ARE THE ROYALS THE MODEL FOR DETROIT?

By:  Kurt Snyder

In football, the strength of your team starts ‘in the trenches’ – at the line of scrimmage.

In hockey, a strong goalie,  physical defensemen who lead their teams in plus/minus, can win you plenty of games.

In basketball, teams with 3 legitimate stars are the envy of the entire league.

And in baseball, strength up the middle is the foundation for building a great team.

A team has to start somewhere and in baseball, pitching and defense are key.  Defense up the middle makes for a formidable team. Sure, you want those guys to hit too, but defense can negate a lot of sins.

Of course, outslugging your opponent is what fans like to see. To many, the game is the most exciting when lots of runs are scored resulting ultimately in your team winning a ball game.

But for the purists? They know this:  Great pitching and defense up the middle can translate into demoralizing defeats for the opponent.

The 2015 World Champion Royals were great examples. They won their games from the 7th inning on. Their pitchers were not only dominant, they drew great confidence from the defense behind them, especially in the outfield where the ball rarely hit the ground.

For two seasons, the Royals had such a stifling bullpen and defensive ball club, it made scoring early the premium for their opponents. If you did not get to their starters before the 7th … forget about it. You were done.

And it’s a great model to copy for teams in smaller markets. The Royals did not have tremendous hitters; they beat you by squeezing the life out of you.

Their defense began with a tremendously gifted catcher in Salvador Perez, who was a leader, rarely let the ball get by him and had a gun for an arm. Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist (splitting time with Omar Infante)  formed a solid keystone combination, and in centerfield, Lorenzo Cain ran down everything.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the Royals continued their dominance at the corner outfield spots, especially in left with a gold glover in Alex Gordon and speedy Jarod Dyson in right and occasionally in center.

And you can’t discount the wizardry of Eric Hosmer who was probably the best defensive first baseman in the league.

Consider those Royals to be the best model for the Tigers. Sure, the latest World Series winner is always considered to be the next big thing to copy, but in the Houston Astros, the stars they drafted will be hard to duplicate.

So at a very early stage, where are the Tigers up the middle? Do they have any pieces that you can confidently say is THE guy? Are there any where you can check the box?

The Tigers have dedicated years now on the development of James McCann behind the plate, and he has improved moderately. He has shown very good leadership, but defensively he’s still not quite there. His strength is in his arm, but his weakness is in his bat. Does he get a check mark? I don’t think so, not at this point. Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers down the road are still in the running.

Let’s head further north to the center of the infield. Any check marks there? Again, I would say no. Jose Iglesias is someone the Tigers want to move and Dixon Machado is playing out of position and given that, I don’t think you can fairly evaluate him defensively until he finds his spot at his natural shortstop position.  So, consider these 2 positions still open for younger guys down in the farm. Until they begin to develop and find their way to Detroit, we won’t know.

The future in centerfield is JaCoby Jones. He has taken a big step forward this season. His combination of defense, speed and an improving bat makes me believe he is the player to beat for that check mark in center.

In the bullpen, The Royals pen consisted of 3 untouchable pieces who covered the 7th, 8th and 9th inning. That doesn’t mean the Tigers need that same formula, but the ultimate goal is to form a combination of pitchers that make it a bad thing for the opponent when they come in late in the game, just like KC.

So, who do we have? Any check marks?

Alex Wilson has logged plenty of time along with Daniel Stumpf, Buck Farmer, Joe Jimenez and Shane Greene.

But outside of Jimenez, who moves the needle? He is on an island all by himself, isn’t he?   His live arm translates perfectly into the future closer spot.   Check the box.

When you break it all down like this, it tells you how far we need to go.


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TRADING TROUBLES

By:  Holly Horning

Ask Tiger fans about last year’s trades and the returns the team got for JV, JD and others, and you will probably hear more comments that lean towards disappointment than hope. The majority of fans, at least on social media, feel the team got short-changed.

The issue now for the organization is that they still need to unload salary. Despite dumping $70+ mill, there is more to go. The Tigers lowered their payroll the most of any team this off-season but their starting payroll is still in the upper half of MLB teams. It is $140 mill, but like all starting payrolls, it will grow somewhat as the roster adjusts.

