Andy Dirks was enjoying a breakout year, hitting .328/.379/.515 with 4 HR and a 144 wRC+ in 146 plate appearances before being placed on the DL on May 31st. This was after hitting only .251/.296/.406 in 235 plate appearances in 2011. How much of this improvement is reality and how much of it is just a small sample fluke?
Dirks has a .357 BABIP with a 26.1% LD rate. A quick formula of xBABIP is to add .120 to the line drive rate. This measure gives Dirks an xBABIP of .381, so the .357 BABIP, while rather high, actually shows a real improvement given the LD%. However, how likely is it that Dirks will continue to have a LD% of 26.1%? This is a small sample size and Dirks only had a 18.9% LD% in 2011. Dirks’ current LD% would place him 6th in all of baseball. It is pretty rare for someone who was projected to only be a 4th OF this year to suddenly be hitting this well.
In the 10 games of rehab in AAA, Dirks has put up a line of .216/.293/.405, 2 HR. While these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, it does show how difficult it will be for Dirks to continue his production before the injury. There is some evidence that Dirks has truly improved, but a little regression should be expected.
ZiPS does projections before the season begins, but also during the season (updated) while giving a “rest of the season” projection. Here is what ZiPS projects for the Tigers’ corner outfielders for the rest of the season:
Andy Dirks - .270/.316/.397/.713, 3 HR, .314 wOBA
Brennan Boesch - .263/.318/.419/.737, 6 HR, .320 wOBA
Delmon Young - .278/.313/.419/.732, 6 HR, .313 wOBA
Quintin Berry doesn’t get a projection because he wasn’t supposed to contribute much at the ML level. Although for the time being, his struggles have come mostly against left-handed pitching and Dirks, being a left-handed hitter, probably isn’t going to replace Berry very often.
Looking at these projections, Dirks doesn’t show any kind of improvement over what the Tigers already have. With Young being the only right-handed hitter, the Tigers could benefit from getting another right-handed batter and play the match-ups. There is speculation that Alfonso Soriano could be dealt during August. If the Cubs are willing to eat a significant portion of his remaining contract and all the Tigers have to give up are a couple of marginal prospects, it could be wise for the Tigers to pull the trigger.