THE SCORECARD FOR JULY

By:  Holly Horning

If you’ve been reading Totally Tigers regularly, you know we are charting a number of categories suggested by fellow readers as well as categories that have concerned us over the years. Let’s see how July compares with the stats from June to help explain some of the patterns about the Tigers’ performance. Will these stats support the on-field eye test that we’ve been seeing lately?

While some of these can be interpreted in more than one way, they generally give an idea of the frequency and patterns. And you know how I feel about patterns.

This is a compilation of issues that shouldn’t be looked at solely by statistical measures. It’s not as simple as black and white or the stats you see lined up neatly in columns online. Some of them are open to interpretation. Some of the stats need to be incorporated into the whole and not seen only on their own.

But what can be said about these stats is that they aren’t covered by the beat writers. They’re not highlighted as concerns or explanations about why the team is performing as it does. But I’ll bet you that the powers that be in the Front Office are keeping track of them.

Wherever possible, rankings within MLB have been included. If you don’t see them, they don’t exist formally. But maybe they should.

(Included in the month of July is the very last game in June to complete a series.)


RISP

In July, RISP was on a par with June – almost a 30% success rate. The average number of runners in scoring position left on base was just over 5 per game, which was a significant improvement.

Ironically, despite more wins, the number of runs scored per game dropped from June to an average of just over 2 runs per game. June’s average was closer to 3 runs per game.

Three of their 10 losses for the month were games in which they were unable to push a single runner on 2nd and 3rd across the plate. Six of their losses resulted from 2 or fewer runners scoring.

The overall LOB averaged just under 6.5. Again, fewer runners than June which averaged 8 runners per game.


STRIKEOUTS

The team continued to drop their strikeout numbers from last month also. From June’s 218 to July’s 202. Per game, they ranked 19th in MLB. For the month, they sit at #18 which is a drop of 1 place despite striking out fewer times.

In 6 of the 27 games, they had 10+ strikeouts which percentage-wise was also better than June’s.


MANAGERIAL MOVES

This is a category that is highly-interpretive but the main purpose is to show the habits and possible patterns of the manager. It is filled with the concerns that the majority of fans have expressed since the end of 2014.

Leaves starter in too long – 3 (2 losses, 1 win)

A huge improvement from June and a whopping one-third of the previous month’s total of 9. Based upon starters who give up 4+ runs and create a minimum of a 4-run gap differential in a game considered to significantly decrease the odds of a comeback. Also considered is which inning and a situation where the pitcher gives up a minimum of 3 straight hits. Most importantly, the potential for a winnable game is considered as well and the Tigers’ offensive performance is taken into account.

Leaves reliever in too long – 5 (4 losses, 1 win)

Another significant improvement with 3 fewer opportunities. Based upon relievers who gave up 3+ runs and the criteria listed above for starters.

Bases loaded late in game, with a stronger batter not inserted to pinch hit and no runs scored.

In April, it happened 2 times. In May, just once. And in June, perfection. But July saw a step backwards with 3. Overall, there were 7 instances in July where a pinch-hitter should have been used in the 8th and 9th innings to move runners along.

Giving a hot player the day off.

Based solely upon batting stats, games in which the team struggled to produce more than 2 runs and the replacement player failed to produce. May’s number matched April’s – 3. June’s showed an increase to 5 but July saw a decrease back to 3. But do consider that injuries and the typical cooling off period of early season can impact this figure.

“That’s baseball!” and “We’re a better team than that.”

Maybe this is a good thing, because we’re discontinuing this category. Brad has learned not to utter this phrase anymore but he now uses longer phrases to convey the same thing. But the bottom line remains that he is abstaining from saying this tired phrase.


BASERUNNING

Stolen bases – 13 ( a drop of 1 from June)

June’s improvement saw the team move to 13th best. July sees them tied for 13th and 14th. Caught stealing 4 times which is 1 more than June and their success rate drops from 83% to 76%.

Pick offs – 3 ( 1 less than June)

Failure (stopped short) to take expected base – 2 (4 less than June)

Based upon speed of runner, opponent’s arm, location, type of hit and speed of hit ball.

Failed (cut down) attempt to take extra base – 4 (1 less than June)

Does not include attempts to steal a base. Based up the criteria listed immediately above.

