The Tigers opened 2012 with the idea Delmon Young would be the primary left fielder. After struggling defensively and have an off-the-field incident, the Tigers decided to move Young to designated hitter full time. From that point forward the team used a number of players to fill the position including; Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry. Berry and Dirks went on to have very productive seasons for the Tigers which eventually forced the team to play both at the same time. Down the stretch and throughout the post season Berry played almost every day in left field, with Dirks sliding over to right replacing the struggling Brennan Boesch. Overall the collective group of Tiger left fielders in 2012 went on to post a combined line of .275/.326/.409.
Deeper Dive: Diving Into Berry and Dirks
Quintin Berry was one of the Tigers biggest surprises in 2012. After coming up from Toledo to replace an injured Austin Jackson, Berry went on to become the Tigers most days left fielder down the stretch and during the postseason. The two main assets he provided the Tigers were energy and speed, evident by his perfect 21 for 21 in stolen bases. While he started out hot with the bat he went on to post a very modest season line of .258/.330/.354, largely returning to Earth when his sky-high BAbip dropped closer to normal levels.
Andy Dirks started the season very strong before suffering from an Achilles injury that caused him to miss all of June and July. After returning from the disabled list Dirks picked right up where he left off, finishing the season with a .322/.370/.487 line. He provided the Tigers with a big lift when he was inserted into the second spot in the lineup. In 173 at-bats hitting second, Dirks posted a strong line of .295/.356/.445. He also excelled hitting right handed pitching, hitting .336 in 241 at-bats, likely one of the factors why the Tigers want Dirks in a platoon in left.
The left field job for the Tigers in 2013 is very much up for grabs at this point. While Dirks and Berry had strong showings in 2012 they each have question marks of their own heading into the 2013 season. Berry’s batting average is likely to fall as he posted a high BAbip of .348 and struck out at a 24.2% clip. Also, he is not likely to be perfect on stolen base attempts in 2013.
The big question with Dirks is whether or not he can play every day. During his professional career he has never played more than 125 games in any season. Also, the Tigers are searching for right handed hitting options to potentially platoon with Dirks even though he did hit .273 off left handers in 2012, albeit in just 73 at-bats. Dirks also is in line for a bit of a drop in his batting average as he posted a high BABIP of .365.
To further complicate the left field completion, Brennan Boesch is now a candidate to get playing time as Torii Hunter has taken over his spot in right field. And top prospects Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia could force their way into the discussion with strong springs.
The odds-on favorite is obviously Dirks at this point, but with so many options, this will be a competition to watch as spring training ramps up.