Jul 28, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland (10) is ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild (75) in the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Life After Leyland

I know this is early, and probably unwarranted (highly, HIGHLY unwarranted), but I’ve just about had enough of Jim Leyland.

Like I’ve said before, I like the guy. I appreciate and treasure his time and successes as the manager of the Detroit Tigers. He was a fantastic manager that juggled egos, injuries, and dicey situations, and he was enjoyed by every one of his ball clubs. He helped essentially resurrect a moribund franchise and guide it towards its current status as one of the preeminent franchises in Major League Baseball. The guy has experience, and through that experience he really knows his stuff.

That being said, the dude has to go after this season.

There comes a time in the tenure of any manager where he has reached his limit in terms of what he is able to coax out of a club. Some managers burn out quickly, and some, like Mike Scioscia, retain their posts for years. But the one underlying truth is that eventually a change is necessary. For Jim Leyland, the time is coming soon, if it isn’t already here.

I cannot stand watching him use a bullpen. He waffles. He shows too much faith in others, and not enough faith in some. He clings tightly to the antiquated notion that he has to have a proven closer, that there needs to be specific roles for specific guys who have that specific experience. When he attempted a closer-by-committee, he failed. He sticks by “his guys,” like Phil Coke, even when they have proven that they are no longer adequate at their assigned job.

He Dusty-Bakers his aces. I know that pitch counts are a debatable notion, and that starting pitchers need to go deep into a game to preserve a taxed bullpen. However, there are several starts every year where he leaves his starting pitcher in to rack up unnecessary pitches.  Sure, Verlander seems to be able to handle the workload for now, but what about in a season or two? What if his struggles this season were a harbinger of things to come? (God forbid knock on wood rabbit foot). Remember how Dusty Baker pitched Mark Prior and Kerry Wood into the ground to gain traction with the Cubs in the early ‘00’s? This is what I worry about.

And Leyland’s inability to spark a running game…UGH. With the depreciation of MLB’s overall power game, stealing is coming back in force, and Leyland fails to utilize his fast players. An argument could be, ‘Why have Austin Jackson/Torii Hunter steal a base and leave first open for Cabrera/Fielder?’ Well, why in the world wouldn’t anyone want a free base? It’s not like the lineup ceases being great once one of the Big Two are on base. If anything, sabremetric baseball has shown us the power of a walk, and, correct me if I’m wrong, but having multiple runners on base seems to lead to more runs.

I was ready for the Tigers to deal secretly with Terry Francona last year if it meant no more Leyland (which, seeing what Tito has done with an inferior Indians squad makes my longing all the stronger). Watching his teams sort of underachieve the last few years has just been frustrating, on a spoiled-fan sort of way (how can one not have huge amounts of success having the best hitter AND best pitcher in the major leagues? And arguably one of the most talented teams in the majors?), and I think it’s time for him to move on.

To replace him, I’ve recently become of fan of Bruce Bochy’s bench coach in San Francisco, Ron Wotus. Wotus reminds me a bit of Joe Maddon, in that he’s been at every level and nearly every type of coaching position in the San Francisco Giants system for 25 years. As a minor league manager he has had a good amount of success with the San Jose Giants (1991-92), the Shreveport Captains (93-95, including a championship), and the Phoenix Firebirds (96-97). Oh, and he has two World Series rings in the past three years.  He understands the importance of speed, defense, and how to handle a tremendous pitching staff. He has learned how a lineup functions when a tremendous hitter is involved. And, most importantly, he comes from a great organization and a great manager, and he’s looking for a shot.

I honestly believe he could be a fantastic addition to the Detroit Tigers, a fresh voice bringing a mentality that would properly utilize the players on the squad. Where Leyland’s loyalty is unwavering and powerful to a fault, Wotus is a guy who was part of championship teams that sat some of their better players (Pablo Sandoval in 2010, Melky Cabrera in 2012) for the purpose of succeeding. Would Leyland ever do anything like this?

It’s time for a change, and I hope Mr. Illitch and Mr. Dombrowski can finally realize it.

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Tags: Detroit Tigers Jim Leyland

  • verlander

    Terry Francona bunted with his cleanup hitter today. Not even Leyland would do that.

    • gstoye44

      True, but the Indians did end up winning, so Leyland might be taking notes…

      • verlander

        I’d hope Leyland isn’t that dumb.

  • jimfetterolf

    Nice to see that Kansas City isn’t the only team that bloggers think has a bad manager. I posted your link on the KC Star for some fans who think Ned Yost is the worst manager ever and Jim Leyland is God :)

  • David

    Kind of a crazy time to make this argument, no?

