By:  Holly Horning

Not quite yet a year old, Totally Tigers continues to grow. And we’re not done yet.

Kurt and I have more ideas. Lots of ideas. I should probably mention that it’s likely Kurt thinks evil thoughts about Holly and all of her ideas. Ah, but now I digress……

But we also want to know what you think.

Are there topics you’d like to see addressed?

Are there format options you’d like to see added to the blog site?

Is something missing?

How would our site be more enjoyable for you?

Are there other items you’d like to see added in addition to the blogs?

How can we be bigger and badder in 2016?

We want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts, ideas, resource ideas or anything else you feel would be a welcome addition. You know we always love to hear from you.

Please send us your thoughts using the regular Comment icon. We won’t publish your suggestions so feel free. Your ideas will be between the three of us.

Kurt and I always wanted a blog that was interactive and one in which readers had a bigger role in directing the topics they’d like to see. This is your blog – and this is your chance.

We hope everyone has a blessed and very Happy New Year! Thank you for the time you take to read us and for the comments you send. We hope to hear more from you in 2016!


By:  Holly Horning

What better way to end 2015 than to re-post the in-depth series on the developing legacy of Dave Dombrowski. He may be gone but his fingerprints are still all over the Tigers and his decisions are significantly impacting those now being made by Al Avila. And they will continue to do so in 2016…….

Catch all 4 parts at:






By:  Kurt Snyder

The holiday season gives us the opportunity to take a look at some previous posts.  Some are more than worthy to look at once again.  And even though it’s been months since Dave Dombrowski was let go, 14 years of history is hard to get out of your system.  

So let’s look back at the post written the very day Dave got the call.   What did you think?   Did you see this move coming?

We can all act surprised , but are we? We can all wonder what happened, but we kind of knew, didn’t we? We’ve been trying to tell you, and in true Totally Tigers form, we at least got you thinking about it.

Dave Dombrowski was released from his duties on Tuesday and if you’ve been reading this site, we started putting the thought in your head a couple of weeks ago. We are not ones to say we told you so, but we certainty warmed you to the idea. It’s what we try to do, dig for data, look for clues and ask questions. And what happened Tuesday with the Tigers reinforces that we are doing what we promised.

But who really wanted all of this? Did it have to come to this? Where will this new path take the Tigers? These are all questions that we will address in the coming days and week and months. Because this is another new beginning in this ongoing battle to win a title this city has been yearning for since 1984.

I won’t rehash what we have mentioned in previous blogs on Tiger management and the way the team has conducted business, how they have run their team, how they have chosen to build a winner.

You can read them yourselves. If nothing else they will serve to remind you that what we saw, helped to guide us to today’s conclusion; the departure of Dave Dombrowski.

Brad remains in the job because a new GM may be taking over. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/chicken-and-the-egg/

The possible rise of Al Avila. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/whos-in-charge/

Time is running out for Dave Dombrowski. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/very-little-sa…for-dombrowski/

I haven’t enjoyed this week. I started out saying how I had made peace with the situation. I “bought” into selling versus buying. But frankly, I am sure many joined me in my disdain for having to watch David Price perform masterfully in front of his new fans in Toronto and watching Yoenis Cespedes continue his amazing season, but now being forced to watch it continue for the Mets instead.

Fourteen years ago, bringing in Dave Dombrowski represented a commitment finally, to being serious about winning. Dave had the pedigree. He had won a championship. He had built winners. So the minute Ilitch brought him into the fold, the message was clear. We were done cutting corners. And Ilitch began to spread the word to the rest of baseball that yes, the Tigers were indeed serious about winning and wanted to do it right away.

They had in essence announced to all that the bank vault was open. We would entertain any big name that could help this franchise off the mat. And it worked. The Tigers got themselves back in the game and back in the discussion.

So the Tigers started down another road, a road they envisioned would end with a big pot of gold and a championship trophy. We had to endure 2003, which we will not discuss, and then the sun began to shine on this franchise, in the year that started it all, 2006. The Tigers, quite suddenly, had the best team in baseball, but couldn’t validate it with a World Title.

This town has exploded with Tiger fever ever since 2006. I have friends that never even followed baseball until then. It was a pivotal year. We were close.

