The Detroit Tigers do not have a closer, not yet anyways

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has not named a closer to start the 2021 season. In part because that vital role is still in the process of identifying the right pitcher. What does it mean for the Tigers moving forward? That question remains to be answered. What does it mean right now? Not much.

The Detroit Tigers opened the 2021 MLB season at home vs the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers beat the Indians 3-2. As the game moved into the latter innings, hard throwing Gregory Soto (left handed pitcher) entered the game. So Soto is the closer right? Wrong.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 01: Manager A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during player introductions prior to the Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on April 1, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Indians 3-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

It needs to be stated, manager A.J. Hinch who is a very analytically driven manager really does not care about saves. Hinch cares about wins. He has a very good feel for who should be in the game and when. In Thursday’s season’s opener Hinch called on Soto.

More to the point, A.J. Hinch does not believe that a closer needs to or should only face three batter. But rather whoever is called on should and better be able to get six to nine batters out. This is a new era of Detroit Tigers baseball. A much more modern game.

Although Hinch went with Gregory Soto in game one and has not named a closer, the Tigers manager does fully intend to name a closer at some point during the season. My personal takeaway is that Hinch is going to make the relief pitchers earn the position.

Because Hinch has a good feel and is analytically driven it is not outside the realm of possibility that Hinch goes with two closers. That is closer to where today’s MLB game is.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 27: A detailed view of the baseball hat and glove of Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers sitting in the dugout prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Comerica Park on August 27, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. The Angels defeated the Tigers 3-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In fact, it should not surprise anyone if Hinch uses pitchers anywhere at any time. Meaning, Soto who closed game one could come in in the sixth inning game two. It all depends on the situation and where Hinch thinks a pitcher’s strength can best be utilized.

As the Tigers now have a more modern thinking manager and excellent pitching prospects it can do nothing but help the organization.



The Detroit Tigers rebuild presses onward, but 2021 offers some telling goals

In the last four seasons the Detroit Tigers are 198-345 with a .364 winning percentage. The Tigers have finished in last place three of the four seasons. The 2021 MLB season which kicks off today, finds the Tigers in no better position to escape the bottom or near bottom again. But it is not all bad. The Tigers hired A.J. Hinch to be manager and a team does not make a move like that unless they feel they are close to being competitive.

This season for the Detroit Tigers is all about results. Not wins and losses (sorry Tiger fans.) It is about getting young players to take the next step. Getting young pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal involved from the start are signs the Tigers are ready to take the next step.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 25: A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers poses during Photo Day at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In order for the Detroit Tigers to get results as well as begin to have success the pitching must be established. The Tigers have plenty of top pitching prospects, which is good and all, but those players must begin to established themselves in order for the team to feel comfortable about adding free agents at seasons end.

Winning brings credibility, that is so true. It is getting to the winning that can be tricky. That is where World Series winning manager A.J. Hinch comes into play. Since being named manager Hinch has been consistent is saying he and his coaching staff want and need to breed a winning culture.

Hinch has set the World Series as the goal. Even though the Tigers will not compete for a championship this season. The current roster simply is not playoff worthy. That is why Hinch was brought in for the long term.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 17: Matt Manning #83 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 17, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

But, a successful 2021 season means that players are attending to every detail. That young pitchers begin to emerge and live up to draft and scouting reports.

If that happens then the Detroit Tigers will be closer to the end of a long rebuild.

The Detroit Tigers pitchers are being instructed to throw rising fastballs

Every pitcher from youth is taught to keep the ball down in the strike zone. Hitters like to hit the ball waist high and slightly higher. So it seems very counterintuitive that the Detroit Tigers pitchers are being asked to throw rising fastballs this spring. This is at the recommendation of Tigers manager A.J. Hinch. High fastballs? Really?

There is a method to the madness. As odd as it seems to have all pitchers (minor league included) learn how to properly throw rising fastballs it may be good strategy. I can only guess this is part of A.J. Hinch’s thought process.

If Detroit Tigers pitchers are pounding the strike zone with low fastballs, then a switch to a rising fastball could be effective getting a hitter to get under the ball and pop it up.

CLEVELAND, OHIO – AUGUST 21: Starting pitcher Michael Fulmer #32 of the Detroit Tigers pitches to Franmil Reyes #32 of the Cleveland Indians during the second inning at Progressive Field on August 21, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Casey Mize and Michael Fulmer have had rough patches this spring trying to hone the rising fastball. In fact both have been hit hard at times and given up home runs and extra base hits as a result of trying to find and hit location. Other Tiger pitchers have also had moments of frustration. Yet, Hinch is confident this will help the organization moving forward.

