October 16th, 2013
Austin Jackson is not on the bench tonight, but he’s not leading off, at least not in the opening inning. Basically, Jim Leyland dropped Jackson from first to eighth in the order, kept Jose Iglesias ninth, and moved everybody else up. For a manager who has always set the goal of his batting order to get as many guys on base as possible ahead of Cabrera, batting Cabrera second is a very big shift, much bigger than Jackson. It’ll be the first game in the two spot for Cabrera since June 27-28, 2004. It’ll be the first start for Hunter in the leadoff spot since July 4, 1999
For Jackson, it’ll be just his third career start somewhere other than leadoff. He batted second on April 17, 2011 and ninth on May 1 of the same season.
“Basically I just moved everybody up,” Leyland said. “That means in the first inning we’ll have Hunter, who’s had some success [against Peavy], and then I followed it up with two guys who can hit it out of the ballpark. Miguel and Prince will both come up in the first inning.”
Martinez, meanwhile, will bat cleanup. The reason he cited for that were similar to the reasons he cited for the order he hit Magglio Ordonez with Cabrera a few years ago: Baserunning.
“The only reason I did it the way I did it,” Leyland said, “is if I’ve got Martinez and Cabrera back-to-back, it’s going to be hard for Prince to knock in a run. So I put Prince ahead of Martinez because Prince can score a run if Martinez can knock him in. He can run a little bit, so he might be able to score him. But if you Prince behind both of those guys, it’ll be hard to get an RBI unless you can knock [the ball] out of the ballpark.”
In other words, Leyland considers Fielder the stronger runner. In a way, though, it also might be a statement about Fielder’s hitting lately, homerless since Sept. 22 and held to a double as his only extra-base hit so far this postseason. That said, Fielder has also been tasked with driving in Cabrera, whose running has been limited for a while.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Leyland said. “Everybody acts like you’ve got magical players.”
The reason for starting Jackson was the same as for starting Jose Iglesias at short. He said after last night’s loss that he was going to think about what to do there, and he said he sat watching the Cardinals-Dodgers game with a pad and pencil trying to come up with solutions. But the defensive aspect was something he did not want to sacrifice.
“I did not want to play Donnie Kelly in center alongside Jhonny Peralta,” Leyland said. “I wanted to play my regular center fielder with Fister pitching.”
On moving Jackson down, Leyland said, “He’s on the big stage. He leads off every game. He’s struck out a lot of those times. The focus is on him leading off for the Tigers, so I tried to get him away from it. That’s all. If I can get him down there and maybe relax him a little bit, maybe he’ll come up with two men on and get a hit.
“He got arguably the biggest hit of the postseason so far, which was a broken-bat single. I don’t know. He might strike out four times tonight, but I had to try something. For one time, I agree with the media. I had to try something. I didn’t do it for the media’s purposes. I did it because it made sense.”
If it makes no sense, well, Leyland hopes maybe that will help too.
“It might almost be a funny thing for [players],” Leyland said. “What’s he doing, panicking? You can call it whatever you want. I don’t give a care what anybody says. If they want to say we’re panicking, say we’re panicking. I don’t give a [care]. We had to try something different.”
- Torii Hunter, RF (7-for-16, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (13-for-45, 3 HR, 4 walks)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (10-for-36, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-7, HR, K)
- Jhonny Peralta, LF (7-for-34, HR, 2 walks)
- Alex Avila, C (4-for-21, HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-5, K)
- Austin Jackson, CF (9-for-28, HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Doug Fister
RED SOX (career numbers off Doug Fister)
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (3-for-8, 3 walks, K)
- Shane Victorino, RF (4-for-5, HR)
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B (3-for-13, walk)
- David Ortiz, DH (5-for-20, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Mike Napoli, 1B (2-for-14, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Daniel Nava, LF (5-for-12, 2 walks, K)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (5-for-11, HR, K)
- Stephen Drew, SS (1-for-9, 2 K’s)
- Will Middlebrooks, 3B (2-for-5, walk, K)
P: Jake Peavy
The graphic above shows the strike zone plot for Red Sox starter John Lackey from last night, courtesy of brooksbaseball.net (you can find more detailed results here). It gives you an idea of how many pitches Lackey spotted around the corners and at the knees, and how many he left over the middle of the plate.
The quotes below show the Tigers’ reactions to that pitching:
- “We had some really good at-bats,” Alex Avila said. “Their pitchers just didn’t make any mistakes. … I would say he probably threw a lot more curveballs and a lot more sliders than he had probably in all of his starts this season. He was mixing it up really well, which kept us off-balance really well, and he wasn’t missing. He was right on today.”
- “He didn’t miss too much tonight,” Austin Jackson said. “When he did, I think he got hit, but he used his experience and was able to get out of some of those jams.”
- “He definitely wasn’t in the middle of the plate,” Prince Fielder said. “He was on the corners. I think that’s playoff pitching. He did a good job, as well as [Justin Verlander].”
- “If they throw a mistake, I hit it. If not, I won’t,” Fielder said. “It’s that simple.”
The problem, as evidenced above, is that there aren’t many mistakes to hit. It’s not just Lackey, but most of the starting pitchers the Tigers have seen this postseason. Sonny Gray missed on some pitches and paid for them in Game 5 of the AL Division Series in Oakland. That’s about it.
Of the four base hits the Tigers posted against Lackey (the light blue boxes on that map), two were around the middle of the plate, one was at the knees and another was off the plate. They also swung and missed at a couple of pitches over the plate. If you look at the map, you can also see right-handed hitters swinging and missing at pitches off the plate, as well as chasing a couple high fastballs.
According to Bill Chuck, Lackey threw 18 out of 20 curveballs for strikes (Brooks has 17 of 19. Just two of those were swings and misses. Four of those were balls put in play. He threw 14 out of 17 sliders for strikes, six for swings and misses and none put in play.
All this illustrates the problem for the Tigers. If they’re going to get to the World Series, they’re going to have to hit a pitcher who doesn’t throw many mistakes. Either that means being closer to perfect in capitalizing on bad pitches, or it means hitting a good pitch. The latter is something that makes Miguel Cabrera so tough for pitchers to attack, but he swung and missed eight times last night, fouled off two other pitches, and put two balls in play for outs.