But now almost 10 years later, we can still honestly say, we were close. If Dave Dombrowski had the opportunity to speak prior to his exit from Comerica Park Tuesday, he may have even said, we were close.

But this is a team game, and no one is without blame here. Dave Dombrowski isn’t out looking for a new job because he failed all by himself. This whole organization failed. Mike Ilitch failed, Jim Leyland failed, Brad Ausmus failed and on and on we could go. But by no means do you put all the blame at Dave Dombrowski’s feet. He certainly had his faults, but everyone played a role. So I don’t want to hear how Dombrowski should take all the blame. He is better at this than most everyone in the business.

But it’s human nature it seems for people to take all the garbage and put it in one basket and decide that’s where it all belongs, and if you want to do that, go find Mike Ilitch. Why? Because he made the biggest mistake.

The biggest mistake of all is that the Tigers got in a hurry. They rushed out and signed Prince Fielder when VMart got hurt. Does that sound like something the Giants or the Cardinals would have done? They signed Justin Verlander to a contract so large, it has been maybe the biggest reason for why Max Scherzer had to leave, why David Price had to leave, why Doug Fister and Rick Porcello and Yoenis Cespedes had to leave.

Sure it’s easy to say now that we shouldn’t have placed that kind of financial investment in Justin Verlander or even Miggy. But does that sound like something the Giants would have done? Does it sound like something the Cardinals would have done? I don’t think so.

It’s been just about everyone’s theory over the years that Dombrowski has had what every GM wants. He had everything he needed so it seemed. He had an owner who trusted him, who had no issue with spending whatever it would take to win, who loved big names, who so desperately wanted to win and win now.

But, the Tigers have been in this mad rush to sign big names, to trade young talent and get even more stars to fortify Tiger teams that were still not ready to win. We had to win now, every year, so we could get that monkey off our backs and finally, well, relax.

It’s been a grind, hasn’t it? For all of us. Imagine what it has been like for Dave Dombrowski. He must be relieved. I believe Mike Ilitch has worn the man out.

Maybe this wasn’t the best of everything for Dave Dombrowski. Maybe he needed an owner with a plan to make progress towards a championship, instead of one constantly pushing all the chips to the middle of the table every year.

Finally and almost mercifully, there were no more chips. And something had to give. The hour-glass has run out, and unfortunately we were right about the victim.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

It’s a day or 2 early for New Year’s resolutions but we thought we should write ours now concerning the Tigers, while everyone’s heads are good and clear.

We’ve chosen 3 resolutions each that we would like the Tigers to try on for size next season. We feel they could be the answers to what’s holding them back.

Commonality between Holly and Kurt is a decent bet as the big issues are really no secret. But who knows, so read on.


Better Bullpen Management

The Nationals’ manager got fired for many of the same things that happened with the Tigers’ bullpen last year. Pitchers who threw too many warm-up sessions just to pitch to one batter, guys who were left in too long and ones who had designated innings no matter the lineup or situation.

Let’s stop with the cookie-cutter management and channel the ways of Bochy and Maddon. They don’t assign roles and they don’t save their closer for the 9th inning. Winning games is about using your best pitcher in the most high-leverage situation.

Improve Situational Hitting

The Tigers had one of the top team batting averages last year but a significant inability to score the runners they put on base. Bad base running, impatience at the plate, lack of fundamentals as well as strategy and individual-based rather than team-based priorities have all been identified as causes.

Is it a coincidence that the Royals had the best situational hitting last year? Their formula is one the Tigers need to follow – smart base running, working the count, lowering their strikeout rate and putting the ball in play. And the #1 way to make this happen, experts say, is for the manager to change the mindset of the players.

No More Walking Wounded

It’s just beyond silly for a team with so many expensive players to take such a cavalier attitude about keeping them in top playing condition. The Nats fired their entire medical/training team this year because they believed that injuries derailed their team’s chances. For the past 3 years, the Tigers have been one of the most-injured teams and with players who obviously were playing in great pain and coming back from the DL much too soon.

This is an organization that needs to catch up to the majority of teams in adopting a priority on recovery and not rushing a player back, but also a program that ensures proper conditioning and injury prevention. They need to adopt a policy of being proactive, not reactive – which is often too late.


