Ausmus putting heavy research into second spot in lineup

Manager still mulling who to bat behind leadoff hitter

Ausmus putting heavy research into second spot in lineup

LAKELAND, Fla. -- And you thought Jim Leyland spent a lot of free time thinking about batting orders.

At some point during his ongoing debate over who should bat second in the Tigers' lineup, Brad Ausmus went deep into the splits. He didn't just want to know how many strikes his previous second hitter saw, but what type of pitches.

"I had always assumed that Torii Hunter saw more fastballs hitting second than he did when he hit fifth or sixth," Ausmus said. "And he had a decent number of at-bats at those positions. And it absolutely is true. In front of Miggy [Miguel Cabrera], he got more fastballs. So clearly, that would also apply -- you would think -- to Alex [Avila] if he was hitting there."

On the whole, Hunter saw a lower percentage of fastballs in 2014 than he did a year earlier, according to Fangraphs.com. But that did not break down fastballs by lineup spot. He hit second in 72 games last season, compared with 48 games batting fifth.

Avila got fastballs on a career-low 54.1 percent of the pitches he saw, according to Fangraphs. He batted .268 against the fastball, according to STATS.

The breakdowns he saw are in addition to the research Ausmus put in to see how often some of his hitters scored from first base on a double. He had put a heavy amount of statistical research into the matter, and he still hasn't made a decision.

Outlook: Hunter, RF, MIN

"It's tough. I don't think we have necessarily a prototypical two-hole hitter," Ausmus said Monday. "I think we have the potential to have a traditional two-hole hitter, but I can't say that I can point to one right this second.

"It used to be the two-hole hitter was a guy you wanted to hit behind the runner at first, move guys over from second. And I think people really have moved away from that and the whole idea to hit the ball the other way and get the guy over. You realize that the more people you have on base in front of the heart of your lineup, the more opportunities you have for them to drive them in. There's been a little shift on that, I think."

Ausmus made headlines this offseason when he said he was considering batting Avila second against right-handed pitchers. He's sticking to that idea now. If anything, the sentiment has strengthened.

"I'm seriously considering it," Ausmus said. "I told you I've looked at a lot of the numbers, all the way to the point where I looked to see how often people can score from second or first on a single or a double, because that makes a difference.

"I wouldn't say in any way am I locked into that, but it's legitimately on the table as a possibility."

Anthony Gose could become a candidate as well. So, too, could Jose Iglesias, who could bat up in the order in Spring Training to get extra at-bats without having to play heavy innings at shortstop.

Outlook: Gose, OF, DET

Yoenis Cespedes, Ausmus reiterated, is not a candidate.

"I want him more in the heart of the order," Ausmus said. "If you can get a two-hole hitter that can get on base, then you have to face some combination of Miggy, Victor [Martinez], J.D. [Martinez], Cespedes, in whatever order they're in."

Jason Beck has been MLB.com's Tigers beat reporter since 2002. He covered 119 losses in 2003 and an AL pennant in 2006.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.