The biggest concern is that the Tigers have, by far, the largest payroll in the AL Central.

If you look at the team payroll, the 2 biggest salaries are the ones that are absolutely untradeable. Miggy and Zimm. Currently, they make up one-third of the total team payroll which will only go up as Chris Ilitch orders more cuts.

The near-future logical trades to take place will involve Nicholas Castellanos and Jose Iglesias who own the next largest salaries. (Excluding VMart who is in his last year.) They are both making over $6 mill in 2018. Nick is arbitration eligible next year and expected to earn somewhere around $10 million. He is a free agent after 2019 so this year is the ideal time to trade him in order to get maximum value before he becomes a rental.

The problem with Castellanos is that he really is a DH. Similar to JD Martinez who finally signed late this year and is the DH for Boston. Nick is brutal with the glove as we, and everyone else, watch him in RF. And it’s nearly matched by his lack of focus, instinct and lumbering on the base paths.

And when you’re a DH, there’s a total market of 14 teams. But when you add in the long-term contract he is seeking, we’re talking about a handful of qualified teams who can afford to spend that much on a single bat.

Good luck with that one. It will be harder to trade Nick than it was for JD to find a home.

Unfortunately, Iggy may not be much easier to trade. He is a free agent after this season and already considered to be a rental with the diminished value that goes with that.

The Tigers have been trying to trade him for over a year now and deals to 2 teams were nixed. Don’t think that the Tigers weren’t the first ones on the phone to the Dodgers when their SS got injured.

Haven’t we loved watching Iggy in the field these few years? Don’t other teams see what we see – a magician with a glove?

Could the reason the Tigers can’t find a taker for him simply be due to his bat? Or could it be more than that?

Could the rumors of having a difficult personality and possibly not being a team-player be true?

Remember back in August of 2015 when Iggy went after James McCann, pushing and spitting at him? Was this the first visible sign that there were issues?

Or was the first clue that he requested to wear #1 on his jersey when he joined the Tigers? A number not worn since Lou Whitaker donned it.  And very big shoes to fill.

Fast forward to the winter of 2017-18 and the preparations for Tiger Fest. The team announced that Miggy and Iggy would not attend due to “family emergencies.” We understood the reasons for Cabrera being absent – his injury and rehab combined with the legal mess pertaining to his second family that would attract unwanted attention and questions.  As for Iggy, most assumed he had a legit excuse to be absent.

But then the photos came out and someone in the Tigers’ PR Department should have given the two ground rules for being absent. Social media was filled with pictures of the two partying together in Miami with Iggy’s agent, singer Marc Anthony, during the same time as the yearly Tiger event.

Oops.

Was Iggy’s absence due to his own wishes to not attend or did the Tigers ask him not to join them?

One of the latest clues was this past weekend’s incident with Salvador Perez in which Iggy’s actions with his bat could have injured the catcher. Several Tigers approached Perez to apologize for their teammate. And if you want, you can add his failure to wear sunglasses on a day that called for them. A decision that made him duck for cover when he lost the ball in the sun and created problems for his teammates.

Most telling was his recent comment when he defended his failure to cover second base during that train wreck of a third inning on Sunday. He blamed the move on his manager and coaches. And got called out publicly by Ron Gardenhire in the press just before Gardy met with him privately.

Based upon these examples, are other teams seeing a man who is not a team player and could create problems in their clubhouses?

It’s too bad that Ian Kinsler is no longer with the Tigers because he was known to have been a positive influence on Iggy and kept him in check.

But for us fans, and for the Front Office, this means that these top 2 most highly paid and tradeable players on the team, may not be all that tradeable. And if they are, we can’t expect a whole lot in return. Al Avila may be forced to accept anything, just to get something in return for them.

And if this is a team truly focused on rebuilding, the lack of a viable return for these two could create an unfavorable situation for the organization. A situation where the Tigers may have to continue trading more players in order to acquire the pieces they need.

Let’s hope that the difficulty in trading Nick and Iggy doesn’t create a falling domino effect where the Tigers are forced to trade top young players like Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd or Joe Jimenez in order to bolster a depleted farm system.

