01 March 2012
Tigers fans are already in midseason form when it come to nitpicking Jim Leyland’s lineups. The skipper released his lineup card for Friday’s exhibition game with the Florida Southern Mocs, and internet comment forms are already filled with “OMG what is he thinking?” type comments. Here’s the lineup:
I’m not trying to wag my finger at passionate Tigers fans, I’m clearly one myself, and I’ll admit that a facepalm was my initial reaction to the lineup, but it is only a Spring Training game. I think some concern here is justified – Leyland did mention wanting to get all of his ‘starters’ into the game at the beginning – but I don’t think Jim is telling us that this is necessarily the lineup he’s going to trot out on opening day.
Obviously, the part of the lineup that sticks out like a sore thumb is Andy Dirks as the designated hitter. Why would you use a plus defender as a DH when you have so many weak defenders in the lineup. Leyland has been clear all along that he “doesn’t have a DH”. That he’s going to use a variety of guys in that spot. Of course, we all hope one of those players isn’t Andy Dirks, at least when the games start counting. But I think what Jim is doing here is sticking all of his “regular guys” in their “regular spots” (how he sees them, not how we see them). He wants to use Miguel primarily as a third baseman, he wants to use Prince primarily as a first baseman, and he wants to use Delmon primarily as a left fielder. Not that they’ll actually all be in the field in together with any sort of regularity (we hope) during the season, but when they are in the field, those are the spots that they’ll be in.
And when you think about it that way, and when you force yourself to think exhibition game, it actually makes a good deal of sense to put your poor fielders all out in the field. We all know Andy Dirks can handle a corner outfield spot, and Delmon won’t get any better at fielding by being the designated hitter.
And really, we’re only talking about two innings (or so) of baseball. Leyland’s plan is to play his regulars for ‘one at bat’ and then replace them with some of the younger guys. This lineup is really just a formality. It’s just a chance to fill out a lineup card and send some guys out in the field. I know we’re all anxious for games to start too, but let’s save the nit picking for later on in the spring, at the very least.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.