CHAOS IN THE CLUBHOUSE

By:  Holly Horning

Say what you will about Jim Leyland, but he knew how to run a clubhouse. He set parameters. And players, for the most part, knew how to behave. If he had problems with them, it was discussed behind closed doors and Jimmy always took the fall for them in the media. Naturally, JL had the respect of all the players on his team.

So one has to be wondering what Leyland is thinking when he sees everything that is going on with the players now. Unfortunately, Sunday’s peculiar incident with David Price is the latest snafu of what has become an increasing list of examples showing Brad has little influence, in fact waning influence over the team in which he has been charged.

It was surprising to find a guy, recently retired from playing and with no managerial experience, put in charge of veterans and superstars. He’d have to earn their respect and put more effort into it than another new manager with a track record. I’m very surprised that management did not seriously weigh this factor in the decision process.

The first visible sign of player mutiny was the ongoing battle with Justin Verlander last year. Three public arguments during games that culminated in examples of JV’s sailor-worthy swearing, a petulant performance at the plate and an equipment-throwing tirade in the dugout.

Fast-forward to this year and the list is not only growing, but it’s picking up speed. Scenes of Castellanos and Rajai being dressed down in the dugout during games – and picked up by tv cameras. In fact, Brad criticizing Rajai several times publicly that only create bad feelings. Could anyone blame Rajai for wanting to set things right with the media?

Kinsler has also made veiled references to bad moves while the number of players throwing each other under the bus has increased. Leyland would never have allowed this to happen.

But while the past week brought some spectacular moments of joy – Miggy, Iggy, McCann and the Martinez twins – it was also a week known for two major meltdowns. The first involved the infamous game the Tigers lost when Victor was pulled from the game. Poor Josh Wilson was left to determine whether the team won or lost with a bases loaded situation. And it was quite damning when VMart, the epitome of baseball professionalism, was asked how he felt about being pulled for a utility player. His “no comment” was very telling.

And once again, the Tigers are in the news for all the wrong reasons despite winning Sunday’s game against the Chisox. David Price, knowing that his pitch count was one of his lowest, leaves the game. Somehow, his manager, pitching coach and 3 other coaches don’t even notice his absence in the dugout for half an inning. It took JV to spring into action and notify them. Price was in the clubhouse and out of uniform.

What the local media has ignored is the significant issue surrounding Price’s precise pitching ritual. He was quoted recently about his duty to stay in the dugout for the entire game. We even know about the infamous “assigned seat” which is delineated by white tape and often occupied by a designated sitter. But, for the first time, he was not there and the seat was empty.

While it has been portrayed in the media as “miscommunication”, the national media and especially former players and GMs in the media are not buying it. Yes, when you abandon your pitching day routine, that should raise a red flag for everyone.

But what is telling is Price’s response to JV, who came to fetch him for the seventh inning:

“No, I’m not. I have zero uniform on right now.”

It appears that Price is making the decision not to return – and overruling his manager.

In response to the media’s questions, David further said,

“You can put it on me. I’m fine with that. Write what you want to write. I don’t care.”

No apologies, no wish to discuss. Obviously, he’s upset about something. What that is, we may never know – but the man is unhappy enough to abandon his teammates and snap at the media.

And this is where the rubber hits the road for the Tigers’ manager. Dissention has permeated the clubhouse, team chemistry is suffering and players are making their own rules. But now you have two of your biggest names speaking out and clearly unhappy. And this should be the point where Mr. I steps in.

When you have invested so much money into the team and now have some of your top talent upset, this is when you must consider how to stop the bleeding.

Do you get rid of your stars or put them in a position where they want to leave? Do you trade multiple unhappy players? Or do you make one surgical cut? I think we know what the answer should be…….

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

This Tuesday is all about surprises. With such an up and down season, it’s difficult to stray from the frustrations we are experiencing.

But let’s talk surprises, good and bad, about the Tigers so far this year.  Will the answers to the questions surprise you? Let’s find out.


Who or what has been this year’s biggest and most pleasant surprise so far?

KURT

Without question, without hesitation, there is really only one answer to this question. I felt that Jose Iglesias would be one of the Tigers most important players. His good health would mean everything. And except for a couple of bumps and bruises, he has been fairly healthy and is the fixture at short we had hoped.

The defense, even though we knew the kind of talent he had, still is jaw dropping each and every game. But the offense is maybe the biggest surprise. I was never concerned about his hitting. I thought he would hit enough. But hit .300? Still in June? Come on Iggy, are you for real?