It’s just too bad Trader Dave is no longer around to work his magic.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

It is a franchise’s biggest challenge when they are faced with a rebuild. Each team is faced with their own obstacles when they are forced to start over and develop a strategy that will hopefully lead them to a championship.

On this Tuesday, our writers have a question to ponder. If you are new to Totally Tigers, please note that Kurt and Holly do not share their answers to weekly topics in an attempt to give you, the reader, a wider range of perspective.

Here’s our topic for today.


Who or what will be the biggest obstacle in the Tigers’ rebuild?


KURT

The most polarizing figure on the Tigers right now is Miguel Cabrera. When he is healthy and he is on, he can carry a team. But he just can’t avoid the injuries. You always hope for an injury-free year from him, but every season of late, it is something else that keeps him out of action.

And what do you think about every time he hits the bench with an injury or finds himself on the DL? How many more years? Well, the answer is 6. And Miggy seems to break down a little more every year.

It was an encouraging start to the season, but things have come to a screeching halt in May and we are back to wondering when he will be back and will he be 100% when he does return?

And for a team still saddled with a high payroll, Miggy all by himself, will garner $184M over the next 6 seasons including this one; an absolute albatross of a salary for a club looking to get leaner while rebuilding.

It has been pure joy watching one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game master his craft in Detroit, but having said that, an unhealthy and very expensive Cabrera is an anchor the Tigers must drag around while trying to remake their ball club.


HOLLY

Whatever a team does, as well as how they do it and when they do it, is always dependent upon the organization’s corporate culture. The Tigers have never had a sense of urgency even when their World Series window was closing so don’t expect them to set a timeline or even push for rebuilding quickly as long as the money is coming in.

However, if we want to consider a different factor – a newer factor – in addition to this standard, then their biggest obstacle is ownership.

Unlike his father, Chris has been the absent owner in part because he has ongoing and future projects that are bigger and more lucrative than the Tigers – 50 blocks of new residential, commercial and retail space that is anchored around Little Caesars Arena.

The Tigers are not a priority for him and there is evidence in the form of hired consultants who specialize in the selling of sports teams being seen with him at Comerica. Chris is not looking to see the team complete the rebuilding process because he’s looking to sell it before the transformation has been realized.

But before he can unload these cats, he’s got to get the books in order. Despite reducing payroll by approximately $70+ mill, the Tigers still rank in the upper half of MLB highest payrolls and by far the most expensive one in the AL Central. So expect some more serious payroll cuts, especially when your 2 most expensive players, highly untradeable, take up one-third of your team’s yearly payroll and will severely limit who can be signed.

And it’s no surprise that he has avoided answering questions about statues for Trammell and Morris because he expects the new owners to pay for that project.


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NO PRESSURE, RON! YOU’RE THE BEST!

By:  Kurt Snyder

I would like to say I have one question for you.   But I can’t,  because I have so many!  But, let’s start from the top.

Who has more of a free pass this year than Ron Gardenhire?

Have you read some of the stuff being published in the Detroit rags? Have you read some of the quotes?  My, oh my!

Al Kaline.  Mr. Tiger.  One of the most popular Tigers ever. A most gracious Hall of Fame baseball player, had this to say about Ron Gardenhire:


“He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever seen or heard …”


Al Kaline said that. About Ron Gardenhire! And here is my problem. Gardy is not a Hall of Fame manager. And after his time here in Detroit is done, his performance isn’t going to propel him there. This is a statement by Kaline that tells me how much pressure Gardenhire has on him here in Detroit, working for Chris Ilitch and company. None.

Surely at this point in time, there shouldn’t be much, not this early. But there ought to be a little. There are expectations for the team to gradually get better under Gardy’s leadership. But there is clearly no pressure yet.

After a Tiger Fest where he was fawned over, after a spring training with more accolades for how he runs a baseball team, he is now being perceived in ways that are utterly absurd and completely over the top.

It reminded me of Kaline’s proclamation to all of us earlier in the spring that Nicholas Castellanos is the unquestioned leader of this baseball team.

Were you puzzled by that? You might have been. But you can also make a case for some old-fashioned building of character. I know you have to challenge players and if it takes an all-time great to give your confidence a boost, then I am all for it.

