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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

WS PREVIEW: ALCS MVP Young will have to play in LF to stay in lineup in NL cities

DETROIT — The struggle all season long was to find a productive designated hitter.

Turns out the Tigers found production from their DH, just in time to lose him.

So to speak.

With the pitchers forced to hit for themselves in the National League park in the World Series, DH Delmon Young will have to go back to playing the outfield in order to stay in the lineup.

Then again, at this point, taking Young’s bat out of the lineup seems ludicrous.

“I think it’s pretty hard the way he’s been swinging the bat, the MVP of the American League Championship Series,” said manager Jim Leyland, who will play Young in left field in NL cities, “and swinging the bat the way he is, it would be pretty hard not to play him.”

Umm, yeah. Young has been the most productive RBI man in the Major League Baseball postseason with eight, half of those helping him set a record as the first player with four go-ahead RBI in one postseason series, according the STATS, LLC. He’s hitting .294 through nine playoff games, and already holds the franchise’s record for career postseason home runs.

So what is it about the playoffs?

“I have no clue,” Young joked, after becoming the third Tigers player to win the ALCS MVP award, joining Kirk Gibson (1984) and Placido Polanco (2006). “I need to figure it out for the season, too,”

Despite being a contract year for the 27-year-old Young, it certainly didn’t seem like his production at the plate during the regular season was going to merit a huge payday in the former No. 1 overall pick’s first foray into free agency this upcoming offseason.

Aside from the off-the-field issues — including a much-publicized arrest in New York City in April — the on-the-field production was underwhelming, too. Despite his second-highest home run total (18), he drove in just 74 runs, struck out more times and grounded into more double plays than he had in every other season but one.

On top of that, he posted the lowest batting average (.267) of his career.

Not a lot to take to the table in free agency.

Until now.

Like he did in the playoffs for the Tigers in 2011, he’s turned it up a notch or seven in this year’s postseason.

Young hit .353 in the series against the Yankees, with a slugging percentage of .765.

“He got hot last year in the playoffs. Unbelievable. I think he had five home runs last year maybe. You know, he got hot again this year at the right time for us. And, you know, he stepped it up under the big lights. Not that they are not bright all year, but they are a little brighter this time of year,” manager Jim Leyland said.

“Delmon has a pretty good idea, and when he stays in the strike zone, he’s very, very dangerous. You know, most people that get Delmon out is when he is not swinging good, is when he is swinging at stuff out of the strike zone, which happens to most players.”

Young’s first RBI of the postseason came in Game 2 of the ALDS, when his groundout tied the game at 1-1. He’d drive in an insurance run in the series-clinching Game 5, as well.

After a two-run homer in Game 1 of the ALCS put the Tigers up, 4-0, his 12th-inning double put the Tigers back on top, after Jose Valverde’s ninth-inning meltdown had left it tied up.

Young’s seventh-inning fielder’s choice in Game 2 — on a double-play ball the Yankees couldn’t turn — put the Tigers up 1-0.

His Game 3 homer off Phil Hughes put the Tigers ahead 1-0 in the fourth. In the deciding Game 4, his first-inning RBI single gave his squad a lead it would never relinquish.

Sometimes, that was enough.

“The offense, you know, our pitching carried us throughout the whole playoffs, so we didn’t need to go out there and score five, six runs every game to win the ballgame,” Young said. “With the zeros they were putting up, one to two runs with them was a lot because they were hot going into every game and pitching deep into the ballgames.”

In a way, though, it’s already been a better postseason run for Young than last year was.

The outfielder strained an oblique muscle in the 2011 ALDS win over the Yankees, and was initially left off the playoff roster for the ALCS, before later being added.

Now, the only dilemma is where to play him.

Young finished the season with just 31 games played in left field, and only four of those after the All-Star break.

The Tigers had been platooning Avisail Garcia (vs. left-handers) and Quintin Berry (vs. right-handers) in the corner outfield spots, with Andy Dirks playing against both. Likely Dirks will split time with Garcia in right field in NL cities, while Berry will be the first defensive replacement off the bench.

The fact that it’s not even a question that Young will play is a modicum of redemption for a player who’s been highly scrutinized his entire career, ever since he was selected first overall in the 2003 draft by Tampa Bay. The younger brother of former Tiger Dmitri Young, he has already been traded twice in his seven-year career.

“I think there is a certain amount of pressure there, but there is a reason they were drafted number one. Obviously the ability is there and the scouts thought the ability was there, and certainly in Delmon’s case it has been,” Leyland said.

“Delmon kind of beats to his own drum. He has a pretty good plan for — I kind of stay out of his way. We have a very good relationship, but I kind of stay out of his way because he knows much more about hitting than I do, and he knows what pitchers are trying to do to him. And I respect that. He knows guys that he can hit, and he knows guys he can’t hit, and he’s upfront about it. And he has a real good plan about how to go about it. And, you know, he’s done a very, very, very good job for us.”

And he’s been a consummate teammate, too.

“He has been phenomenal for us on the field and in the clubhouse. He keeps the mood light. I mean, he’s a good dude. I enjoy Delmon as a teammate and as a person, and I don’t know why it’s really a question,” said Phil Coke, when asked about Young’s personality. “Maybe it’s just because he is good at pulling wool, man, right over your eyes.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.


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