Hit into double plays – 26 (2 more than June)

A number of teams are tied with 26 so the Tigers rank with those teams tied for second. They hit into double plays approximately once per game.

The Tigers are getting better at taking bases, but they are still bad. June saw them lose 1 more base than they gained and in July they lost 13 bases while stealing 13 for a net gain/loss of 0.

Tagged out at home – 2 (1 less than June)

Bases left loaded at the end of the inning – 14

The same number as June. Is it better to have more runners on-base but unable to score more runners? It’s a good question.


INHERITED RUNNERS

There were 74 opportunities given to the relievers in July. Out of those, 53 were in situations where no runners were inherited. Out of those 53, 2 were due to HRs having cleared the bases (which is better than June). Better overall and indicating that starters were going deeper into games. The majority of opportunities (72%) involved not having runners on base when the bullpen entered which is just 1% short of June’s stats.

One inherited runner was seen 6 times (increase of 2). Two inherited runners, 11 times (increase of 1). And 3 inherited runners were seen 4 times (same). A total of 21 inherited runner opportunities (decrease of 1).

# runners/ # scored = times

1/0 = 4 times (-3)

1/1 = 2 times (+1)

2/0 = 4 times (unchanged)

2/1 = 4 times (+2)

2/2 = 2 times (unchanged)

3/0 = 3 times (+1)

3/1 = 1 time (unchanged)

3/2 = 0 time (1 in June)

3/3 = 0 times (unchanged)


MISCELLANEOUS

Fielder collisions (or miscommunication between outfielders) – 4 (2 more than June)

Shuts Outs – 1 (1 less than June)

Games with 2 or Fewer Runs – 7 (3 more than June)

Injuries: 8.5 (June)

10.5 (July)

5 (end-of-month)

Greene, VerHagen, Zimmermann, Saupold, Maybin (2x), VMart, JD, Moya, Upton, Norris

June Holdovers – 4

Due to opponent – 0

Due to unresolved physical issue – 5

Unnecessary risk – 1

Stuff happens – 8.5


OVERALL RECORD

Shut out from scoring – 1 game (1 better than June)

Games with 2 or fewer runs scored – 7 (3 more than June)

Individual games record:

Wins – 17 (1 better than June)

Losses – 10 (1 less than June)

Series:

(Keep in mind that the totals are impacted by the All-Star Game.)

Wins – 4 (same as June)

Win Sweeps – 3 (same as June and includes 1 4-game sweep)

Losses – 3 (same as June)

Loss Sweeps – 0 (1 less than June)

Ties – 1


The Tigers continue to improve on a number of fronts. How would these figures look if they hadn’t had to take off 4 days for the All-Star Game?

August is a crucial month in which they need to continue to trend upward. If this last week of play in July is any indication, August’s figures will continue to improve. We’ll compare both months to see which issues, improvements and lingering concerns are helping or hurting the team.

20 JULY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Consider my 20 Thoughts for July as passionate opinions, random subjects and statements of defense in support of our dynamic shortstop. A nice little twist I think.


1. With the Tigers slowly but surely challenging the Indians in the division, I want no part of any disruption to a formidable middle infield combination that defensively is among the best in baseball.

2. Oh the benefits of writing late at night … another big Tiger victory Saturday night. The heroes? The team … a great team win.

3. I have to admit, I wanted no part of Tyler Collins continuing his career in Detroit after his “flip the fans” display earlier in the year. But the big hits he has delivered during this latest tour of duty have not only been surprising but a testament to his mettle.

4. Thank goodness the Tigers didn’t do anything silly with their catching position. What, you’re going to give James McCann one year as your starter?

5. The “acquisitions” of Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and J.D. Martinez may turn out to be the best haul brought on board by any team in baseball at or shortly after the deadline.

6. Don’t you feel horrible how the Royals have hit the skids this season? Yeah, me neither.

7. The list of spark plugs on this team is getting longer. Maybin has led the list all season and did his impression of Lorenzo Cain on Saturday night. His intangibles continue to feed this team.

8. Oh, you wanna know the others on the list? Well, you know one is Kinsler, and Iggy is now emerging as another important one.