Al Kaline is a big-time presence in the Tiger organization. And he should be. He’s been that sturdy Hall of Fame influence, sticking with the organization through thick and thin, being that bigger-than-life figure for young players looking to be the next Kaline, the next Miggy, the next Tiger great. People think Al can do no wrong, and he rarely did during his playing days.

But when there is criticism about Jim Leyland’s obvious major influence on the team, maybe Al Kaline has to take a step back as well.   Sorry to all of you who are appalled by such venom.  Such blasphemy.

Kaline began his career in the 50’s and of all the managers he has come across during his long, tremendous and Hall of Fame career, he mentions Ron Gardenhire as one of the best he has ever seen? We just need to put that away and leave it alone.

No offense to Mr. Tiger, but this team is so early in the stages of its rebuilding infancy that it barely has a heartbeat. But, you would think they are the story of baseball heading into the second week of May.

However, if you have been watching, you know it cannot be further from the truth. The Tigers played the kind of baseball on Sunday that could be described as sickening; at one point turning an infield shift, which by the way is supposed to give teams a defensive advantage, into a green light for runners to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Just have at it boys! Take third! Take second! We will all just stand and watch.

It. Was. Embarrassing.

That mess was followed up by a ball lost, I don’t know, in the high sky, or the sun, whatever … all we could do is watch Iggy, of all people, covering his head and crumbling to the ground, so he wouldn’t get hurt.

This is the state of Tiger baseball right now. When we were warned about the pain and the growing pains entering a rebuild, well, this is it.

It’s fine to acknowledge the new manager for his approach and how he takes the reins off his team to make them more comfortable and free to have fun. It’s fine to point out his desire to play the game the right way.  But it is not at all time for him to be praised for being one of the best.

This only signals one thing. The only pressure on Ron Gardenhire will come from one source. It will come from Gardy himself.

He must have shook his head after hearing Kaline’s comments. But he is also shaking his head at his Tigers. He doesn’t like what is going on and has said so.

So all you folks up in the front offices at Comerica Park need to take the baby steps required to get through this process. Jumping the gun on any adulation is as premature as it gets.

There is a time and a place for all glory and honor. And it ain’t today.  Not here.


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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (AND DON’T)

(with apologies to The Romantics)

By:  Holly Horning

What can we say about this new Tigers team so far this year? Certainly not as much as we’d like. Afterall, those infamous 40 games haven’t been played yet.

Players who are hot, may cool off. And some may not have found their groove yet. And Ron Gardenhire, like all experienced managers, is still exploring how to maximize his team’s ability.

But in the meantime, as we watch the games, we’ve come to have expectations about certain players and how the team performs. There are those we can’t wait to watch and also others who make us cautiously peer out from behind a pillow when they step up to the plate, walk to the mound or wait to catch a hard-hit ball.

Call this the “first impressions” era of the season. A time of the year where we have a decent idea about what will happen during the course of the season but with the understanding that performance levels may not yet be set in stone.

And with that, here are my lists of the Tigers and trends I am loving right now – and the ones who are making me frown.


THUMBS DOWN

1. Bullpen – (Gee, what a surprise.) The concern level is further raised with multiple poor outings by Alex Wilson and Shane Greene.

2. Medical Issues – Why is it that once Zimmermann, Miggy, Norris and others get injured, their issues seem to linger forever and never be fully resolved?

3. Nick Castellanos – That bat will only get him so far but it’s not enough to compensate for his inability to play the outfield or to run the bases without error.

4. Dave Clarke – New levels of bad have been reached with the infamous one hand signaling to score and the other one to stop both at the same time.

5. Sloppy Play – Old habits are hard to break so it may take a while to hammer home the importance of fundamentals.

6. Scoring Position – How many additional games could the Tigers have won if only they had managed to score those runners on third?

7. Norris – This riddle wrapped up in an enigma has the talent but maybe not the mental tools with time running out as the Tigers try to figure out how to unlock his potential.


THUMBS UP

1. Ron Gardenhire – How refreshing it is to listen to a manager who speaks clearly, decisively and with a sense of humor – and isn’t afraid to rein in his players.

