Cleveland – Saturday was the 10th game the Tigers have played since “the big lineup change” that fans and pundits clamored for. The impact of moving Victor Martinez out of the cleanup spot has been negligible, at best.
“Victor seems to like it,” manager Brad Ausmus shrugged. “He’s swinging the bat better. But I don’t know if there has been a huge swing one way or another.”
There hasn’t been. The Tigers were 4-5 since the change entering play Saturday. Martinez, since coming off the disabled list and moving down to the sixth spot, is hitting .226 (7-for-31) with a double, home run and four RBIs.
The Tigers averaged 4.6 runs over the nine games. They are averaging 4.71 runs on the season. The three other hitters most affected by the move, Justin Upton in the third spot, Miguel Cabrera to the fourth and J.D. Martinez up to the fifth, have essentially maintained their pre-change production.
“Unless you start hitting Miguel Cabrera ninth, the lineup doesn’t make a massive difference,’ Ausmus said. “Sometimes you do it to change someone’s luck, or maybe because a guy is comfortable in a certain spot, or whatever the case may be.
“But the guys we have, it’s not a huge difference. It’s just a matter of whether they are swinging the bats well or not. You take the top seven guys in our lineup, every single manager would put them in the top seven somewhere, and it would probably be similar to what we have or have had.”
Ausmus said what people outside the game fail to understand is lineups are made based on 162-game projections and it allows for inevitable slumps from players up and down the lineup.
“You understand there is going to be periods of struggle for each guy within the 162 games,” he said. “I remember J.D. a couple of years ago. He struck out like 18 times in 30 at-bats. He was in a rut, and I understood he was in a rut.
“But he had to get through it.”
He recalled a conversation with then-general manager Dave Dombrowski, who asked about moving Martinez down in the order.
“We knew this was going to happen,” he said of Martinez’s slump. “But you understand he will get through it and still put up his usual numbers.”
Which Martinez did.
“You have to have patience,” he said.