October 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Injured Miguel Cabrera is better fit in fifth spot of Tigers' batting order

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-4 in Game 2. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Tigers manager Jim Leyland is delivered daily printouts of every Tigers story published that day. He also loves to read what is going on around Major League Baseball and he brushes up on what is being said about his opponents.

Some stories make him chuckle. Some anger him and some he simply throws in the trash and shakes his head. This might be one of those columns.

The Tigers should bat Miguel Cabrera fifth in the lineup for the rest of the playoffs and Victor Martinez third. This is probably where Leyland stops reading and moves on to the next story.

But hear me out.

The Tigers are not scoring runs even though the American League Division Series is tied 1-1 heading into Mondayís Game 3 at Comerica Park. They scored three runs in the first inning of Game 1 and have yet to score since.

The Tigers are batting .268 for this series and just .219 since that three-run first inning.

In baseball you place your best hitter third. Martinez is that guy. The new Cabrera is not. And he has not been the Tigersí best hitter in a long time. I do not think he will catch fire again. Old Miggy is the baddest man on the planet. New Miggy is injured and hobbled and is not the same player. You will not see old Miggy until spring training.

Falling numbers

Too often in sports we base our decisions on the past and reputation. When someone turns mediocre we do not adjust, hoping this person recaptures the past. It often does not happen. Fans say they would rather have 80 percent Miggy than 100 percent of any other Tiger.

I contend he is 60 percent Miggy.

There is no leg drive. There is no power. And when he does power one into the gap it is an automatic single, not a double. Then Cabrera becomes an immediate liability on the basepaths. He clogs them like hair in the shower drain.

Here is my proof.

Healthy Cabrera has been the best hitter in baseball the past three years. Injured Cabrera is the sixth-best hitter on the Tigers. He will probably win a second straight Most Valuable Player Award after batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBIs for the season.

However in the last 30 games of the season Cabrera batted .294 with one home run and seven RBIs. Letís put that in prospective. Austin Jackson (12), Omar Infante (13), Alex Avila (8), Prince Fielder (11) and V-Mart (10) have more RBIs.

Avila (.345), Martinez (.342), Fielder (.329), Hunter (.320) and Infante (.312) have hit better.

Now why should he hit fifth? Here is my philosophy. Martinez is hitting for a higher average and for more power. If Hunter or Jackson gets on base he has a better chance of knocking them in.

Speed first

Letís go beyond the numbers. If Martinez hits a ball to the wall with two outs he will leg out a double. Fielder can knock him in with a single.

If Cabrera hits a two-out ball to the wall he will be standing on first base. It will take a three singles or a home run by Fielder (which he rarely hits in the postseason) to bring in Cabrera.

Why Cabrera fifth? If Jackson, Hunter, V-Mart and Fielder are on then he will have a better opportunity to do his job and knock people in. If he does that, who cares if he clogs up the bases afterwards?

What if Oakland walks Cabrera? Thatís fine. You simply bring up somebody who is hitting better.

The Tigers, of course, could come home and hit the cover off the ball. They are a much better team at home than on the road.

Yes, this is a bit of an overreaction. But this is a short series. You must make decisions in a blink of an eye.

Leyland wonít make such a move. No manager would. But it is something to think about.

But I wonder if Leyland is throwing this sucker in the garbage can or sitting at his desk rubbing his chin.


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