HOLLY

We suffered enough with 4 different shortstops last year so getting Iggy back this year was almost worth having to wait. We had that small taste of him playing 46 games for the Tigers in 2013 and as we found out, some of it in pain. The stats we had were very promising, although many presumed them not to be true because of the small sample size.

Yet, he comes back after a year away, shows no ill results from the shin fractures, picks up where he left off and even delivers figures beyond expectations. A .330 BA and an OPS of .775 with few strikeouts. And he battles at the plate, unlike most of the team. Can’t say enough about how much that bat and discipline are needed.

Oh, yeah, and the glove. What is there to say about his daily shows that appear as if they came out of a Cirque du Soleil performance? Who was the last Tiger to flash glove leather like that?


Who or what has been this year’s biggest and least pleasant surprise so far?

KURT

Sorry, the issue of the week has overwhelmed me. And the biggest concern, at least for us on this forum, was the decision by Illitch and Dombrowski to bring back Ausmus after last season’s playoff disaster. It was a red flag. And we were concerned about how things would evolve under Brad.

The most unpleasant surprise from day one was the decision by Tigers ownership and management to sit back and watch their team, one they have invested so much in, managed by someone who is, quite frankly, making them look bad.

They have to act on this. The Price situation the other night is a black eye that may not heal. It made a mockery of this team and I won’t sit back and act like this isn’t a dam that is about to break. I hope the Tigers don’t let this season get away from them. The team is too good and frankly deserves someone with experience to make the difference for them.

HOLLY

It would be easy to say Nick Castellanos has disappointed greatly but he is one person and I’ve gotta go with something more insidious and impacting the win-loss column almost on a daily basis. And that is the inability to score with runners on 2nd and 3rd base.

How is it that the Tigers have consistently been within the top five offensive categories yet have had a devil of a time scoring runs? While they are no longer the worst team in this stat, they have consistently been near the bottom, leaving 3.5 runs on the bases per game.

Yes, some of this figure is due to their ability to get more runners on base than other teams. But their ranking indicates they are one of the least successful teams in MLB when it comes to implementation. And that’s what counts.

Couple that with a league-leading number of games in which they’ve scored 2 or fewer runs. So far, 31 games out of 76 games played. That’s 41%! Imagine where they would be in the division race if they were able to better convert those stranded runners into runs.

A LITTLE DISCIPLINE NEVER HURT ANYONE

By:  Kurt Snyder

The word discipline when used as a verb means “to develop behavior by instruction and practice. When you have discipline, you have self-control.”


I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be a major league hitter. If we had to pick one thing that most fans agonizingly shout at hitters during at bats, one would definitely be “what are you swinging at?”

But, imagine all the things that go through the head of a hitter.  To remain relatively successful, batters must study opposing pitchers and the patterns they have used to retire them. More than likely, most of the failures they have against a given pitcher include swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

The pitcher’s ultimate weapon against a hitter is not only the ability to throw strikes, but also the ability to make you swing at pitches that are not. So it begins with command. If the pitcher demonstrates a consistent ability to command the strike zone, batters face an extreme disadvantage. Because if he can throw a pitch wherever he wants, he can make you swing at balls out of the zone.

Training yourself to be disciplined enough to only swing at strikes has to be the most difficult thing in the game. And it’s mainly because you have so little time after that ball begins its flight to the plate. We take for granted how difficult it is to determine what pitch might be coming next with only a split second to decide. Every hitter must have a strategic plan in their heads that they battle throughout the entire at-bat.

And we all wonder why players have their own little rituals; the ones we feel are unnecessary and too time consuming. This is all part of baseball, folks. Its one miniscule aspect in the game within the game, and from a fan perspective, we can’t possibly understand the importance. That’s why the commissioner has to be very careful which parts of the game he chooses to effect in the ongoing effort to speed up the pace of play.

Baseball is a unique animal. Hitters rely on routine and comfort while they are at the plate. So as strange and unnecessary some of their antics are, it may be part of the success they have as hitters.

In order to succeed, discipline is a trait every hitter must possess. How do I know? Not because I have played professionally (I haven’t), and not because I have seen thousands of baseball games. We all know actually. We are watching disciplined hitting on display every day as we are fortunate enough to be able to watch Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit.

