Ever since Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus decided to move Austin Jackson back to the leadoff spot, his bat has seemingly perked up. Jackson is slashing an impressive .357/.403/.571 in the month of July, raising his line on the season to a much healthier .266/.328/.400.
The only problem, however, is that putting Jackson back at the leadoff spot has bumped Ian Kinsler down to the two-hole, where he has not been nearly as effective this season. Kinsler is slashing an eye-popping .332/.363/.500 in the leadoff spot, compared to just .260/.291/.409 in the two-hole.
The other problem that the Tigers have had, however, is finding another hitter who can bat second when Kinsler is leading off. Torii Hunter, who batted second for the Tigers throughout most of last season, has shown good power this year, but has not been the .300 hitter that he was from 2012-13. Furthermore, his OBP remains a lowly .297 overall.
Ausmus has also experimented with Jackson in the No. 2 hole, but he really struggled in that spot, posting a mere .136 batting average in 22 at-bats. And for whatever reason, Ausmus has shied away from giving Rajai Davis a chance to bat second, and there are not many other viable No. 2 hitters on the Tigers’ current 25-man roster. This is why the Tigers could really use a healthy Andy Dirks at the moment.
That being said, when you have a guy who has hit north of .330 in 190 at-bats in the leadoff spot, why mess with him? Moreover, it should also be noted that even though Hunter has struggled to draw his walks this season, his OBP in the two-hole is .291 — exactly the same as Kinsler’s. Hunter’s batting average in the two-hole is also four points higher than Kinsler’s at .264, so what would the Tigers really be missing by putting Hunter in the two-hole instead of Kinsler?
Plus, the fact that Kinsler strikes out far less than Jackson does should make him the superior leadoff option. Kinsler has struck out just 43 times in 426 plate appearances, while Jackson has struck out 80 times in 379 plate appearances.
It is great to see that Jackson is finally hitting again. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of Kinsler, who has been so consistent in the leadoff spot this season, going into a funk. It needs to be noted that since the All-Star break, Kinsler has gone just 2-for-20, dropping his batting average on the season from .303 to .293. Well, surprise surprise, he has batted second in all five games since the break.
Even though the Tigers have seemingly tried everything else, there still has to be a way for them to keep Jackson’s bat hot that would allow Kinsler to stay in the leadoff spot.