By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Thursday’s edition could really be treated as a check up on the development of someone we hope is our future behind the plate for the Tigers.

Ironically, James McCann ended up having the best offensive game of his career Wednesday, just one day after we came up with this question to sink our teeth into. I’m not kidding, McCann responded at the just the right time for our purposes.

Here is the question we took on for this week, followed by our blind (from each other) responses.

Is James McCann living up to the expectations that he will become the starting catcher next year?


I’m starting to believe so, especially after Wednesday’s game, but he hasn’t played enough this year to generate enough stats for me to feel totally comfortable saying “yes.” What is important is that McCann’s hitting and defensive skills are gradually trending upward. Avila, although he had a promising start to the season, is trending downward and I’m not sure the rigors of the season ahead will be conducive to achieving better numbers.

Avila has approximately double the play time so far. But defensively, what is telling is how both catchers handle potential base stealers. McCann has the better record with half the play time, catching more runners stealing than Avila. Fewer opponents run on McCann because he has a quicker release and more accurate throws to second.

No surprise with the offensive stats. Avila is king of OBP but that’s about it. HIs OBP is negated by stats showing he strikes out on half his at-bats while McCann strikes out only 1/6th of the time. And over the last two weeks, Avila’s batting stats are trending downward, while McCann’s are going up.

The biggest speed bump will be getting Ausmus to give McCann more playing time. While I don’t believe those nepotism urban myths, it’s logical to think that giving less work to your immediate boss’s son has to have some influence on Brad.

Avila, a free agent at the end of the year, has many believing the Tigers won’t make him a qualifying offer, which of course means no draft pick. If McCann continues to trend upwards, there’s a chance Avila may be traded mid-summer.

But given that his father ranks #2 in the organization, consider that this unique relationship may generate an unusual arrangement. Could the Tigers sign Avila to a one-year contract extension later this year? Could Avila become a free agent and then re-sign with the Tigers for less than the assigned qualifying figure?

Stranger things have happened. More playing time for McCann will be the first indicator of his position with the team next year.


Boy, if you could take one day out of the season to determine how things are going with our young, up and coming Tiger catcher, Wednesday would certainly be the day. James McCann had a fairy tale kind of game highlighted by an inside the park home run.

We will have to check the record books to see how many players first career homer was of the “inside the park” variety. Great day for James.

But let’s set this game aside for a minute. When McCann made the team out of the spring with the intention to platoon with Alex Avila, it seemed like a sneak peek into the future. The Tigers are gradually getting younger, and they need to be. And they are more athletic as well and they have needed to be. And as we move through this season, we will find more and more that McCann can be included in the “more athletic” category.

All indications point toward someone who has been very nimble behind the plate, showing an ability to be pretty agile, someone who looks comfortable with handling the pitchers and the position.  McCann has shown a strong arm too as he has thrown out his fair share of runners in a short amount of time.

On the other side of the coin, and keeping in mind the small sample size, McCann has shown signs of having the tools of a pretty decent hitter. He has showcased some power even though he hadn’t homered until Wednesday, albeit inside the park. But he has some pop and it’s certainly fair to say that as we move through the season, James will get more opportunities to prove that this could be the changing of the guard.

Alex Avila has shown no signs that he is about to put together a comeback year at the plate, however it is encouraging that, to this point, there haven’t been any concussion issues. None of us really want to see Alex go through any more of that.

But we will keep tabs on McCann. As much as the Tigers have been ridiculed for not having a very deep farm system, James just may silence some of the critiques. With some more playing time, McCann will get the opportunity to continue to interview for next year’s full time catching position. It’s early, and the batting average is still low, but there are certainly signs that we have someone young who possesses the tools of a catcher we can build on for years to come.


By:  Holly Horning

Who ever thought that the phrase “bad boys”, would refer to the KC Royals? But yes, in this changing baseball world where power has been shifting to the AL Central, there is one team seemingly bent on taking down the perennial division winner before the season ends.

So what is going on with the Royals? They have been brawling with their opponents in half a dozen games. Either the Midwest is now trying to keep up with the East Coast in attitude or they’ve adopted a new strategy. Conceivably, there are several explanations for their behavior.

