With Alex Avila leaving last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox with an injury, the Detroit Tigers have lost another member of their playoff lineup from last year. Despite the team currently looking like the walking wounded, though, manager Jim Leyland is not short on pieces to use to keep his lineup rolling.
Tiger-town residents may be reaching for the panic button with every game seeming to bring a new injury to the roster, but with the exception of Andy Dirks and Doug Fister, there really isn’t anyone on the roster who can’t be replaced right now. With Delmon Young starting to swing a better bat and the emergence of Quintin Berry, the Tigers are in good position.
Truth be told, even Avila is someone who can be replaced in this lineup. He is struggling to produce offensively this year and hasn’t been throwing out runners at nearly the same clip as he was last year. Truth be told, and I can’t believe I am typing this, there is an argument to be made Gerald Laird should be in the lineup more than Avila right now.
Yes, don’t clean your screens or reload the page, Laird has been more successful at the plate than Avila this year and appears loose at the plate and in the field. Obviously comparing their numbers isn’t exactly like comparing apples-to-apples, but it is no secret Laird is having a better set of games than Avila. In 18 games played, Laird has 14 hits, a .304 average, two long-balls, two walks and four RBIs. They are pretty respectable numbers for a guy who many did not expect to contribute to the team at all.
Meanwhile, Avila has a .254 average, five homeruns and 20 RBIs, but only has 18 walks compared to 38 strikeouts. While he has more RBIs than Laird, he earned eight of them, along with three of his homeruns in the first month of the season and six of his RBIs came in his first five games. Avila has had outbursts of success in May, but despite totaling 12 RBIs, all of them have come in just six of his 25 games, not a great stat for his consistency.
Sure, Laird will come back down to earth, but for right now the team needs someone more consistent than Avila. It could be time to give Avila a bit of a rest and let him try to get healthy and his confidence back. Detroit needs offense from its catcher position in some way so if they could get Avila going long-term, then it would be worth trying out Laird as the every-other day catcher right now.
The other major question is what to do with Quintin Berry when Austin Jackson comes back. With Dirks out, the simple answer is to simply sub-in Berry. Once Dirks is healthy though, Brennan Boesch better hope he has turned on the power or he could find himself on the bench. Berry is a superior defender and, if the continues to hit, would provide more of an offensive spark.
Until Dirks is coming back everyday though, the lineup may look a little something like this with Jackson, Laird and Berry in there.
We all know Leyland though and at any point in time he could decide to do something crazy with his linesup. Heading foward though, the lineup laid out previously might be the best mix of speed, power and contact they have on the roster. More importantly though, this lineup gives the Tigers a chance to win as it doesn’t sacrifice defense for the sake of offensive success.
Tonight’s game against the New York Yankees will be the first test of a lineup similar to this one, as Avila, Dirks and Jackson will all miss another game, so expect to see either Don Kelly or Delmon Young in right field. If it succeeds against CC Sabathia tonight though, it may be the combination Leyland sticks with for the next few days. The team is reaching the point in the year where they have to start turning it around and if this type of lineup helps them do it then Leyland needs to reconginze it and replicate it for the rest of the season.