Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Should Rajai Davis start in left field for the Tigers in 2014?


John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Call your kid over by you, give them a big hug, and say “I love you.”

Next, surprise them with a math quiz. Don’t worry, it’s only one question. If they get it right, let them have dessert tonight even if they don’t eat their vegetables.

Ready?

Question: What number is bigger, 35 or 45?

I thought so. Thanks kids. You have been a big help. Enjoy that ice cream.

Rajai Davis has never played a full season in the major leagues. He’s never been an All-Star or won any Gold Gloves. He has never hit more than 8 HRs in a season and has never touched the 100 run mark. The Tigers will be his fifth team since he began his career in 2006 and for the next two years he will call Detroit home.

And for those two years in Tigers uniform, Rajai Davis should be the starting left fielder.

Why?

Your kid said so.

The 45 represents the number of stolen bases Davis had last season as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Anyone know what the 35 stands for? If you said the number of steals the Tigers, as a team, had last season, you can have some ice cream for dessert too.

The Tigers haven’t had a legitimate base stealer since Quintin Berry in 2012 and we all know how long his career in Detroit lasted. But that was with Jim Leyland at the helm. Leyland preferred station-to-station baseball and would rather take a chance on someone hitting a 2-run home run instead of laying down a sacrifice bunt to move a runner up 90ft.

During an interview in November, new manager Brad Ausmus has already stated that this philosophy will not carry over to his regime.

“Hopefully we’re aggressive instead of always sitting back for a three-run homer. I don’t think you need speed. You can run the bases aggressively and force the defense to make the play without being a burner, so to speak, on the bases. I’m not talking strictly about stealing bases. I’m talking about taking the extra base or reacting to a ball in the dirt and moving up 90 feet. There’s a lot of things you can do to force the defense to make the play on you.” – Brad Ausmus, November 6th on 97.1 The Ticket

With the additions of Davis and second baseman Ian Kinsler, the Tigers now have the players to be aggressive on the base paths just as Ausmus envisions. He mentions that you don’t necessarily need speed and that is true. Being an aggressive baserunner is all about being smart, picking your spots, and timing. But keep in mind that this interview was a month prior to Davis signing with the Tigers. So now that he does have a “burner” and a guy that can steal bases with ease, why waste it?

It’s simple.

Don’t.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rajai Davis for Left Field 2014.

Davis had his best offensive year in 2009 where he hit a slash line of .305/.360/.425 (batting average/on-base %/slugging %) as well as 41 stolen bases. Since then, his numbers have declined, but his stolen bases haven’t. Davis has averaged almost 44 SBs a season since 2009, and even swiped 50 in 2010.

If the Tigers make him the starter, he will easily become the first Tiger since Alex Sanchez in 2003 to steal 40 bags and possibly the first Tiger since Roger Cedano in 2001 to hit the 50 mark.

Dare I say the first Tiger to swipe 60 since Ron Leflore in 1978?

That’s a stretch, but how can you not salivate over that possibility?

Rajai Davis for Left Field 2014.

But what about Andy Dirks?

It is expected that Davis and Dirks will compete for the job in left field come spring training, which most likely will create a platoon situation. There have been calls to make Dirks the starter in left field. But what exactly does Dirks provide that warrants him a job in the everyday lineup?

Like his position battle partner, Dirks has yet to play a full season in the majors. In his three seasons, he has been solid, but nothing to write home about. The slash line for his career is .276/.322/.413. Those numbers are certainly helped by his 2012 season in which he hit .322/.370/.487 while his other two seasons have been very inconsistent. Not to mention, Dirks only has 13 career SBs. 13 CAREER stolen bases. How many did we say Davis had last season?

Rajai Davis for Left Field 2014.

Now if Davis does indeed start, he needs to hit either leadoff or in the 2nd spot. The Blue Jays moved Davis around a bit last season, even hitting him in the 6th hole. If Davis bats either leadoff or 2nd as a Tiger, he will have the luxury to get on base in front of the best hitter in the game today, Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera loves hitting the gaps more than anyone, especially at the spacious Comerica Park. With Davis’ speed and Cabrera’s power, these two together could be a deadly combo. Last season, Cabrera and former teammate Prince Fielder graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the title “Bash Bros.” This season, that changes as “Bash Bros” are no more.

Instead, it’s Miguel Cabrera and Rajai Davis.

Better than Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder?

We’ll see, but I’ll bet some ice cream on that.

Rajai Davis for Left Field 2014.

Tags: Detroit Tigers Featured Popular Rajai Davis

  • Paul Nensewitz

    yeah this makes sense. Davis steals second, they walk Cabrerera, brilliant

    • Josh

      Sure, if they want to have Davis and Miggy on base with VMart up. Money with RISP.

      • Paul Nensewitz

        sorry, but you gotta let miggy hit, i like vmart, but you gotta let miggy hit

        • Josh

          Oh I couldn’t agree more. In 2011, Cabrera was intentionally walked 22 tImes with VMart behind him. Only 3 more than with Prince protecting him last year. Not a huge difference.

  • Paul Nensewitz

    yeah this makes sense. Davis steals second, They walk Cabrerea, perfect

  • Steve Sabaugh

    Ok. You want a guy with a career .316 OBP hitting in front of the greatest hitter in the game, because he steals a lot? Also, you give this guy either the most or second most amount of PAs on the team because he can swipe 2nd the few times he makes it to first? I’m not completely opposed to him starting but he should not be that high in the line up. Putting low OBP/high steal guys at the top of the order never translates to more runs scored. You are giving the most PAs to mediocre hitters. I know steals are sexy kid, but that is an outdated reasoning.

  • http://eyeontigers.blogspot.com/ Jeff Roberts

    Davis had a .273 OBP against RHP last year. For his career it’s .297. I don’t want someone with that low of an OBP at the top of the order.

    Now against LHP, his OBP is .354 (last year it was .383). That’s a good number for the top of the order.

    This is why Davis should only bat against LHP. Platoon him to get the best out of him.

  • chrisHannum

    You’d want Davis hitting in front of a guy who hits a lot of singles and doubles to the gaps but would never be intentionally walked. Ideally? Jackson-Davis-Martinez-Cabrera on days when Davis starts.