A.J. Hinch insisted that Houston Astros pitcher throw rising fastballs when he was the manager in Houston and won a World Series with a pitching staff that threw the pitch. In my opinion this is actually a smart move, as odd as it sounds and seems.

MLB hitters walk to the plate looking for low pitch’s. This dates back 152 years, as long as MLB baseball has been around. Imagine a pitching sequence something like this.

first pitch- fastball low

second pitch- change up at the knees

third pitch- rising fastball pop out to center field.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 25: Chris Fetter #52 of the Detroit Tigers poses during Photo Day at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

This is what Hinch and Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter are trying to get pitchers to both see and apply. It is spring training and the perfect time for pitchers to work on adding pitches to repertoires.

It does not count against the pitchers stats due to spring training. There will be highs and lows when the season kicks off April 1, 2021. But given both Fetter and pitching repetition Detroit Tigers pitchers as well as minor league pitchers should improve on throwing the pitch as the season moves along.


2021 Detroit Tigers season preview

As a Detroit Tigers fan, it is easy to get ahead of yourself. To look into the very near future and see what are now Tiger top prospects evolving into a very good baseball team. After all, MLB Pipeline has the Detroit Tigers farm system ranked #2. But, the reality is that there is the upcoming season to tend to first. Here is how I see it shaping out for the Tigers.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 25: Tarik Skubal #29 of the Detroit Tigers poses during Photo Day at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

First I believe Tarik Skubal will break camp with the Tigers and head to Detroit at the close of spring training. I also believe both Casey Mize and Matt Manning will head to Triple-A but will both spend time in Detroit. The future of Tigers pitching both starters and relief pitching is going to be very good.

This will be another long season in Motown. That said there will be excitement at Comerica Park this summer as other top prospects get call up to get their feet wet. Not to mention fans tracking other top prospects not at Triple-A such as 3B, Gage Workman.

In the past, Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch spent money on high priced, big name free agents. The late Ilitch’s son Christopher is now owner and has vowed that he to will spend money when the core players are close to being full-time major league ready.

With only Miguel Cabrera being owed $32 million per year for the next three seasons, Detroit is poised to dip into the free agent market this coming off season. With team needs at center field and short stop the Tigers can and most likely will target big names on the market.

New Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has put together a solid coaching staff. Hinch oversaw the final stages of the Houston Astros rebuild and took the Astros to the World Series just two years after being named Houston’s manager.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 25: A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers poses during Photo Day at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers are in the final stages of a rebuild with A.J. Hinch in the dugout. They also have an owner who will spend money, and is armed with a very good prospect pipeline.

Better days are head for the Tigers. But first the 2021 season must be played.


The Detroit Tigers are giving Isaac Paredes a legitimate shot at making the team

For the Detroit Tigers sixth ranked prospect, Isaac Paredes hitting has never been an issue. Paredes can rake with the best of them. Fresh off of posting huge numbers in the Mexican winter league. Paredes arrived in Lakeland Florida and the Tigers are ready and willing to allow him to earn a roster spot. Why? Because Isaac Paredes can help the Tigers.

Isaac Paredes will play in his first Grapefruit League game on Wednesday. This after sitting out the appropriate amount of time coming from Mexico to Florida due to MLB’s COVID guidelines.

LAKELAND, FL – MARCH 11: General view of Joker Marchant Stadium, Spring Training home of the Detroit Tigers on March 11, 2005 in Lakeland, Florida. The Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 10-7. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB via Getty Images)

Detroit Tigers first year manager A.J. Hinch said Paredes will start at third base, his usual position, on Thursday, then play second base this weekend. Paredes can also play the outfield.

Where Isaac Paredes will actually end up playing is a great question. But when a young player can hit like Paredes, you find a way to get him on the field. One thing it does is it gives Paredes multiple pathways to the roster.

A.J. Hinch said he feels that it would do both Paredes and the Detroit Tigers no good to send the young slugger to Triple-A. That any further development should and needs to take place in Detroit.

CHICAGO – AUGUST 19: Isaac Paredes #19 of the Detroit Tigers fields during his Major League debut against the Chicago White Sox on August 19, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

It was known when the Tigers traded for Isaac Paredes he was projected to be a very good hitter with power to all fields. In Mexico this past offseason Paredes had a confidence building winter ball season.

Paredes who hit just .220 with a .568 OPS in 108 plate appearances for the Detroit Tigers last summer, also had memorable moments and encouraging signs that pointed that he was close to producing more.

