What Has Aubrey Huff Brought to the Table for the Detroit Tigers?

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What Has Aubrey Huff Brought to the Table for the Detroit Tigers?
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Let's face it, since joining the Tigers, Aubrey Huff has been a bit of a bust. He was supposed to add a big bat in the middle of the lineup, and thus far he has looked like he has never faced American League pitching before.

He hasn't played the field at all, so he hasn't been able to spell anyone a day off defensively. And truth be told, he really hasn't hit the ball with any sort of authority, save for one or two at-bats. 

In eight games he is hitting .083, with one RBI, two walks, and no extra base hits. But if you look beyond the boxscore, there is one intangible that Huff has brought to the Tigers. 
Yesterday the Tigers exploited John Lackey, who seemed to slow down throughout the game. He exited after throwing 117 pitches, 26 of which were seen by Aubrey Huff. The night before, 17 of Jered Weaver's 109 pitches were thrown to Huff.

Since coming to the Tigers, Huff has seen an average of 4.46 pitches per at-bat. This seems minor, but it can add a huge burden to a pitcher's workload. Think about every time Justin Verlander is on the mound.

When he faces a batter who works the count and fouls off pitches. I cringe knowing that every pitch he throws is one closer to taking him out of the game. In his career, Huff is not nearly as selective, averaging only 3.27 pitches per appearance, so this stat is somewhat of an anomaly for now.
To show you an example of just how much working the count can change the dynamic of a team, here are some examples of how the free-swinging Tigers hate to work the count. The numbers below are through Aug. 25.
Gerald Laird: 3.74 pitches per at-bat.
Miguel Cabrera: 3.62 pitches per at-bat.
Adam Everett: 3.63 pitches per at-bat.
Placido Polanco: 3.45 pitches per at-bat.
Marcus Thames: 3.90 pitches per at-bat.
Carlos Guillen: 3.64 pitches per at-bat.
Ramon Santiago: 3.47 pitches per at-bat.
Ryan Raburn: 3.95 pitches per at-bat.
Clete Thomas: 3.90 pitches per at-bat.
Magglio Ordonez: 3.67 pitches per at-bat.
In fact, the only two Tigers who have seen more than four pitches per at-bat on average this year are Curtis Granderson at 4.00 and Brandon Inge at 4.09. This is more than likely because they are strikeout machines too.
The only argument I am trying to make is that although Huff hasn't been what we were looking for yet, he is up there fighting and trying to contribute any way he can. It is possible, or even likely, that the Tigers' ability to finally score some runs lately could be nothing more than a coincidence, but it is encouraging to see someone battle.

Give him time; soon some of the pitches he has been fouling off will start turning into hits.

-s

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