9. The Tigers most important starter? Anibal Sanchez. I guess we are going to have to find another way.

10. More than batting average and home runs and RBI’s, Miggy’s most important stat to date is games played. 102.

11. More than batting average and home runs and RBI’s, VMart’s most important stat to date is games played. 100.

12. Justin Verlander. Who envisioned he could get better? Dominant and overpowering are now back in the JV vocabulary. JV Days are back. (Yeah, I am a little jacked about the Saturday victory.)

13. I am going to beat this to death until something is done. The Tigers better finally align their rotation properly in preparation for the Zimmermann return. Just once this year, I would like to see the Tigers top 3 starters pitch consecutively.

14. The last thing we thought in spring training was that Bruce Rondon would begin to contribute again for the Tigers … in the late innings … in July … during a pennant race. He’s been good, but my enthusiasm will remain guarded.

15. Overreacting fans felt Iggy should be traded after the dust-up with James McCann last season. But there has been a change in Iglesias. He’s turned a negative into a positive and has reached a much higher level of maturity. Playing hard. Running hard. High intensity. It’s all you can ask really. His talent takes care of the rest.

16. Having Mark Lowe fall on his face this season the way he has could have been debilitating for the pen if not for Shane Greene. The pen is developing some real depth. And Greene has led the way.

17. Speaking of bullpen depth? What other names come to mind? Alex Wilson? Definitely! Alex has teamed with Bruce Rondon in that important 6th inning role.

18. Michael Fulmer is the next Justin Verlander. He is the next Tiger ace. When do you think that will be? Hopefully not for a little while yet.

19. I believe Tiger fans have gotten used to and are taking for granted how important Iggy’s magical defense is to this team. How did that happen so soon?

20. The Tigers began July knowing they had a brutal schedule ahead. They will emerge closer to first than they were when they started the month. Not expected. But it’s reality. The approach to stand pat now is a good one. The trade deadline noise in Detroit may make crickets sound loud.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 103 (55-48) games behind us, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

Kurt and Holly don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.


HOLLY

QUESTION

We’ve written about it before, but a recent discussion about the Yankees becoming surprise sellers this season brought up a national discussion about each baseball organization’s priorities. The Yankees were described as a team that puts corporate goals – putting fannies in the seats – at the top of their list. Is it yet clear whether the Tigers put attendance or a ring at the top of theirs?

COMMENT

It is just so sad to see this “celebration” of the 2006 Tigers team that is ongoing this year – an unabashed marketing ploy to generate excitement and make the turnstiles spin faster. But to me, it’s a reminder about what could have been and (so far) a failed strategy that was preserved and executed for far too long without any significant tweaking. I don’t think going 10 years without a World Series trophy despite having great talent, is anything that should be celebrated.

CONCERN

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that many of the local writers either do not watch the games, have the TV on in the background or pay an intern to watch and summarize. Articles that incorrectly list the wrong pitchers, innings and plays at least 3-4 times a week and readers constantly correcting them. If they’re not watching, how can they possibly offer insight about the team?


KURT

COMMENT

The Lions announced a couple of weeks ago that during the upcoming season, they will be honoring the 1991 team that, uhh, won a playoff game. This week, the Tigers are honoring the 2006 Tiger team that won a World Series game. Sorry, I can’t get excited about recognizing 2 teams that didn’t win it; sure they were fun times, but you gotta win it all before I get out of my seat to applaud your achievements.

COMMENT

With the trade deadline approaching Monday and the players who are close to returning, expect nothing major from the Tigers. So all the people out there hell-bent on trading Jose Iglesias can cool your heels. Expect more on that topic on Sunday.

COMMENT

Baseball has always been a sport where, if you pay close attention, you just may see something you have never seen before. Victor Martinez, having reached first base after a single early in the game Friday versus Houston, kissed fellow Venezuelan, Marwin Gonzalez, on the neck. It was certainly noteworthy in my family room, but never mentioned by our TV broadcast team.

A TALE OF A TEAM

By:  Holly Horning

Let me tell you the tale about a baseball team. A team that is seeing some struggles in recent years. A team that, until recently, was the best in the AL Central having won numerous division titles in a row. But a team that has been unable to win The Big One in October now for decades.

This team ended up falling into last place and their long-time GM, known for spending big money on a handful of star players, was fired. His Assistant GM, also with the club for many years, took over.

