Recently, the teaser manager Brad Ausmus made about the revamped lineup has given Tigers fans many things to either be excited for or fret over.
First, Austin Jackson batting fifth not only seems like an unsuitable use of a particular skill-set, but just in general appears to be a burn-your-house-down-from-putting-your-shoes-in-the-microwave-bad idea. ,
Secondly, having Victor Martinez slide back into the cleanup role will be wonderful.
Feb 14, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) claps after a workout at the Detroit Tiger
More importantly, some of us fans are bemoaning the effectiveness of a fourth spot sans a 30+ homer guy. To reply to that I simply point you in the direction of Martinez’s last full season batting cleanup, 2011, in which he posted a slash of .330/.380/.470. Additionally, his wRC+ was an incredible 130 and his wOBA was .369.
For those of us who put stock in RBI, Martinez drove in 103 runs batting behind Cabrera that season despite only knocking 12 dongs out of the park. When hitting with men in scoring position, Martinez batted an absolutely bonkers .394(!), and with men simply on base he hit .404(!!). According to Fangraphs, in medium-leverage situations (264 plate appearances) Martinez hit .346, hit four homers, and drove in 34 runs. In high-leverage situations? In 52 plate apearances Martinez hit .489, hit four homers, and drove in 17 runs!
And that’s just from 2011. He may have missed the 2012 season while recuperating, but when he returned he shook off his rust in an emphatic manner.
The season started slowly for him, and many Tiger fans, yours truly included, worried that maybe the knee injury he had suffered had been too severe, or maybe age had caught up with the former backstop. The first three months of the season he batted .221, .235, and .240. Instead of focusing on the sub-.300 batting line, we should have noticed the gradual improvement, and that luck was definitely not on his side, as his BABIP was .247, .250, and .225 in those months.
As soon as the calendar hit July he went on an absolute tear, with his second-half average .361 pulled his overall average to .301, a number previously thought to be an insane pipe-dream when he was in the doldrums. His second-half wOBA and wRC+ were staggeringly high at .391 and 147, and his second half ISO topped his first-half .139 to .120.
Does this all mean that Martinez will be hitting .360 and drive in 130 runs behind Cabrera? Who’s to say? He’s a switch-hitter with a keen eye who has a taste for simply making contact to advance runners. We know that any type of hit will do for him, but he won’t go beyond his skill set to try and hit home runs. I think having Martinez back at the fourth spot in the lineup will only help the Tigers, who last season had to deal with the feast-or-famine of Prince Fielder’s inconsistency behind Cabrera.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Cabrera was intentionally walked 22 times in 2011 batting in front of Martinez, and he was subsequently given free passes of 17 and 19 hitting in front of Fielder.
This will work out just fine.