Much of the media painted the Royals as that fluke team, leaving many of the players with chips on their shoulders. Feeling that they need to validate their talent, they’ve been battling the Tigers for first place since the first ceremonial pitch. Is it any wonder they came out of the chute so fast?

But others will argue that the team is simply responding to the rash of Royals being hit by pitches. Players have referenced feeling that there is now a target on their backs since being anointed as a top contender.

Others point to a very young team missing their older teammates who used to guide team behavior. Experts mention that some of their opponents were playing mental games with the Royals and baiting them into bad behavior. And yet others point to the Royals and their “hot dogging” attitude of over-celebrating great plays and hits. All valid arguments.

But here’s where the Tigers need to be concerned. The first is the obvious one – injury to a key player or two. Injury due to an accidental but aggressive brush-back pitch or hard slide. Injury due to a Tiger hitting a home run and the practice of payback which can easily be a season-and pennant-ending move for our boys. We all remember what happened to Zack Greinke last year. Let’s hope the recent suspensions will allow cooler minds to prevail.

But if you take away this factor, we are left with the issue of emotional energy. And all the former ball players now dotting the airwaves mention this as one of the biggest factors. Simply put, it is the level of focus, determination, “hunger” and sustained effort by a team every time they hit the field. Consistent levels of emotional energy help keep teams from having wild performance swings and rollercoaster win-loss streaks.

The Royals, obviously are showing great emotional energy. The Tigers also, to a certain degree. However, there was concern expressed throughout social media during the Yankee series where many thought the team appeared listless on the field and at the plate.

It’s impossible to quantity emotional energy other than what we see during the games. But, we can ask questions which may become useful as the season unfolds.

How badly do the Royals want that elusive division title in order to prove their worth?

Seeing that the Tigers have won 4 straight divisions, do the Royals see this as “game on”?

Given that the Tigers have won those 4 straight divisions, are they any less hungry for a fifth?

What is the Tigers’ incentive for winning that fifth title? Is it as important as the first one?

How powerful is the Royals’ incentive to get back to the World Series given that they came so very close to winning it all last year?

How capable is Ausmus at keeping team motivational levels high all season long?

How hungry are the Tigers to answer their critics about that “closing window” and return to the World Series?

Potentially, this week may give us a clue or two. Some exciting games on the horizon, so saddle up, everyone!


By:  Kurt Snyder and Holly Horning

Two more questions for Tuesday, both on pitching. I don’t know how our answers could be much different on these questions; but here they are, which probably won’t really be answered for weeks.

But we took a stab at them now.

1. Outside of Soria, who do you think is the next most reliable bullpen pitcher?


The list of reliable bullpen arms is short. And when I say reliable, I mean clean innings. But there haven’t been many of them when a starter doesn’t go 8 innings. Luckily, our starters have been for the most part, very good.

Lengthy starts have allowed us not to have to go to a bullpen that is completely disjointed with few established roles. The bad news about Joe Nathan’s departure is that we still really don’t have an 8th inning guy. So far it’s 8th inning by committee.

Joba Chamberlain has late inning experience, and for that reason alone, he is probably the next most reliable arm. And I don’t necessarily think that is a good thing.

The Tigers do so many things well that the strengths on this team should compensate and buy them time to figure out who will settle into what roles in the pen.

Meanwhile, we wait on guys like Kyle Ryan and that Bruce guy. All the pitchers we felt would have roles on this staff aren’t even on the team yet.


The Tigers’ BP reminds me of the great quote from the movie, Forrest Gump: “My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The key word here is “reliable” and I think the Tigers have one, but he’s not in the BP yet. There is of course, Bruce Rondon, who shows the promise and talent to fill this void, however I am loath to appoint a reliever with only 28 innings pitched – back in 2013. There is hope with Angel Nesbitt, but he is still a work in progress.

I’m sure Dave Dombrowski started putting feelers out as soon as Rondon went down with tendonitis and with Nathan out, his phone is currently smoking from overuse. Other than Soria, the Tigers have 3 relievers verging on their expiration dates, with three others barely hatched. Polar extremes are never good.

And this is where Lobstein comes in, a guy named as a spot starter and who cannot possibly take over a full-time rotation role. I expect changes with JV will put him into the BP where he will become the next most reliable reliever. To be continued down below….