They had hired a rookie manager in 2014 who did well with the team in his first year but quickly made them one of the worst teams in his second. After the GM was fired, fans were shocked to hear that the manager would be retained the following season despite what was going to look like a last place finish.

But should the fans have been surprised? This was, after all, an organization known for their “family” atmosphere and extreme loyalty to employees. A long-time owner who kept the same GM, Front Office and management for years. Rarely firing anybody. A team that kept the same people, same philosophy and same dated outlook on how to improve their team and keep them highly competitive. An organization that considered the term “analytics” a scary concept while all the other organizations had added this tool years ago.

This organization also kept their previous long-term manager on board after he left. He’s a special assistant, joining another former manager and advising the GM and Front Office on a number of topics. Former executives appear to retire but never leave the club.

A baseball team that recently shocked the rest of MLB for making a bold move and finally firing someone. A team that in the past kept managers, GMs, scouts and other executives well past their expiration dates.

Does this sound familiar?

How surprised would you be if I told you I was writing about the Minnesota Twins instead of the Detroit Tigers?

Scary, huh? A story that played out in the media within the past two weeks as the Twins fired their GM, Terry Ryan. A story with eerie parallels and innuendo about teams that refuse to make hard, bold and different choices in how they are run. And how, over time, sticking to the same script and same perspectives stopped working for that organization.

This was the analysis given by a number of former baseball executives on tv.  It was also part of the Twins’ statement, one in which they said they needed fresh viewpoints because they were becoming “increasingly obsolete.”

It’s comforting to see that Al Avila has introduced an analytics department and a Tigers’ Way manual. But it’s still too soon to say whether he brings a new approach to the team that will make a difference. The next 7 months will tell us much more.

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

This Thursday’s topic is again, appropriate and timely. With the trade deadline fast approaching, a reader again takes center stage with a topic for our writers to tackle.

Kurt and Holly did not share their answers and both can’t wait to see what the other has to say. Hopefully you will feel the same way.


So here is the topic from Herbalicious:

It would be nice to see Holly and Kurt comment on “potential” moves that could be made prior to the trade deadline. Think of it as a summer version of the hot stove league.


KURT

My stance hasn’t changed and won’t change on how the Tigers should approach the trade deadline. When Al Avila announced that the Tigers may stand pat with what they have, I believed him. But I also felt that they had the ability to make smaller moves to improve their team; potentially for the rest of this season, but certainly for future seasons.

All in all, with the Indians now floundering, the Tigers have inched closer to Cleveland as they saved their road trip with a surprising sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway. Consequently, this final week before the deadline just got more interesting.

Regardless, the Tigers must do their due diligence in seeking teams interested in taking on the contracts of Victor Martinez, Anibal Sanchez or maybe even Justin Upton, with Upton maybe the biggest carrot the Tigers could offer. The search may be futile, but a necessary step.

The next step is to tread lightly with who they make available from our farm system. They should seek a trade involving Moya, perhaps for bullpen help, mainly because Moya is a man without a position in Detroit.

But I don’t offer much after Moya. You protect Joe Jimenez. You protect JaCoby Jones. You protect your future. The 2016 Tigers have spent their whole season in an elevator; up and down, up and down. So the recent uptick in performance can’t be trusted because any positive run quickly dissipates in time. We cannot overreact to what happened in Boston, as good as that was to watch.

The plan must stay in place. You lay in the weeds, offering deals for the long-term contracts and holding most of the cards in the farm system. And if no one comes calling, you put all your trust in the guys returning from injury and see what happens. But, we all know what will ultimately hold them back; and until a championship-capable manager is in place, you can’t treat your situation as if you can win a title.


HOLLY

A trade may just come down to the wire, folks, because this team is so consistently inconsistent – unable to beat cellar-dwellers one week and then winning against a top team the next week.

Given the astronomical returns some teams have given to acquire pitchers, the Tigers simply don’t have the human collateral to acquire a starting pitcher unless they give up something really, really big in return.

So if they do anything, it will probably be smaller in nature and it won’t be a mortgage on the future. My guess is conservative moves for this year with the eye on the bigger picture of 2017. Bonus points if the Tigers can miraculously shed a couple contracts deemed too expensive for the players they represent and lower payroll while increasing flexibility.