As a tandem, Miggy and VMart display a hitting approach that is a model for all hitters across the league. They are incredibly focused. They rarely swing at bad pitches. And their patience to wait for a pitch to drive, to hit hard, anywhere in the field of play, is unmatched. When the count reaches 2 strikes, they may be at their best. It’s almost when it gets toughest for the pitcher, not easier, when in most cases, with most hitters, pitchers can go on the offensive. They smell blood. But when facing Cabrera and Martinez with 2 strikes, it’s like you have an animal cornered. You may find a way to defeat them, but you better be very careful not to make a mistake.

The Tigers are extremely lucky to have, not one, but two hitters in the middle of their lineup who will battle a pitcher. And even though the team is floundering and spinning their wheels while we watch the season go by, at the very least, real fans of the game have the joy of learning how the league’s best hitters master their craft. We are truly watching the best.

 

MIDWEST NICE

By:   Holly Horning

My day job often finds me teaching protocol, defined as the recognition and understanding of etiquette, behavior and legal standards crucial to developing successful relationships and achieving the desired business and social goals.

While most of my clients need this for diplomatic dealings or international business travel, understanding protocol is also essential within the geographic regions of the US. But within this country’s border, I call it “Cultural IQ.” Having lived in the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southwest, I can testify that the ways each region’s residents communicate, process information and communicate are vastly different from each other’s.

I remember leaving Michigan for college on the East Coast and having the natives tell me I needed to adopt tougher ways. I was “too nice” they said. I was told I needed to move faster, be more direct and make decisions more quickly. Today, the only way people can ascertain I’m from the Midwest is by the way I pronounce the letter “a.” That, and asking for a “pop.” (Be very careful asking for the latter on the East Coast as it may get you something else.)

On the other hand, I occasionally take my husband, a born-and-bred Manhattanite, back to Michigan. But I have to pack some duct tape just in case because his NY mannerisms travel with him. He found meeting people was an amazing experience because the people in Michigan were so nice – almost “too nice.”

So why am I regaling you with this story? It’s because I think the Midwest Manners (or Cultural IQ) are a factor (out of many) in why the Tigers haven’t won a World Series in decades. The owners and management have been too nice, too safe and too slow in making the necessary changes that could have sped up the process and results.

We all know the stories of East Coast teams like the Yankees who have been downright ruthless in pursuing those pennants and rings. Owners like George Steinbrenner and Edward Bennett Williams of the Orioles. Only here can a manager like Davey Johnson be fired one day before he wins Manager of the Year.

On the other hand, those 10 teams in the AL and NL Central tend to have reputations as “nice teams” with calm and steady management. And many have said that Boston’s failure to win a World Series for decades was because Tom Yawkey was a “gentleman owner.”

We all should be proud of Tiger ownership. Mr. I runs a first-class operation with the highest levels of professionalism. Negative comments by management and players are few and the exception to the rule. Employees stay forever and turnover is low – all positive signs of a well-run organization. Players put Detroit near the top of their lists for teams they want to join.

But moves over the years have overall been conservative and slow in the making. We’ve had a manager here for 8 years who was never able to achieve that victory parade – and with one of baseball’s highest payrolls. And never officially “fired.” What are the chances an East Coast team would have maintained that level of patience?

Joe Girardi is the longest tenured manager in the AL East at 7 years with the Yankees.  But then again, he has won it all for them. Otherwise, managers change frequently with 3 – 4 years as the average length of stay.

But given this cultural indicator, are we surprised that certain facets of the Tigers have not resolved themselves over the years? Players who remain despite a clear expiration date stamped on them. Yearly bullpen blowups. Lack of offense in the playoffs. No ruthless closer who mows down opposing batters. Tough and controversial decisions were not made.

And let’s not forget a collection of managers who maintained auras of calm, cool and collected going all the way back to a Mr. Anderson. Maybe now is the time for Mr. I and Dave to channel their inner-Sparky.

Maybe it’s time for the Tigers to leave their Midwest Nice and make a fast, bold and decisive move like the one accomplished back in 1979. Firing Moss and hiring Sparky worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it?

We’ve just seen two managers let go because they were hovering around the .500 mark. Another one with a similar record – and naturally from the East Coast – is expected to be let go shortly. I don’t think a similar move by the Tigers would raise many eyebrows. At least not on the Right Coast.

Let’s hope at this point, that reality and desired results win out over being “too nice” for Mr. I. With the Tigers at the fourth highest payroll in MLB, his “Cultural IQ” shouldn’t keep him from making a faster, bolder and more decisive move while there is still a season to salvage.

