Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Detroit Tigers, Brad Ausmus and the curious concept of Rajai Davis hitting leadoff Tuesday

When I saw the lineup Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus posted for Tuesday's game at Los Angeles, I couldn't help but laugh and think to myself, "What if Jim Leyland did that?"
Now, I understand Ausmus is in a bit of a tough spot without the DH on the road in interleague play, and still trying to get his two best hitters, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, in the batting order. There was a right-handed pitcher working for the Dodgers, Dan Haren. OK, Alex Avila had to go in at catcher to get another left-handed hitter in the lineup. The Tigers simply don't have enough left-handed punch against right-handed pitchers to pull Avila. They have to put Martinez at first and move Cabrera to third base. That means not playing rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, another right-handed batter, but one of the Tigers top hitters. Martinez could go to catcher vs. a lefty.

Tigers need Daniel Fields to develop quickly
But then Ausmus negated the moves by having right-handed hitting Rajai Davis not only playing left field, but leading off.

Haren is not the hard-throwing No.1 or No.2 starter he used to be. He is kind of a soft-tossing fourth of fifth starter these days. The Tigers made him seem like Orel Hershiser because they didn't have lefty threats in there. Ditto against the Dodgers' bullpen. The only reason they were able to rally late and tie it is because Martinez came up at just the right time.
Notice how often-injured right-hander Josh Beckett, fresh off a multitude of ailments, is starting tonight for the Dodgers instead of left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu, who was originally expected to get the call?. Because LA manager Don Mattingly wasn't born yesterday. He knows exactly what type of predicament this puts Ausmus in.
For one thing, it keeps Castellanos off the field and Martinez from going behind the plate. It puts Ausmus in a situation where he must depend on the left-handed hitting production of Tyler Collins or Don Kelly or Andrew Romine. Or stretch to the point he does bizarre things like leadoff Raji Davis instead of Ian Kinsler.
In fairness to Davis, he did leadoff the game with a bloop hit. But his career numbers present a large sample size and don't lie. He has .652 OPS vs. right-handed pitching and .779 OPS vs. left-handed pitching. That makes him the very definition of a platoon player. He has also not been much of a leadoff, either, despite his speed and stellar base-stealing ability. His career numbers across the board are lower at leadoff than other spots in the order.
Davis can be a very effective player or the Tigers, but only if put in spots where he can excel. Ausmus didn't put him in that position Tuesday.
He played against the percentages - and lost. It shouldn't be a surprise.
But this isn't just on Ausmus. He has been presented with a less-than-complete deck. Part of it is bad luck. If Andy Dirks weren't hurt, he'd have played, and there wouldn't have been such a nonsensical lineup. General manager Dave Dombrowski has presented Ausmus a 4-A cast in Dirks' place.
It's why it is imperative for the Tigers that left-handed hitting outfielder Daniel Fields emerge at Triple-A Toledo. He is off to a pretty good start for the Mud Hens. If that continues, it probably won't be long before he is brought to Detroit.
But if that does happen, it could be after this interleague trip. Wouldn't that be a bit late?

My column. Michigan football a little too confused for comfort:


Blogger Barry said...

Well Pat, Romine looks comfortable at ss now only if can hit. Your right Collins is just not ready. You think they would have went with a more experience such as Carrera. I love way Kelly plays the field but not the way he hits. If the ball is not in his zone to hit he looks helpless. He needs to take batting practice from V-Mart. If you throw a ball in his large hitting zone no matter if it is JV throwing or AAAA pitcher V-Mart will hit it. I would take V-Mart over Miggy a 1000 x, as I have written before, to have V-Mart hitting against a top notch reliever. Miggy might end up with a higher batting average but V-Mart is your most consistent hitter. V-Mart can hit but can't run. I thought Omar made a terrible mistake because of the theory to keep the opposing set-up guys and closer on the mound so they cannot pitch the next game. The theory you can win today game and also tomorrow game at the same time. Joba and Krol look like they can hold their own.
Evan, AA and Nathan can also hold their own. Coke, did he actually throw fastball down the middle of the plate last night?

12:42 PM 

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