2. What do you think it going on with JV?


The silence is deafening on Verlander. But I guess we can take solace in the fact that nothing major was found in the MRI. But what is it then that is keeping him from throwing?

Verlander has the type of personality where I am sure he’d rather not talk about it if his progress doesn’t include a timetable for his return. And we will have our ears peeled next time he throws, hoping and pleading for progress or an announcement of a projected start.

This is a tough question to answer, because no one really knows what’s up, with very few clues on the horizon.

But the longer it goes before he throws, the longer his rehab will be just stretching out his arm again. And assuming he finds his way back into the rotation, the Tigers had better arm themselves with another veteran at some point, because who can trust JV’s future right now?

The trade deadline, if we can wait that long, will look very familiar once again as the Tigers will shockingly (kidding) need bullpen help and JV insurance.


In the beginning, we were getting JV updates on a daily basis. Then, updates became sporadic, the questions started flying and the Tigers flew into damage control over the leaked news that management was hiding medical tests performed on him.

Despite the fact that we are told everything is clean, JV has not pitched since April 15th, 4 days after he was scheduled to come off the DL list.

He has not thrown in the 13 days since and announcements that Lobstein will start have become matter-of-fact and no longer include Justin’s name. We are told that when he starts throwing again, it will be a slow process with gradual build-up until his arm regains strength. To expect anything earlier than June would be unrealistic.

Unfortunately, this is starting to resemble the Joel Hanrahan rehab saga with the soreness, re-starts and then stoppage. I think the Tigers are more concerned than they let on.

Lobstein, his replacement, is still somewhat green and not ready to assume a full-season starting pitcher role. Not inconceivable that the Tigers will add a starting pitcher via trade which will then move Lobstein back into the BP where he is desperately needed.


By:  Holly Horning

As many of you know, my profession as an image consultant is to analyze the visual, verbal and non-verbal aspects of individuals and companies. How you look, communicate, and move speaks volumes about who you are, where you are in life and your level of confidence and credibility.

So what does this have to do with baseball? Plenty! When I watch the games, one of my favorite things is to observe the other action – what is happening in the dugout, who’s talking to who and what the players do once the game is over. It is all very telling.

But one observation does not a blog make. So I’ve decided that every once in a while, I’m going to gather and present a cluster of these stories. Small, tasty bites to keep us all thinking. Just think of them as tapas – or Small (Home)Plates.

So let’s get to it…….

Last year, I observed three situations where JV was openly defiant to his new manager, Ausmus. Incidences that involved obscenity-laced tirades, thrown equipment and back-turning.

While things have become less dramatic between the two, recently Brad was seen trying to engage Justin in conversation. Ausmus was trying to make eye contact and using “open” gestures, indicating a desire to connect. But JV would have none of it. He refused to make eye contact and had his arms folded tightly across his chest – an act seen as being defensive as well as resistant. Is it tied to adjusting to a new manager, due to JV’s pitching struggles – or both?

This year’s starting pitchers are a tight bunch. JV has found a new best friend in the form of David Price, sharing a fierce competitive spirit, pet dogs and a love of golf. They are always seen next to each other in the dugout chatting on their off-days. But their group has also grown. Frequent TV pans into the dugout show the non-starting pitchers often sitting together as a group.

Interesting that JV and Max were never seen together in previous years but it was revealed that none of the starters congratulated Max or kept in touch with him since he left. Could team chemistry be much better this year?

Jim Leyland was literally front and center for all three games in Pittsburgh. While the location is not a surprise, JL’s purpose potentially was. His job description is focused on the minor leagues but he also does other assignments at Dombrowski’s request.

He was glued to the action on the field and not conversing with those in his party. But he was occasionally taking notes. Just who was he observing?

A shout-out to our faithful reader, Katherine S., who asked about how Yoenis Cespedes was faring with his new teammates. And I’ve been watching!

As the Tigers were leaving the field after a game, Iggy stopped suddenly, turned around and headed back out to greet Cespedes. And he was enthusiastic in his greeting with a big hug and congratulatory head rub – not the usual “good game” routine.

