Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski said that Jhonny Peralta wouldn’t be coming back to be the everyday shortstop – they have their shortstop of the future in Jose Iglesias – but it just might be that their lineup of best nine guys exists with Jhonny starting at shortstop.
I know Peralta has been in left field the last two days, that he’s hit well, and that he hasn’t yet embarrassed himself in the field, but he’s a big defensive downgrade compared to Dirks. I’m not going to consider the fact that Peralta would be left out of the lineup. He’s been one of (if not the single) best Tigers hitter in this series, and there’s no way Leyland is going to sit him, so the question is simply where to play him.
Here are really the two questions the Tigers must answer:
- (1) Who’s likely the better hitter versus a right-handed pitcher: Dirks or Iglesias?
- (2) What’s a better defensive combination: Dirks in left field and Peralta at short, or Peralta in left and Iglesias at short?
I think the answer to the first question is obviously Dirks. Neither player has really hit a lick in this postseason (though Dirks did have a big walk on Tuesday night), but Dirks has shown much more hitting promise in his career and would also be gaining the platoon advantage. He’s a possible threat for extra bases where Iglesias is mostly hoping to beat out an infield hit.
The second question is less obvious – I would argue that it’s more or less a push in general – but with Justin Verlander on the mound, you’re much less concerned with infield defense than you might otherwise be. He’s a high-strikeout pitcher with relative fly-ball tendencies, so you wouldn’t be expecting a lot of ground balls to field, and Oakland’s lefty-heavy lineup means the bulk of the ground balls that do come are probably headed to the right side of the infield anyway. Also a factor in is the expansive foul territory in Oakland, which means left fielders may have to run a long way in order to catch some fly balls. Dirks has the good range, Peralta has no range.
Iglesias would still be available to come off the bench late in the game for extra defense, and the Tigers would have the option to use him for either Peralta at short or the injured Miguel Cabrera at third.