ONE THOUGHT

By:  Holly Horning and Kurt Snyder

Things are reaching a boiling point in this town. We have the best hitter in baseball, now completely back to dominating the league and we have the turmoil surrounding our manager. And, we’ve got 2 writers with one thought to concentrate on from games over the last week. That’s quite a challenge to hold it to one. But, let’s dig in as our team continues to flounder.


HOLLY

Miggy’s stellar performances were overshadowed by a full week of horrific managerial decisions.

It is with a very heavy heart that I have to write about this. We really should be focused on this history-making player and the talent he exudes every time he steps to the plate, including the national story of how he gave the sport a golden halo by his interaction with fans and creating lifetime memories for them – and us. But this is ONE THOUGHT and we have to go with the one theme that we saw repeatedly this week. (sigh)

It started with the first game against the Yankees where Justin Verlander was allowed to throw a whopping 117 pitches despite not having pitched a regulation game for 9 months and having only 2 rehab sessions. In his prime, JV averaged 113 pitches and now his back, the team and the rotation are all hurt.

Filed under “No good deed goes unpunished” was the game where JD was benched one day after hitting 3 HRs because Ausmus played a small sampling stat instead of the hot hand. But what makes this head-shaking, is removing two starters’ big bats and weakening the infield with two secondary gloves. While the Tigers won the game, it was because the opposing pitcher bobbled the ball and allowed Detroit to extend their inning instead of hitting into the expected inning-ending double play.

But as the week went on, the poor decisions picked up in frequency and magnitude. On Wednesday, Brad’s decision on JV’s last outing came back to haunt the team in the form of a AAA pitcher call-up and the decision to bench the one guy who holds the MLB offensive record for destroying one team. The national media was all over this with some proclaiming “Christmas in Cleveland”. And if that’s not enough, Ausmus ignored the importance of the sweep and the Tigers, despite their mastery over the Tribe, gained absolutely no ground in the standings.

I do not have enough words left in my writing quota to even begin to list the wrongs perpetuated in Thursday’s game. Let’s just say it started with removing one of your best players, putting bench players into the most important key roles, giving the ball to your shakiest reliever in a 1-run game, striking out with the bases loaded, players throwing team mates under the bus and ending with VMart saying “no comment” when asked about the manager’s decision to pull him from the game. That says it all.


KURT

JD Martinez has completed his turnaround at the plate; in fact he celebrated all week.

I had no intention after serving up a whole platter full of Ausmus pate’ on Friday, of following it all up with another round of crackers; not when we have a transformation of sorts going on in front of our eyes.

Weeks ago, many began to question whether JD Martinez’s success last season was just a fluke as he went into a swoon where it seemed every other at bat was a strikeout. Heck, if I did the math, there was a long stretch of games that may even support that notion.

But he has slowly made his way back and this week was a celebration of sorts, of a comeback that culminated with a domination versus the Yanks with a 3 homer game in the Bronx. And now with the continued shredding of the baseball by Miggy, followed by the return and warming of Victor Martinez, JD is thriving just fine behind Cespedes, his new home in the lineup.

The numbers for the week are mouth-watering; 7-17, 4 home runs, 9 RBI’s. JD has come all the way back from the abyss and is now leading the team in homers. Sorry, this just in … 2 more homers versus the White Sox.

The once feared lineup has been renewed as JD is swatting balls to the opposite field with power again. The Yankees were glad to see him go and the Indians were glad the Tigers sat one of their hottest hitters for the 2nd of the 3 games after following up his big series in New York with a 2 RBI performance in the opener versus the Tribe.

Thanks Brad. Sometimes, just sit back and watch. Because guys like JD are back to making this lineup a serious threat for as long as their manager will allow it.

TIGERS BEING LED DOWN A DARK PATH

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s nice to pick up the pen again after what has been a trying week. Thanks to an outstanding talent like Holly, the blog was in good hands. But where were all you guys in getting this team going or at least holding them together while I was away?

I have to admit I haven’t been able to watch a game since last Saturday, as the game of life shifted any focus I had on baseball and writing, to more important things. And you know what, I haven’t missed it. It’s been frustrating following a good baseball team being led by someone incapable of moving them forward. Brad Ausmus will not lead this team to a World Series.

It’s a heck of a conclusion for someone who is continually surprised by teams who surely have no chance of winning, but find a way, and games that appear so hopeless, suddenly turn on a dime. I have seen it happen all my life. So you would think I would learn.

