The Tigers have made second baseman Ian Kinsler their leadoff hitter, bumping center fielder Austin Jackson down to the fifth slot in the lineup, MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes in his latest column.
Since joining the Tigers in December 2009 in a three-way trade with the Diamondbacks and Yankees, Jackson has taken 2,554 of his 2,574 career plate appearances (99.2 percent) out of the leadoff spot in the lineup. Kinsler, too, has spent a majority of his time in the leadoff spot, taking 3,093 of his 4,791 career plate appearances (64.6 percent) there.
The lineup alteration does appear to have merit. Compared to Jackson, Kinsler has much better plate discipline, steals bases more often, and successfully steals bases at a higher rate than Jackson. Jackson strikes out a lot and hasn’t put his speed to much use lately — he stole only eight bases in 12 attempts in 2013 — so he is a better fit in the number five or six spot.
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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.