Skip to content

The case against Torii Hunter helping the Tigers

Nov 14, 2012, 11:21 PM EDT

Torii Hunter Reuters

It’s not hard to see why the Tigers were regular-season disappointments in 2012; the bottom half of the lineup, which was so productive the year before, stumbled badly:

OPS by lineup spot, from 2011 to 2012
No. 5:  .797 to .671
No. 6: .842 to .654
No. 7: .720 to .700
No. 8: .768 to .695
No. 9: .637 to .603

Victor Martinez was supposed to hit fifth, but he missed the entire season. Delmon Young, Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch and a lousy assortment of second basemen all contributed to the funk.

In adding Torii Hunter on a two-year, $26 million contract on Wednesday, the Tigers took a step towards lengthening their lineup, even if the plan is to hit Hunter second initially. Martinez is expected to DH regularly and hit fifth. Andy Dirks, who will be moving from right to left, figures to hit sixth against righties.

That Hunter is an upgrade for the Tigers seems pretty obvious. For all of the praise heaped on youngster Avisail Garcia, there’s little reason to think he’s ready to be a full-time player in the majors.

I’m just not at all convinced that Hunter was the right upgrade for the Tigers. He’s worth the $13 million per year and more if he has two more seasons at his 2012 level, but the chances of that happening are very slim.

Before suddenly hitting a career-best .313 last year, Hunter had never in his entire career deviated more than 25 points away from a .275 average; his high was .299 and his low was .250. He came in at .281 in 2010 and .262 in 2011.

Going along with the fluky average was a career-low isolated slugging percentage. Hunter hit just 16 homers after finishing with at least 20 in every full season of his career. He hit 23 in both 2010 and ’11. He didn’t make up for it with extra doubles, either; he hit just 24.

Hunter also had one of the lowest walk rates of his career, with just 38 bases on balls in his 140 games.

One might say he was cutting down on his swing in an attempt to stroke more singles. But if that were the case, how would one explain his career-high strikeout rate? Hunter fanned in 23 percent of his plate appearances last season, up from 16 in 2010 and 19 in 2011.

Everything except Hunter’s batting average on balls in play suggests he was on the decline, and no hitting statistic is more prone to random variation that BABIP. If Hunter had hit his usual .300-.310 on balls in play instead of a ridiculously high .389, he would have had his worst season since 1999.

Maybe the whole thing was a fluke. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hunter hit a few more homers and strike out a bit less next season. But his average is coming down, probably way down. If he hits his usual .270, then he’s not going to be all that great of a No. 2 hitter. And if he falls to .250-.260, hardly an unlikely possibility at age 37, he’s really more of a No. 6 or No. 7 hitter.

It’s not a signing worth condemning, not when it’s only two years. Hunter still plays very good defense in right field. He gets all kinds of points for leadership. He’s just not likely to be quite the upgrade the Tigers think they’re getting.

Latest Posts
  1. Must-click link: the actual twins who own the Twins.com domain

    Aug 27, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 3.11.55 PM

    This is a great slice of weird, totally suitable for killing time on a slow afternoon. Bonus: Bon Jovi is tangentially involved.

  2. Alberto Callaspo released by the Dodgers

    Aug 27, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT

    Alberto Callaspo Dodgers Getty Images

    Los Angeles acquired Callaspo from Atlanta in a late-May trade.

  3. Red Sox looking to trade outfielder Alejandro De Aza

    Aug 27, 2015, 1:34 PM EDT

    Alejandro De Aza AP AP

    Last week’s rumored trade with the Dodgers apparently fell through.

  4. Derek Jeter’s mailbag is . . . kinda boring?

    Aug 27, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Jeter hat tip AP

    “Smithers’ I’m beginning to think that Homer Simpson was not the brilliant tactician I thought he was.”

  5. Who are the happiest and saddest fans in baseball?

    Aug 27, 2015, 11:34 AM EDT

    Cubs fans Getty Images

    Basically, we’re all miserable EXCEPT Cubs fans. What a bizzaro world we live in.

  6. Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings re-injured his knee

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Desmond Jennings Rays Getty Images

    Jennings spent three months on the disabled list following knee surgery.

  7. There is no tougher-luck pitcher in baseball than Shelby Miller

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Shelby Miller

    No wins in over three months despite a 3.24 ERA.

  8. Jose Bautista’s suit-inspired boycott of SportsNet is over

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:06 AM EDT

    Jose Bautista AP

    Boycotts thrive on publicity. This one ended as soon as the publicity started.

  9. Addison Russell made a sweet snag, turn and throw last night to start a double play

    Aug 27, 2015, 8:38 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.36.25 AM

    This is why Starlin Castro does not have the shortstop gig anymore.

  10. And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Justin Verlander

    Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothing comes out when they move their lips, just a bunch of gibberish, And opposing teams act like they forgot about JV.

  11. Brandon Crawford out for Giants due to tight left oblique

    Aug 26, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT

    San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs Getty Images

    Crawford is having a breakout season at age 28, with an .806 OPS (123 OPS+), 19 home runs, and 75 RBI in 121 games.

  12. Video: Chris Iannetta breaks up Justin Verlander’s no-hitter in the top of the ninth inning

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros Getty Images

    Verlander still managed to go the distance against a good Angels offense for his first shutout since 2012.

  13. Justin Verlander loses no-hit bid in the ninth inning

    Aug 26, 2015, 9:26 PM EDT

    Justin Verlander AP

    It is August 26, 2015 and Justin Verlander has a no-hitter going against the Mike Trout-led Angels.

  14. MLB “actively studying” fan safety; Phillies plan to expand netting at Citizens Bank Park

    Aug 26, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT

    18335740-mmmain AP

    Good on everybody involved in wanting to get ahead of a potential tragedy.

  15. Marlins might move in and lower the fences at Marlins Park

    Aug 26, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT

    Giancarlo Stanton AP

    Marlins Park has some of the longest dimensions in Major League Baseball along with some of the tallest walls.

  16. Wil Myers took batting practice Wednesday for the first time since his June wrist surgery

    Aug 26, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    Wil Myers Wil Myers

    Padres outfielder Wil Myers has appeared in just 35 games this season due to an ongoing left wrist injury.

  17. Shane Greene needs surgery for circumflex artery

    Aug 26, 2015, 6:24 PM EDT

    Shane Greene AP

    Tigers right-hander Shane Greene allowed just one earned run over his first 23 innings (three starts) this season, but the wheels quickly fell off from there and now his 2015 ends with injury …

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. D. Wright (2965)
  2. M. Teixeira (2435)
  3. G. Stanton (2399)
  4. H. Olivera (2359)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2326)