Cespedes seemed truly happy at the attention which supports the theory that this is a better team environment for him. Still to be determined is whether being on a team with one of MLB’s largest percentages of Latino players will be a major factor in whether he stays or goes after this year.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Oh, we’ve got Kudos, maybe. And plenty of Comments. And Concerns? Oh yes, we have concerns. Trying not to speak for both of us, but I can only imagine where we may head with this week’s edition of KC&C.

We won’t be including anything that has transpired in Friday night’s game. It’s been painful enough this week. So we will let Holly get it started.



Joakim Soria is finally the official closer!

In the past week, he pitched in 2 of the 3 wins and put up a row of goose eggs with no drama involved.

Can’t tell you how great it feels to finally have the right guy in the right job.


It hasn’t been a good week; the 11-2 blast out of the gate has been stalled by a losing streak.

I have kudos for Joakim Soria, the one certainty in the bullpen.

But that would be it, mainly because this is about winning and losing, and I tend to hand out kudos when it contributes to winning, which we have done little of this week.



I find it amazing that everyone is so focused on the loss of Nathan and the need to replace him.

We have a bona-fide closer now so the need turns to a less-urgent BP tweaking.

The more important issue, and what is truly scary, is that there are no more management updates on JV.


You can watch baseball for your entire life knowing that it’s a 6 month, 162 game season.

But even knowing that, you catch yourself drawing conclusions for the season based on a week or 2 worth of games, good or bad.

So, I will give Brad Ausmus more time to either continue his confounding management of the pitching staff, or somehow figure it out.



Will Brad ever get a handle on how to manage pitchers?

He allowed Price to make 51 pitches in the first inning alone, which nearly broke the all-time record of 53.

And in the same week, makes a comment about how the BP isn’t getting enough work.


Concerns rule the week. We have dealt with losing more than winning.

And we have lost in different ways just as we have won.

Pitching, defense and hitting all have had roles in the losing streak; all 3 phases have contributed; with a fourth being our manager, who helped dig huge holes in games by doing nothing for too long.


By:  Kurt Snyder and Holly Horning

Thursday means we have one topic to tackle, and even though we don’t share, I can’t imagine, in light of the Wednesday news, that Joe Nathan won’t be a common thread in our discussion.  But we will see.

Today we take on a topic about changes, because it appears 1 or 2 may be coming.

Who will be the next player added to the roster?


Well, with Joe Nathan on the virtual ropes with his comeback, the Tigers really need to concentrate on their bullpen. Imagine that.  Yep, kids, the Tigers have a closer and not much else;   well certainly not much determined, not much solidified, no real rotation or roles, except for Soria.

Joba Chamberlain was brought back, in my mind, for depth. He was a known commodity who, to me, would be more valuable in a limited role.

But the state of the bullpen is lending itself to a larger role again for Chamberlain. And I believe that would be a mistake. We need only remember his performance in the second half of 2014 and of course, the playoffs, if that’s what you want to call those 3 games we played.

So, what do we do? Well, it’s much too soon to think trades at this point in the season. Unfortunately, it’s time, instead, to start the merry-go-round again. Yep, warm up the bus from Toledo, because somehow we have to figure out a formula. Because, the guys on the big club that have appeared prior to the ninth inning, haven’t been real pretty.

Everything else on this team looks dynamite. We have discussed all their strengths. But the weakness, again, is the bullpen, and it will be the area receiving a new addition and soon, at least from Toledo. The Nathan news kind of forces the issue even more.

We are loaded with lefties, but I think one of our best is still in Toledo. It’s time for Kyle Ryan to hop on that bus and see if he can make an impact in an area that once again is very unsettled.


Just as I started writing this, I discovered Joe Nathan left his rehab game in pain which will change my answer somewhat. After initially leaning towards a new starting pitcher, I will now simply say “pitcher” – either starter or reliever.

My rationale starts with JV, who was technically supposed to come off the DL on April 12th. Combined with the cancelled last two throwing sessions and the Tigers attempt to hide recent medical news, it doesn’t look promising that we’ll see him until late May at the very earliest. He hasn’t pitched since March 29th and the Tigers have stated they are going to bring him back very slowly. As confirmation, it was casually announced that Lobstein will be pitching again on Sunday without any mention of JV.