I sense from his interviews, that Avila would like to bolster the farm, so maybe they get some prospects especially when they are seriously lacking in the Toledo outfield and several other positions.

But before they can trade anyone, they need to have his viable replacement already at hand. This means that McCann, Saltalamacchia, Kinsler, Castellanos and Maybin can’t leave along with JV, Zimm, Fulmer and either Sanchez or Pelfrey (but not both).
VMart, unless an AL team is truly desperate for offense, Miggy, who is the face of the franchise, and all the young, controllable players will stay.

The bullpen is the most likely to see trade deadline action. There is some flexibility there with Lowe, Rondon, Greene, Ryan and the Wilson “brothers” potentially available. And given that a single closer recently fetched 4 solid prospects, Avila might bite for the right offer on KRod, who has 1 year left on his contract.

But could the Tigers try to trade Justin Upton and get out of that monstrous contract? He is starting to trend upward and they could put Collins in his place for the rest of the year. But more importantly, it would also mean there’s a better chance of keeping JD beyond 2017.

Speaking of which, JD is a candidate to leave either this year or over the winter when his value is at its peak. The current injury makes it harder to trade him now but the Tigers can’t keep both Upton and Martinez beyond 2017.

For other reasons, expect Iggy to leave either before Monday or over the winter. A Scott Boras client, he’ll test free agency and the Tigers will get maximum return for him before next year.

The Tigers used up almost all of their trade chips last year at the deadline. And given large, lengthy salaries, a depleted farm system and numerous injuries, there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in Avila’s ability to get a deal done. Any trade is either going to be a really big one – or one that floats under the radar.

THAT’S BASEBALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

Over 162 games of a Major League season, fans who have spent most of their lives following their team, battle through the year along with their baseball team. And as much as a baseball season is composed of a series of peaks and valleys, sometimes they take place in a single week.

But most fans will never learn, even the most broad-minded, big picture fans. This is 6 months of baseball. And teams are going to walk into your own ballpark or the ballpark of a rival and do something you didn’t expect. It happens all over the league, all through the season.

Last week, Tiger fans were dumbfounded as the Twins came to town and took 2 out of 3 from Detroit. They were equally as confused as the Tigers visited the town of another inferior team; another team they should be beating most nights; the White Sox. But as you know, they could only manage a split; all while we pulled our hair out watching Cleveland get swept in Baltimore.

It’s mind boggling, but that’s baseball; the phrase we hear so much in the clubhouse as Tiger players and their manager try to explain a loss. That’s baseball. But to be fair, the game is nuts and probably the one sport least wagered on in Las Vegas. Who would have the audacity to try to gamble on a baseball game?

While the Tigers struggled in Chicago, the Twins walked into Boston, a team hoping for a spot in the World Series, and took 2 of 3 from the Sox. Yeah, the Twins. The team all of Detroit was appalled about. The team many think doesn’t even belong on the same field as the Tigers, if you asked most fans. The Twins not only won a pitching duel in hitter-happy Fenway, they played Red Sox ball the next night by out slugging them. The Twins. One of the worst teams in the American League.

It’s baseball, my friends. You try to figure it out. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Any given team can beat anyone on any given night. It’s a phrase heard all around sports, and baseball is no different. You can never relax. You can never assume you are better than anyone else. And you can never assume that your team will perform up to their abilities; or how the stats say they should be performing. You will never figure this game out. Don’t even try. Don’t ever think you know something that someone else doesn’t. Because the game is impossible to predict.

Case in point. Look at this series with the Red Sox. How many felt good about the Tigers’ prospects in this series? I certainly didn’t. Watching the Tigers play so sloppily against the White Sox made my stomach turn. Watching the Tigers try so desperately to score against a Twins team that can’t even pretend to have pitching was exasperating.

So the stage was set. Even with Verlander and Fulmer set to pitch against the Red Sox, the Tigers have not been playing the kind of baseball that justifies any kind of chance to win. But what have we seen folks?

The Tigers have strolled into Beantown and taken the first 2 games of the series against a team that could easily represent the American League in the World Series. That’s baseball folks. Try to figure it out. You can’t.

