There was a choice quote from Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland last week about his team not changing things up too much. "We are what we are," Leyland said. "And this is the way we play the game. This is who we are. There are no tricks."
What Leyland did Wednesday before Game 4 of the ALCS isn't a "trick" — but it is a new look for the Tigers. He unveiled a lineup unlike any he's given the Tigers in the past six seasons. He's hitting Miguel Cabrera second for the third time in his career.
#Tigers lineup: Hunter 9, Cabrera 5, Fielder 3, Martinez DH, Peralta 7, Avila 2, Infante 4, Jackson 8, Iglesias 6. Fister is starting.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) October 16, 2013
This new Tigers lineup makes sense for a few reasons, one of which has nothing to do with Miggy. Austin Jackson, the usual leadoff man, has been terrible in the postseason. He's hitting .077 in the series, after hitting .100 in the ALDS. He's struck out 18 times with three hits and two walks in eight games. Getting him out of the leadoff spot and into the eighth spot makes plenty of sense.
Jim Leyland said he hopes having Austin Jackson in the eighth spot will relax him a little bit.
— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) October 16, 2013
With everybody else in the order essentially moving up a spot, that means Cabrera is batting second, something he'd only previously done as a member of the Florida Marlins. He did it in two games during the 2004 season, on June 27 and 28.
Many baseball minds will tell you that the No. 2 spot is where your team's best hitter should go anyway. Matthew Leach talked about the idea in an MLB.com feature back in April:
The Yankees and the Twins have both experimented with batting their best hitter second. It's nontraditional, but it's smart. While neither Robinson Cano nor Joe Mauer fits the prototype of the No. 2 hitter -- a speedy, slappy bat-handler -- they're both well-suited to the actual demands of the job.
The No. 2 hitter, according to the great "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball," is one of the most essential spots in the lineup. It comes up with about as many RBI chances as the No. 3 spot, but obviously comes up more often. Thus, while historically the idea is that you should bat your best hitter third, in fact he should hit second or fourth (where there are even more chances to drive in runs but of course fewer plate appearances).
Given that the Tigers are down 2-1 in the series and both their losses have been by one run, doing anything to spur an extra run or two could mean the difference between moving on or going home.
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