Please Miggy Please

Dear Detroit Tigers, repeat after me. We will make a concerted effort throughout the course of this next 162 game season to give Miguel Cabrera as much rest as possible in the efforts of keeping him healthy.

Miguel Cabrera and good health have not been friends lately. But in order for the Tigers to make a run, it’s imperative that the big man lead us. He can’t do it from the bench and he can’t do it from the disabled list.

Bullpen must clean up the messes, not add to the pile.

The additions the Tigers have made on paper look solid. The names that have been erased were frankly, a waste of paper. The additions and subtractions along with the hold overs, should finally stop the bleeding.

Transferring what we see on paper to the mound is maybe the biggest goal for 2016. It certainly cannot get worse.

Verlander must validate the revitalization

Nothing was more encouraging down the stretch in 2015 then the resurgence of JV. He was a man earlier in the season taking a lot of hits from Tiger fans. Many were on their way to giving up on him or were there already. But he stuck to his guns and kept working and we began to see the man we knew and loved.

The ace had returned and he must continue to lead.


By:  Holly Horning

In this Hot Stove season, here are a few interesting stories that buck the trends.

A Long Time Ago, in a League Far, Far Away…….

Mickey Mantle had 18 one-year contracts in his 18-year career. He had 1 year in which his contract was cut by $10K and his last 6 years in the majors involved the same pay with no salary increases. He made just slightly over $1 million in his lifetime.

No Longer Bobby Bonilla’s Team

In 2015, the Mets’ starting pitching rotation had a total payroll of less than $20 million. Bobby Bonilla, long since retired, is still pulling in twice as much payroll than Matt Harvey. The Mets got to the playoffs with MLB’s 10th smallest payroll with just over $100 million.

The Tigers’ starting pitching payroll in 2015 was north of $70 million – more than 3 /12 times larger than the Mets. They finished with MLB’s ninth worst record but with baseball’s fourth highest payroll.

No More Free Agent Edge

Remember when it used to be an advantage to have a player going into his free agent year? They always seemed to play harder for that new contract.

But not anymore, at least for pitchers. Over the past couple years, teams have accused Scott Boras of advising his clients to “save their arms” so as not to risk injury or overuse before they get that monster contract.

Just look at his client, Max Scherzer, who received much criticism while pitching for the Tigers for not going deep into games. And fans will not forget the playoff game against Boston when he left and there was still fuel in the tank according to the opponents.

Max pitched 1 CG for the Tigers in 5 years. In just 1 year with the Nationals, he pitched 4. His game logs show a pitcher who significantly increased the innings pitched with his new team. He went from pitching an average of 6 innings with the Tigers to 7-8+ innings for the Nats.

And now it’s been revealed that Johnny Cueto (who is repped by a different agent) told teammates he was also saving his arm last year in order to get a new monster contract. Remember when he got shelled in a game, left the mound and was seen laughing on his walk back to the dugout?

Is it fair to assume that the ring has taken a backseat to big bucks for an increasing number of baseball players?


By:  Kurt Snyder

It was the deal that really introduced us to Dombrowski-ball. It was the deal that sent 2 exciting Tiger prospects out of town for the best Tiger hitter ever.

Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were the crown jewel prospects sent to the Marlins in 2007. Maybin, a 20-year-old dynamo, billed as an athletic, 5-tool talent, would have, in theory, been placed in centerfield for the Tigers and would stay there for 10 years.

Andrew Miller, the tall, lanky, best pitching prospect in baseball, was not someone fans wanted to see go. He was billed as a future ace.

Along with Maybin and Miller, the Tigers sent away pitchers Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop and Frankie De La Cruz as well as catcher Mike Rabela. It was an absolute cleaning out of the minor leagues. And it was worth it, given the prize in return – one Miguel Cabrera.

As we sit here today, only Andrew Miller can be considered a dominant MLB pitcher but certainly not in the role that we envisioned when he was drafted as a dominant college starter.

Miller now earns and will continue to command big money as one of the best relievers in the game today. Would the Tigers love to have him? Sure! But whenever he is discussed or Cameron Maybin or any of the guys the Tigers gave up, it’s been, well we got Miggy so…. and that’s the end of the discussion.