2. Attitude – No longer disengaged zombies, this team appears more focused and actually looking like they are having fun, including Miggy and VMart.

3. Fight – These cats aren’t giving up and remaining feisty and competitive late in the game unlike previous years in which they rarely fought back after the middle innings.

4. Accountability – Players aren’t making the always-present excuses of the past and are being called out on bad performances by Gardy and his coaches.

5. The Young Starters – Aren’t Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd the pitchers you build a new team around?

6. The New Starters – Francisco Liriano and Mike Fiers have surprised us all and calmed the critics who disliked their signings.

7. The Sparkplugs – Leonys Martin with his .829 OPS and versatile Niko Goodrum who are both sassy, loud and the cheerleaders that keep this team going.

8. The Speed – Stolen base co-leaders Niko Goodrum, JaCoby Jones and Jose Iglesias show how much fun speed is – and how much we’ve missed it in the field and on the basepaths.

9. The Two J’s – JaCoby and Jeimer look to be showing the potential we were promised with both their bats and still-emerging defensive skills.

10. The Man – Miggy has lost that dead look in his eyes from last year and has once again returned to leading all his teammates in BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.

11. J Squared – I’m not gonna say it. I’m not going to jinx it. But you know what I’m thinking about Joe Jimenez.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

What’s on the minds of our writers as we head into the weekend?

Holly and Kurt don’t normally share their topics with each other in the interests of getting a wider range of perspective. During an up and down week, they could head in any direction.

Let’s see where they ended up on another Saturday after watching the 2 completed series this week.


HOLLY

Six games played with 3 wins – with 2 of the 3 losses that could easily also have been wins. We are seeing a team that hasn’t played baseball like this for at least the past 4 years and it’s once again fun to watch, especially in the late innings.

Gone are the predictable losses because previous Tiger teams were unable to come back and score after the middle innings. The tools that other teams regularly use are now being employed in Detroit – bunting (multiple in just one game!), stealing, situational hitting, speed, creativity and moxy.

And a starting rotation that finished at or near the bottom of MLB in most categories for 2017 currently ranks 5th lowest in ERA after the Astros, Red Sox, Indians and Yankees.

Don’t tell me that the right managers and coaches have no impact on a team’s performance. All of the positive energy, attitude and fight we’ve seen can be directly attributed to the leadership and motivational qualities of Ron Gardenhire and Chris Bosio.


KURT

This week, on the topic of Shane Greene, after he had struggled once again and failed to put another game away, one particular radio personality in Detroit, a relative unknown, at the height of overreaction, vehemently suggested that Shane Greene didn’t belong on the Tiger roster.

What? The Tigers have had no choice but to roll the dice out of the pen this season with Alex Wilson, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Greene and plenty of doses of Buck Farmer.

Wilson is a workhorse and despite having some failures, is someone the Tigers need desperately. Stumpf, who fills that lefty role out of the pen, is unspectacular but serviceable. Farmer has a good arm but is still a work in progress for the Tigers, getting valuable experience during a season in which they can afford to give it.

But, the real talent sits in the laps of Joe Jimenez and yes, Shane Greene, with Jimenez clearly the closer in waiting and Greene most valuable in the 9th inning right now, given the potential trade value down the line if he impresses.

So, it’s frustrating for me when I have to decide if a sports radio guy is just messing with me in order to keep me listening or just blatantly hasn’t a clue about the game.


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FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


Should we be concerned with Miggy’s injuries so far?  Why or why not?


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NEW TEAM VISION FOSTERING GROWTH

By:  Kurt Snyder

Wednesday’s Tiger victory was all about finding a way. With the advent of a new era in Tiger baseball, the team is forced to win games in different ways. With tools of the game they have rarely used.

They are devoid of star power and also the power to hit the ball out of the park; staples of Mike Ilitch baseball. So as a result, they have to be creative. And players have been given that creative license, which they have gladly accepted.

The team has to scrap for victories. They take some risks that don’t always pan out, but when they do, they have impacted games and many have made the difference between winning and losing.

It’s fascinating really, because since they have fewer ways to try to win, they have been more aggressive and creative in their approach. It is something encouraged by our current manager.  Even when they fail in their attempts, they are encouraged to make plays.   Keep pushing the envelope.

