By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Our Tuesday is finally here, folks! It’s time to kick this thing off. So on this most special of days, Kurt and Holly open a discussion on what the upcoming season may bring; good and bad.
Which 2 areas do you see the Tigers potentially having more trouble with in 2016?
It starts and ends with Brad Ausmus. I have said it before and it bears repeating. A team never wins in spite of their manager. He is there to be the difference. Whether you’re short on talent or riddled with injuries, it’s the manager’s job to make the most of what he has, and I don’t believe Brad has done that yet. What will earn him a new contract is making a positive difference.
Secondly, the back end of the starting rotation concerns me. The front end does not. The frequent injuries suffered by Anibal Sanchez will be a concern until he can successfully make it through a season again. And how much faith can you put in Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene right now? It’s interesting that most felt more comfortable when the least experienced of the lot (Daniel Norris) was still available to pitch.
Starting pitching has more question marks this year given the departure of David Price. The ace is gone. And while Shane Greene returns, we can’t say with certainty that he will regain the form that astounded us early last year, although I am hopeful.
The overall theme is whether Verlander, Sanchez, Greene and Pelfrey can sufficiently recover from injuries and surgery in 2014 and 2015. And whether Norris recovers and stays injury-free, too.
And sadly, I have to include Brad as the other factor, based upon his track record and a telling interview he did last week with Mario Impemba. Mario asked him how he will manage differently this year, given lessons learned from his first 2 years. Brad got very silent, and uncomfortable – and after a long silence, Ausmus said he didn’t know how to answer that question. Rut-roh. Last year, he didn’t have the resources and it won’t matter if he has them this year if he doesn’t have a plan or know how to use them effectively.
Which 2 areas do you see the Tigers improving the most on in 2016?
It’s blatantly impossible for the Tigers not to have an improved bullpen this year. And even though they are getting off to a rough start with injuries, when Shane Greene, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy find their rightful places again, this has the potential to be one of the best pens the Tigers have had in years.
We can’t freak out if things start slowly because of all the missing pieces, but even without them at this point, the Tigers are much better equipped to start the season than past years. The backend alone, which did make it through the spring unscathed, should calm some of the late inning nerves. I for one won’t know how to respond to that if things truly settle down and they finish games.
And I know many might think I’m crazy, but I see the Tigers being better defensively than last season, not worse. Many have said we can’t possibly be better in leftfield without Cespedes because we lose that canon of an arm.
Well, both in the playoffs and already in the first game this season, Yoenis hasn’t exactly set the world on fire defensively, so we will see if Upton will really weaken the position. Looking at the big picture, the Tigers are very good up the middle. James McCann will get nothing but better and JD gets better every game in right. So, I don’t see a lot of holes defensively, outside of Castellanos who still has a chance to improve even if just a little.
The bullpen is the first that comes to mind. While some may say it couldn’t get worse, I see Avila having taken a 180 turn from Dombrowski’s formula. Gone are the older pitchers who were working their way back from major surgery on long odds.
In are much younger guys who either show promise or have a short track record of success with no signs of Dombrowski’s typical reclamation projects. And while the candidates looked better at the beginning of spring training, the current injuries have only somewhat dulled the potential. I think the bullpen will actually get stronger as the summer goes on and the more solid candidates return from the DL.
The infield will also get better. McCann replaces Avila and Castellanos continues to address his weaknesses. He’s worked on his body and moved better when I saw him in FL. Miggy is quietly recognized as one of the best 1b-men and a year with stronger legs will only strengthen that position. Kinsler will be Kinsler once again and Iggy is showing that he’s learned some lessons from the end of last year.