One of Tigers' leaders in batting average, OBP remains at bottom of order
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias was batting .330 entering Tuesday, the second-highest average on the team. He boasted a .384 on-base percentage and just 21 strikeouts this season. Yet, in almost every game, he has hit ninth in the order.
"There's always that question: Is the guy hitting what he's hitting because of where he's hitting? And would it change if you moved him?" Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said Tuesday. "Because you've got to get the most out of Jose Iglesias. Do you take a chance that he's OK if you move him? Or do you just say, 'He's doing well here, let sleeping dogs lie.'"
That's what Ausmus has done so far this year; Iglesias has hit eighth or ninth in all but seven games in which he's played. Still, the manager admitted he has considered moving his shortstop up the batting order "multiple times," and it remains a possibility in the near future.
On Tuesday, though, Iglesias remained in his familiar slot. Part of the reasoning for that, Ausmus explained, is that opposing pitchers might take him more lightly as a No. 9 hitter.
"There's no question, especially once you get through the heart of our lineup, that certain pitchers will feel like, 'All right, I've gotten through the tough part of the order. Let's just get these guys out,'" Ausmus said. "And they do let off the gas a little."
Ausmus said he took a similar approach with Nick Castellanos last year. The third baseman hit sixth or seventh for the bulk of 2014 and finished his first complete Major League season with a .259/.306/.394 slash line.
"The closer you are to the heart of the order, the hotter the light is that's shining on you," Ausmus said.
In early June, Ausmus gave Iglesias the opportunity to hit second for the entirety of a three-game series against Oakland. Iglesias never looked comfortable in the new role, finishing 2-for-12 with a strikeout. The Athletics swept Detroit, which managed just nine total runs.
And though that was a small sample size, Iglesias hasn't gotten another shot at batting anywhere but eighth or ninth since.
"It's great to look at numbers and think that everything works out well, isn't it?" Ausmus said. "You think, 'Oh, he's hitting .330. His on-base percentage is .380. Well, he should be hitting second.'
"Then the question is, 'Well, is he hitting .330 with an on-base percentage of .380 because of where he's hitting? It goes both ways.'"
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.