Cameron Maybin, at the time, raised the most eyebrows. He was considered a 5-tool athlete. And when you say 5 tools, you pay attention.

When he was traded, he was billed as an athletic, defensively gifted outfielder, with a good arm and speed to burn all within the package of a player who could hit for average and power. If I did my math correctly, that takes care of all 5. So you better be sure you are getting value in return when you trade away someone with that kind of resume.

But it just has never worked out for Maybin. Injuries have plagued his career and have interrupted any real development or realized potential. He was a “can’t miss” prospect, but he has indeed “missed.”

And lo and behold, Cameron is a Tiger again. So, are the Tigers getting a 5-tool talent? Oh, gosh no! Maybin just hasn’t lived up to all the billing.

This is a guy who has never hit even .270. He has never hit more than 10 home runs and that was accomplished last season. And his stolen base numbers consist of a high water mark of 40 and he did that only once. His 23 stolen bases last season represent his third highest total in that category.  And in his 8 plus seasons in the bigs, Cameron has had only 3 seasons where he eclipsed 500 at bats. Three.

So you might ask, what’s the appeal? Well, fans just need to do themselves a favor and remember the off-season priorities. Pitching was first, followed by pitching and then, of course, pitching.

Any deal for an outfielder would be below the radar, but still someone with talent. And I think they got that in Maybin. They needed to continue to have speed in the outfield. And they needed a guy who could hit a little better than Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis.

Certainly, Maybin doesn’t return to the Tigers with the 5 tools he supposedly left with. But the Tigers will give him every opportunity to prove himself again. There are intangibles at work here. He never got a chance in Detroit.

Do analytics ever take the words “something to prove” into account when evaluating players? Probably not.

But this is a guy who will now get the opportunity to play on the same field as the Hall of Famer for whom he was dealt. You never know what it will take to drive a player to the height of their potential. Maybe this is it.


by:  Holly Horning

With Al Avila having assumed the GM post 5 months ago, it will be interesting to see how he differs from his predecessor.

One of the issues to judge is his communication style.  Will he do a better job getting on the same page as Mr. I?  Time will tell.

Enjoy this post from early November and keep it in mind as we go through the coming season.

Everyone knows that successful organizations reach their goals because they identify what they want, create a strategy for achieving it, define the steps and work towards meeting the necessary goals. Understood in this entire process is that it only works when there is good, clear and constant communication between all parties.

We all know the ultimate goal of the Tigers. But did ownership and the Front Office follow the other two rules as listed above? It’s appeared less likely over the past couple of years.

Of greater concern is the increasing number of what is perceived to be communication gaffes seen between Mr. I and his Front Office going back to 2013 – and even beyond.

Are the Tiger decision-makers no longer on the same page? Are they getting in each other’s way? Are they making assumptions about each other’s priorities?

Let’s identify some of the major conflicts characterized by questionable communication breakdowns as reported by multiple media outlets.

Keep in mind that some of these reports will be true and some false, but the issue at large is that they all contradict each other. As fans, and even including from within the Tiger organization, we are no longer sure about the team’s real intent or goals given what we’ve seen and heard.

– Brad Ausmus is hired despite Mr. I’s reported objections over someone who has never managed in baseball.

– Dave Dombrowski continues to ignore the bullpen despite overwhelming evidence that it wins playoff games.

– Mr. I “releases” a surprised Dave from his contract in a year when the two never initiated contract extension talks.

– Reports indicated DD’s departure was due to July’s trades of Price, Cespedes and Soria, despite prior approval by Mr. I.

– Other reports mentioned that Mr. I was angry that Dave was secretly exploring other job opportunities despite the absence of contract talks.

– Other media reported that Dave was let go because of his hiring and support for Brad Ausmus even though Mr. I. was opposed to it. Did Dave not see this coming?

– Despite reports that Mr. I did not support the hiring of Ausmus, Al Avila retains him as manager despite a last place finish.

Pure and simple, this is communication chaos. How can the Tigers organization reach their elusive goal if both sides aren’t on the same page?

Has Mr. I clearly stated his goals and preferences to his new GM? Does Al Avila understand Mr. I’s priorities? Does he understand the risks involved? Is his move of retaining Ausmus based upon support for him or was it done as part of a different strategy?

