This is not the time of year when hope springs eternal; it is more the time when things seem infernal.
As we all know by now, the Tigers will be doing 2012 without Victor Martinez. As if that isn’t bad enough, the interim between this disaster and the eventual response is being filled with headlines that do anything but inspire (Could Brad Penny be the Tigers’ No. 5 starter again?).
Nonetheless, one more word about V-Mart. One of the things that really hurts about losing Martinez, is that 2011 was only the second time during the Dombrowski/Leyland reign that the Tigers have had an even average DH (the other was in 2007, Gary Sheffield with a pinch of Thames). Subpar DH (and leadoff hitter) has been a constant before last season, with the Tigers using the DH spot as a place to give semi-rest to semi-injured players.
Detroit DH since 2006 (OPS, AL avg DH OPS, AL rank):
Martinez’ OPS at DH was actually .903, which would have been 2nd best in the AL. But old habits die hard, and a semi-injured Ordonez had 86 ABs at DH (OPS .393).
Which brings us to Johnny Damon, who has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Martinez (Jason Beck thinks it makes sense.), a kind of Ahead to the Past sort of thing: Damon’s 2010 .708 OPS at DH was the reason the Tigers were at the bottom of the league in DHing that year. Then again, he provides that intangible something (which isn’t fielding). Next thing you know they will be bringing back Gerald Laird. But not to worry, Dombrowski says everything will be OK.
On the other hand, there is more to the lineup than the DH, and help may come from other sources. Brandon Inge promises to be a much bigger part of the lineup this season–literally. Inge has added over 20 lbs so far in the offseason, and consequently intends to be the everyday 3rd baseman next season. Drew Sharp thinks he should zip it.
And as far as that leadoff problem goes: John Lowe points out that Austin Jackson is a great fielder in CF, just like Willie Mays was. And boy could Willie hit! Maybe that will happen to Austin too! Who knows!
Time does not permit reviewing the happenings with the division rivals, but we can spare a moment here for a bit of sympathy for the Indians, who are stuck with a fictional pitcher in their starting lineup. He escaped detection all of this time because…who would make up “Fausto?” No word on whether Roberto Hernandez Heredia will be signed to take the place of Carmona, or whether Gary Sheffield has been contacted as a character witness.
Spring Training is less than 6 weeks away!