Jim Leyland has stuck to his platoons for a while now, which should mean the right-handed left-fielder Matt Tuiasosopo will get a lot of playing time this week.
The Detroit Tigers will face three left-handers in the first three games of a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox in Chris Sale, Hector Santiago and John Danks. They will then kick off their weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies against two more southpaws in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Tuiasosopo has made the most of his playing time so far this season. He has appeared in 43 games and is batting .322 with a 1.047 OPS. He has been splitting time with Andy Dirks and has had plenty of pinch-hitting opportunities. He hasn’t been an every day player by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been pivotal to the success at the back end of the batting order when he has been in the game.
He’s easy for the opposition to glance over. He’s never really had the opportunity to secure a full-time position and his name isn’t synonymous with a frightening power hitter, but he’s been successful when he’s gotten a chance. He’s the type of hitter who can make the most out of a lazy fastball when opposing pitchers get through the Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez gauntlet. It’s easy for them to forget they have to stay away from Tuiasosopo. He’s able to hit it just as far as the first two in that group and has proven his ability to do damage if he’s used in the proper spots.
Dirks has gotten the majority of the playing time in left field this season, but hasn’t performed at nearly the same rate as Tuiasosopo. Many Tigers’ fans are clamoring for Tuiasosopo to get more playing time because of his gaudy numbers, but his success could be largely due to the fact he hasn’t been forced to play day in and day out.
Dirks should have a little extra time off this week which could help him. He’s batting .248 in 81 games this season compared to .322 in 88 games in all of last season. He’s been relied on much more than in the past, which may be the reason he’s struggled to keep his numbers up, but his defense in underrated. There is a definite trade-off having Tuiasosopo in left compared to Dirks, who plays his position exceptionally well, but hasn’t supplied much power at the plate. Tuiasosopo, on the other hand, has the ability to deposit baseballs in the outfield seats, but can be a little shaky when it comes to patrolling his position defensively.
Fans should get what they’ve asked for this week and see a lot more of Tuiasosopo. Chances are that by the end of the week, they’ll see why Tui is used more as a pinch-hitter than an every day defender. Luckily for him, he shouldn’t have too much ground to cover at U.S. Cellular Field. No one would mistake him for Willie Mays while playing in the outfield.