I wasn't trying to be funny when I put "Gary Sheffield" and "breakdown" in the same line, but that is how it's worked out the last two seasons, isn't it? It hasn't been very funny, either, the poor production we have gotten from him because of injuries.
Gary Sheffield was, for a very long time, one of the most productive hitters in the game: 499 career home runs, 1,633 RBIs, more walks than strikeouts (impressive for a guy who rakes the way he does).
Unfortunately for Gary, the Detroit Tigers, and all the fans, his best days are far behind him now. Gary is no spring chicken. He did hit 40 in the offseason...years in age, that is.
Age is an opponent no one can beat. Not even Julio Franco.
Gary's heyday has passed him by, and with it should go his number of at bats.
In no way by saying this am I saying that I don't like Gary Sheffield. I do like Gary Sheffield. I used to sit around in 2003 watching Braves games on TBS with a giant wooden spoon in my hand.
But...that was back in 2003, when he could still clout 40 home runs. Injuries and age have caught up with him, reducing him to a .225 average, 19 home runs, and 57 RBIs.
Of course, much if this can be explained away due to nagging injuries. But how healthy a Gary Sheffield can Tiger nation really count on in 2009?
Of greater significance from 2008 is this: For the first season ever in which he had 400+ at bats, he struck out more than he walked. It was by no small margin, either (83 Ks, 58 BBs). In hand with that was his lowest OBP of his career, minimum 400 at bats.
What it boils down to is: For the DH slot in the Tigers' lineup to be productive, others need to take at bats away from Gary Sheffield.
Simple ways to do this:
1. Magglio Ordonez. Give him occasional days off from the outfield.
2. Carlos Guillen. Give him occasional days off from the outfield.
3. Marcus Thames. Averaging 1HR every 13.5 at bats since the start of 2006.
These three items combined make the team so much better. They help keep Ordonez and Guillen fresh, as well as allowing a guy like Thames to rake long balls.
Stay tuned for more roster breakdowns.