Current free agent Torii Hunter is definitely nearing the finishing line of his career and that was abundantly clear in 2014. After a great first season in Detroit in 2013, Hunter took a step back at the plate and in the field, hence his “C” grade, and has likely played his last game in a Tigers’ uniform.
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Torii got off to a rather slow start in April at the plate, bottoming out with a .222 average on April 14. Near the end of the month, he started pushing the average over .300, reaching a season high of .316 on May 10. From there, it was really an up and down season for Hunter, finishing with a .286 average, .765 OPS, 17 homers, and 83 RBIs, his lowest totals in those categories since 2011.
Hunter has always been a player loathe to take many walks, he had just 23 base on balls in 586 at-bats in 2014, so his plate discipline has been an issue his entire career. This season, however, it seemed that the timing in Torii’s swing was off, particularly on off-speed pitches. He swung through a lot of pitches this year, more than we remember with the Angels or all those years with the Twins.
At 39-years of age, it is not surprising that Hunter’s defensive range has taken a step back. The former annual Gold Glover had his share of issues in right field, misjudging balls or not having the wheels to get to them. Even routine outs often would be an adventure in right field.
In a perfect world, Hunter would be a designated hitter now. Should the Tigers let Victor Martinez walk, signing Torii (who said he wants to play for the Tigers in 2015) would make some sense–he knows the system, the team, the ballpark, however you have to wonder if his bat will continue to decline.
If Hunter declines 18 points in batting average again (he went from .304 to .286 from 2013 to 2014), it will leave the team with a glaring hole in the lineup–much like the DH position was prior to V-Mart’s arrival in 2010.