Let’s hope the two sides are clear with each other about the goals and actions needed. It’s not just the communication in the clubhouse that counts.


Incredibly, we are closing in on almost a year since we cut the ribbon on what is so far, a very successful endeavor with Totally Tigers.

And after one Tiger season, we have discovered one very important thing. We are nothing without our readers. And the goal every year will be to grow our readership with the same kind of people who loyally follow us today.

Thank you to everyone for making Totally Tigers part of your daily reading. It’s our plan to continue to give you something new to chew on every single day. Obviously! It’s Christmas Day, and here we are, thinking of you guys.

So enjoy the holiday season knowing that we at Totally Tigers have appreciated your readership, your opinions and even your criticisms.  Always remember that your passion fuels ours.

It’s much more enjoyable talking baseball with people who truly share the same passion, without argument, without name calling or all the unproductive blather that drove us to want to begin our own forum. It’s just good old fashion honest discussion about a common interest: Tiger Baseball.

Happy Holidays! See you tomorrow…

Thanks so much!

Holly & Kurt


By:  Holly Horning

Yep, it’s Christmas Eve and Totally Tigers is here for ya.    And we’ve decided to pull out an old favorite on a topic that I guess you could say is ongoing.

How the Tigers have dealt with injuries in the past is something we hope will be addressed like another team we know.

Let’s take another look at a post from November.

POSTED 11/22/15

There were high expectations for this team in 2015 given their payroll, Cy Young Award winner, MVP and an elderly owner pushing for a World Series.

But the team was hit with yet another year in which a rash of injuries occurred – sidelining some of their best hitters and pitchers. And one of the reasons given for their disappointing finish in 2015.

And shortly after the season ended, the Front Office broomed all the trainers and fitness coordinators.

“What???” you say? Oh, sorry – I forgot to mention these introductory paragraphs were about the Washington Nationals.

It is eerie how similar the teams in Detroit and DC are. Two parallel stories, especially when you compare the managers, a past year riddled with injuries and accusations of underperformance.

Catch up on my earlier blog describing the same paths but different destinations of these two teams. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/an-intriguing-interesting-tale-of-a-team/

It is amazing how two teams with the same goals and similar stories (except for the final standings) can do their own analyses and come up with polar opposite decisions and actions. And today, it’s about addressing fitness and injuries.

The Nationals had a year that was plagued by injuries to both their starting rotation and lineup. Many of the injuries were extended or exacerbated from rushing players back from the DL. And others were injuries undiagnosed until it was too late. The Front Office also believed that lack of proper conditioning contributed to the increase in injuries. Sound familiar?

But the Nats decided to do something about it. They hired a British soccer health expert to revamp how the Nats will address training, conditioning and the overall physical health of their players. Their new director was responsible for overseeing a 50%+ drop in soft-tissue injuries in his previous work.

Let’s now look at the Tigers. There have been 3 years of above-average injuries. Miggy has not been healthy since 2012. VMart’s great 2014 was sandwiched in between 2 years of injuries.

How can a team be surprised to learn the best hitter in the game was playing on TWO injuries including a broken foot in 2014? How could management bear to watch their two top hitters grimacing and limping around the bases? How can Victor injure his leg twice while doing routine exercise?

In 2015, the Tigers used 12 starting pitchers – the most since 2002. They had the fewest starting rotation starts in 13 years and a full one-third of last season was pitched by guys called up from the farm.

Sixteen pitchers out of 23 last year suffered from injuries. A total of 22 out of the 40-man roster were unavailable to play at times due to injuries of varying lengths.

There were starters coming into the year hurt. Others pitched inconsistently or were bombed consistently – only to finally find out that injuries were the root cause.

Then there is the case of Justin Verlander, the third most expensive pitcher in MLB, taking trapeze lessons over the winter with his girlfriend. A sport best performed by short men with significant proportionally-larger shoulders and arms, not guys who are 6’5″ and lanky.

And the injuries most likely to occur from trapeze work? Damage to the tri-ceps. You simply can’t make this stuff up.

What is unclear is whether the Tigers require players to get approval before participating in another sport or dangerous activity. Most teams do.

