Friday, October 13, 2006

Strange Tigers

Detroit is one unorthodox team. In most games, you can find their biggest power threats hitting either second or seventh (Craig Monroe), fourth (Magglio Ordonez), ninth (Brandon Inge), and not at all (Marcus Thames). In case you aren't doing the math, that means only one of those lineup decisions makes any traditional sense.

Their best defensive player, Brandon Inge, is a third basemen that played catcher until last year.

They have two of the most dominant relief pitchers in the American League in Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya, yet their most hittable pitcher - Todd Jones (highest batting average allowed on Detroit's playoff roster) - is the closer.

However, the strangest thing of all is the fact that their extra bats are middle infielders. When Paul Casey went down with an injury in Game One, they moved shortstop Carlos Guillen over to first base. I honestly can't imagine another team doing that, unless you want to count Nomar shifting over for the Dodgers (but that had more to do with Nomar and his limited range). Usually teams have an extra outfielder or first baseman laying around - an all hit, no field kind of guy. In fact, a quick glance at other top AL teams shows that the DH is almost always a former (or just poor-fielding) first baseman/outfielder: Frank Thomas (A's), Jim Thome (White Sox), Ortiz (Red Sox), Rondell White (Twins), and Garrett Anderson (Angels). Had the starting first baseman gone down for any of those teams, you can imagine a pretty easy fix, and one that doesn't involve a middle infielder.

But the Tigers didn't stop with moving Guillen over. With three middle infielders already on the field for today's game (Ramon Santiago at shortstop, Placido Polanco at second, and Guillen at first), Jim Leyland decided to get one more out there by making Omar Infante his DH over the likes of Marcus Thames (26 home runs during the regular season) and Alexis Gomez (a home run in Game Two). That gave Detroit a lineup chalk full of four middle infielders.

Of course, Infante reached twice and stole a base as the Tigers won 3-0 to take a 3-0 series lead.

Jim Leyland must be some sort of wizard.

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