Imagine a team loaded with big time talent, but one that is still diversified in their approach to winning. That’s the ultimate isn’t it? But all that talent doesn’t always produce every day. Digging deeper may be required on any given day.

Road maps sometimes lead you into a detour, and you can’t ignore it. You have to adjust,  take what’s given you and work harder to get where you’re looking to go.

The Tigers have lost more than they have won so far this season, but the games they have won (and some of the losses) have been examples of a team taking what they are given.

There is not a lot of talent on this team. But because of the new philosophy our new manager has brought to the ball club, they are playing a brand of baseball that is exciting for a group looking to be the team that advances the growth into something big.

Players who may not be starters on other teams, are getting opportunities to improve and impact games on the field.  We have players with large roles who wouldn’t ordinarily have them. That’s a characteristic of a team where the real winning is further down the line.  The team is not ready to win.   But there is growth underway.

Today’s Tigers, and I am talking about the young guys playing at the major league level, are the key ingredients in the soil being prepped for seeds not yet planted.

More talent will come. More talent is on its way. Some will come from the minor leagues and some will come from other teams. But more talent will come. And they will enter into an environment that has been prepped for them to succeed. Prepped for winning; an environment where only high-end talent has held them back from doing bigger things.

Step 1 in this process is the most important. Establishing how we can win with what we have. And as they add more pieces, they will have more ways to win.

The important part is not to abandon the methods they used to win before more talent arrived. You can’t forget the roots that forged the way.

There is nothing more dangerous than a team that can hit you from all different angles.
The goal is to become that team.

So what can we say to Tiger fans who are struggling to find the value in watching this team play?

Follow the process with an open mind.  Appreciate games like yesterday, where a team won a game in a way that surprised everyone but the hitter, including his manager.

The team has played for one month, and already, players are taking it upon themselves to make things happen.

The growth is evident.  Don’t fight it.  Embrace it.


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WHEN MARKETING GETS IN THE WAY

By:  Holly Horning

It took awhile, but the Tigers finally have some speed in the outfield. That is, in 2 out of the 3 positions.

It’s hard to remember when they last had more than 1 player roaming the large expanse of grass who had above-average speed. For decades, the Tigers’ m.o. has favored putting power hitters in their outfield.

And as you know, power comes hand-in-hand with bigger guys. And bigger guys are generally slower in both reflexes as well as speed. Just look at Nick Castellanos.

The growing trend now in baseball is all about putting a greater emphasis on defensive runs saved. In the past, teams had no qualms about putting guys who could hit in the outfield. Their bats saved them and their gloves were given a pass.

But no longer.

It’s all about saving runs and defensive range now. And players who are quicker and faster tend to cover more territory and get to balls more successfully.

So why would an organization like the Tigers build one of baseball’s most expansive outfields and put some of the league’s slowest players out there?

Did they just not get it?

Not at all. It’s just that they favored marketing over assembling a solid defensive team.

Let’s not forget that any baseball owner is not in the business to primarily bring joy to fans’ hearts. They are in it to make money. And you do so by developing a top marketing plan that keeps the turnstiles spinning.

And their strategy revolves not around the educated fan like you and me, but focused on the masses, who make up the majority of the fan base. The people who come to see excitement. They are thrilled by pitchers who throw nothing but cheese and batters who hit home runs with regularity.

The guy who is a solid defensive player who roams the outfield and catches most balls hit his way? The same guy who is better at situational hitting without having to resort to the long ball? Not as much.

Let’s face it – most sports fans don’t dig deep down into the expert levels of play that those who truly love the game enjoy seeing.

And this is why the Tigers’ outfield at Comerica has been regularly filled with players who rank at or near the bottom half of MLB’s outfielders in defensive metrics. But men who sit near the top in the power-based defensive categories.

It certainly has the tendency to ruffle the feathers of fans who like to dig below the surface of baseball performance. The ones who appreciate those who are master craftsmen at their positions.

But it also agitates pitchers as well. Just ask David Price who threw a fit at the end of his first year in Detroit to Dave Dombrowski about the lack of defense backing him up. Afterall, failure to catch balls or to even get to them, when other teams are capable of doing so, messes with a pitcher’s stats. And not in a good way.

