costs his team runs. Dirks last season posted a positive UZR/150 number in LF of 7.5. In all fairness to Young, Dirks’ did that in a much smaller sample, but he posted positive numbers in both corners, and just watching the two you can see that Dirks is clearly the better defender.

On this team full of defensive atrocities, it almost is a requirement that a guy like Dirks gets more playing time in the outfield than Delmon Young. Given the relative lack of offensive difference between the two, it doesn’t make sense to put Young out there, even if it is against left-handed pitchers where Ryan Raburn provides a much better option.

I haven’t even got into base running either, where Dirks has an edge as well. He can provide the offense a little spark there also.

Look, I am not saying that Andy Dirks is a starting LF. In a perfect world, he isn’t. In the Detroit Tigers of 2012 world, he is. There is really no need to get either his or Delmon Young’s below average bat into the lineup, so that should leave the overall value of the players decide. Both players posted a fWAR of 0.4 last season. Dirks just did in it half of the time on the field. Assuming he can play at the same level over the course of a season, if not see a little improvement, he could potentially approach close to a big league average player, and I will take that over Young in LF.


Tags: Andy Dirks Delmon Young Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera Prince Fielder Ryan Raburn Victor Martinez

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  • ChrisHannum

    If we take all of Leyland’s statements as gospel, Dirks will be fighting it out with Kelly and Thomas in spring training to be the #8 hitter and a regular in the lineup. BUT, he also says that Delmon Young is going to be the regular LF and the #5 hitter. Does that mean Dirks is going to be the regular DH???

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @ChrisHannum Who knows? I often find it funny how much Clete Thomas seems hated by Tigers fans, but his career production suggests a guy that is every bit as good as Dirks. His strikeout rate is atrocious but he runs well, defends real well, and has enough on base ability to make up for it. Sure, you don’t want Clete as a starter, but I think we could say that about all the options.

  • http://displacedtigerfan.blogspot.com/ bmcraves

    I wouldn’t hesitate putting him out there every day. He’s had good winter, and he’s not Delmon Young defensively. I’ve been preaching having Young DH while burning his glove. I think with regular playing time, Dirks will blossom into the hitter that Avila turned into last season, after being thrust into the everyday lineup.

    • jgorosh

      @bmcraves He didn’t have a good winter. He had an OPS under .700 in the DWL. .262/.294/.385

  • Sam Genson

    In reality, I think this dicussion coem sdown to two players – Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Raburn. If both play passably at their respective positions then Delmon will spend a good chunck of time at DH. If either one player below the Tigers expectations then the conversation chnages.

    If Miguel cannot handle 3B he obviously becomes rotational DH with Fielder. If Raburn plays poorly at 2B then he probably moves out to LF or DH.

  • sportz

    Pretty simple for me..prove it..his BB/Rate has declined at every level, he has an unsustainable HR rate..otherwise he was mediocre and his glove was overated.

    Does he deserve to start..**** NO!! unless he proves he should.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @sportz I feel like you are describing Delmon Young. Only his glove is not overrated. We know exactly what he is with the glove. Absolutely terrible. If Raburn is the Tigers 2nd baseman, who is the LF? Dirks would’ve doubled Youngs WAR at least if he just maintained what he was doing. Yes, his HR rate may not be maintained, but neither will his low BABIP. He held his own as a rookie. I don’t think some improvement is out of the question. I’ve seen plenty of Delmon Young, and I know he isn’t a LF.

      • sportz


        JV..cmon..Andy Dirks of the sub .300 OBP. Look my disdain for all things Elmon Young is well known..but its pretty etched in stone that Dirks and Young are not competiting against each other for playing time. Dirks is competing with Thomas and Kelly, the winner plays LF versus RHP..

        • MCBjohnverburg

          @sportz I’m just going off of what the Tigers and Jim Leyland themselves have said. That Delmon Young is their LF. Yes, if he is the full time DH, then it is Dirks vs those other guys. And yes, it should be the best man that wins. I wrote this on the idea that it was Dirks vs. Young. Give me Dirks. I’ve stated they are both subpar. Give me the guy that is least subpar that doesn’t have an atrocious glove. At the top of the last paragraph, I state Andy Dirks isn’t a starting LF in a perfect world, but the Tigers LF situation is far from perfect.

        • ChrisHannum

          @MCBjohnverburg @sportz I disagree. In a “perfect world” you never pay anyone $7 million a year to be a barely average player at any position. In a perfect world, there are still guys you’re happy to pay $500K to be a barely average player at that position. As for what Dirks/Kelly/Thomas will actually do – if only that was going to be playing LF vs RHP. That would leave Young nothing more than the weak side of a platoon. What Dirks/Thomas would be doing is playing OF whenever Boesch or Young takes their turn at DH. When Cabrera or Fielder takes their turn, Kelly would get the #8 spot and play third.

  • jgorosh

    I wouldn’t mind giving Thomas a shot because he has no options left. If he’s bad, DFA him and roll with Dirks.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @jgorosh That could be a determining factor. If they both perform at the same level.

  • Al Kaline

    It would be ideal if Brandon Inge played 2nd base, Raburn and Dirks platooned in left while Young was the DH. If they are plugging Inge as a super utility player, he might end up at 2nd in a platoon with Santiago. Something to think about because it’s not that far-fetched, especially if they are hell-bent on Miggy at 3rd. When Dombrowski said Inge has to come to camp with an open attitude, this what he might have meant.

  • papaunclebob

    lets not forget del had 5 homers in the playoffs 2011 in only 34 abs. And for the tigers during the reg season he had 8 of his 12 homers in only 40 games with d town. So for the tigers in 2011 counting the playoffs, del young had a total of 202 at bats and bopped 13 hrs. Im not saying hes going to hit 40 bombs but he will provide nice pop in the 5 hole. Del wants to play the field, let him. Forget about dirks as a starter for this season.

  • ChrisHannum

    @MCBjohnverburg Given that Dirks’ is younger and had a great 2010 and 2011 in the minors, I’d be willing to give him a shot as an everyday outfielder. With Thomas, I think that the reason nobody even wants to talk about him is that (along with being 28) he had a terrible season in Toledo last year.

  • sportz

    @ChrisHannum @MCBjohnverburg

    He hit great the last month after making some swing revisions, plus he is superior defensively to Dirks and has a much higher walk rate.

  • MCBjohnverburg

    @sportz @ChrisHannum I’m okay with giving Thomas a legitimate shot. He is one of those guys that does little things that do make a difference once in while, things like hustle and take out a 2nd baseman on a double play, and defensively he is hands down the best option. He is the Tigers 2nd best defender in the outfield period. But I think he is in the back of the Tigers mind, and often it takes a ton to overcome that. Not sure he can.

  • ChrisHannum

    @sportz @MCBjohnverburg Thomas’ walk rate is one reason that he is appealing as – at least – an option. If he could actually maintain a .340 OBP he’d be a great asset even without power.