Detroit Tigers: How 50 Games Have Changed the Lineup

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A combination of injuries and trades have changed the complexion of the Detroit Tigers lineup in 2020

We expected 2020 to supply challenges; canceled games and COVID-19 concerns had teams building 60-man player pools for reinforcements to potential outbreaks. For the Detroit Tigers, positive tests have seemed to subside (knock on wood), but the team has been no stranger to turnover.

Early on, the Detroit Tigers were becoming a team notorious for hitting the ball hard, but not often. The team hovered around a low .200’s average as a team the first few weeks of the season, yet led baseball in hard-hit percentage:

Perhaps the low batting average suggested a regression to the mean, or perhaps it inferred some bad luck for Tigers hitters. Regardless, much of the Detroit Tigers’ power has left. Interestingly, teams that hit the ball hard have a significantly better shot at the playoffs:

Opening Day Lineup

  1. Niko Goodrum, SS
  2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. CJ Cron, 1B
  5. Christin Stewart, LF
  6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  7. Cameron Maybin, RF
  8. Austin Romine, C
  9. JaCoby Jones, CF

There is a glaring and obvious oddity about the lineup listed compared to what the Detroit Tigers field daily now. CJ Cron and JaCoby Jones were both on fire with home runs; Jones hit three home runs his first six games; Cron with four in his first 11 of the season. Both players are out for the season with an injury.

Jonathan Schoop likewise has been out with a right wrist sprain and has been a steady stick for Ron Gardenhire; and Maybin, although battling with his own injured list stints, is working on a career-best hard-hit percentage himself in 2020.

Current Lineup

  1. Victor Reyes, CF
  2. Willi Castro, SS
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Jeimer Candelario, 1B
  5. Harold Castro, RF
  6. Jorge Bonifacio, LF
  7. Niko Goodrum, 2B
  8. Austin Romine, C
  9. Isaac Paredes, 3B

It is hard to believe Victor Reyes wasn’t in the Opening Day lineup, but the organization was content with giving Christin Stewart a fair shot at proving he could hit enough to warrant an everyday role. Essentially, the lineup exchanges Jones for Reyes, Bonafacio for Stewart, Paredes for Cron, Willi Castro for Schoop, and Harold Castro for Maybin.

Although the lineup overall is not as strong on paper, Willi Castro has been a bright spot for the club and has been swinging the bat well. Likewise, Jeimer Candelario, who was ice cold earlier this season, has hit into an average above .300 and now ranks in the 87th percentile for hard-hit percentage.

What if everyone was healthy?

A fully healthy team is completely unrealistic in baseball–in fact, injuries have allowed some of their pleasant surprises to gain some regular time. But it is fun to dream of a healthy Detroit Tigers lineup each day and what the possibilities would be. This would be the way I’d run them out:

  1. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
  2. Willi Castro, SS
  3. CJ Cron, 1B
  4. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  5. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  6. Victor Reyes, LF
  7. JaCoby Jones, CF
  8. Austin Romine, C
  9. Jorge Bonifacio, RF

Is it a playoff lineup? They might have had a shot to sneak in with the extra wild card spots available. But it has become clear: the Detroit Tigers need to make players that consistently hit the ball hard a priority as they begin to build their club for the future.

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