DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers made a major change to their starting lineup Tuesday, replacing the struggling Josh Harrison with Jeimer Candelario at the leadoff spot.
The Tigers' bats woke up for the first time during a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox. In three games, the offense racked up 30 hits and 16 runs to make up for a couple of rough pitching performances to win the series.
In the first 17 games of the season, the Tigers had two or fewer runs eight times and topped six runs just once.
Manager Ron Gardenhire dropped Harrison out of the No. 1 spot for the first time Tuesday ahead of the series opener in Boston. His previous 81 plate appearances had come as the leadoff hitter.
Harrison's OBP struggles
Harrison didn't get in on the fun this weekend, however, going 1-12 with no walks and four strikeouts. As the leadoff hitter, Harrison's most important job is to get on base, and he's done exactly the opposite.
The Tigers have 12 hitters on their roster, and Harrison has a worse on-base percentage than all of them. He's drawn five walks compared to 17 strikeouts and provided only three extra-base hits.
Harrison seemed like the perfect signing for the Tigers in the off-season, but so far he's been a disaster at the plate. Despite playing solid defense at second base, Harrison is already sporting a -0.9 WAR, meaning he's cost the Tigers a full win compared to a replacement-level player.
Gardenhire simply couldn't stick with Harrison at the leadoff spot any longer, even though his track record as the MLB player suggests he's much better than this.
The leadoff hitter is guaranteed to have the most plate appearances on the team, and right now, the Tigers certainly don't want him at the dish very often.
Candelario at the top
The first 20 games have been a roller coaster ride for Candelario, who's striking out too often, walking less than he did in the minors and lacking power.
Candelario is the type of player the Tigers would love to see at the leadoff spot, though, because of his history of strong plate discipline and flashes of home run power.
Right now, Candelario has a weak .304 OBP, but that's more than 100 points better than Harrison.
He's also searching for his first home run after setting a career high with 19 a year ago.
Candelario has made massive strides defensively and his bat has always been strong. Consistent chances at the leadoff spot would give the 25-year-old even more opportunities to come around.
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