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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.