Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Batting Order for 2015 - J.D. Should Bat 2nd

The bigger off-season moves for the Tigers seem to be done, with Max Scherzer returning the only thing left undecided (and I give that move about a 50/50 chance of actually happening).  The Tigers have resigned Victor Martinez to be their DH again; Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez are all returning.  There will be some form of a platoon with Rajai Davis and newcomer Anthony Gose in CF while another potential platoon will happen at catcher with Alex Avila and prospect James McCann.  Jose Iglesias is (hopefully) finally healthy and will be the primary shortstop, like the Tigers envisioned when they gave up Avisail Garcia at the 2013 trade deadline.  Yoenis Cespedes is the big off-season acquisition bat and will be replacing Torii Hunter in the OF (although it's likely Cespedes will be playing LF and J.D. will be moving to RF).  

So what will the lineup look like?  A few things are set in stone, Miguel Cabrera and V-Mart will bat 3rd and 4th.  J.D. Martinez and Cespedes will be also be in the middle of the order (with one of them possibly batting 2nd).  Kinsler and/or Davis will likely be at the top and Iglesias will be at the bottom.  But what do the numbers say?  Since the Tigers are going to platoon at least 2 positions, I think there should be two distinct batting orders: one against righties and one against lefties.  

Vs. RHP:
2B Ian Kinsler (.273/.305/.417)
RF J.D. Martinez (.318/.357/.523)
1B Miguel Cabrera (.317/.373/.520)
DH Victor Martinez (.323/.402/.522)
LF Yoenis Cespedes (.279/.311/.466)
3B Nick Castellanos (.266/.301/.401)
C Alex Avila (.215/.340/.380)
CF Anthony Gose (.238/.329/.312)
SS Jose Iglesias (.308/.354/.362*)

*All numbers are 2014 splits against RHP except for Iglesias, who missed all of the 2014 season.  So his splits are from 2013.  

The Tigers don't have a clear lead-off hitter here.  After placing Cabrera and V-Mart in the middle of the order, J.D. has the highest OBP remaining.  However, he's lacking the speed that a true lead-off hitter possesses and he has home run power that better suits the #2 position.  Avila has a high OBP, but again lacks speed.  Gose has a respectable OBP, but lacks experience.  Iglesias also has good numbers here, but it comes from a likely inflated BABIP and his numbers are surely going to drop after missing a whole year.  Therefore, Kinsler is the lead-off hitter by default.  Hopefully he's able to get his BB% back closer to his 8.9% career mark instead of the puny 4.0% he put up last year.  

Vs. LHP:
CF Rajai Davis (.356/.382/.557)
RF J.D. Martinez (.307/.362/.640)
1B Miguel Cabrera (.301/.364/.536)
DH Victor Martinez (.371/.430/.692)
2B Ian Kinsler (.281/.313/.427)
LF Yoenis Cespedes (.199/.269/.397)
3B Nick Castellanos (.237/.319/.374)
C James McCann (.336/.396/.469*)
SS Jose Iglesias (.294/.341/.429*)

*Again, Iglesias' splits are from 2013 and James McCann's splits are from AAA.  Everyone else's splits are from the 2014 season.

The Tigers should have a much more potent lineup against LHP.  Davis has dramatic lefty/right splits, but his lefty splits are good enough that he should be leading off.  Martinez had consistent splits vs. lefties and righties in 2014, so hopefully he's able to carry that over for 2015.  V-Mart will likely not be able to duplicate his breakout year again, but should provide enough offense for the cleanup spot.  Cespedes had unusual number against LHP in 2014, but if he's able to revert back to career norms, then he should bat 5th instead of 6th.  James McCann had great numbers vs. lefites in AAA and will provide a perfect platoon for Avila, who hits righties well enough.  Again, Iglesias benefited from an inflated BABIP in 2014 and won't be able to hit this well after missing a whole year.

Brad Ausmus may want to go with a more consistent lineup.  Davis/Gose platoon might see the bulk share of games at lead-off with Ian Kinsler batting 2nd.  Martinez and Cespedes will then bat 5th and 6th respectively and then the bottom of the order consisting of Castellanos, Avila and Iglesias.  Or he might put DavisGose at the #9 spot for the "second lead-off position" (which I don't particularly agree with).  

One thing that I hoping for is J.D. Martinez batting 2nd.  It's the next natural position to place a Tigers hitter after Cabrera and V-Mart 3rd and 4th.  And going by "The Book," it's a much more important spot than previously assumed.  Ausmus may be inclined to put Cespedes there, but he just doesn't have the OBP that fits that position.  If J.D. Martinez is the real deal (and I think he is) then he needs to batting 2nd for the Tigers.  

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