But deep down, in our sadistic minds, we love every minute of it. So, next time you hear a Tiger player try to explain the game they play and they can’t, they may blurt out, “That’s baseball.”

It’s not always what you want to hear. But a lot of times, there just isn’t much else to say. It’s a maddening game. And when you think you have it all figured out, check your temperature.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. It’s been a week we would like to forget. An important week left burning in the ashes. So our writers have questions to ponder.

Nothing is shared prior to publishing, offering a good differential in how these questions are answered. Here are this week’s Tuesday questions.


What is your biggest take-away from this last week of games?

HOLLY

The Tigers were given multiple gifts this past week that other teams would kill to have. Facing the worst team in the AL and the team sitting just above them. Both the Twins and Chisox came along just as their organizations were going through turmoil – the firing of a GM and a pitcher doing his best imitation of Edward Scissorhands and getting sent home. The same pitcher who is one of the best in baseball with a 14-3 record and a 1.0 WHIP and slated to start against the Tigers.

Despite all of this, the Tigers came away winning just 3 games (barely winning 2 of them) and losing 4. Despite most analysts still saying they have the talent to compete, especially offensively.

And they were unable to capitalize on this and take real advantage, especially given that the Indians were swept. They could have ended up realistically being only 4 games out but instead only gained a half game and sit at 6 out.

A team with a killer instinct and playoff hopes would have gone for the jugular this past week but instead, opportunities galore were simply wasted. But the single biggest realization for me, and hopefully for Al Avila, too, is that the real concern is not a lack of talent – it is one based upon a lack of mental fortitude and leadership.

KURT

One monstrous missed opportunity. That was the week for the Tigers. They play a puzzling brand of baseball. Things kind of came to a head on Sunday; both for the resumption of Saturday’s game and then during the ninth inning of the next game.

We saw fundamental mistakes in the infield with second base left uncovered with the runner attempting to steal. We saw our third baseman charge towards home to field a ball, but then stood there before he returned to third to cover as a runner considered advancing.

But let’s not leave our manager out of the discussion. Bruce Rondon was brought in to protect a tie game Sunday after a miraculous 3-homer comeback in the Tigers’ half of the ninth.

It was so important to shut them down after the comeback, but seeing Rondon come in was just one more, yes one more example of a manager with little competitive instincts. Regardless of who pitched how much, you have to shut them down and give your team the best chance to win.

Missed opportunities describe this week and the Tigers are not being led or inspired. I will always wonder what Joe Maddon could have done with this team.


After this week, do you think Al Avila is more likely to buy, trade or stand pat?

HOLLY

My response above weighs heavily in this answer – and I’m hoping that Avila was as disgusted as I was over this past week’s performance.

That said, I am praying that Al had a wake-up call after seeing his team lose one series and tie another where they faced the 2 worst teams in a weak division, even after being given multiple advantages, and come out with only 3 wins (just 1 of them solid). There is no way on God’s green earth this team will make the playoffs and it has little to do with the level of talent.

Any changes made should be about introducing a new corporate culture that detests losing and inspiring a mental fortitude where they play every game to win – down to the last out.

Don’t get me wrong – personnel changes need to be made but many of those changes are outside of the players. I would hope that Avila sees the primary need as restructuring this organization and doesn’t dig a deeper hole by pursuing the unrealistic dream of October baseball.

If anything, I would welcome a change that would start addressing next year’s needs. And maybe that might include dumping some expensive talent in anticipation of the rise of promising youngsters to replace them.

But if Al saw this past week correctly, one of the most crucial weeks of the season, he’ll stand pat – at least with the roster. Bonus points if he starts addressing the root cause of why this team doesn’t act or perform at the levels everyone says they are capable of achieving.

KURT

I happen to believe Al Avila. For this year’s version of the Tigers, the proper move is to do nothing or very little. But if I had to lean one way or the other, I would sell. The problem is who are they selling? All the value for the Tigers, outside of KRod, is tied up in contracts not close to expiring.

But from the beginning of the season, we have had this underlying current of a manager no one wanted in Detroit but Avila. And the Tigers have shown countless times that they are a boat without a rudder.

So given the situation, the wisest thing to do is to keep what we have, finish as strong as our manager will allow, and work for 2017. Sorry, but that’s where we are. In the meantime, we are still in the race, but how real does it seem?

