The Tigers fifth spot in the batting order is quickly becoming an object of ire for Detroit fans. Pop-ups with the bases loaded, rally-killing strikeouts and inning ending double plays have become the mantra of the spot in the order. It doesn’t seem to matter who hits in that spot — primarily Delmon Young, but also Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila as of late — they seem to fail miserably. If Victor Martinez were healthy and hitting fifth, Jim Leyland would look like a genius. However, he’s not and his return seems unlikely. Additionally, if Martinez were healthy, the fifth spot would still be an issue because it’s all but guaranteed that Prince Fielder would not be on this team.
With two of the games perennial best hitters — Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder — hitting in front of the dreaded five hole, the cumulative of the batters post a line of .250 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI, far less than ½ of what Cabrera has produced on his own. The spot in the order is the 2nd least productive in the American League, producing the least amount of runs and extra base hits. It’s hitting just .250 with the lowest on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the AL, all while grounding into the second most double plays. These are statistics that may make Brandon Inge envious, but make the Tiger faithful cringe.
With Andy Dirks now settled into the number two spot in the lineup, the four batters in front of the fifth spot in the order are Jackson, Dirks, Cabrera and Fielder. They have on-base percentages of .397, .383, .386 and .399, respectively. You’d figure that the fifth batter should thrive, seeing plenty of softballs with runners on base. It’s been nothing close to that and the problem is severely damaging the Tigers’ playoff hopes. As he tries to find a permanent solution to the tremendous gap in the lineup, Jim Leyland will have to get creative. He’s failing miserably with his bullpen rotation lately and can’t afford many more mistakes as the season winds down.
Leyland might need to think outside of the box on this one. Whether it’s shuffling someone from the top four to that spot, calling up a prospect — Nick Castellanos, I hear you knocking — or scouring the waiver wire, the Tigers cannot continue to sit on a problem that is not resolving itself. Their season depends on it.