By: Holly Horning
Al Avila has done a solid job so far in an attempt to right the S.S. Ilitch after Dave’s departure. His resources have been limited – payroll, trade chips, long-term contracts, injuries,etc. But he’s done much with his restricted resources in rebuilding this team while also finally bringing them into the 21st Century.
He broomed the farm system, installed an analytics department and has made the first moves towards a Tigers’ Way performance system. But there’s still lots to do and Mr. I knows it which is why he gave him a 5-year contract.
So what else needs to be done? Other than resolving that pesky left fielder question, that is. What needs to happen before Spring Training starts?
Often, some of the most important actions involve work behind the scenes. Some don’t even involve the roster. So what does Al need to address that probably won’t make any headlines in the national media? Let’s explore:
1. Hire more medical/training staff and update the theories and methods being used.
Compared with most teams, the Tigers’ medical staff is traditional and bare-bones. Injuries over the past 3 years have been unusually high and significant and the reasons why other teams replace their personnel. A fresh eye and an updated perspective are needed with a focus on training that prevents injury which is where most teams are headed today.
2. Make sure Brad is on the same page regarding performance expectations.
It’s not enough to say or know “You must win.” Avila needs to tick through a laundry list of issues and set performance goals for Brad that will motivate Brad to set real and identifiable goals with his players. In all businesses, performance rubics are used and baseball should be no different. Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon both swear by this method.
3. Discuss how top problems will be resolved with Brad.
It was evident last year that Brad and Dave were often not on the same page re player use and performance issues. Avila needs to cover the bases on how certain players need to be used, as well as last year’s biggest problems concerning base running, situational hitting, stranding runners and an assortment of pitching problems.
4. Sync how analytics will be communicated and used.
Just because you install an analytics department doesn’t mean it will be used the way it was intended. Just ask the Angels. Al needs to ensure that the information generated will be communicated by manager and coaches alike to the players. Extra points given for anyone who can communicate the info effectively to Gene.
5. Make sure youngsters aren’t being brought up too soon.
The sign of a poorly-run team is bringing up players before their time and the Tigers did that a lot last year. Studies show that this habit is highly detrimental to the physical and mental development of these youngsters. Happily, as I identified this issue earlier this week, it appears Al is addressing it by signing multiple veterans to minor league contracts. Players designed to add depth and fill in as needed in order to spare the guys who really need to stay and hone their craft in Toledo.
We’ll follow Al’s progress throughout the year. It will be interesting to compare him to his former boss and how effectively he guides this organization.