There have been those around Detroit who have jumped on Jim Leyland for comments he made on why he didn’t and wouldn’t pinch hit for Craig Monroe. Monroe had just finished his 5th at-bat and his 5th strikeout of the day with his last at-bat being particularly harsh as he stranded the tieing run on third-base. After all this Jim Leyland stated:
In any case, Leyland said he would not have pinch hit for Craig Monroe, who ended up 0-for-5 with five strikeouts.
“I don’t do that (with regular players),” Leyland said. “If I’ve got to pinch hit for Craig Monroe, we’re in trouble.”
I would agree fully with Jim’s statement; If the Tigers are in a position where they cannot trust Monroe to hit then we are all in trouble. If Craig is so unfit to be the Detroit everyday left fielder then we must look elsewhere. The problem with this situation is that there is no left-fielder in wait for the short term. Maybe if the situation was horrible you could look at Ryan Raburn but your return might not be what you would like either.
I contend the siltation is far from this dire for this season.
While frustration with Monroe has been higher recently due to his 5K game, strikeout rate has been something he’s actually improved on from April. He did start the year with a four strikeout game so I guess it could only improve but throughout April he sat at a high 30%-low 40% strikeout rate. Below is a look at his strikeout percentage to date:
This is still higher than last year in which he had a 23.3% strikeout rate and is certainly non-impressive putting him 2nd, behind B.J. Upton, with the worst rate. The 2006 season was actually the major jump for Craig in strikeouts from a rate of 16.75% in 2005. For the Tigers this is balanced out a bit since they have two of the best in the league with Placido Polanco (5%) and Sean Casey (9.7%).
Craig’s batting average and on-base percentage aren’t sitting at acceptable levels right now either though he has been pretty consistent thus far. Last year at this time he was sitting nearly the same with a .246/.278/.449 line. With the defense and other tangibles Monroe is currently sitting near the middle of the road for AL left fielders. Looking at all AL left fielders with at least 100 AB’s by VORP, Craig Monroe sits at 10 out of 18:
Only one AL Central team has a player higher than Craig in this table. All other teams have players in left field with a VORP value less than Craig Monroe. This isn’t so horrible.
I’m not going to defend that Craig Monroe is an All Star, but the Tigers really have no choice but to wait out this slump he’s in. Looking at last year, Craig will come out of it and be a more productive member offensively but until then we’ll have to be patient. Gary Sheffield is an option in tight situations but using him is an injury risk in the outfield but in reality there is no need with the offensive production the team has gotten regardless of Monroe’s woes.
A trade is unnecessary as it would cost quite a bit and is far from the real area of weakness for Detroit, which is the bullpen. Detroit doesn’t need a long-term option here either, which could be likely to be what we get with a trade, since in the minors we have two top prospects in outfield in Cameron Maybin and Gorkys Hernandez.
We should be frustrated with Monroe’s performance at the plate but should also put it into perspective with the overall needs of the team and what the real impact is. Craig is not at his best and it’s clear he’s struggling at the plate and often looks completely lost but the team, and the fans, have no choice but to just be patient. He will come around as he has in the past and will again.