THE BUSINESS OF BASEBALL

By: Holly Horning

With one week left before the trading deadline, Al Avila indicated that the Tigers are most likely not going to participate in acquiring any new players. While the odds may indicate he is being sincere, there are just too many factors at play so don’t discount hearing about an acquisition – or even a trade.

To begin with, all GMs are responsible for communicating the “our team is a contender” spiel to the public. Especially when you have more than one-third of the season still left in which you need to maximize attendance. Their job at this time is to reassure the fan base that they are still in the hunt, believe their manager is doing a great job and that they love each and every player on the roster.

Maybe.

But every team has one thing in common – that they want to better their team for the immediate or near future. And when you get 30 GMs in a room, things happen.

How active a GM is at this time depends primarily upon three things: the actual available market, how much human capital he has and how badly the ownership wants to see their team play October baseball.

In this particular year, the market for starting pitchers is quite intense while the actual availability is quite low. This makes for a seller’s market so the asking price for even a mid-level pitcher will be quite high. Even the national media has mentioned that if the Tigers deal for a starting pitcher, it will really hurt them. Hurt them as in having to trade away a significant player.

And quite frankly, the Tigers don’t have what it takes to make a deal unless they go this route. After years of raiding the farm system, Dave Dombrowski depleted the Tigers’ players reserve in the farm. And it appears that Al Avila will be unlike his former boss by refusing to trade the top pieces acquired last year.

If you look at the current roster, here are the players with desirable contracts that would attract other teams: Cameron Maybin, JD Martinez, Jose Iglesias, Francisco Rodriguez, Ian Kinsler, and Nick Castellanos. (Justin Wilson has generated much interest but let’s exclude him from this group for other reasons.) How likely are any of these players to leave? Very unlikely. But if they do, it will say something about the future of where this team is headed. Something that fans will not want to hear.

But what about the established players? Would teams salivate over the thought of acquiring Miggy, JV, or Vmart? If you read the social media threads, there are certainly a large number of fans who suggest trading them and even eating a chunk of their salaries.

But I fear their ideas are simply the result of playing too much fantasy baseball and ignoring the overall financial impact. (Not to mention the no-trade clause for 10/5 players.) Because all teams, before acquiring players, crunch the numbers with their marketing departments to see if they can afford to sign a player. And it also works in reverse.

And the number one rule that all teams practice, unless they are in crisis mode, is that franchise players don’t get traded. It kills attendance. And when attendance, which accounts for approximately 40% of revenue, goes down, it’s bad for business. And when your team has one of the highest payrolls in baseball and the second highest future payroll obligations of approximately half a billion dollars, you need to ensure that revenue is flowing in so you can pay them.

And in the case of Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers also have a gold mine in marketing products with his name and number via a variety of contracts with merchandising companies. Trade him and you lose those rights and cash flow, too.

Yet another reason for keeping Miggy a Tiger for life is a personal one. And it centers around the Hall of Fame. Mr. I may not get that World Series ring, but he probably wants to be the guy indirectly responsible for putting Cabrera into Cooperstown wearing the Old English D. And let’s face it – Miggy may currently be the Tigers best chance at entering.

So what will the Tigers actually do? It will partly depend upon how desperate other teams are to acquire one of their players. They will listen to all offers – every GM does. But if trades do happen, it will be more telling about who the Tigers acquire, rather than who may leave the team.

AVILA ONLY HALF RIGHT ABOUT TIGERS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Well, here we are. Al Avila has basically told us to hold on with our expectations at the trade deadline. In fact, I wondered if he may have been taking our advice at Totally Tigers.

I believe Holly and I have done a decent job explaining how the best moves for the Tigers to make are probably the ones they don’t make. I felt it was fair that the Tigers who come back from injury should be thought of as “acquisitions,” the identical term that Al Avila used to describe the return of Zimmermann, Norris and JD Martinez.

Given how in sync Al seems to be with us, it appeared  like we were providing a valuable service. Two reasonably intelligent writers pretty good at putting words together and enough forethought to recommend what is best for the team. So thanks Al! We were hoping the Tigers would take notice.

