Yesterday, Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler broke out of his recent slump, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a walk in a 12-9 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Kinsler was batting leadoff, where he has flourished the entire season. It is becoming more and more apparent that he is the Tigers’ only answer for leadoff hitter.
Kinsler now has a slash line of .316/.347/.481 in 158 at-bats in the leadoff spot, compared to a line of .241/.275/.384 in 112 at-bats in the two-hole. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has batted Rajai Davis leadoff in many games against left-handed pitching this season, but the numbers suggest that he should leave Kinsler in the leadoff spot, permanently.
For starters, Davis has really cooled off after a very hot start, and he is only batting .172 in the month of June. Furthermore, part of the reason the Tigers signed Davis was to hit lefties, but he has not hit LHP significantly better than right-handed pitching this season. As a matter of fact, Davis is batting .269 against left-handed starters this season compared to .281 against right-handed starters. Kinsler is only marginally better against left-handed starters at .273, but he is batting .286 against lefties overall.
Due to the fact that J.D. Martinez continues to swing a hot bat and Andy Dirks is on his way back, Davis will likely see his playing time reduced. When he is in, though, he should always be batting ninth.
Moreover, when Kinsler bats second, it also bumps Torii Hunter down to the five-hole, where he does not perform nearly as well. Hunter’s slash line in the No. 5 spot is just .250/.268/.338 with two home runs and 14 RBIs, compared to .285/.309/.531 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in the No. 2 spot. It is becoming clear that Hunter is no longer the middle-of-the-order hitter he was earlier in his career, and he truly benefits from batting ahead of Miguel Cabrera when he is hitting second.
Therefore, Kinsler and Hunter should be left in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. Leaving them in the spots where they perform better, and not moving them, simply appears to be the best thing for the team.