Magglio Ordonez Hitting In Toledo, Nearing Return
By Chris Hannum
I’ll admit that I wasn’t initially enthusiastic at the thought of Magglio Ordonez returning from the DL. Before his DL stint, he was simply incapable of hitting live pitching and it’s hard to imagine that he will be playing entirely without pain at any point this summer. When he went 0 for 3 in his first rehab game in Toledo on Friday, that lack of enthusiasm was reinforced.
Then I took a hard look at the big hole in the Tigers offense that Ordonez’ injury and ineffectiveness had left: somebody to get on base for Cabrera to drive in, to take advantage of the juicy fastballs hitting in front of Cabrera will get you and to make pitching around Cabrera a riskier proposition. This is a Cabrera-centered offense, in which a hitter’s importance to the team is directly proportional to his proximity to Cabrera in the batting order – he has (by far) the highest on-base percentage on the team, so he needs people to drive him in – he has (by far) the highest slugging percentage on the team, so he needs people on base to drive in. The first, we have. Martinez, Peralta & Avila are doing an admirable job in the bottom half of the order. The second, the Tigers clearly lack. The Tigers are last in the majors in on-base percentage from the 3 slot with a miserable .266.
Ordonez bears a lot of the blame for that, but Brennan Boesch (who has spent most of the time at #3 while Ordonez has been on the DL or hitting lower in the order) has only put up a .296 OBP while hitting 3rd. In April, Boesch seemed a new man, taking walks and hitting for average. Since, he has seemed to reverse course and go back to the Boesch we would have expected. Low average, low walks, strikeouts and power. That isn’t a number 3 hitter, that’s a number 6 or 7. Casper Wells and Ryan Raburn are basically the same type of batter (if they are hitting at all) and don’t make a good fit at 1, 2 or 3. The Tigers do not have a natural fit for the 3 spot anywhere on their roster aside from Magglio Ordonez (not to mention lacking a real #1 or #2…) making his healthy return awfully important to the Tigers fortunes over the course of a long, hot summer.
Will Ordonez be able to do what he was signed to do, and what the Tigers desperately need him to do? I really couldn’t say. But at least Ordonez has used his bat to give us Tigers fans some hope on Saturday and Sunday. Maggs went 3 for 5 yesterday and is 1 for 4 today, raising his AAA batting average from .000 to .333. Ordonez could be activated as early as tomorrow after this 3-game stint in Toledo, provided he reports no significant pain, and at least his performance has justified it. If it turns out Ordonez, upon his return, isn’t able to get on base 35% of the time – the Tigers will need to start looking at other options soon.