But it’s not the just the Tigers who prioritize attendance over solid play.

The Boston Red Sox imploded in 2011 in part over ownership’s decision to allow their marketing department to have a say in who was signed. Fan surveys showed that the Red Sox players weren’t “sexy enough” and that the team needed some guys who were better looking (you can’t make this stuff up) and also hit for more power. Nothing brings more fans to Fenway than watching home runs sail out of the park.

It was a year in which GM Theo Epstein and his manager, Terry Francona, were fighting with owners to assemble the team they wanted. They were forced to sign and also play certain players who didn’t mesh well with the team and had personalities that clashed.

And as you know, September for them was an epic crash and burn. It ended with Epstein resigning, Francona asking that his contract not be renewed and a mass resigning by most within the Front Office.

All for the sake of boosting attendance and sales.

As a sign of the changing times, the Tigers have put 2 speedsters into their CF and LF positions. Leonys Martin and JaCoby Jones are certainly making life in the outfield more exciting. The speed, the range and the acrobatics are making us cringe a little less.

This change in strategy is one of the most tell-tale differences in how Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila constructed their rosters. It will be interesting to see how and if Al gradually evolves this rebuilding roster into something more modern and in alignment with analytics.

Now if he can only do something about Nick Castellanos……


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Starting pitching will always be a major point of emphasis in judging how well a team is playing, progressing or regressing. From a Tiger standpoint, there is one pitcher that continues to baffle us, and not in a good way.

On this Tuesday, our writers have observations worthy of discussion. If you are new to Totally Tigers, please note that Kurt and Holly do not share their answers to weekly topics in an attempt to give you, the reader, a wider range of perspective.

Here’s our topic for today.


What should the Tigers do with Jordan Zimmermann?


KURT

In almost every start, Jordan struggles with command, tends to continually make mistakes up in the zone and continues to pitch himself and his team out of ballgames. Between his chronic neck injury and his ineffectiveness, we have yet to see any prolonged success since the first half of his first season in Detroit.

So what should the Tigers do? Absolutely nothing! I believe Chris Bosio, when he came to Detroit, was given some pet projects; stretch goals if you will. And more than likely, 2 pitchers, Zimmermann and Daniel Norris were at the top of the list to concentrate on as the biggest challenges.

Both are important pieces, but Zimmermann probably most important, given the high dollar investment. But this is a rebuilding season, and we have a new pitching coach who seems to be making an impact, so let him do his job.

Let him work with Jordan and see what he can figure out. There is no need to do anything drastic like sending him to Toledo or anything like that.

Let the man pitch – period.


HOLLY

Ah, that is the $74-million-dollar question for the team’s second most expensive player after Miggy.

First of all, the last thing the Tigers will do is to cut him loose – an action that usually gets the GM who signed him fired or at least put on life support. Considering that reports had Chris Ilitch keeping Brad Ausmus because he didn’t want to pay the buyout and also have to hire another manager, it’s highly unlikely that such a thrifty man will let these millions simply walk out the door.

Let’s not forget that Zimm started with the Tigers in 2016 and posted 8 wins and 2 losses – sporting a 2.45 ERA – before getting injured and spending the rest of the year with a clueless medical staff until he decided to return to his own Washington, DC doctor for help.

Two years later, the injuries and change in delivery to compensate for said injuries have forced him to abandon what originally made him successful. The good news is that Chris Bosio has seen some of the changes and is working to correct them, unlike his predecessor. The bad news is that this takes awhile as we saw with Justin Verlander who changed his delivery because of his core issue problems.

Until last night, Jordan hasn’t been able to get through the 6th inning this year so the Tigers may want to consider taking a page out of the Mets’ playbook as they did with starter Matt Harvey by moving him to the bullpen so he can work things out. It’s not the best solution but it’s really the only viable one –  and now more unlikely given Daniel Norris’ injury.

With the huge chunk of change he is still owed, J-Z is also untradeable – that is, unless the Tigers can unload him and his salary by pairing him with Michael Fulmer in a trade to another team. And we better hope that it will not come down to this.


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