TIME TO PUT 2015 SEASON TO BED

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Well folks, it’s time to put a tidy bow on this very eventful but disappointing 2015 season. The last place finish was certainly something that not many saw coming. But so many factors contributed to the Tigers’ final resting place.

So, let’s wrap up the season with some final questions about 2015. But stay tuned for some new topics that we will address every day during the off season.

We will continue to deliver new stuff every day. So stick with us and feel free to give us your answers to these questions as we wrap up the season.


What are the 4 best moves made by the Tigers in 2015?

Kurt

1. The trade deadline acquisitions. Certainly, as sad as it was, one of the best moves for this franchise was to cut bait at the deadline and acquire some young talent in exchange for 3 stars we needed to move so as not to be left holding the bag and getting nothing for them in the off-season. Getting some good young talent was the most rational move for a team needing to regroup.

2. Allowing Dombrowski to execute the deadline trades. As odd as everything played out, I believe it was a smart move for Ilitch to hold onto Dombrowski long enough to follow through with the trade deadline transactions. It was not a good situation for a new GM. Dombrowski is a master at trade deadline deals, so Ilitch got everything he could out of Dave before letting him go.

3. Committing to James McCann full time. From a player standpoint, one of the best moves was the commitment the team made in transitioning full-time to James McCann as the new Tiger catcher. He is truly one of the bright lights that emerged from a disappointing season.

4. Ending Bruce Rondon’s season. It was a message that needed to be sent to a pitcher who really is still an important part of this bullpen. Brad and company really showed us something there; one of the few decisive moves by Ausmus.

Holly

1. Releasing Dave Dombrowski. As much as I appreciated Dave, 14 years is a very long leash to give someone to get our team a World Series title. Over the last 2 years, it became evident that the farm system had been stripped bare and the caliber of trades was no longer there. Time to try something new because his strategy was failing.

2. Trading Price, Cespedes and Soria. No one liked to see these three go but short-term pain is always preferable over long-term agony. The Tigers were able to get multiple players of value instead of simply allowing them to leave at the end of the year with little to no compensation. The pipeline has started to be replenished.

3. Sending Bruce Rondon home. Not sure if the Tigers have ever done this before, but it’s a good message to send to a guy with developing talent as well as the other 39 players. A few signs already that he’s learning his lesson. The Tigers need as many motivated players as they can get.

4. Creating a real analytics department. The teams who win consistently all have developed analytic systems in place. The Tigers were one of the few who didn’t and it’s comforting to see them catching up to the norm in baseball. Maybe this system will be the added tool which will help them find hidden treasure instead of overpaying for past performances.


What are the 4 worst moves made by the Tigers in 2015?

Kurt

1. Bringing Ausmus back for 2015. I never thought Ausmus should have survived 2014. So bringing back Brad after the 2014 playoff disaster was not a good move by Dombrowski. I believe his pride got in the way of making a swift move with a manager who doesn’t seem to fit here.

2. Beginning the season with Joe Nathan as closer. The signs were certainly there in the spring that Joe was declining quickly and they should have been thinking about a plan B for the 8th inning. Many thought Soria had earned the closer role out of spring training. But the team continued on as if everything was fine.

3. Rushing VMart back after knee injury. For some strange reason, the Tigers made it way too big of a priority to have him ready for Opening Day. It ruined his whole season and hurt this team tremendously.

4. The announcement to bring Ausmus back for 2016. After a first to worst finish, certainly this is one of the worst moves of the year; as well as the return of all the coaches.

Holly

1. Rushing VMart back into the lineup. Was it VMart, management and/or marketing who insisted prematurely on his return? He was never pain-free and struggled all season. Maybe if he stayed on the DL one full month more in the beginning, we might have enjoyed better at-bats from him for most of the season.

2. Rushing Miggy back into the lineup. See #1 – just substitute the player’s name. A testament to this man’s immense talent that he can still put up those numbers despite injury – but he still wasn’t the Miggy we all know, esp. towards the end of the year. Waiting to hear what broken body part he was playing on at the end of this season.

3. Not making the bullpen a priority. What else? Another year of reliever afterthoughts, retreads and a gathering of the Tommy John Club. Really bad bullpens require big changes, not experiments or bargain-basement shopping. If I never have to talk about this again, it will be too soon – that’s how worn this topic is.