But the surprises that I never saw coming were from teams with good managers. Teams don’t win a World Series or even get there without a good leader. It’s the ultimate prerequisite. And it troubles me because this is a good Tiger team, constructed a lot smarter than many of the teams in years past.

But they have no manager. And that is where the chances end for this group. He is not a guy capable of leading them out of the trenches when he constantly sets them up for failure. And it’s not going to end. He’s had plenty of practice, plenty of opportunities to learn from mistakes.

When you fall behind in a race, it’s hard enough for a team to recover and get rolling again, without being held back by execution unbecoming of a major league manager.

Joba Chamberlain was re-signed in the off-season, and many wondered why. It was a good move to sign him. I had no issue with it then, and I have no issue with it now. Dombrowski signed him but Ausmus, who had all the history on the guy he needed (everyone yell Baltimore and scream) doesn’t understand how to use him.

I think the first person who complained to me about the signing of Joba got a strong rebuttal. I told him, “What’s wrong, don’t you like depth?” It was a depth move. But Joba Chamberlain, regardless of who got hurt, should have never again been considered an option for continued late inning relief.

I don’t care about his numbers. I hate numbers. They only begin to tell the story. Joba used all of his lifelines last year and should have only been brought back for a reduced role, a minor situational role.

He doesn’t instill a single bit of confidence back in a role that cost us so dearly last season. If the intent was to place him back into a late inning option should things fall apart, then I would have left him on the side of the road.

Sure, the GM signs him, but the manager must decide when to pitch him and Brad Ausmus won’t leave his comfort zone for a moment to figure out late inning opportunities for other guys. Joba is very familiar with a late inning role, but he’s also very familiar with failing in those situations.

So the bullpen gaffes continue for Ausmus, and the strategic errors also continue to confound. We waited so long for Victor Martinez to return, knowing how important he was to our offense and the structure of our lineup.

But here we were again, watching Brad make substitutions for the most critical hitters in our lineup when these decisions had every chance of biting him later on. These are not aggressive moves he makes, these are risks; moves with no forethought, decisions with no solid Plan B if they don’t work out.

But our manager is littering the field with errors and they are like land mines that the team must dodge every game, all the while trying to win in spite of poor direction.

This rant has been coming since the day that Verlander pitched his second game of the season, and was allowed to throw 117 pitches. What on earth was Aumus thinking? 117 pitches?

So a team with weakness at the top, chock full of talent, won’t be leaving the dock anytime soon.  Brad Ausmus was never ready to be a captain, and the boat is now taking on water.

But, at least things have become clear in Detroit. We really don’t need to spend another second wondering what’s wrong with this team. A team never wins in spite of its manager. And this one will be no exception.

WHO WILL STAY?

by:  Holly Horning

 

(Kurt remains on the bereavement list but will return tomorrow.  Our joint column,  One Topic – Two Takes, will be back next week.  Same day, same bloggers, same level of excitement.  In the meantime…..)

With the trade season nearly upon us, we’ll start to get the first hints of which Tigers may be staying and which may be leaving.  Players either traded or acquired by the Tigers this summer will give us a clue as to how Dave Dombrowski may handle the nine Tigers currently expected to file for free agency in November.

Using payroll dollars, anticipated needs, stats – and even agent information – here are my thoughts on each of them.  We’ll revisit the results at the end of the year when I hope to be able to hold my head high.

 

  • DAVE DOMBROWSKI –  Yes, renewing Dave is the key to all of the players on this list.  Three years ago, Mr. I extended his contract in early August but don’t be surprised if he waits later this time around.  Mr. I just may want to see where the team is heading first.  But consider that if Dave’s contract is not renewed, it means that essentially the entire Front Office will be replaced by the new incoming GM.  Not sure if Mr. I is willing to go through all of that.  But if Dave manages a big trade in July, it is a clue that he’ll be staying.  Usually, GMs on their way out have their trade power taken away in early summer.  I expect his contract will be renewed with some possible personnel changes under him.

 

  • ALEX AVILA – The Tigers will not want to give Alex a qualifying offer expected to be over $16 million this year.  But lack of an offer means the Tigers will not receive a draft pick. Rather than allowing him to walk away with no compensation, the Tigers have two options.  If he returns to the lineup and stays healthy, they will try to trade him to a contender in need.  Good defensive catchers are in short supply.  While he may end up walking in November, there is a remote possibility he re-signs with the Tigers for a lesser amount.  But I expect with the rise of McCann, he’ll be gone.

