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Apparently, the Detroit Tigers have decided to go with a platoon at third base. And at second base. And in left field. And at designated hitter.
It's reminding me of the days when Sparky Anderson would switch out Larry Herndon and Pat Sheridan, as well as Matt Nokes and Mike Heath. Anything to gain that theoretical matchup advantage. You can always pinch-hit later in the game if the other team makes a pitching change.
It appears that the only Tigers who can count on being in the lineup pretty much every day are Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Javier Baez.
Platooning this extensively is tricky when you only carry 13 position players – since you insist on going to the bullpen no later than the sixth inning in most games and that requires a cabal of relievers large enough to successfully invade certain countries.
But for now, at least, A.J. Hinch is doing it. Third base is shared by Nick Maton and Jonathan Schoop. Second base is shared by Ryan Kriedler and Zach McKinstry. The left/right field nexus seems to be a rolling combination of Akil Baddoo, Matt Vierling, and Kerry Carpenter, the latter of which also shares the DH job with Miguel Cabrera.
Catcher is a little easier to understand because backup catchers always play a lot, especially when they are leading the team in home runs as Jake Rogers is currently doing with a grand total of two.
This is how you manipulate matchups from one day to the next. It's not how you develop players or stabilize a lineup.
Play the guys who can be part of a championship team in Detroit
When the Tigers acquired Maton and Vierling, the idea was that they were young, athletic, and versatile. They'd both had critical hits for the Phillies last year and brought that kind of drive and energy to the Tigers.
When the Tigers drafted Kriedler in 2019, he was a college player who showed tremendous potential both on offense and on defense. The offensive part hasn't shown itself at the Major League level yet, but the Tigers seem convinced it can be developed.
Carpenter hit 36 home runs between the minors and the majors last year.
Let all these guys play. Every day.
Jonathan Schoop is a DFA candidate just waiting for the hammer to drop, with only the rest of this season remaining on a guaranteed contract that seemed wise at the time but has been a disaster. Zach McKinstry is fine as a utility backup. Nothing he has done in the majors, apart from a brief hot start with the Dodgers a few years ago, suggests he should get extensive playing time.
And as much as we all enjoyed Akil Baddoo's heroics in 2021, there is no reason to have him in the lineup regularly now.
The Tigers' offense does not have to be as bad as we've seen so far this year. There are players in this lineup who have talent. But they need to play. Every day. And players who will clearly not be part of any future championship team here in Detroit should not be getting playing time at their expense.
How the lineup should be constructed
Here's the lineup I'd be running out there most days, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is:
- Vierling RF
- Maton 3B
- Greene CF
- Torkelson 1B
- Carpenter LF
- Baez SS
- Cabrera DH
- Haase C
- Kriedler 2B
I would play Baddoo in left two or three times a week so Carpenter can DH on the days when Miggy doesn't play. He could also occasionally play center or right to give Greene and Vierling a breather.
I would play Rogers two or three times a week to spell Eric Haase.
I would DFA Schoop immediately. There is no benefit to having him on the roster.
McKinstry can fill in at second, short, and third as needed, and you could call up someone like Zack Short if you want another extra infielder.
No one who doesn't have the potential to be a productive Tiger in five years, with the exception of Cabrera, should be getting a meaningful share of at-bats this season.
And knock off the platooning. Championship-caliber players play against all pitching. If the guys have the potential to get there, then play them against all kinds of pitching now. If they don't, get rid of them in favor of guys who can.