By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
We decided for this week’s Tuesday discussion that we would take a break from giving Brad Ausmus all the credit for the Tigers’ success this season and evaluate his coaching staff.
There are usually two sides to every story but let’s see what our two writers have to say in their evaluation of Brad’s top coaches: Gene Lamont, Wally Joyner, Jeff Jones, Dave Clark and Omar Vizquel.
In doing so, as usual, there are two questions to be answered. Let’s see how things shake out in the coaching department.
1. Which coaches should leave this year – and why?
Kurt – Well, I guess for these 5 minutes, I will assume Brad is coming back next season. If he wasn’t, it’s a clean sweep, they would probably all go, except for maybe one. But let’s, for the moment, make that grand assumption.
First, Gene Lamont has certainly served his purpose and I believe holding him over from Leyland’s staff was a smart move for a guy looking for some experience and someone familiar with the team Brad was about to manage. But a one year bridge was enough. Gene should have been replaced after last season.
Secondly, I think it’s time for a new pitching coach. As much as I believe Jeff Jones was an effective and calming influence on this staff over the years, it may be a good time to start fresh as the group continues to transition.
After a season where the Tigers will finish near the bottom in several pitching statistics, the timing would certainly make sense for a fresh start.
I am pretty indifferent on Dave Clark, so his departure wouldn’t hurt my feelings given how 2015 has seen another batch of runners get thrown out at the plate.
Holly – The first would be Lamont who has been with the team since 2006 and can be associated with the rigid strategy and similarities seen through 2 managers. As the in-game advisor who offers situational advice, too many analyses have pointed out that the same m.o. has been used, with the same results, for 10 years.
Dave Clark needs to go, too, especially after this weekend’s performance. It either appears he doesn’t do the homework required on opposing teams or does not have good judgement with at least 2 Tigers cut down at home plate just in the Baltimore series. In one of those games, there were no outs and the Tigers lost the game by, yep, one run. In both cases, the knowledge of Baltimore having baseball’s best defense and largest number of Gold Glove winners was ignored as Adam Jones, owner of 4 Gold Gloves, threw both Tigers out.
Jeff Jones’ performance is less clear but I base my decision on the up-and-down roller coaster performances of all the starters this year and his inability to influence Brad on which relievers to bring in.
I am also not fully sold on Wally Joyner who, at first glance, has the Tigers appearing near the top in almost all hitting categories. But there is a team-wide lack of discipline at the plate, an inability to play small ball when needed and too many stretches of games with little to no scoring.
2. Which coaches would you save – and why?
Kurt – After the Tigers hot start, the team went into an offensive tailspin that made us scratch our heads over why a team with so many weapons could struggle so much.
But things began to turn around. It certainly didn’t translate into much winning as everyone is all aware. But the lineup became lethal.
J.D. Martinez continues his mastery at the plate with his best season as a pro, Miggy was just Miggy before the injury, Cespedes was having his best season before the trade and now it looks like Nick Castellanos has begun to really find it, especially in the power department. So I don’t think Wally Joyner has done anything that would suggest we should be hunting for a new hitting coach.
Secondly, I believe Omar Vizquel is vital to this coaching staff and maybe Brad’s best addition yet. Aside from his value in communicating with all the Latinos on the Tigers, I don’t know that I would ever want to separate Omar from Jose Iglesias. Who better to mentor this great talent and help him develop into an even better shortstop, if that is at all possible? Even if Brad is replaced after the season, the next manager would be wise to retain Omar.
Holly – I would keep Omar around for helping the players develop into a better team defensively. Yes, trades were made for better defensive players and I think Omar had some influence. But the Tigers went from #17 to #3 defensively in all of MLB since he came onboard. We know he is responsible for working with Castellanos during the winter and achieving some moderate improvement.
But Omar is also in charge of base running and that is a mixed bag on his watch. Definitely better, but still much inconsistency, especially as the year drags on.
He brings “value added” to the table as the only Latino coach on a team that has more than half its players speaking Spanish as their primary language. His bi-lingual ability is a plus especially on a team known to be one of the most advanced in assimilating Latino players.
Omar could be a primary asset to Al Avila (Latino heritage) should Al become GM. And with the retirement of Larry Parrish, he could potentially start the managerial grooming process in Toledo.