By: Holly Horning
We all know what teams need to do each year in order to call the season “successful.” And it all usually revolves around the “ace pitching, shut-down closer, big bats, solid defense” mantra.
But is it enough for a team to simply focus on these goals? Is this what the best teams do each year? Or do teams that constantly find themselves in the mix go a step beyond? Do they work “smarter, not harder”?
We will never know what goes on behind closed doors. Whether GMs or managers sit down with their players and explain what last year’s numbers really meant. Whether they identified the shortcomings that held them back and came up with a new game plan.
But one would hope that their team’s management collected a list of the top concerns from the previous year with the intent to put new strategy in place for the new year.
A lot went wrong for the Tigers last year. Yes, injuries were one of the biggest factors. But there were also entire aspects of the game that went MIA. There were strategies that were never implemented and left by the wayside.
Hopefully, this will be a year of redemption. A year in which a new GM appears to be looking at the broader picture and not just filling the scorecard with impressive names.
So what do the Tigers need to do in 2016 to be more successful? Here’s my top 10 list of where they must improve…….
1. BASERUNNING – One of the top teams in most offensive categories and dead last in baserunning for 2015 which resulted in a drop to #15 in runs scored. This is why the Tigers so often were unable to score more than 2 runs in games.
2. STARTING PITCHING – Even with David Price on board, starting pitching was near the bottom in most categories. The Tigers ranked #27 and had a collective whopping 4.78 ERA.
3. BULLPEN – No need to go into detail here. Once again, near the bottom with opponents hitting .271 against them.
4. MIGGY – You only remain injured for 3 straight years because your management team hasn’t implemented the necessary strategies or safeguards into ensuring one of baseball’s most expensive and talented players remains in the game for the long haul.
5. VMART – Having both a healthy Miggy and VMart is like owning both Boardwalk and Park Place with hotels. Like Miggy, management needs to ensure that keeping Victor healthy is always the top priority and takes precedence over adding anything else to his role.
6. INJURIES – Sadly, a separate category beyond Miggy and VMart. One of the leaders in the sheer number of injuries but near the bottom in putting players on the DL. Even if you exclude both starting and relief pitching, over half the positions last year were negatively impacted by guys who were playing with injuries.
7. SEVENTH INNING – Studies show that Brad routinely kept his starters in the game too long. Stats show that the bullpen actually put up better numbers than the starters, including David Price, in the 7th inning, but Brad favored sticking with his starters in that inning.
8. SITUATIONAL HITTING – Other than bad baserunning, failure to move runners along was a primary reason why the Tigers were ineffective in scoring runners on base. Even Iggy admitted in an interview that too many players (including himself) were focused on enhancing their stats instead of hitting to get runners in.
9. INSTINCTIVE MANAGING – Many skippers go by the book or the stats in making all their decisions. But the best managers like Bochy, Maddon and Showalter use their instinct or gut in the most high-leverage situations. A manager in his first two years on the job can’t be expected to perform with skills that take years to gain.
10. FOCUS – Runners being picked off base, players yawning in the field, half-hearted fielding attempts and pitchers leaving the game and no one noticing. Too many players sometimes appeared to be going through the motions and only James McCann appeared to be concerned about it.
Will the Tigers address these concerns? We’ll keep track of this target list throughout the year. What happens, or doesn’t, will speak volumes about the new Front Office’s vision, the manager’s development and the players’ passion about winning.