4. Not doing damage control after Dave left. Who’s at fault is still not clear as there is evidence that both parties may not have played nicely. But the public perception puts the blame on the Tigers and the absence of ownership at Avila’s presser didn’t help. There is always a way to professionally explain an ugly departure without revealing details – and it should have been done to avoid any tarnishing of the brand and potentially putting seeds of doubt into some prospective free agents’ minds.


What moves made in 2015 need more time to play out before a final grade is given?

Kurt

1.  The acquisitions of Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer. These are the pitchers who hopefully one day will make up the majority of the Tigers’ starting rotation. Daniel Norris has a real shot at a spot in the rotation next season, while Matt Boyd looks to need more seasoning in the minor leagues. But the wild card may be Michael Fulmer, who we didn’t get to see yet in the bigs but will be one to keep an eye on next spring.

2.  The promotion of Al Avila. He will have a lot to prove. He has big shoes to fill. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

Holly

1. Keeping Brad Ausmus as manager. Often, things are not as they appear at first glance and sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make – allowing them to play out until a better hand comes along. Could this be more of a testament of the lack of available managerial candidates rather than a statement of affirmation about Brad’s skills? When a great candidate or two appears either this winter or during the summer, we’ll know more about the real rationale for keeping him.

2.  Al Avila as GM. There was initial hope when he broomed out the minors and installed an analytics department. But then he muddied the picture by keeping Brad. Maybe Al has a plan that’s centered more on the big picture and not the immediate moment.

16 thoughts on “TIME TO PUT 2015 SEASON TO BED

  1. Pleas add to “Best Moves” — Starting Totally Tigers. It fits a great niche for Tigers fans. It moves the conversation away from the cesspool of the comment sections at Freep, News, etc web sites. It provides provocative analysis away from the echo chamber of the beat writers and columnists who frequently seem reluctant to offend those they cover (until traded or fired!).

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  2. I also came away impressed with the creation of the analytics group and feel that this will pay dividends far beyond defense shifting. I can see this staff sifting thru stats & figures now in their attempt to uncover the best free agent and trade partner options!

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  3. If a mediocre franchise like the Milwaukee Brewers can create an analytics department then the Tigers definitely needed to finally get on board with this. What took so long?!

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  4. Kurt or Holly, do you think the retaining of Ausmus has less to do with the veteran guys defending him and his work with the young players and more to do with him risking signing on with Boston and managing them out of the cellar while guiding them to a winning record next year, making the Tigers look bad?

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    • Chuck – I think both of us have been in sync with the notion that within the walls of the organization is the thought process that ’17 is the most realistic year to make a big run. Retaining Brad may just be a bridge to ’17. I don’t feel the Tigers at all felt a fear of losing him. Thanks, Kurt

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    • Hi, Chuck – I don’t think Boston is a factor in part because Dave said Farrell will be back. I’m with Kurt re the timing but also combined with the fact that any new manager would be signed on for 3 or more years. What if they got a new manager just to replace Brad and then a great one became available? Lastly, the buzz here in DC is that Matt Williams will not get another managing job anytime soon so I would also think that would apply to Brad given the last place finish. Thanks for your question! – Holly

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  5. Great stuff enjoyed all summer long Holly and Kurt. Totally agree that Something is wrong with Tiger injury handling. Add JV to that list also. I too was a DD backer but it was time. Keeping Ausmus and Al Sr saying they are “all in” for 2016 just is hard to swallow. Trades and FA will soon tell the story.

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    • I have an idea Jerry they won’t trade much. What they need is on the FA market: a primarily starting pitcher, one to fill in the 4th/5th spot and seems they are scouting for a “could be closer” (only trade). If there is enough money they will bi able to sign a LFer. Just MO.

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  6. After the July trades, I read that the six acquired players were part of the Tigers’ top 14 minor league prospects. This team is definitely rebuilding, starting with Iglesias, Gose, McCann, and Castellanos, and accelerating with the deadline trades. Maybe they will get lucky and rebuild on the fly, like the Red Wings.

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  7. I still maintain that promoting Al Avila to the GM’s post is THE dumbest move ever during the Ilitch ownership of the team. Avila is a VERY talented scout-no question. But-he’s in WAY over his head in this position. Unfortunately, my friends, our window for a WS win has closed. I’m terribly sorry for that.

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