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Rajai Davis Raking for Detroit Tigers, Looking Like Lineup’s Missing Link of Speed and Aggression

April 25th, 2014 at 2:08 PM
By Max DeMara

When Rajai Davis signed with the Detroit Tigers last December 11th, few would have pegged him to be one of the more impactful free agent pickups over the first month of the baseball season.

'Rajai Davis' photo (c) 2012, James G - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Surprise, surprise. Throughout his first 61 at-bats in 2014, Davis has been just that. Long pegged as a slap hitting speed demon who had struggles getting on base, Davis has managed to hit .328, good for seventh in the American League. He's also cranked two home runs, driven in eight runs and stolen seven bases while providing the Tigers a dynamic they haven't possessed.

How impressive has Davis's start been? In Detroit's lineup, his production has managed to overshadow the comeback-minded Miguel Cabrera, the motivated Ian Kinsler, the resurgent Austin Jackson and the still slugging Victor Martinez. The little guy has made a big difference with his plate aggression and running savvy.

As a result, Brad Ausmus is starting to look like a prophet. During spring training, Ausmus felt that Davis's greatness would not only be his speed, but in his base running knowledge.

"We'll run in the right situations, but Davis is a guy who knows how to use his speed," Ausmus said.

Take Thursday against the Chicago White Sox for a perfect, case in point example. With Detroit clinging to a tenuous 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, few would have expected Davis to hit a towering home run to left field in a 3-2 count, but that's exactly what he did. Later, he helped his bullpen with a clutch eighth inning double, flying around the bases. He's beaten out more than a few infield singles and gone from first to third in a flash, manufacturing runs.

Ausmus probably could not have imagined this kind of across the board impact in March. "Rajai is a guy who can help set it up for for the power guys," Ausmus said. Suddenly, Davis himself has also become one of those clutch power guys.

Thus far, Davis has also been having plenty of those patient, quality at-bats the lineup needs. Looking below the surface, it should have been easy to see it coming. Career, Davis is a .266 hitter in a 3-2 count with 25 career RBI, and best yet, is a .295 hitter with two out in an inning, showing a knack for the clutch hits which have evaded Detroit in the past.

When an injury to Andy Dirks prevented the Tigers from using a platoon in left field, many wondered if the team should have simply signed a bigger free agent such as Shin-Soo Choo. Choo, though, is hitting .314 with two home runs, eight RBI and one steal, looking less impressive overall than Davis.

As long as he keeps hitting right handed pitching (as he has to a .319 clip early on) while mashing lefties (.357) Davis belongs in the lineup everyday, and Ausmus will likely keep him there.

Baseball is a six month grind with numerous statistical peaks and valleys, but the Tigers will be content to run with Davis as long as he continues to be the major difference maker the lineup has craved.

Max DeMara is a contributor for @Pistons_101 and @tigers_101. Follow each to connect with him there on Twitter.

Tags: Baseball, Brad Ausmus, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, MLB, Rajai Davis, Victor Martinez

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