 

  • YOENIS CESPEDES – Yoenis hired Rock Nation Sports, Jay Z’s company and Cano’s agent, specifically for their ability to get record-setting contracts.  But most telling is the clause he had inserted into his contract that prevents teams from losing draft picks by signing him.  This was done to attract the most teams and create a bidding war.  He won’t return unless Collins and Moya bomb in Toledo and the Tigers lose a significant bat.

 

  • JOBA CHAMBERLAIN – He was signed at the eleventh hour this year and expect his chances of returning to be slim to none next year.  Opposing batters are hitting .319 off him and he’s putting 1.5 runners on base for every inning he pitches.

 

  • TOM GORZELANNY – Tom was a meant to be short-term with his minimal one-year contract.  With his nearly 7.0 ERA (before Wednesday’s game) and ability to put almost 2 runners on base for every inning he pitches, he won’t be back.

 

  • RAJAI DAVIS – What’s not to love about Rajai?  He has the energy to kick-start this team, has a very good slash line, is one of the AL’s stolen base leaders, has a strong CF glove and the Tigers win the majority of games he starts.  The only negative is his age but expect him to be back because he’s a complete ballplayer who just happens to have a reasonable salary.

 

  • JOE NATHAN –  Believe it or not, Joe’s got an option for next year so the Tigers will have to pay a $1 million buyout whether he pitches or not.  I don’t expect them to be serious in bringing him back, however they just might want to take a quick peak for a hot second in spring training.  Otherwise, color him gone.

 

  • DAVID PRICE – As a leftie and a pitcher who works deep into games, his value automatically goes up.  Expect him to receive at least a 6 – 7 year contract over $200 million.  Sports economists say that teams cannot afford more than two huge multi-year contracts – and the Tigers already have theirs.  JV and Miggy account for 33% of the Tigers’ entire payroll and that figure will go up as their salaries do.  Adding Price would push three players salaries to 50% of payroll – and two of those players are only used every fifth day.  Price, btw, does not have a good post-season record.  As much as we’d like him to stay, he’ll leave and the Tigers will hit the pitching free agent market which is expected to be the best in many years.

 

  • JOAKIM SORIA – It seemed like a slam-dunk that the Tigers would renew his contract, however recent performances may have the Tigers waiting to see where the dust settles at the end of the year.  He’s currently making $7 million/year which is starting to get pricey for relievers.  The Tigers don’t want to make another expensive multi-year mistake as they did with Nathan so expect them to wait until November.  They’ll want to see where Angel and Rondon are in the process first.  This one is too close to call.

 

  • ALFREDO SIMON – Expect the Tigers to re-sign Alfredo.  It’s been a good year for him and the Tigers can certainly use a guy who is described as unflappable.  A very reasonable salary of $5.5 for a starter.  Ideal flexibility for either the rotation or BP if he starts to tire mid-season.

The next five weeks should be filled with excitement and intrigue.  Let’s hope the Tigers will be active as buyers in the trade market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PATTERNS IN PLAY

by:  Holly Horning

It’s easy to get hung up on the most recent performance results, especially when they involve a current winning or losing streak.  But they can distort the real picture that gives us a more accurate report.

This is why I dislike focusing on streaks.  I’d much rather review the patterns I’m seeing.  While streaks are a small snapshot of a short time frame, patterns are a bigger view of a larger period of time.  In general, I don’t get overly worried about one losing streak (unless it is 8 games) and I’d much rather see the Tigers regularly winning series instead of having a couple longer winning streaks which tend to make us all feel good in that immediate moment.

So, the big questions.  How are the Tigers really doing overall?  At their most recent rate, what is their likely continued performance?

In addition to where they sit in the standings, look at their patterns.  But just don’t look at a couple.  You need to put each pattern into context.  In other words, find a pattern and then fit it into the bigger overall pattern or picture.  Using the Tigers record so far this year, here are a few categories I review:

 

MONTH                       WIN/LOSS                  0-2 RS              3 – 5 RS           6+RS               STREAK #1                        STREAK #2         SERIES W/L/T

 April                              17/10                              11                        8                        8                  7 game winning                  4 winning/1 losing                  5 – 1- 1

 May                               13/16                              16                        4                       9                    8 game losing                    5 winning/ 5 losing                4 – 4- 1

 June                                7/10                               3                         8                       6                (2) 4 game losing                 3 winning/2 losing                2 – 3 – 1

 

This is a good overall  performance review in a nutshell.  No calculator needed.  Of course, you can always dig deeper by going into team offensive, defensive and pitching stats to get a more detailed report about what is really going on.

