Do you have any idea how difficult it is to rank an entire coaching staff? It’s no easy task. There are no stats out there to rank the coaches, only the players themselves. And since there are no stats, there is also absolutely no way to compare a team’s coaching staff to the coaching staff of any other team, let alone something like a league average coaching staff.
I suppose the only way to do rank a coaching staff is individually. To rank the Detroit Tigers’ coaches in 2016, I looked at various statistics for the group players assigned to the coaches: the pitchers for the pitching coach, the hitters for the hitting coach, etc. I then compared the 2016 Tigers stats to either the 2015 Tigers or to the rest of the American League’s 2016 numbers. I drew conclusions based on how the 2016 Tigers stacked up.
Bench coach Gene Lamont
There isn’t much a bench coach can do to influence things, but manager Brad Ausmus was ejected three times during the season, leaving Lamont to manage. The dates were April 9, May 16 (the hoodie game!), and August 27 (the Mike Everitt game). The Tigers had a 1-2 record in those games, and we can blame one of those losses on Mike Everitt. Since Lamont didn’t seem to have much of an effect on those games, or the season in general, I’ll give him an average grade.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee
With the retirement of Jeff Jones after the 2015 season, the Tigers needed to hire a new pitching coach. Rich Dubee fit the bill, and hiring him was arguably the best decision the front office made the entire offseason. The pitching staff improved significantly in 2016 — they had an ERA of 4.24 and a 1.32 WHIP, which compared favorably to 2015 when they had a 4.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Couple those numbers with the new pitches being thrown by Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, and Daniel Norris, and you can see how good of a pickup Dubee was. I’ll rank him well above average.
Hitting coach Wally Joyner and assistant hitting coach David Newhan
The Tigers offense was one of the biggest highlights of the season. Detroit ranked sixth in the American League in both home runs and runs scored in 2016. The Tigers hit 211 home runs and scored 750 runs (league averages were 191 and 731, respectively). One major improvement from 2015 was the number of times the team grounded into double plays. The Tigers hit into 135 double plays in 2016, compared to 152 the previous year. Joyner and Newhan are also partially responsible for benching Justin Upton for three days in August, which is around when Upton began his spectacular hot streak. I’ll give these two coaches an above average rank.
Defensive coordinator Matt Martin
The Tigers defense is difficult to rank. Detroit had both the highest fielding percentage and the fewest errors committed in the American League. Detroit’s collective fielding percentage was .987 (two points above league average), and the Tigers committed only 75 errors this season. a much better number than the league average of 91 errors. Those numbers can be misleading, however. Perhaps a better gauge would be ultimate zone rating, or UZR. It’s a defensive statistic in which zero is average. The Tigers ultimate zone rating as a team was -20.8, ahead of only the Athletics, Twins, and Mariners. While the Tigers’ defense rated among the worst in baseball according to most advanced metrics, there is only so much Martin could do on his end. He gets an average rank.
Bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer
The Tigers bullpen was better in 2016 than in any year in recent memory. Tigers relievers won 30 games and lost 20 games, better than the average of 28 wins and 24 losses. They did, however, allow 78 inherited runners to score, third-worst in the league and above the league average of 70. I would say that the bullpen was below average, but not as far below average as usual. Did Billmeyer have a major effect on that or is that due to the pickups made by Tigers general manager Al Avila? The latter is most likely, so I’ll give Billmeyer an average rank.
First base coach Omar Vizquel
The Tigers were not good on the basepaths this season, but that’s not entirely Vizquel’s fault. He must be partly to blame, however. The Tigers ranked 11th in the American League in stolen bases, stealing a total of 58 bases. The league average for steals was 85, for comparison. In addition, Tigers baserunners were caught stealing 29 times, below the league average of 33, and good for seventh in the league. Overall, it was not good, but there’s only so much you can do with Victor Martinez running. But Vizquel gets an average ranking because of his defensive mentoring of Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias.
Third base Dave Clark
Dave Clark does not seem like a good third base coach. We saw numerous players run through stop signs because they could see the situation better than he could. The Tigers had exactly as many outs on the basepaths as is league average, 55, and ranked seventh overall. Their percentage of extra bases taken was 34 percent, worst in the league and well below the league average of 40 percent. I don’t think Clark was the biggest of the Tigers issues this year, but he really needs to be better next year. He gets a below average ranking.
Overall, I would say that the coaching staff was about average this year, though slightly slanted towards above average. The coaches did their jobs, for the most part. Some underperformed while some vastly exceeded expectations (hello, Mr. Dubee), which results in a wash.