Lobstein, meanwhile, is a good young pitcher, but not fully hatched yet and certainly not ready to take over the duties of a rotation pitcher for a full year. He’s a short-term solution. The Tigers need someone else – someone with experience.

Obviously, trades early in the season are challenging. Teams have yet to know if they will be in contention and thus tend to hang onto players until July. There are a few rumors of pitchers being available, including the Nats who are seen to have a surplus. Ironically, one of the best solutions, and more readily available, will be a pitcher bordering on “rental” – someone who will reach free agency at the end of the year.

To make this trade happen, Dixon Machado just may be the bait. He only plays shortshop and given Iggy’s talent, he is expendable. Iglesias will remain the shortshop until 2019 when his agent, Scott Boras, will snatch him away. Both Romine and Perez play multiple positions so expect them to stay, even with their weak bats. Dixon would bring a high price as good shortshops are in very short supply – something we know all too well.

It is conceivable that the Tigers will promote another reliever until it is known if and when Nathan returns this year. But trading for a starter will allow them to put Lobstein in the bullpen, where he is better suited – and needed.


By:   Holly Horning

I happen to live in Washington, DC – or Spin Central as we call it. And for 20 years, I’ve worked with the media and coached clients in how to present themselves to the media. So when it was revealed on Tuesday that the Tigers ran some tests on injured players but kept it secret, well, it feels like home. I just had to write about it.

For those of you who are new to the term “spin”, it is the attempt to imprint a particular interpretation to a story that favors the person or group who puts it out there. They will often use distraction and/or blame in order to deflect attention away from themselves and onto another party. The best spinners don’t leave fingerprints and the vast majority of readers receive no hints that anything’s amiss.

But as someone who regularly interacts with this world, I will say the Tigers are one of the very best sports teams in crafting, protecting and maintaining their reputation and ways of business. They are a truly professional team in which power struggles, difficult personalities, bad strategies and rumors are never divulged. Leaks? Fuggedaboutit. Nothing comes out of these Tiger maws. They are a secretive bunch.

So it’s no surprise that it took a national writer to break the story of JV’s MRI. Someone who generally doesn’t have to fear having his or her access to the club limited or revoked. His story pushed the Tigers to divulge that both JV and VMart had tests and doctor consults despite their statements to the contrary.

But what’s really interesting is what happened next. The Tigers spun the story and offered it to certain select local writers they feel are more receptive than others. A textbook move, by the way, and a good one.

They also made Kevin Rand the official mouthpiece. A guy so quiet that you’d be hard-pressed to find quotes from him on Google. A guy who, when profiled in depth in a newspaper, did not have a single quote attributed to him. A guy who is a complete professional, does his job every day without fanfare and never seeks the limelight. But he and Brad both offered identical quotes – a sure sign that they had been coached. I know because I do this with my clients – except I never advocate memorization for this exact reason.

Now comes the deflection part. Blame comes in the form of criticizing Tiger fans and how they should trust the team. In Washington, Ronald Reagan’s quote “Trust but verify” lives on for a reason. These stories also accuse the fans of “playing doctor” – fans who really just want to make sense about the lingering injuries that defy common sense when it comes to seeking medical advice. Yet even more stories emphasizing the need for medical privacy, when in fact, most teams share every detail, test and doctor’s appointment with their fan base.

The Tigers may not have left any paw prints, at least locally, but in DC it would surely raise our spin sirens to Code Suspicious (Orange Level). What they did not anticipate was how curious this intelligent, loyal fan base would be over an extended period of time, where progress was not seen being made as it pertained to two of this year’s key players. And that’s why they were called out.

So if we take away all the spin, what do we really have here? Despite multiple management statements about physical conditions that did not warrant more-detailed medical attention, it would appear that the Tigers really were concerned about JV and VMart more than they will admit publicly.

And in this case, they may have valid reasons for keeping this info on the QT. Information that may potentially impact this season. Information that, if revealed, may put them at a disadvantage as they consider either short-term or long-term strategies and options. Stay tuned…..


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Tuesday is upon us, so let’s take a look at 2 more questions. Did we share our answers?  Of course not!

So, here are 2 more questions to take a stab at after a dozen games.

