Andy Dirks in the Doghouse

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.

October 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks (12) is unable to catch a foul ball against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning in game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Coliseum. The Tigers defeated Athletics 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: Detroit Tigers

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  • rings13

    I’ve been a Dirks fan all along, but he’s lost right now and he’s playing for a team that needs offense. I completely agree with avoiding him, except for defensive purposes. His only option is to start hitting when given a shot. It’s that simple.

    • chrisHannum

      Really, he isn’t the only Tiger who is or has been lost at the plate – but he is the only guy who has seen PT drop to virtually nil as a result. Iglesias is a good point of reference: he had a .220 OPS from September 11 through the end of the regular season and has done basically nothing in the postseason – and yet he was brought in to pinch-hit for Dirks… AJax wasn’t really hitting any better than Dirks in the latter half of September either, and (prior to game 4) his postseason had been bad enough to break a record (most strikeouts in the ALCS)

      • rings13

        True, but Iggy has absolutely “lost time” to Peralta, because of the offense…he was playing every day. Now, he’s basically a defensive replacement in the tournament. And we don’t have an alternative CF for Ajax, so there really isn’t an alternative aside from dropping him in the order.
        I have always liked Andy, but he’s had a tough year and is regarded as a platoon/stopgap guy at best. They have alternatives, so he’s sitting for the most part.

  • louwhitaker

    Which leads to a related question: Why didn’t Leyland ever give Castellanos a chance in September? We have no decent right handed ph option on the bench, except maybe Pena if they can sweep the cobwebs off of him.

    • chrisHannum

      He seems totally unwilling to use Pena for anything except “emergency catcher”, so I completely agree. Maybe he just didn’t think Castellanos would be able to handle the pressure, but maybe the “plan” was that Peralta would be the right-handed bat off the bench rather than a regular.

      • louwhitaker

        I think that is exactly it–Leyland doubted Castellanos could take the pressure. It reminds me a bit of Sparky’s treatment of Howard Johnson. I think I even saw Anderson quoted somewhere as saying HoJo didn’t “have what it takes”, whatever that means. So we peddled him to the Mets for a fourth starter, where he was a fixture for the better part of a decade and graced several All Star games, and we made due with Brookens and Livingstone until Fryman came along for a couple of years. I hope we don’t follow that script with Castellanos–kid looks like he can HIT!

        • chrisHannum

          Well… as far as Castellanos goes I don’t think Leyland would doubt his ability, just his readiness (at the moment). As for HoJo, he had a classic sort of mid-career peak that apparently the Tigers couldn’t wait around for – he was really good between 25 and 30, but they dealt him at 23 after 3 mediocre partial seasons. How an unproven guy actually gets the confidence of his manager is a mystery. It’s more than just “performing” because nobody has a great week every week.

          • louwhitaker

            Three mediocre seasons is not quite accurate. In 1982 he had a slash line of .316/.384/.426. He was inexplicably given only 74 plate appearances the next year, and his stats regressed. The next year wasn’t great, but his OPS was higher than Brookens’. You would think that if you have a young guy who is outperforming your mediocre veteran incumbent with limited playing time, you might want to see what he can do if you give him a real chance, especially when third base was a spot where our rivals had guys like Boggs and Brett and Molitor and that great platoon in Toronto (Millinicks/Iorg) and were cleaning our clock. Like I say, I think Sparky blew it, and I hope we don’t revisit that drama.

          • chrisHannum

            Three “mediocre” seasons isn’t the same as three “bad” seasons. (especially when the guy is 22) They DID blow it, there’s no doubt about that. I wonder what exactly gave Sparky that negative impression.

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