March 26, 2013; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Don Kelly (32) hits a double during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Fans weren’t necessarily happy with how Jim Leyland managed the ninth inning yesterday – in particular his leaving Phil Coke in the game to face right handed hitter – and they’re likely not to be happy today after seeing the lineup (as presented by MLive’s James Schmehl):
"Detroit Tigers1. Austin Jackson, CF2. Torii Hunter, RF3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B4. Prince Fielder, 1B5. Victor Martinez, DH6. Don Kelly, LF7. Jhonny Peralta, SS8. Alex Avila, C9. Omar Infante, 2B"
It’s only the third game of the season – and the first on back-to-back days – and we’re already seeing a regular lifted for a bench guy. And it’s not just any bench guy, it’s most people’s least favorite bench guy, Don Kelly. And it’s not just everyone’s least favorite bench guy, Don Kelly, it’s everyone’s least favorite bench guy, Don Kelly, batting sixth!
It’s true that Andy Dirks hasn’t been lighting the world on fire at the plate yet – he has zero hits and just one walk in eight plate appearances – and he hasn’t been spectacular in the field either, but he’s certainly a better option than Don Kelly. If his knee is bothering him, that’s one thing, but do we really need to give him a day off on day three?
There’s really no reason for Kelly to be hitting above number eight or nine anyway. Leyland’s M.O. has always been to insert the substitute in the lineup spot of the player he’s replacing, but swapping him for Avila in the six and eight spots shouldn’t throw the team out of whack. Then again, lineup order has been shown to be relatively meaningless in one-game settings. We’re probably only talking small fractions of a run in expected value, but it’s stuff like this that Leyland does that (understandably) grinds fans’ gears.