The Tigers’ struggle to find a full-time regular starter to play second base have been well-documented–five different players have started at least 17 games at second for them this year.
Though Brandon Inge held a spot at third base for two full months to start the season, he proved absurdly ineffective at the plate and, consequently, the Tigers have rotated players at the hot corner for most of the year; even after acquiring Wilson Betemit from Kansas City.
That adds up to three voids in Detroit’s lineup. Some teams would struggle to win games in a similar situation, but not the Tigers. Their depth has performed marvelously over the past month or so.
As was suggested by John Verberg this afternoon, the Tigers have been much better off at second base when the aging, broken down Carlos Guillen is inactive due to injury as he is now. Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago have split the vast majority of time at the spot in Guillen’s absence, and the platoon has really solidified the position.
Guillen has logged just three starts at second base since August 13th. Over the same span, Santiago has started 18 games at second (plus four starts at shortstop) while Raburn has been penciled in there 11 times (plus four starts between third base and the corner outfield spots). Since Guillen’s role has been reduced, Santiago has hit .318 with an OPS of .927; Raburn has posted an even more impressive .354 average with an OPS of .991. Each have four home runs over the same span–they’ve both supplied more than sufficient average and power.
Inge has been played in a much more limited role since returning from Toledo, and has performed infinitely better as a result. He’s been inserted as a starter at third base in place of Betemit when the Tigers’ opponent starts a left-handed pitcher, as well as coming in regularly as a late-inning defensive replacement and even successfully pinch-hitting once in a while.
Since his return from the minors on August 20th, Inge has started just 11 games and played in 26. In those games, we’ve seen a completely different player compared to the Inge of April and May–he’s hit .326 with an OPS of .882. He’s even homered twice; once in his first game back and once in mid-September, a walk-off shot against the Minnesota Twins.
Magglio Ordonez has split time in right field almost evenly with Andy Dirks and Don Kelly since Boesch’s season ended due to injury, and though Dirks and Kelly have contributed mostly with their defense, Ordonez, in his limited time, has posted offensive numbers akin to those of first-half Boesch.
After Boesch started for the last time on August 24th, Ordonez has stepped up his game significantly. Ordonez has started 11 games, all in right field, and is hitting .400 with an OPS of .954.
All of the players I’ve written about will likely be included in the Tigers’ playoff roster, and their contributions during the recent run that won the Tigers the division won’t soon be forgotten–not by me, and not by Jim Leyland when the time comes for him to fill playoff lineup cards.
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