Andy Dirks profiles as a number two hitter thanks to his speed, contact rate and patience at the plate, however he’s hitting fifth today, a lefty batting behind the lefty Prince Fielder.Of course, hitting fifth in the Tigers lineup is no small thing; he’s protecting Prince Fielder, he’s probably going to bat with runners in scoring position. And frankly, I like him there over anywhere else even if it clashes with a traditional lineup composition.
Dirks is no perfect player by any means, but he plays with an energy that people tend to like. He gets results too, which is another thing that people tend to like. Getting results in the middle of the Tigers struggling lineup is kind of a big thing right now. This all kind of makes sense, if you think about it.
The Tigers current two hole hitter is Brennan Boesch. Boesch doesn’t profile as a two hole hitter. Besides the fact that he doesn’t walk,he strikes out a ton and he’s slow. He also currently has a wOBA of .238 (.290 or lower is simply awful), and a walk rate of 1.2%. The wOBA will go up, there’s no doubt about that, (his BABIP is an extremely low .231) but his walk rate is what is particularly painful to see because that’s NOT a small sample size. One can attribute this to the fact that he hits in front of Miguel Cabrera and therefore sees more fastballs as pitchers pound the zone, challenging him to hit it. One can also attribute this to the fact that he’s simply swinging at everything. I’ll put my money on the latter given what we’ve seen so far.
Boesch is also a frustrating player because he tends to look really bad in key situations. The final game against Seattle was the most perfect example thanks to his debauchery of a Chone Figgins “double” and the subsequent at bat where he chased two pitches that were so out of the zone, Vladimir Guerrero wouldn’t have swung at them (if you need another explanation, that means there was no chance in hell anyone could hit those pitches).
That’s not to say that he can’t hit in the spot. I actually think he should stay there, even though more often than not he’s making outs in front of Cabrera and Fielder, he’s at least not making outs behind them (since they’re on base more than anyone else). In short, the two hole currently protects Boesch from looking worse. You don’t want him hitting fifth or sixth, and while Alex Avila could probably do well in the second hole, that’s another argument for another time, seeing as how this one is about Andy Dirks batting fifth and I’ve spent the entire time talking about Brennan Boesch.
However, it’s not like I’ve been babbling relentlessly and pointlessly. I’ve set myself up for the Andy Dirks in the fifth spot argument quite nicely when I mentioned how it was important not to make outs behind Cabrera and Fielder since they are on base at a higher rate than anyone else.
Dirks makes contact. He’s only struck out once in 28 plate appearances (granted he hasn’t walked a single time, which could be an issue but based on the quality of his at bats it’s not due to his lack of plate discipline so we’ll keep our eyes peeled on this one). His wOBA is .344, which is above average, and his wRC+ is sitting at 114 (100 is average, higher is better, lower is worse). What’s nice about those stats, even if we only have 28 plate appearances, is that his BABIP is a normal .308.
I’m pretty sure Jim Leyland used none of these statistics when he wrote out the lineup card today. When asked he’s going to say the following “Well, I liked him there because he hits the ball, he’s not going to strike out a ton, and he’ll kickstart the back of the lineup.” Of course, that’s what he might say if you could actually understand him.