The Tigers made news today by announcing Jim Leyland and his coaching staff will return in 2013. Additionally, Dave Dombrowski met the press to talk about the 2013 roster.
Let’s start with Leyland. Some Tigers’ fans have been calling for Leyland’s job this season in frustration with his lineup choices among other things. I, however, maintain that this was a good choice for the 2013 Tigers.
Managers have control over certain aspects of a team, so let’s evaluate Leyland point by point. First, managers set the lineup and make on field personnel choices. Fans take exception with Leyland in this department, but I’ll defend him on two points. One, lineup order matters very little. If you put the right 9 guys on the field, over the course of a season, it doesn’t matter than much where they hit. Two, no one, not even fans use ideal lineups. The game is too set in its ways for that. Want to see the Tigers ideal lineup based on their production (based on who got the most ABs this year)?
Fielder, Dirks, Peralta, Cabrera, Jackson, Infante, Young, Boesch, Avila
Fielder, Dirks, Avila, Cabrera, Jackson, Young, Peralta, Infante, Berry
Not what you expected, right? Basically the commentary here is that no one would do it much better, so who cares. As for who he puts on the field, he can only work with what he’s given. Dombrowski makes the roster, Leyland just puts them on paper.
How about his management of the pitching staff? As far as the starters go, Leyland’s pretty good. He doesn’t usually leave guys in too long, but also doesn’t have too quick a hook. His bullpen management is problematic at times, but most managers struggle there. He insists on using his closer only in save situations too often and only for one inning at a time (more on bullpen usage later this winter).
His in-game strategy bothers me at times. He brings the infield in too often (you should only do it in the 9th inning and never if there’s a runner on second unless the game ending run is on third) and bunts far too often. But even these mistakes are pretty common and it’s not really holding the club back.
On the field, he’s not a tremendous skipper, but he’s not really costing them a lot of games. However, in the clubhouse, he’s widely respected. The players love him and there has almost never been a clubhouse spat during his tenure. All told, I think the quality environment he brings to the organization outweighs the potential negatives of his on field strategy because the Tigers are not a club that would push the boundaries with a new school manager who would actually correct the problems I’ve laid out.
As for the Dombrowski presser, we learned a few things we expected. Valverde and Young will not be back. Peralta and Dotel had their options exercised. The Tigers intend to pursue Anibal Sanchez in free agency and will make the 5th spot Smyly’s to lose if they fail.
They’ll go with an in house candidate to replace Valverde and will not spend heavily in the bullpen, but will add pieces if they can. Corner outfield will be a target to hold down the fort until Castellanos and Garcia are ready for the show. Dirks will be a fourth outfielder or better and Berry will get a shot to compete for a job.
Infante and Martinez should be ready for Opening Day.
So the roster will look like this:
C – Avila
1B – Fielder
2B – Infante
SS – Peralta
3B – Cabrera
LF – Dirks
CF – Jackson
RF – (TBA)
DH – Martinez
Bench – Santiago, backup catcher, TBA, TBA
Starting Rotation – Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, Sanchez/Smyly/other
Bullpen – Benoit, Dotel, Coke, Alburquerque, Villarreal, TBA, TBA.
The obvious places for offseason activity are corner outfield, bullpen help, some bench help, and maybe the #5 starter. They’ll pay some of their arbitration eligible players more money and will talk extension with some. All in all, the core is in place.
It will be a mostly quiet offseason in Detroit, but we said that last year. Stay tuned for full coverage, but my key offseason target this winter for the Tigers is Torii Hunter. He’ll play a quality RF, hit well, and can mentor Jackson.
The Tigers head into the offseason looking to win it all in 2013 after a runner up performance in 2012.
SABR Toothed Tigers will have full coverage every time news breaks and will provide plenty of analysis for all of the Hot Stove dealings this winter. 153 days til Opening Day.