Detroit Tigers: 5 Reasons Jim Leyland Is Underrated This Year as Tigers' Manager

Sean RinehartContributor IIIAugust 5, 2012

Detroit Tigers: 5 Reasons Jim Leyland Is Underrated This Year as Tigers' Manager

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    While many Detroit Tiger fans have called for his head, Jim Leyland is doing a great job with the team during the 2012 season.

    It is almost as if Tiger fans blame Leyland whenever someone he puts in the lineup does not hit.  How is that his fault? Obviously he put that person in the lineup because he felt he would produce. 

    Even though he has a sort of blind faith in some players, such as Ryan Raburn, that boggles the minds of most or all Tiger fans, he still has a knack for putting together a good lineup each and every day.

    If we as fans are going to chastise Leyland whenever the team goes on a slump or loses a game, then it is equally important that we give him some credit when the team goes on a successful roll.

    Here are five reasons why Jim Leyland has been underrated this year as the Tigers' manager.

    What are your thoughts?

Players Need to Step Up

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    Going into this season, everyone thought the Tigers would mash their way right through the AL Central.

    However, they currently sit one and a half games behind the White Sox, and they are beginning to show signs of life at the plate.

    During the months of April, May and June, however, it was a different story.

    Players who were expected to contribute in a relatively equal fashion as they did the year before simply were not producing.

    For example, Brennan Boesch hit .231 in April, .245 in May and .220 in June.  During the 2011 season, Boesch hit .319 in April and .380 in June.

    Another player who was expected to contribute more offensively at the beginning of the season was Jhonny Peralta, who went a combined .239 at the plate in April and May.  During the 2011 season, however, he hit an impressive .315 from April until the end of June.

    Because of these early season struggles, Leyland has continued to shuffle his lineup in the hopes that players will start to gain confidence and heat up at the plate.  However, whenever one player does not do well on a given night, everyone wants to blame Leyland.

    It is not Leyland's fault when players do not contribute.  He is simply putting his best nine in the lineup in the best order he can for his team to win. 

    When players start to contribute, just as they have been doing in tremendous fashion over the current four-game win streak, some credit must be thrown Leyland's way.

Track Record

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    It is almost impossible to read an article or blog about the Detroit Tigers these days and not find incredibly devoted fans who want to weigh in on their beloved home team.

    Some of these fans feel that they have all the answers when it comes to the Tigers' struggles, and that they cannot believe Leyland has been allowed to continue his position as the Tigers' skipper.

    However, how many of us have 21 years of MLB managerial experience?  How many of us have a career winning percentage of over 50 percent?  How many of us have won four pennants and one World Series title?  Finally, how many of us took a team that fell 20 games under .500 in 2005 to the World Series in 2006?

    Jim Leyland has done enough in his career to garner some leeway when it comes to his managerial decisions. 

    He recently told numerous reporters that he was done explaining his lineup each and every night. 

    "I've always been a guy who believes you play your total roster. but I made a decision today after talking to you guys before the game that I'm not going to discuss my lineup with anybody anymore. It's going to be posted and you guys can look at it and people can have fun with it or whatever. But I'm not going to explain on a daily basis why I play certain people. It's really a waste of time."

    Nobody questions his choices when the Tigers are winning games and getting things accomplished, so why question every trivial detail of his lineup choices when they are struggling?

    Leyland has done enough in his career and for Detroit that we should leave him alone and let him do his job.

Lineup Moves and Adjustments

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    The Tigers have currently won four straight, and a lot of that has to do with production from players not named Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. 

    After moving Brennan Boesch to No. 5 in the lineup a few games ago, Boesch went 4-for-13 in the Cleveland series and is beginning to get his stroke back at the plate. 

    Another move that has garnered some curiosity from Detroit fans has involved the recently acquired Omar Infante.  Many fans were stunned that Infante was batting ninth in the lineup most nights, especially since he posted great numbers for Miami and has been labeled a prototypical No. 2 hitter.

    However, Leyland has stuck to his guns and kept Infante at No. 9 unless they are facing a left-handed pitcher, which is when Leyland would move Infante to the No. 2 hitter. Because of this, Infante is flourishing.  In his last 10 games, he is hitting .294, including an incredible 4-for-6 effort in Sunday's near impossible victory over the Indians.

    While every decision Leyland makes is not always correct, credit must be given when he creates a lineup that is as successful as his recent lineups have been.

Knows What's Best for Team

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    While the majority of Leyland's decisions are put under an incredibly high-powered microscope, there are some decisions he has made that no one can argue with.

    For example, before the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, Dave Dombrowski asked Leyland if he felt that Cabrera could handle a full season at third base.  Leyland told him he wanted to think about it, and finally came to the realization that Cabrera could definitely get it done.  This allowed Detroit to sign Prince Fielder, who has become the best offseason free agent acquisition this season.

    In January, when questioned about Cabrera's ability at the hot corner, Leyland showed full confidence in his new third baseman.

    "Right from the get-go, we need to shoot straight from the hip. He's not going to have the agility defensively most likely that Brandon Inge had. You give up a little something, but you get a whole lot in return. ...Because of the size of Miguel, is his athleticism going to be as good coming in on bunts, is his range going to be as good as some of the better third basemen? Probably not. But when he gets himself at the weight he wants to be at, his first step is very quick. I think his hands are absolutely tremendous, and his throwing arm is one of the best in baseball."

    There is no doubt that Leyland's confidence has worked wonders on Cabrera's ability at third base, and it has paid off, as he has done exceedingly well fielding one of the toughest positions in baseball.

    Therefore, there is no doubt that many of us often question the choices Leyland makes, but we must also realize that he is doing what is best for the Tigers. 

Under Pressure

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    Jim Leyland has one of the toughest positions in all of sports, the manager for the Detroit Tigers.

    In a city where passion runs very high for the beloved home teams, Leyland knows that the fans and media that call Detroit home want a World Series championship badly.

    It is no secret that this team is designed to win a World Series ring, and Leyland is doing everything he can to deliver the goods.

    Not only does this add pressure, but the fact that Leyland's contract runs out at the end of the 2012 season must add another level of stress that many of us cannot even fathom.

    Even under tremendous scrutiny, Leyland has managed to get his Tigers to a 58-50 record and put them in a position to overtake the White Sox for the AL Central title.

    Therefore, it is important for all of us as fans to take a deep breath, step back, and let Jim Leyland do his job.  The struggles and losses this season cannot be solely placed on Leyland's shoulders.

    He has done enough for the city of Detroit where we as fans should cut him a little slack and appreciate him for helping to bring the Tigers back from the bottom of the division to perennial contenders.