Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Curious Case of The Detroit Tigers Second Base

By Sean Gagnier

It was supposed to be a straight forward decision, it was made in spring training; Ryan Raburn was going to be be the second baseman for the Detroit Tigers and would be rested for Ramon Santiago. Then Brandon Inge decided that he needed to play second base and foul things up even further, of course despite proving to be just about as useful as a wet towel, Inge was awarded with the job.

Fine, whatever. As long as he can hit his weight and continue to field above-average Inge will be accepted at second. But that's not happening, and his self-serving choice to force his way into the second base position has done some damage to Raburn and Santiago. Raburn left Lakeland, Fla. hitting better than he ever had to start the season - but part of that was because he was allowed to settle in at second base and play every day.

With Inge filling his spot in the lineup in Detroit Raburn was forced to play the outfield and become the designated hitter, with this came uncertainty of playing each day and when playing DH, long periods of sitting on the bench before each at-bat. There is nothing that will quench a hot streak faster than moving a guy around the field, it's no wonder Raburn's bat appears to have been left in Florida. Coming hot out of spring training Raburn has seen his batting average drop all the way to .090, as of Apr. 25, 2012.

Santiago also had a decent spring, but has also struggled as of late, hitting just .153. He has been his usual self in the field posting a perfect fielding percentage. But Manager Jim Leyland usually opts to put Inge or Raburn in the lineup at second base and leave Santiago for a late-inning substitution. While this may hamper some players, Santiago has gotten used to this as most of his career has been spent in this fashion. If given more opportunities he could buoy his average, but nothing is certain.

Inge simply wants to stay in the lineup and who can blame him, his is getting paid to play his favorite sport and all he wants to do is play. It's hard to knock a guy for not wanting to call it quits, but the numbers are not great for Inge. Through Apr. 25, Inge had recorded just two hits in the season for a .100 average. While many may not have expected his bat to come with him to second base, many still believed that he could be an asset up the middle with his excellent glove work from third base. Unfortunately, that did not follow him.

It is a hard transition to move from a position you have played much of your professional career to the position you played in high school, but his defense has suffered mightily in his time at second base for the Tigers. In his time at 2B this season Inge has posted a .963, committing several errors, and several others that should have been charged to him. Because of this, Inge's Rtot/yr is a -15. Rtot is the measure of the number of runs above or below average a fielder is worth per year. And at -15, Inge is worth 15 runs less than the average second baseman. Meaning that he costs the Tigers 15 a year.

None of the three mentioned players are the solution at second base; Raburn was meant to be a temporary stop-gap at best, Santiago is not an every day player and Inge is costing the team runs. Then where do the Tigers turn to fix the problem? Danny Worth.

Worth only appeared in three games with the Tigers this season before he was sent down to Toledo to make room for Inge. But while he was with Detroit he had five plate appearances and was able to get a hit in that time. His .200 average is already higher than any of the three players currently playing the position and he is supposedly the answer the Tigers brass had for 2B when they traded away Scott Sizemore after his brief time in the Olde English D.

Since being sent down to play with the Mud Hens, Worth has had 48 at-bat's and recorded 14 hits during those appearances. He has also drawn six walks in Toledo which puts his on-base percentage at .370. While he still has problems striking out, he would give the Tigers someone different to put in at second and perhaps fix the problem.

The definition of stupid is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result; now isn't that what Detroit is doing with the three players they have playing second right now? Trying to fit square pegs into a round hole. It just won't work, why not bring Worth up, give him 100 at-bat's and see if he really is the fix that they desperately need.

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