But someone needs to be in charge. You’ve got 2 of baseball’s most expensive players, 2 franchise faces – and their overall health and performance are not being adequately monitored and addressed. The investment – and the future – are not being protected.

The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), finds that each team addresses and manages injuries differently. Some are consistent in their philosophy, others aren’t. Some address players’ health seriously, some don’t because they see it as “part of the game.”

And in all the years PBATS recognizes the best medical staffs in the game, the Tigers won only once – in 2006. Coincidence?

A further look into Detroit’s training and conditioning program shows a bare-bones approach and program. A trainer and assistant, 2 strength and conditioning coaches and a part-time performance coach.

More than half of the other MLB teams have an entire department dedicated to maintaining peak physical performance of their players, complete with directors, chiropractors, sports psychologists, physical therapists, massage specialists and rehab coordinators.

Now that Al Avila is in charge, let’s hope he casts a fresh eye on the organization and evaluates and expands on the key pieces that keep teams in contention. Physical health is a top priority.


By:  Kurt Snyder

Back in October, I wondered why the Tigers would consider parting ways with Rajai Davis.  The element of speed he had brought to the Tigers was relatively unmatched.   He was the Tigers base stealing threat. 

My concern was that if the Tigers did indeed let Davis go, they needed to replace what he brought.   Now that he is gone and has moved on to Cleveland, are we comfortable with  it?  

Let’s take a look back at the post from October 17th first and then decide.


FROM 10/17/15

If you have watched enough baseball, you are familiar with the basics required to win.

Strength up the middle defensively, good starting pitching, a reliable bullpen and role players who bring a skill set that can make a difference. The Tiger bench has been something less than productive in the past. We either lack offense, defense, or speed.

But the Tigers have done a good job over the last couple of seasons bringing in guys to improve the overall speed of the ball club.

In fact, at the beginning of the season when we added Cespedes, he brought the elements of both power and speed. And with his acquisition, the team could boast about a long list of players who could run and cause problems on the base paths.

Anthony Gose, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine, Joe Iglesias and Rajai Davis are players who still remain that gave the Tigers that much-needed dimension.

But after a disappointing season where the pitching, both in the rotation and the bullpen, was so poor and the areas that would garner the most attention in the off-season, the Tigers cannot afford to deplete an area of strength that is still a very important part of winning baseball.

As we run down the list of guys with expiring contracts and we tally up the money we could dedicate to addressing our pitching needs, Rajai Davis gets thrown into the discussion. And he happens to be someone pitchers had to pay the most attention to on the bases. He caused the most stress. He had the most speed.

So, the Tigers have to be careful that we do not deplete an area that has helped us win baseball games. And if we do indeed rob Peter to pay Paul, we need to make sure we pay Peter back.

Rajai Davis has been mentioned as a guy who may not return to the Tigers but I would be very careful before we give up someone who causes so much havoc on the base paths, even as he approaches 35 years old.

Davis can be retained as a relatively cheap platoon or bench player that gives the Tigers an extra outfielder who provides a threat when he plays. He’s a team guy, always has a smile on his face and seems genuinely happy to be playing in Detroit. I wouldn’t have a problem calling him a glue guy or a blue-collar performer, who does the little things that can help win ball games.

So as much as we need pitching, and we need a lot of it, the Tigers better keep the foot on the gas on the bases. The Tigers still have their fair share of guys who slow things down on the base paths. But they tend to make up for it by being the ones who drive in the most runs or regularly hit the ball out of the park.

But speed continues to be a valuable component in sports, including baseball, and the Tigers have worked hard to improve that element of their club. It can be very difficult to win games on nights when you are not hitting the ball out of the park. You have to be able to manufacture runs when you’re not hitting. So you need those players who find a way on base and can really make things happen with their legs.

Letting Rajai Davis go would not be the end of the world for the Tigers, just as long as they are filling his role with the same kind of skill set. But if he’s here already, just sign him.

Players have different specialties in baseball. They make teams because they can really play defense. They make teams because they provide the threat of power off the bench. And then there are players who make teams because they have incredible speed that can turn a single into a double or make pitchers nervous when they are on base.

So when you have that element on your team, make sure you keep it. Speed kills. It always has and always will.