1. What is the biggest issue or concern that comes out of JV being on the DL?


While many would go with not having JV in the rotation, I gravitate towards the long-term results and how it impacts the Tigers down the road. First of all, Justin is owed $28 million per year for the next 5 years and currently ranks as the #2 most expensive player in MLB. There is also a sixth year, a vesting option, for another $22 million. Even if he doesn’t meet those requirements, there is still a payout. JV’s contract is worth an additional $140 – $162 million. He has yet to play this year and even if he never throws again, reimbursement via insurance is a pittance.

This confirms the increasing belief and trend now seen that it is bad business to give a pitcher a long-term contract that extends well into his 30’s. The most immediate impact will be seen with David Price, who turns 30 this year and will not be offered a contract extension by the Tigers unless circumstances turn dire.

Conceivably, this was already on the Tigers’ radar given the trade of Porcello. Expect the Tigers to go into the market and trade for more Shane Greene types – young, very promising, earning $515,000 and under club control for the next 6 years.


Well, it’s really about the money isn’t it?  Unfortunately, our most expensive pitcher is not only no longer our ace, but not even pitching.  And we have been told very little about his condition.  But that is certainly the Tigers’ right.

But  the fear of the unknown is the most frustrating part isn’t it?  And when you are told so little and the guy can’t make it through 60 pitches without “fatigue,” well what are we to think of that? I know what I think. It could be a good long while before we see him this season and when we do, will it be worth the wait?   We can only hope.

It’s a pretty scary scenario. But lucky for Brad and Dave, the 10-2 start has taken all the attention away from the Verlander injury; a situation that could snowball into a bad break costing us down the road, and an expensive road at that.

2. Are you surprised by the fast 10-2 start? Why or why not?


Kurt’s gonna hate me again, but very often I see both sides to an issue, so I have to say both “yes” and “no.”

The Tigers had a horrible spring training, second worst in MLB, but also tempered by not having their two top players for most of it. There is a 30-year historic correlation between good springs and good years for the team I wrote about last month so that made it a concern.

But all of a sudden, starting Opening Day, everything seemed to come together – pitching fundamentals, defense, base running and speed. Granted, the competition hasn’t been the top teams in baseball yet so I’d like to see the Tigers play KC, Angels, and the Orioles to get a better sense of how they compare. But the team definitely seems stronger, better balanced and possessing more tools in their arsenal.

Now, remember that the Tigers had a great start last year, too. They went 17 – 9 in April but in May, they won 4 more than they lost, starting that pattern of rollercoaster win-loss runs. The key is going to be sustained focus and play throughout the year. I know they have the talent – let’s see if their level of motivation remains higher than the competition.


Well, yes I am. It’s human nature to analyze something from a negative point of view. But I learned from someone I know that the media looked at the future success of the Tigers from a viewpoint based on who they no longer had. When in reality, if you look at the pieces they added to the current talent, they have a pretty intriguing team with a lot of potential to do well.

But allow me to cheat a little.   Go back to the end of last season, look at the Tigers and take away Scherzer, Porcello, Verlander and Nathan (sorry, couldn’t help it). Then tell me that Sanchez would give up home runs like candy in 2 of his first 3 starts this season.

If you did all that and then asked me to guess their record after 10 games, I would probably say 2-10. What Price, Greene, Simon, Cespedes, Iglesias, Gose and Soria (to name of few) have done is flip it all around and made you forget about all those other guys, at least for 12 games. It tells you a little about how much talent we have added and still have on this team.


By:  Holly Horning

I sat down to write my Sunday blog, today, on Saturday afternoon. Topic was selected, ideas in place and a Tiger game on TV. What’s not to like?

But then the fourth inning happened and I realized that I had to change my topic. With the score currently 11 – 2 in favor of the White Sox, I am writing more than I am watching at this point. That’s not how my afternoon was supposed to go!

So far, we Tiger fans have had few complaints this season. We are seeing stellar shut-down pitching, exciting defense, speed that leads the majors and offense-by-committee, instead of just the usual suspects. We even have what appears to be a bona-fide closer not named Joe Nathan.

