Jeff Jones' retirement leaves the Detroit Tigers with key decisions to make even before the free agent and trade markets opens for business. Having already released Toledo Mud Hens' pitching coach Mike Maroth from his contract, the Tigers now need pitching coaches at both the highest positions in the organization. In addition, with the retirement of Larry Parrish, the Mud Hens also need a new manager to help shape what we all hope will be a new Tigers' youth movement.
Jason Beck of MLB.com has a long list of candidates for Jones' replacement. Among them are Doug Brocail, the Houston Astros' pitching coach from 2011-2013. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus caught Brocail during his years as a Tigers reliever in the late 90s. A.J. Sager, the Tigers current minor league pitching coordinator, seems the sole internal candidate for the position, having served as the Tigers' roving pitching instructor the past two years. Sager also pitched for the Tigers alongside Brocail and Ausmus.
Another option with ties to Ausmus is Andrew Lorriane, who has worked as a pitching coach in the Seattle Mariners' organization for the past six years. Lorraine was also Ausmus' pitching coach for Team Israel in the last World Baseball Classic.
While the Tigers may prefer someone with an established relationship with Ausmus, there are quite a few high quality pitching coaches available. Recently displaced Washington Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty is noted for his work developing Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, among others, and still has a home in the Detroit area. Perhaps he and Ausmus would be a good fit together. McCatty was the Nationals' pitching coach for the last seven seasons.
There appear to be no shortage of at least qualified pitching coaches available this offseason. Our own Patrick Kennedy took at look at the popular options last week.
The decisions for the minor league coaching roles are very important in their own right. Tigers currently have a pretty nice crop of arms that will presumably start the year with the Mud Hens. Just pencil Daniel Norris in as the Tigers' fifth starter, and assume that they'll acquire two established starters this offseason as Avila has planned. Other names in that race include Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein, Matt Boyd, Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, Luis Cessa, and top prospect Michael Fulmer.
This is pitching depth to the likes of which the Tigers haven't seen in years. Its not so unlikely that the success of the 2016 campaign will hinge, at some point, on the development of a few of these young arms. Throw in position players like JaCoby Jones, Wynton Bernard and Dixon Machado, and the success of the Mud Hens' new coaches looks like a key feature in producing a necessary influx of talent into the Tigers' roster next season and beyond.
Whichever way Tigers general manager Al Avila chooses to go, the hiring of the Mud Hens' new coaching staff is liable to fly under the radar, and yet prove very important in its own right. Couple that with the fact that the Tigers' manager himself is by no means on secure footing with the organization, and you have some tricky circumstances in which to hire three key coaches. Finding the right mix of personalities and philosophies, who can come into a win-now organization, work as a team, and integrate what will hopefully be a far more analytically informed approach, may prove a major behind-the-scenes factor in the failure or success of the Tigers in 2016.
After a Prolonged Wait, a Royals Coach Makes the Right Decision in an Instant - The New York Times, Billy Witz
Mike Jirschele, the Royals’ third-base coach, waved Lorenzo Cain home on a risky but calculated move on Friday that resulted in the winning run in Game 6 of the ALCS. It was redemption for Jirschele, who was unfairly raked over the coals for his decision to hold Alex Gordon at third-base in Game 7 of the World Series last season. Meanwhile, it was Jose Bautista, lord of thunder, whose mental mistake cost his team the crucial game his bat had done so much to win.
How a Mets Coach Brought Out Daniel Murphy’s Power - The New York Times, Tyler Kepner
We've all seen the freakshow that is Daniel Murphy's 2015 postseason. Already, Murphy has put on a legendary performance, quite likely the best combined hitting performance across two postseason series ever. Of course it hasn't been all that long since the extra series provided such an opportunity. Still, its been incredible. At the heart of this shocking success is the plan Murphy and Mets hitting coach Kevin Long have spent the season working on.
What's Daniel Murphy worth? - Beyond the Box Score, Matt Goldman
Daniel Murphy picked the right time for a huge postseason performance. Beyond the Box Score looks at what his value was before the playoffs began, and how much this insane power surge might benefit him in free agency at season's end. The result may still be not all that indicative of his future value.
There’s Something About the Royals, or Something - FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan
Yes, yes there is something about the Royals. Something deeply annoying and laudable at the same time. They just never seem to quit. Like the killer in a slasher film, you really better be absolutely sure they're really dead before you turn your back on them for an instant.
Reviewing the Top 50 pitching prospects for 2015 - Minor League Ball, John Sickels
Here is a look at how the pre-season list of top 50 pitching prospects performed. Only Daniel Norris is represented for the Tigers. The 2016 lists may prove more complimentary to the Tigers organization.
Marlins, Don Mattingly have mutual interest - MLB Daily Dish, Scott Gelman
I understand about getting back on the horse as quickly as possible, but the Marlins? You really might want to rethink this, Don...
Phillies hire Matt Klentak as general manager - MLB Daily Dish, Chris Cotillo
The Phillies have their man, but for Klentak, there's a Herculean task ahead to turn the Phillies around anytime soon.
The National League Has a Designated Hitter: What’s Next for Kyle Schwarber? - Grantland, Ben Lindbergh
What do you do if you have a a left-handed murderer of baseballs with no position on the field? You trade him to an AL team for a fat haul of talent. Should the Cubs be considering that yet where Schwarber -- or Warbird, as subscribers to his newsletter refer to him -- is concerned?
There's no denying it. Lorenzo Cain is awesome.