Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers‘ struggling center fielder Austin Jackson was given a rare start in the leadoff spot, and he ended up going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in the Tigers’ 6-4 loss to the Houston Astros. He is now slashing just .244/.310/.359 on the season, which is the worst line he has had since his sophomore season in 2011.
Although Jackson batted leadoff from 2010-13, he relinquished that spot to Ian Kinsler this season, and so far the Tigers have struggled to find the right place in the order for him. Perhaps not having a fixed spot in the lineup is part of what has contributed to Jackson’s struggles in 2014.
Thus far, Jackson has batted first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh. He has really struggled at the top of the lineup, going hitless in six at-bats in the leadoff spot and batting just .136 (3-for-22) in the two-hole. Jackson has posted his best batting average in the five-hole, batting .301 in 83 at-bats, but the emergence of J.D. Martinez has forced him out of that spot.
All three of Jackson’s home runs have come batting sixth, but he is batting just .222 in 117 at-bats down there. He is, however, batting a healthy .294 in 34 at-bats in the seven-hole.
Perhaps the solution to Jackson’s struggles is to simply put him in the seven-spot and leave him there, rather than move him around all of the time. This might allow him to grow more comfortable and finally relax. Regardless of what has been causing Jackson to struggle, though, the Tigers need to find the remedy rather soon.
Based on the way that his Spring Training went, everyone was expecting Jackson to have a breakout year. After all, he slashed .429/.458/.696 with two home runs and 14 RBIs this spring. He had a rather strong start to the regular season as well, batting .310 in April. But ever since the calendar turned to May, he has struggled.
If Jackson cannot get it going soon, it may be time for the Tigers to start exploring other options such as playing Rajai Davis in center field more often, or perhaps even consider trading Jackson with the return of Andy Dirks on the horizon.