But today was the first game of the year that didn’t go according to plan. Anibal Sanchez didn’t have his stuff and it was pretty clear to most of the fans by the beginning of the third inning. However, a game that was a salvageable one at 4-1 became a blowout early in the fourth because Brad left his starter in despite the fact he was clearly getting the stuffing knocked out of him. Now the game is currently 12-2 and the odds do not favor a Tiger comeback at this point.

So one has to wonder about a manager who leaves an ineffective pitcher in the game, who is giving out home runs like candy on Halloween and has now loaded the bases. We were all correct in anticipating where that next hit ball would go. Unfortunately.

With the final score 12 – 3, the Tigers could have kept this game in reach if Brad had reacted earlier than he did. Had the team scored one more run, this loss could have been put squarely at his feet. He should have known when to pull his pitcher given all the warning signs and well before the bases became loaded with no outs.

The first loss of the season also involved the same scenario. Same pitcher and manager making the same decision to leave him in when it was apparent that he was done. And this is where I become concerned.

Despite the fact that the Tigers appear to be a better and stronger team this year with more tools in their arsenal, we also need to consider that sixth tool – the manager. It’s easier to win when you have the talent this team has but when the Tigers are being limited by the other team, they need other ways of getting it done. And this is where the manager comes in to hopefully offer that extra edge. We saw how effective Buck Showalter was in the 2014 playoffs to handcuff the Tigers with his “checkmate” move.

Last year, Ausmus had the habit of either taking pitchers out too early, too late or repeatedly inserting pitchers who came with their own bomb squad. This year, both losses have involved the failure of the manager to recognize when to replace pitching.

So has Brad learned how to handle pitchers since last year? Right now, I’d have to say “no.” It appears he has no instinct for how long his starters should pitch or which relievers to use. How he handles Joe Nathan’s return will be very telling.

But while Ausmus has shown some growth as a manager, this final component is crucial. If he can’t perfect his managerial instinct when it comes to pitching, it will come back to bite the team if and when they make it into October.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

It’s time for this week’s Kudos, Comments & Concerns.

The topics covered below, unshared by the writers (geez, how many times do they need to tell us), cover the events of Tiger games played through Wednesday night. After all, why would we want to include Friday’s boring victory? Go Iggy!



With an 8-1 start through Wednesday, what’s not to like?

The outings by the new guys, Greene and Simon, were just plain stellar, as they dominated Pittsburg with spellbinding performances resulting in 2-0 and 1-0 road victories.

Both wins were sufficiently put neatly away by Joakim Soria, who more than likely will have to be dragged away, kicking and screaming, if the Tigers dare to remove him from the closer role in the future.


Last week, Wally Joyner was my shout-out and this week, it’s Jeff Jones.

Through Thursday night, the Tigers lead all of MLB with a 1.91 team ERA.

We saw some incredible, masterful pitching this week and it’s especially gratifying that a certain team in Washington, DC is tied for 10th/11th with an ERA of 3.26.



The play in the first 2 weeks of the season has already demonstrated the team’s ability to win in different ways.

The first week, the bats were on fire and made it very difficult for opposing teams especially when coupled with good starting pitching.

And this past week, as the bats quieted down, the starting pitching took center stage by storm, coupled with great defense, resulting in 2 shutouts; mighty encouraging signs.


Jim Leyland was back for all three games in Pittsburgh, and unlike Bob Uecker, he was sitting in the front row and behind home plate.

Although his job description is focused at the minor league level, he was watching intently and taking notes.

Was Dave having him evaluate talent, team, management – or all?



Despite the great start by the Tigers, Verlander’s abbreviated simulated game, VMart’s back and well, the bullpen’s lack of work are things to talk about for sure.

Injuries are just that and we will have to wait and see; but the bullpen is a question mark still because our starters have been going 8 innings and all we have needed is Mr. Soria, who has been brilliant.

Injuries aside, not needing the majority of the bullpen to this point has been a nice problem to have.


I wish I didn’t have to identify VMart again this week but he is so crucial to the success of this team – and if anything, his injury is more pronounced.

It doesn’t help that every time I turn on the TV or radio, the national media is criticizing the Tigers for their reputation (since 2013) of allowing their athletes to play injured.

It’s silly to allow the players to make the determination and the team needs to step up their policy for everyone’s sake.