Friday, July 10, 2009

Tigers' Need For A Bat Could Be Solved From Within, But It's No Sure Bet

The Tigers need a bat.You and I need oxygen. The comparison is spot on.

Fortunately, you and I know where to get our O -- we need to simply intake it, wherever we're located. Unless we're trapped in a sealed archives room from which the oxygen supply has been cut off, like that scene in "Angels and Demons." But I digress.

Manager Jim Leyland has a couple of quandaries as far as where he's going to get that big bat needed to resuscitate an offense on the critical list, and even though he is trying to control one of them, he's pretty much at the behest of fate in each instance.

First, he's going to platoon Magglio Ordonez and Clete Thomas in right field. The old, "two heads are better than one" theory. Or, in baseball terms, the much more verbose and clunky "two bats that swing from the different side of the batter's box are better than one that swings from one side" approach.

Righty-swinging Maggs will start against left-handers, the lefty Thomas against right-handers. It's an approach in baseball that's decades in the running. The numbers don't always back it up, but it's still a rather sound idea.

This also means Thomas should see the lion's share of at-bats, because there are far more right-handed starters than southpaws.

Ordonez, then, is not just platooning --- he's being reduced to a mere part-time player. Or, to be more accurate and less diplomatic, he's getting the playing time that he deserves.

Ordonez is providing us with one of the more confounding individual seasons in recent memory. No doubt it's even worse for Leyland, who has some emotional investment into Maggs, having managed him for four years now and never having any problems with him, until this under-achieving season.

The power has been dialed down on Ordonez's bat, which now functions on a lower setting than ever before in his big league career. He's a singles hitter, which would be fine if his batting average at least hovered near where it's been accustomed. But Maggs hits in the pedestrian area of the .260s, and that makes him, well, Adam Everett, who has way more clutch hits this year than does Ordonez.

So here comes Thomas, back from another stint at Toledo, as the Tigers continue to wear out I-75 shuttling players back and forth.

The other quandary is the not-so-strange case of Carlos Guillen.

Guillen has been hurt most of the year, which is where the not-so-strange part comes in. There's usually something the matter with Carlos, which is too bad because he's one of the game's fine men. But he can't stay healthy, and just because he's set to soon return from his latest extended stay on the disabled list, doesn't mean he'll stay injury-free from now thru September.

Those itching for the Tigers to add a bat who would put their eggs in the Carlos Guillen basket ought to make sure those eggs are hard-boiled first.

It would be terrific if the Tigers' two-headed monster in right field added up to one productive bat. And it would be lovely to see Guillen burst back onto the scene and function as a sort of deadline day acquisition who injects life into his new team.

Neither is anything close to a certainty.

Guillen is healthy and close to returning to the Tigers, for what it's worth

It's presumed that GM Dave Dombrowski and his MLB scouts have been scouring the majors, looking for a stick that could be had before the July 31 interleague trading deadline expires. Maybe a fifth starter is being scouted as well.

This is the time of the year when teams are grouped into two lumpings: buyers and sellers, as the trade deadline fast approaches. The Tigers are in the former, and will try to play vulture, picking away at the seller's carcasses.

A bat on the cheap.

The absolute cheapest route, of course, is to promote from within. But Magglio Ordonez, with his curiously unproductive bat, and Carlos Guillen, with his notoriously fragile body, are anything but a sure bet. Clete Thomas might be the most reliable of them all, and I don't even know what that says, and I just wrote it.


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