In 9 games thus far in the Tigers postseason, Andy Dirks – the Tigers’ “primary” left fielder during the regular season – has a grand total of 6 plate appearances and has appeared in only 3 games. Last we saw Andy Dirks, he was being pinch-hit for by none other than Jose Iglesias. Iglesias has a .158 batting average this postseason. In this pinch-hitting role Iglesias – as expected – failed to achieve. How low has Andy Dirks sunk in Jim Leyland‘s estimation? When asked about Austin Jackson‘s strugges, Leyland explained that “you don’t bench guys in the playoffs”. I think that’s an exaggeration… you don’t bench guys other than Andy Dirks in the playoffs.
Andy Dirks hasn’t hit well in few chances that he has had in the postseason, though he is far from alone among Tigers in that regard. Replacing him in left with Jhonny Peralta, despite Peralta’s potential defensive deficiencies, makes perfect sense as Peralta is one of only two Tigers swinging a hot bat at the moment. But Don Kelly has been the Tigers secondary left fielder, not Dirks.
Kelly has 13 plate appearances, despite hitting worse than Dirks during the 2013 regular season and over the spans of their respective careers. In part this is due to the fact that Kelly is the go-to option as a defensive replacement – though Dirks is also an awfully good defensive left fielder. In perhaps larger part it is due to Jim Leyland’s lack of faith in Andy Dirks. Leyland does typically hold slumping guys in there until they snap out of it, it usually works, but it requires a modicum of faith in the guy’s underlying talent. I’m not sure he has that faith in Dirks.
This makes what happens with the left field spot for next season quite an open question. Dirks will still be around, but I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll see regular play. The current LF, Peralta, will almost certainly be gone (though stranger things have happened). With a full season from Jose Iglesias rather than Peralta at short the Tigers are going to need improved offense in left to compensate. Where will it come from? Who knows. By default – which is to say “if no moves are made” – I expect we’ll see the job virtually handed to Nick Castellanos in Spring Training with Dirks as his backup. Castellanos might be ready to play at the major league level, but I highly doubt that he’ll be ready – based on his pace of adjustment to increased levels of competition in the minor leagues – to contribute right away.
This is a team built to win now rather than later and the Tigers might see some advantage in moves that would improve the offense in 2014 and 2015 whatever the cost. Could that mean dealing a starter? Could it mean pursuing another free agent in his mid-30s? Well… I suppose it could. We all assume there will be action on the bullpen front – but given how Dirks is being treated in October I think it’s likely that left field will get the same attention come November.