It is Time For a Change at the Top of the Order
By Sam Genson
I know it seems silly to complain about the lack of offense right now, but hear me out. This year Austin Jackson is sporting an on-base percentage of.316. Jhonny Peralta has a batting average of .316. Think about that for a minute. Our #6 hitter’s batting average is equal to that of the on-base percentage of our lead-off hitter – arguably the second most important hitter in a lineup. For some more fun with numbers, Jackson’s slugging percentage is .363, Peralta’s on-base percentage is .361. This means that for every time Austin Jackson gets on base this year, Peralta is getting a hit, and that his slugging is so weak it is matched by Peralta’s on base ability.
This is not how you “spark a lineup”.
With all this talk of Jhonny Peralta you might think I am advocating for him to be our new lead-off hitter…no. Peralta is a doing a very nice job as our #6/#7 hitter, allowing rallies to continue on past Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. I actually think that Magglio Ordonez would be a very option at leadoff. Since coming off the DL, Magglio is hitting roughly .290 and in the last 28 days is hitting .309 with a .342 OBP. In that same frame, Jackson is hitting .264/.339 with less power than Magglio. By having Austin Jackson serve as the leadoff hitter, the Tigers are giving the most at bats to possibly their worst “regular” hitter right now. Instead of having your #3 or #4 hitters come up with men on base, right now they are more likely to have a man out.
I like Austin Jackson as a player, so this is not meant to be an article railing on him, moreso it is that the Tigers are not using him correctly right now (by Tigers I mean Jim Leyland). I think he plays outstanding defense (I don’t fully understand defensive stats, so I am not going to plug any in for fear of misuse, I will just say that he passes my eye test). I love that he brings the dimension of speed to the Tigers lineup, something that is sorely lacking. I also think he has talent with the bat but might be feeling pressured in that #1 spot. I think instead, he should be batting 8th – where if he gets on he will have the green-light more often rather than being held back for fear of taking away an RBI opportunity for Cabrera.
An added benefit to moving Magglio to leadoff is that it frees up the #3 spot for Brennan Boesch. Leyland is using Boesch in the #2 spot with Magglio occupying #3. As a #2 hitter Boesch is failing produce, putting up a split of .202/.250/.330 in 94 ABs. If you look at his numbers as a #3 they are the polar opposite – .346/.387/.588. If you thought comparing Jackson to Peralta was bad, #2 Boesch to #3 Boesch must be criminal. He clearly benefits from hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, something I do NOT think would affect Magglio as much given his pedigree as a hitter. Who would I put at #2…I don’t know, but not Brennan Boesch. Heck, even plugging in Jackson there would give the team a better option than Boesch (although it would be self-defeating as he would run even less…and I was not actually serious, he should stick at 8).
While trying not to tempt fate, I will say that it would be hard for Leyland to mismanage the first two spots in the order MORE than what he is right now (please don’t try and prove me wrong Mr. Leyland). Right now with Jackson and Boesch as #1 and #2 in the order your on-base percentages are .312 and .250…these numbers do not exactly translate into RBI opportunities for the heart of your order. As good as the Tigers offense is right now, it is quite obvious that it could actually be BETTER without even changing the roster.
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