    Leyland has led a team that has basically never been 100% (or even 90%) healthy to the best record in the AL.

    - AJAX slump, no problem
    - Infante out for a month, don’t worry about
    - Peralta suspended, ain’t a thing
    - Miggy battling injuries and playing on one leg, ok Leyland doesn’t get credit for having Cabrera on the team
    - Verlander having a down year, fuggitaboutit

    - Prince Fielder, going thru some personal shit and having his worst season at the plate, so what
    - a seriously flawed bullpen for most of the season, just a bump in the road

    because Leyland has led this team thru all that and they’re still on top. Almost certain to win the division for the 3rd consecutive year. He took over one of the worst teams in baseball and has made it one of the most successful in MLB.

    oh but he manages his bullpen poorly, bunts at weird times, doesn’t try for steals enough. Dear god Fire Jim Leyland because there’s a guy in San Francisco who’s never managed a MLB team before and he’s gonna take this team at least to the ALCS which Leyland hasn’t done since…

    • gstoye44

      I have no problem with his early successes, as stated. But please remind me: how many world series. Has he won in detroit with the teams he’s had? How many world series games? He has one of the greatest hitters and pitchers in a generation, and his teams can’t seem to lap the competition in one of the worst divisions in baseball. If they can’t win this year, he needs to move on.

      • David

        I’m not sure “one of the worst divisions in baseball” applies to the AL Central anymore. Without a doubt the NL East and West are worse. And there’s an argument to be made the AL West is on par with the AL Central, it’s certainly not significantly better.

        KC has allowed the fewest runs in the AL. The Tigers, Indians, and Royals are three of the hottest teams in baseball since the all-star break.

        Winning a single series (in this case the World Series) in baseball is a terrible measure of a baseball team’s roster or manager. It’s not a Super Bowl-like coin flip, but there’s so much randomness and unpredictability in a series. Judging a manager by whether they win one series is crazy.

      • David

        you also shouldn’t hold Leyland accountable for the fact that both Miggy and Verlander seriously underperformed in the World Series last year. I love JV, but Verlander in particular has not been a “greatest in a generation” pitcher in the playoffs. He’s been pretty mediocre in October. Seems like between his slow starts in April and his October mediocrity it might be fair to say that he’s not very good in the cold.

      • chrisHannum

        How about just cleaning house with the rest of the coaching staff?

    • gstoye44

      And managers without experience do seem to be able to not only cultivate a winning club, but also lead to playoff and divisional success, like Maddon or Mike Matheny

  • mikeindcarea

    Very true that Leyland’s teams attempt fewer stolen bases than the league average – has been that way for last 5 years (each year Tigers attempt ~60% as many SBs as average MLB team). It’s also true that the Tigers stolen base attempts end up in outs almost 2x that of the league average (this season Tigers have 53% caught stealing rate vs 37% league average). Maybe Leyland isn’t afraid of getting Cabrera walked. Perhaps he’s afraid of running into outs while Cabrera sits at the plate or in the on-deck circle?

    You’re also concerned about how many pitches Leyland allows his starting pitchers to throw? Yes, Leyland has managed his starters to throw the most pitches per start in MLB: 102! A whopping 5 whole pitches more than league average! And a whopping 2 more pitches per start than 10 other teams in baseball! I wonder how Jim sleeps at night?

    Finally, you’re bullpen handling argument contradicts itself and is flawed. “(Leyland) clings tightly to the antiquated notion that he has to have a proven closer” but, “when he attempted a closer-by-committee, he failed” (closer by committee being the exact opposite of proven closer/designated roles). You also state he sticks with “his guys” too long – citing Phil Coke. Coke has appeared in only 15 games since June (after appearing in 25 games through June). Of those 15 appearances, only 2 were games decided by less than 3 runs (high leverage). And despite Coke basically being relegated to blow out games, he still faced less then 3 batters per appearance (Leyland transitioning him to better suited LOOGY/specialist role). Look, NO ONE is going to argue that Coke is good. But, you have to acknowledge that Leyland is using Coke very differently now than he did at start of season.

    • gstoye44

      He’s using him differently, sure, but how long did it take him to switch to benoit as closer? How long did he obstinately use valverde? Why did he take his time utilizing smyly in high leverage situations? And why does he stuck to lefty-righty splits so adamantly when peripherals don’t always align with those notions?

      • mikeindcarea

        so you’re upset that he doesn’t come to the same decisions you do quickly enough? Benoit is the closer. Smyly is used in high leverage situations. And, Tigers are in first place by 6 games. Hardly a strong argument for firing.

  • chrisHannum

    And yet somehow the Giants aren’t winning…

    • gstoye44

      World Series hangover?

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