Looking at the grid above, it’s easy to see that the Tigers have regressed in their monthly win/loss totals since April.  The final June totals are going to be key for fans.  Dave Dombrowski is also putting his wish list together based upon these last two months and much more in-depth stats.

Since April, their streaks are less dramatic and more frequent.  June’s final tally will tell us more.  However, notice the trend from winning series to achieving ties…….. to losing them.  The latter is a significant concern and potential red flag.

On the positive end, they are having an easier time scoring runs in June to date and have met or are expected to achieve the two higher run categories.

But what isn’t listed here are two other factors which need to be included in any analysis.

1.  What impact will players like VMart and JV (and maybe Rondon) have on the team from June moving forward?

2.  How has the schedule of playing highly-competitive teams vs. struggling teams impacted the results seen above?

While we will have to wait on question #1, we can assess #2 now.  April was filled primarily with competitors who were struggling in the beginning.  Was that a significant reason why the Tigers did so well?  May, the worst month so far, brought tougher teams into the schedule – Royals (twice), Twins, Angels, Cards and the Astros.  Facing more competitive rosters could certainly be factors in why the Tigers lost more games, had that horrible 8-game losing streak and scored significantly fewer runs.

June has been an easier month with a balance so far of both ends of the competitive spectrum.  And July promises a tougher time with 6 different competitive teams.  The month of August should be of real concern as it is completely filled with the top teams (at this moment) currently leading or near the top of their divisions.  And at this time, it’s too far in advance to predict which opponents will be considered contenders in September.

What will be telling is how the Tigers perform post-All Star break.  Stay tuned….

TIGER TIDBITS

by:  Holly Horning

 

Today is a day we reserve for our joint blog TWO BY TWO FOR TUESDAY.  However, following MLB rules, Kurt has been placed on the bereavement list and  will rejoin us on Friday.  Like Tram and Lou, and now Iggy and Ian, it wouldn’t be right to fly solo on a blog meant for a double-play duo.

In lieu of our regular piece, I’ve collected a number of under-the-radar Tiger Tidbits.  Short news stories not being reported by the regular Detroit media and offering a hint of intrigue.  Stories that, in the words of the group C+C Music Factory, may “make you go hmmm”.  Keep these in mind as the Tigers move through the summer.

  • Dixon Machado started Sunday’s Mud Hens game at third base.  He was told it was important he learned how to play that position “in case something happened.”  Not hard to make the connection that the Tigers have some concern about whether Nick Castellanos is their long-term solution.  This move is probably part of an overall plan to explore all viable options before making any moves or decisions.
  • After JD’s third HR on Sunday, he was seen huddling with Miggy and VMart immediately afterwards in the dugout.  Miggy was none too pleased about something JD did – lecturing JD and gesturing towards the field.  VMart made one comment, turned to leave and motioned to JD, who then followed him.  Miggy continued his talk, until Justin Verlander, who was behind him,  tapped him and said “Let it go.”  Reinforces the media reports about how Victor is able to balance Miggy’s temperament.  What was unexpected was JV’s willingness to step in and diffuse situations.
  • Tiger Scorecard Update:
    • So far this year, they have loaded the bases 16 times this season without scoring.  On average, it happens every 4.5 games.
    • Ten Tigers have been quoted this year as saying “That’s baseball.”  What’s more telling is which players haven’t used that phrase as an excuse: McCann, Miggy, Vmart, Iggy, JD, Gose, Rajai, Soria and Simon.
  • The Tigers have joined other teams in enhancing the sounds you hear at the ballpark.  For many teams, amplifying noise is a marketing gimmick and spirit-inducer.  Specialized technicians add up to 80 microphones around the stadium to pick up crowd noise, umpire calls and the crack of the bat more clearly.  The Tigers have also joined the ranks of teams using canned fan noise.  So far, I’ve identified two recording tracks they use.
  • The latest polls about managers on the hot seat now include Brad Ausmus, who has been climbing in rank over the past 6 weeks.  Additionally, several MIchigan-based voting surveys give Brad approval rating results that range from 20% – 30%, his lowest yet.
  • Where is Jack Morris?  It is logical to expect Rod Allen to cover for most or all of Kirk Gibson’s broadcasts now that Gibby has had to take a leave of absence.   Jack was expected to be in the booth with Mario for 40 – 60 games, but he’s been missing for quite awhile now.  Could it be due to the obvious lack of chemistry between him and Mario?  This year’s viewership numbers are crucial to next year’s expected tv contract negotiations that could result in tens of millions of dollars in additional tv revenue.  It may be that the focus groups hired to give feedback did not provide good ratings for this particular tandem.
  • And where is Alan Trammell?  Dave’s special assistant, who doesn’t have a written job description, btw, has been in Detroit for the past two weeks with the team according to social media reports and pictures.  This despite reports that he would be spending the early summer focusing on evaluating talent in the minors.  Pictures showing him in conversation with Miggy, VMart and a host of other players.  Dave Dombrowski described him as a “jack of all trades” who will address the topics or needs identified by Dave.  It will be interesting to see what assignments Dave gives him in the coming months.