Then came winter ball in Mexico, and Isaac Paredes put on a show. Posting .379 average in 145 at-bats. Isaac also was first in on base percentage with .480 , he had doubles 17 , and on base plus slugging 1.060. He walked an eye popping 27 times against just 12 strikeouts in 177 plate appearances. Isaac Paredes also won the batting title.

This is what Tigers manager A.J. Hinch means when he said Triple-A would not do Paredes and the Detroit Tigers any good. Hinch may be right.

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch is “taking the kid gloves off” young pitchers

When current Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch took over as manager of a young Houston Astros team who was starting to come out of a long rebuild (sound familiar?) he did so by unleashing the young Astros pitching staff. He did not limit pitches or put inning limits on the staff. Now on the first day of spring training, Hinch said he is going to do the same with young Tigers pitchers.

Just yesterday, Detroit Tigers General Manager, Al Avila said this will be the season that Matt Manning will be pitching in Detroit. Be it out of spring training or at some point early in the season. Manning will join top organization prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal giving the Tigers and the fan base a true look at the future.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 29: Rookie pitcher Tarik Skubal #42 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning of game two of a doubleheader at Comerica Park on August 29, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan. Skubal recorded his first major league win in the Tigers 4-2 victory over the Twins. All players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The day honoring Jackie Robinson, traditionally held on April 15, was rescheduled for August 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to Friday’s postponed game, Robinson will be honored during today’s game. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Back to A.J. Hinch. This would appear on the surface to be a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Meaning, If “taking the kid gloves off” young Tigers pitching prospects worked in Houston then Hinch is hedging a bet it will work again in Detroit.

New Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter will be charged with overseeing the talented group of young arms. Yet, Fetter will be getting instructions from Hinch. The age old question in baseball is how do you handle young pitchers?

Both Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, spent time with the Tigers last summer. Both top pitching prospects took the typical rookie pitching lumps. With time under their belts the two enter spring training with a spot in the Tigers starting rotation.

CHICAGO – AUGUST 19: Casey Mize #12 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during his Major League debut against the Chicago White Sox on August 19, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

Like the Detroit Tigers veteran pitchers, Mize and Skubal will not be limited. A.J. Hinch feels that the way young pitchers get better is by innings pitched and allowing the pitcher to fall flat on their face when they have a bad outing. That is how pitchers learn.

This is one storyline to keep an eye on during spring training and into the 2021 Detroit Tigers season.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila says he will consider two currently suspended manger for the vacant Tigers manager position

Sports is a business of second chances, and sometimes more. The Detroit Tigers are in the market for a new manager with the retirement of Ron Gardenhire. Tigers general manager Al Avila said he is willing to consider two manager who are both suspended because of cheating scandals. From a national standpoint this could seem dicey. From an industry that is more forgiving it should be no surprise.

Alex Cora, who was fired as manager of the Boston Red Sox for his part in a cheating scandal that netted the Red Sox a World Series Championship  is being considered by Avila and the Tigers front office. It was Cora who was also in Houston and spearheaded the Astros cheating scandal when they won the 2017 World Series.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 28: Alex Cora #20 of the Boston Red Sox sits in the dugout prior to Game Five of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A.J. Hinch who was the manager of the Houston Astros, has accepted his part in the cheating scandal that rocked Major League Baseball. Hinch was also fired by the Astros. Hinch said he understands he was the leader and remained silent as the cheating was going on.

Al Avila also said that he has a long list of names he will consider. Something of note, A.J. Hinch’s suspension ends when the World Series is over in late October. Al Avila said he will not open interviews until, you got it late October.

Another point of interest in A.J. Hinch is that he is widely respected inside baseball circles. Yes, he absolutely should have spoken up and come clean about the goings on with the Astros. But, Hinch’s work with a then rebuilding Astros team beginning in 2015 lead them to a championship.

The Detroit Tigers of today nearly mirror the 2015 Houston Astros. A.J. Hinch has said if he had to do it all again he would have put an end to the cheating. He did not making him a rather interesting figure in the Detroit Tigers managerial search.

Other names Al Avila is said to be pondering are  Lloyd McClendon, former Marlins and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, Kansas City Royals third base coach Vance Wilson, Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Don Kelly,K.C.  Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol, former Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond, New York Mets bench coach Hensley Meulens and Chicago White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing.

Of those managers only Hinch has lead a rebuilding team out of a rebuild into the World Series. Tigers fans, if A.J. Hinch is named manger from that standpoint he would be a very good hire. From an integrity standpoint I believe it would be a good hire as again Hinch has accepted responsibility for what went down in Houston.