Austin Jackson has been the Detroit Tigers‘ leadoff man since his rookie season of 2010, but the time has finally come to drop him in the batting order. Jackson averages a whopping 175 strikeouts per 162-game season which is simply an unacceptable statistic for a leadoff hitter. Last season, while he only played in 129 games, he struck out 129 times in 552 at-bats which means that he struck out 23 percent of the time. It is time for a change, and the Tigers have at least four other leadoff options in Ian Kinsler, Andy Dirks, Torii Hunter, and the newly-signed Rajai Davis.
Kinsler would be a great candidate to bat leadoff, as he was the Texas Rangers‘ leadoff man for the majority of the 2013 season and hit a solid .281 in 391 at-bats in that spot. However, Kinsler would probably be more effective batting second where he would be batting in front of the game’s best hitter in Miguel Cabrera. The most intriguing name of the four may in fact be Dirks.
Although Dirks hit just .256 last season, he was significantly better when he batted in the top third of the lineup. Dirks hit .300 while batting third, .272 when batting second, and a stellar .311 in 106 at-bats in the leadoff spot. Furthermore, Dirks hit .322 just two years ago and battled through a knee injury throughout the entire 2013 season which could very well explain his drop in production. Many believe Dirks is primed for a comeback season in 2014.
Dirks will still only be 28 years old next spring, and it is perfectly logical to think that he has all the potential in the world to become one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus should give Dirks a chance to bat leadoff, have Kinsler hit second where he can take advantage of batting ahead of Cabrera, and then move Torii Hunter to the five hole where he will provide ample protection for Victor Martinez.
Jackson should be dropped to the bottom third of the lineup where he doesn’t have to worry about the strikeouts and he can let it all hang out. With the reduced pressure that comes with batting lower in lineup, Jackson may actually hit 20 home runs next season. After all, he did hit 16 home runs in just 137 games in 2012.
In 2013, Jackson had a mediocre season and was having a dismal postseason until the Tigers dropped him to eighth in the order for the final three games of the ALCS. After being moved to the eight hole, Jackson responded by going 6-for-9 and hitting an eye popping .667. Let him start next season where he left off.