But the problem is that Al needs to keep reading. Maybe he just discovered Totally Tigers. Maybe he’s a new reader. And if that’s the case, we welcome him. But we encourage him to keeping strolling back into the annals of this blog which is now approaching around 550 posts. And if he does that, he will discover our position on his manager, which really hasn’t changed much over the course of the almost 2 seasons our blog has been in existence.

Maybe his statement regarding what the Tigers’ plan will be at the trade deadline would have changed just a bit, you know, assuming he’s taking our lead and running with it. He wouldn’t have to go back more than a few days to find out that we aren’t on the same page, in the same book or even in the same library, when it comes to evaluating the performance of his manager.

If you’re not familiar with what Al said on Saturday, let us help you. Al said:

“Right now, what we’re really focusing on is trying to get the guys who are injured back and playing,” Avila said. “Those are going to be our major acquisitions. There’s nobody out there better than Jordan Zimmermann if he comes back healthy. Obviously, J.D. Martinez and Daniel Norris, those are three guys we are focusing on getting back healthy and they will be big acquisitions shortly.”

See? I’m so proud of Al. We’re finally getting through to the Tigers’ brass. Considering the return of injured Tigers as big acquisitions is a brilliant perspective don’t you think? But unfortunately it didn’t end there and it proved that Al hasn’t been reading the best of Kurt and Holly very long at all.  This next gem shows the proof is in the pudding:

“This is a team that can compete,” Avila said. “This is a team that can get us to the playoffs and we just have to get back guys that are injured. We gotta stay healthy and we just have to be more consistent and I believe this team has the capabilities of doing that and we have a great manager to lead the way.”

I don’t really know where to head with that. But after being impressed in a big way in the off-season with all the solid moves to improve the roster, things were looking up for our team. But remember, this was all after the shock had worn off after experiencing the most unexpected of announcements; Brad Ausmus would return as manager. And according to Al, it’s the “great” Brad Ausmus.

Al is confident that much is possible when led by a great manager. And he is absolutely right. But the most shocking and disturbing thing is that he has publicly professed that he has one. Al, please keep reading. What team have you been watching? I hate to break it to you, but you don’t have a great manager. Your team would be in much better shape if you did. But you don’t.

Trust us.   We are here to help.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 96 (50-46) games behind us, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

Kurt and Holly don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.


KURT

KUDO

From the department of giving credit where credit is due, it’s time to throw Anibal Sanchez a bone. It’s become an assumption this season that a Sanchez start equals a Tiger loss; it’s gotten that bad. But Anibal made us all take notice with an impressive performance including 10 strikeouts his last time out; a major boost for his confidence; don’t give up on him yet.

COMMENT

I hate to make too much of a rumor before the trade deadline, but if there is any truth to the Royals getting ready to sell off talent, it says a lot about their organization. They recognize the market they have to compete with and that their window is small. Championship mission accomplished, now go build another winner. Tigers should take note.

KUDO

If you still haven’t decided whether the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade was one of the best or maybe even the best ever made by the Tigers, well it’s just about sewn up. With Prince heading for more surgery on his neck, his career is certainly in doubt. Fielder was an ironman in durability when he came to the Tigers, but when he left, things fell apart for him; while Kinsler continues to be a model of offensive and defensive stability in Detroit.

HOLLY

COMMENT

The national media continues its discussion about how questionable Ausmus’ handling is of his starting rotation and bullpen. And if you need visible proof, it was seen in JV the other night when Ausmus came to pull him and Justin squared up his body into “fight mode” and threw out some f-bombs at his manager. But this is not the first time it’s happened between the two as their arguments can be traced all the way back to Brad’s first year.

KUDO

Hats off to JV, Sanchez and Pelfrey (and no surprise, Fulmer) this week who all showed they can step it up and pitch really well. It gives us hope that the starting rotation can hold it together when injuries and rookie shutdowns happen. The only thing missing concerns the issues about pulling them at the right time while they are still in a position to win.

CONCERN

I was watching video of JD working out and wondered who the morbidly obese guy – who easily weighed at least 300 lbs. and had a BMI off the charts – was next to him. My jaw hit the floor when I found out it was the assistant trainer, of all people, and a guy who moved with great difficulty due to his girth. I mean, seriously, is this a joke?