The Detroit Tigers currently possess a 26-12 record as well as a 6.5-game lead in the AL Central, and they also have the highest winning percentage in MLB at .684. For the most part, they have been getting the job done with great starting pitching and an explosive, but nearly exclusively, right-handed lineup.
The Tigers have the switch-hitting Victor Martinez, but that is about it when it comes to dependable left-handed hitters. Utility man Don Kelly may be batting .316 but he has only had 38 at-bats, and Alex Avila is only batting .218 although he does have a solid on-base percentage of .346. The light-hitting, switch-hitting Andrew Romine is now batting just .169 from the left side of the plate. The potential return of a healthy Andy Dirks next month could truly help balance a Tigers’ lineup that is heavily skewed to the right.
Granted, it is hard to know what to expect from Dirks upon his return, as he struggled throughout much of 2013, and coming back from back surgery could certainly prove to be challenging, but let’s just engage in a bit of wishful thinking for a moment.
In 2012, which was not so long ago, Dirks boasted a slash line of .322/.370/.487 through 88 games, which was good for an impressive .857 OPS. He also hit 18 doubles, five triples, eight home runs and crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .336 batting average. Some blamed Dirks’ drop in production in 2013 to a knee injury he was playing through. If Dirks could return to his 2012 numbers, he would give the Tigers a formidable weapon against RHP, and they could certainly use another one.
Rajai Davis, who became the Tigers de facto starting left fielder after Dirks’ injury, got off to a sizzling-hot start but he has slowly been coming back to Earth. Furthermore, although he has hit righties at a .309 clip so far this season, he is just a lifetime .258 hitter against RHP and has a history of hitting lefties much better. Moreover, J.D. Martinez, the Tigers’ right-handed hitting reserve outfielder, has also been slumping as of late and is now batting a mere .200.
Simply put, the Tigers could really use a left-handed outfielder in order to have a true platoon with Davis in left field, and that is where Dirks will come in nicely.
It should also be noted that Dirks is a very good defensive player, and he brings his glove to the ballpark every single day. He only made two errors in left field in 2013 and has a lifetime fielding percentage of .986. He is an all-around solid ballplayer, and there is an awful lot that he could add to this team. If Dirks can come back and resemble the hitter that he was in 2012 while playing solid defense, he will likely be a major part of the team’s success this summer and the Tigers will surely appreciate him.