In his ALDS victory over the New York Yankees, Jim Leyland used a different line-up in each game. The mixing and matching worked out when he got key hits from the likes of Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly, but the Tigers also only managed to score 17 runs in the series, and they’ll have to produce more offense against the Rangers if they want a shot at the World Series.
So, we’re here to lend Leyland a hand, and help him come up with a steady line-up that can maximize his team’s offensive output against Texas. He has some good hitters, but the order in which they’re being used could be improved. Given that the Rangers are going to throw left-handers C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison in the series, he’ll also want to focus on getting his best anti-southpaw hitters to the plate as often as possible.
The line-up below might be unconventional, but it would improve the Tigers chances of scoring runs and advancing to the World Series.
#1: Ramon Santiago, 2B, Switch – .305 wOBA
Austin Jackson‘s speed has kept him at the top of the order all season, but the reality is that he just doesn’t hit well enough to justify staying there. He struck out in 27 percent of trips to the plate this year, and the Yankees were able to consistently get him out by throwing off-speed pitches out of the zone. Santiago isn’t anyone’s idea of Rickey Henderson, but his better contact rates and performance against southpaws this year win him the top spot in the batting order.
#2: Victor Martinez, DH, Switch – .368 wOBA
Martinez has gotten a lot of credit for making pitchers pay after they intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera, but right now, Cabrera needs someone in front of him who can get on base. He came up with the bases empty far too often in the ALDS, and moving Martinez’s .380 OBP to the second spot in the line-up will give the Tigers star more RBI opportunities. Having two switch-hitters at the top of the line-up will also help keep the line-up stable when the Rangers go to the bullpen.
#3: Delmon Young, LF, Right – .303 wOBA
While most teams give the #3 spot to their best hitter, Leyland has this one right, as Cabrera is more likely to produce runs from the #4 spot in the order. Young’s OBP isn’t what you’d like from a hitter in this spot, but he hit left-handers significantly better than right-handers and has enough power to drive Martinez in on his own from time to time.
#4: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Right – .436 wOBA
This one’s easy – he’s the beast of the Tigers line-up and belongs in the run producing spot. The rest of the line-up is just there to try and ensure he gets chances to do as much damage as possible.
#5: Jhonny Peralta, SS, Right – .353 wOBA
Peralta wasn’t able to sustain his tremendous first half performance, and he faded a bit down the stretch. However, he’s still one of the Tigers best hitters, and he has enough power to make teams pay for pitching around Cabrera.
#6: Ryan Raburn, RF, Right – .314 wOBA
Magglio Ordonez got most of the playing time in round one, but Raburn is just the better player, especially against a left-handed heavy pitching staff. He hit .274/.321/.486 against southpaws this year, and he was the Tigers second best hitter in the final two months of the season. Compared to Ordonez, he’s also a defensive upgrade in right field.
#7: Alex Avila, C, Left – .383 wOBA
If Avila was healthy, I’d suggest hitting him a lot higher, but his knee problems appeared to be taking a significant strain on him at the plate in the ALDS. His production was a huge part of why the Tigers got to the playoffs in the first place, and if he shows he’s healthy, he should move up to the #5 spot in the order, but the current version of Avila barely resembles the one that the Tigers saw in the regular season.
#8: Austin Jackson, CF, Right – .309 wOBA
While Jackson’s speed may seem wasted at the bottom of the order, this is actually a better spot for his skills. The negative value associated with a caught stealing is dramatically reduced with weaker hitters coming to the plate, so Jackson could run more frequently when he does get on base.
#9: Brandon Inge, 3B, Right – .247 wOBA
Inge had a terrible season by any standard, but most of his struggles came against right-handed pitchers, whom he hit .170/.220/.228 against. He was reasonably effective against left-handers (.245/.339/.378) and has a significant platoon split over the course of his career, so the Tigers should be willing to roll him out there against the Rangers’ southpaws. As soon as the Rangers go to the bullpen, though, Wilson Betemit should be ready to pinch-hit – Inge should never face a right-hander in a close playoff game.
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