Thursday postgame: Dlugach on a power trip

dlugach.jpgCall it the product of a healthy offseason workout program, or the gusty winds in Florida the last couple days, or finally rounding out the offensive side of his game, but the Tigers’ leading hitter so far is Brent Dlugach.

At the moment, in fact, he’s statistically one of the top hitters in the Grapefruit League, sharing the league lead in homers with at least four others.

Sure, they’re just two games in. But it’s fun to point out, especially when it’s somebody who has had so little of a chance to show what he can do in the big leagues.

The Tigers drafted Dlugach in 2004 as a defense-first SS out of the University of Memphis. He had middling offensive stats at pretty much every stop on his way through the Tigers farm system except for a short stint at Double-A Erie in 2007. It was short because a shoulder injury ended it.

Dlugach underwent shoulder surgery in 2007 and missed most of 2008 in recovery. His first full season post-surgery came last, and it came with a big jump to Triple-A Toledo, where they needed a shortstop.

What happened in all that time off, what actually helped him, he said, was that he spent most of the previous year in the gym working out. He was stronger physically than at any other point in his pro career, and he could fight off pitches and punch line drives better than before. The result was a Triple-A All-Star season with a .294 average, 36 doubles, nine home runs and 59 RBIs.

He’s even stronger this year, quite a bit stronger, after another offseason working out. Because more time has passed since shoulder surgery, he could do more upper-body work. He also put on quite a few pounds of muscle, which would take him over the 200-pound mark for his 6-foot-4 frame. That doesn’t make him a power hitter by any means, but it’s starting to look like he can hold his own.

“He’s doing fine,” Leyland said. “He’s strong. He’s a pretty big kid.
He’s got some strength.”

What the Tigers do with Dlugach is going to be interesting, moreso down the line than out of this camp. He has options left and the Tigers have a shortstop opening at Toledo, so unless Ramon Santiago or someone else is injured in camp, he appears set to open the season as a Mud Hen again. But the left side of the Tigers infield is up for free agency at season’s end, and with the jury still out on Tigers shortstop prospects, it’s conceivable another solid year could open some eyes. For this camp, though, he’s likely to see a little more time at second and third base while Gustavo Nunez and Audy Ciriaco are in camp.

That sure glove is still there, too, and he’s starting to show it at those other positions. After entering Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays at second base, he made a nice play on a one-hopper with the infield in.

8 Comments

Jason, thanks for the updates. I have questions about “B” games. There’s one tomorrow morning and I heard on today’s broadcast that anyone can come in to watch for free. How often are these played, how far in advance are they scheduled, and how can we find out when one is? And I guess they play it in the ballpark? Sounds like a nice way to spend a morning, for fans if not the traveling players.
.
–Rich

Here’s a thought…If his glove is above average and his bat is catching fire, why not consider him to replace Adam Everett. I know the Tigers do not want to eat another contract, but if it makes sense, why not? His defense is not as good I’m sure, but he hits better. Everett is a career .220 hitter. They need to stop trying to justify their bad contracts and play the best player available.

Adam Everett is a career .245 hitter. Check your stats before you post.

Sorry Doc, I didn’t know Bill James was watching. Either way, he can’t hit.

Big difference between .220 and .245. Given Everett’s superior defense, and assuming Everett hits his career average, Dlugach would need to hit .270 or better to be a better play than Everett. He has shown no hint that he could sustain that over the course of a season in the bigs.

Couple that with the fact it’s generally not a good thing to have two rookies as your double-play combo, especially when you have a better fielder with better experience available to play one of the positions, and it just doesn’t make sense to have Dlugach up this year. At least not as anything more than a backup if Santiago gets hurt.

And please—Bill James? Try looking up basic stats like batting average before posting them. Makes your points better.

Sounds like you’re on the payroll yourself. There’s no convincing a company man who’s programmed. I am sure Dlugach will not see Detroit until September. I can see Everett’s current 2010 stats when he comes up….. .242 avg, 1 HR, 17 RBI’s. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten….no risk, no reward.

Wow, for a minute I thought I was on the Freep site. Can you say Tram and Whitaker? Jason, keep the stories coming. Thanks! Go Tigers 2010! –Dave

Jason, love the blog. I linked your blog on my new one…Caught Looking.
http://baseballwheelhouse.wordpress.com/

Baseball fans will love it. Check it out if you guys get a chance, thanks!

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