DETROIT — Detroit manager Jim Leyland is as old school as they come. But his lineup for Game 4 reflects a very modern approach.
Sabermetricians have long advocated that a team should put its best hitters at the top of the lineup regardless of their physical skills. The idea is to get the best players the most plate appearances, not to put a “speed guy” hitting first and a “contact hitter” second and so on.
The Tigers are doing that Wednesday night with Torii Hunter hitting first, Miguel Cabrera hitting second, and Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta following from there. Based on OPS, Cabrera, Fielder, Peralta, and Hunter are the four best hitters on the team.
Hunter is 7 of 16 against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy.
“Basically I just moved everybody up,” Leyland said. “That means in the first inning we’ll have Hunter, who’s had some success. And you know he’s tough, he’s had some success against Peavy. And follow it up with two guys that could hit a ball out of the ballpark.
“Miguel, who is always up in the first inning, obviously. Miguel and Prince will come up in the first inning, Victor behind him. I played Victor behind instead of third because Victor can score Prince. But if you put Miggy and Victor right back-to-back, you’re talking about two guys, you have to pinch run for them.”
Hunter has not hit leadoff since July 4, 1999, when he was with the Twins. Cabrera has not hit second outside of two games with the Marlins in 2004.
“You can say I’m nuts, you can say I’m dumb, you can say whatever you want,” said Leyland. “It does give you something to write about.”
The lineup should not affect the Red Sox and Peavy very much. One way or another, he was going to deal with Cabrera in the first inning.