WAS MAX RIGHT?

by:  Holly Horning

As the season has rolled on, and from reading social media comments, fans have become increasingly more uncomfortable with this Tiger team. The cracks have become bigger and the missteps more frequent. And then Saturday happened.

It was the day I felt that the wheels had truly come off the bus. First, it was the game in which the Tigers were shellacked by the Yankees to the tune of 14 – 3. The team could only muster two hits by the top of the seventh. The players appeared as if they could care less about being on the field, let alone trying to win a game.

And then 520 miles away, a different scenario was taking place. In a stadium in Washington, DC, Max Scherzer was on a mission for a perfect, or at least, no-hit game. The stadium, team and especially Max were on fire. The passion, determination and energy were palpable.

Are we really surprised that each game ended as it did? Are we shocked by the fact the Tigers had yet entered another losing streak that had turned ugly? Do we really believe that this below-expectations play is simply a matter of luck, getting on a winning streak or as Brad was hoping for – “water eventually finding its own level”?

I don’t think so – and most probably, neither do the majority of fans. The harsh reality is that even if the Tigers manage to pull out a decisive win, the odds of them continuing in an upward manner are not so great. How many multiple-game losing streaks followed by a single win do we need to see before understanding the likely pattern?

Outside of the region most influenced by the Detroit Tigers’ grasp, a much different story is being told. A tale of baseball’s fourth-highest payroll team currently labeled by many analysts as this year’s most disappointing team. Daily stories about players who seem unfocused and distracted. Stories of robotic at-bats, bad base-running and lethargic play. Stories that describe the team as appearing to go through the motions. But most importantly, stories questioning how so many accomplished players on a single team are unable to get the job done.

It is one thing to be considered a bad team. It is another to be characterized as “under-performing”, which is the term most often used to describe this year’s Tigers. Looking at offensive stats alone, the team ranks near the lead in the top five offensive categories. Yet this is a team that currently sits in third place and 5.5 games back. A team that leads MLB in scoring 2 runs or fewer per game despite proof of their offensive capabilities. The talent is simply not being harnessed.

And consider that the team has 7 batters in the starting lineup who are not getting RBIs. In last week’s two series, Miggy was responsible for 12 of 20 runs driven in with JD Martinez accruing 7. Even with the return of VMart, these three players cannot do the job alone. When it’s one or two players who are not producing, question them. When it’s almost an entire team, question the manager.

And in this case, all roads lead to Brad. A manager, who has been given a pardon because of injuries to JV and VMart. But much as we would like to have witnessed the birth of a new managerial wizard, time has simply run out for him. We have seen no significant improvements in his skills that would indicate he is ready to lead this team into October baseball, let alone winning a division. Great talent can mask a lot of problems, but eventually weaknesses become apparent.

While no player is going to publicly say that they have lost confidence in their manager, it just may appear that Max saw the telltale signs last year. Remember his comments about wanting to play for a “winning” team? While he apologized for saying it to the Detroit fan base and claimed it was a “misunderstanding”, he has repeated it numerous times since then and outside of the region. He meant what he said.

It is very possible that Max realized the 2015 Tigers would not improve under Ausmus. Yes, money was a huge factor for him and a justified reason for leaving, but was this his parting shot to the team? Was he recalling his own experiences from working for Brad last year?

So as much as we took umbrage over Max’s remarks last winter, there just may have been some truth to his comments. Maybe we actually owe Max an apology – or even a thank you. But right now, I’d just really like to know what Mr. I is thinking.