Risky Moves Managers Should Make to Chase a World Series Trip
Detroit's Jim Leyland and Los Angeles' Don Mattingly both find their teams on the short ends of their respective MLB championship series, as they face the prospect of dashed World Series dreams and an offseason full of "what ifs" ahead of them.
With the Dodgers staring at a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS against the Cardinals and the Tigers trailing the Red Sox, 2-1, in the ALCS, anything and everything must be on the table for both managers in their decision-making process, no matter how risky those options may be.
Neither skipper is ready to head home just yet.
Here's a risky move that each should make that could ensure their teams' bids for a trip to the World Series remain alive.
Jim Leyland: Swap Jose Iglesias and Austin Jackson in the Lineup
Detroit's offensive woes this postseason begin at the top of its lineup with leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who has been more of an asset to the opposition than anything else.
Against Boston in the ALCS, Jackson has managed to reach base only twice in 14 plate appearances, hitting .077 with an OPS of .220. When you add in his performance against Oakland in the ALDS, Jackson has posted a .091/.143/.121 slash line over eight playoff games while reaching base five times.
That's the good news. The bad news comes courtesy of The Oakland Press' Matthew B. Mowery:
That's 18 postseason strikeouts for Austin Jackson in 33 ABs. #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) October 15, 2013
Not only isn't Jackson producing, but he's not even putting the ball in play.
Leyland, however, refuses to even consider removing Jackson from the top spot in the lineup, telling John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press' that "He's (Jackson) our guy on top" after another hitless performance for the 26-year-old in Game 3.
Not only should Leyland consider dropping Jackson in the lineup, it's a move that he must make in Game 4, replacing him with Jose Iglesias, who will get the start at shortstop with ground-ball pitcher Doug Fister on the mound.
It's true that Jackson has solid numbers against Boston starter Jake Peavy over the course of his career. Jackson is 9-for-28 (.321) with a pair of triples against Peavy while Iglesias has never faced the veteran right-hander. Still, Leyland must put Iglesias atop the order and Jackson at the bottom.
Detroit needs runners on base in front of its biggest bats and Jackson simply can't be trusted to get on base. While Iglesias hasn't been knocking the cover off of the ball in the playoffs either, managing only two hits and a walk in 16 at-bats, he's at least putting the ball in play and has struck out only three times.
Leyland must do something to shake things up, and with a limited bench, this is the only move that he can make. It certainly can't turn out any worse than standing pat and hoping that Jackson suddenly emerges from his funk, which thus far, hasn't worked.
Don Mattingly: Keep Injured Stars in the Lineup
It's no secret that the Dodgers' bats have gone silent in the NLCS against St. Louis, with Los Angeles hitting a combined .223/.280/.309, scoring only seven runs and sitting without a home run through the first four games of the series.
While credit must be given to the Cardinals pitching staff, part of the problem for Los Angeles has been injuries to Andre Ethier (microfracture above his left ankle) and Hanley Ramirez (broken rib). Both injuries are incredibly painful and can only heal with extended rest.
Rest wasn't on Ramirez' mind before Game 3, as he explained to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:
This is no time to lay down right now. Since day one since I got here, they've showed me a lot of love and lot of respect, I'd do anything for this team and this city, so I'm going to be out there tonight for the fans and my teammates.
Ethier had the same mindset:
It's definitely a thing where you don't want to have regrets, not going out there and giving it a shot. Strap it on and go figure it out as we go.
The pair strapped it on for both Game 3 and Game 4, going a combined 4-for-14 with a RBI and run scored. It's clear that while neither is 100 percent, both are still capable of producing at the plate. It's simply a matter of managing their pain to keep them on the field.
Sure, Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto are solid reserves, but the pair pale in comparison when it comes to talent and potential impact to Ethier and Ramirez. Having both former All-Stars at 70 percent proficiency is better than 100 percent for their backups.
Mattingly cannot afford to worry about his stars making their injuries worse because they'll have roughly six months to recover should the Dodgers drop their pivotal Game 5 on Wednesday.
*Unless noted, all statistics courtesy of MLB.com and current through games of Oct. 15.
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