I've had my issues this year with A.J. Hinch. The roster is remarkably thin, especially from an offensive perspective. Because of this, how consistently he sits his best hitters bothers me. I wrote a blog about this a few weeks back, complaining about how he loves to sit Kerry Carpenter against lefties. In fairness, he has eased up on that. We've seen Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter get more reps against left-handed pitchers. But as the Tigers have struggled for the seventh consecutive year, I have seen many people complaining that A.J. is not the right man for the job. I have no allegiance to A.J. Hinch. I don't know the guy personally. If I felt like he wasn't the right guy to be the manager for the Tigers, I'd say it. I still think he'll be in the dugout if and when this team ever gets good again.
￼As I said, I've had my qualms with some moves that A.J. Hinch has made this season, but in general, all of my issues relate to one thing- The roster isn't talented. ￼ It isn't completely void of talent, but as a whole, there's a reason why A.J. has felt the need to platoon and pinch-hit more than any manager in baseball this year, and that's because this roster is chock-full of flawed hitters. When A.J. was in Houston, he didn't have to worry about platooning or pinch-hitting for José Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley, or Yordan Álvarez. He did a great job with those rosters largely because they were outstanding. Unlike other sports, I don't believe that you can adequately judge the impact of a manager until he's given actual toys to play with. In 2014, the Tigers brought in Brad Ausmus to be their manager. He was given a World Series-caliber roster and won zero playoff games in his tenure, ultimately leading to the great Al Avila fire sale of 2017. ￼ You aren't a good manager if you can't do shit with an incredible roster. Since he's been in Detroit, A.J. Hinch has sadly not been given rosters to work with. This current group is probably the best roster he's had in the three seasons he's been in Detroit, and they're still probably going to lose 90 games. As bad as they've been, I think you can argue that in 2021 and 2023, A.J. has gotten way more out of his rosters than he probably had any right to. Flaws and all, his players play for him, and that is worth something.
The role of a manager can often be a thankless one. The little things a manager does to help improve their team get overlooked. A.J. has done a masterful job with his bullpen management. He's allowed young relievers to work their way and higher-leverage roles. Tigers fans have had their issues with Alex Lange as the closer, but he can only work with what he's given once again. ￼ The same goes for the offense. AJ Hinch is an intelligent man, he knows Javier Báez can't hit his way out of a wet paper sack, and that's why he's moved him down in the lineup since he got to Detroit. The consistent platooning does get annoying, but nobody would be complaining about this shit if these players were any good. The other night, the Tigers were down a run, going into the bottom of the tenth against the Angels. A.J. went with Javier Baez, Andy Ibanez, Eric Haase. Those are three guys who, given their numbers, should probably not be allowed at-bats in a high-leverage situation. But as a manager, you can only work with what you have.
I obviously sympathize with Tigers fans and their frustrations about the state of the team. But you could give anyone these rosters and the win total would be the same. Would I like to see a little more fire out of A.J. sometimes? Yeah, I would, but that's more of a personal beef. Getting ejected has never won a team a ball game. He tends to abide so much by the numbers that some of his decision-making feels robotic, but most of his decisions make sense from an analytical standpoint. The sad truth is that he leads a team that employs a lot of guys who probably shouldn't be Major Leaguers. If I ever feel like this has run its course and that A.J. has lost a feel for the clubhouse, I'll be the first to say it's time to move on. From what I've gathered, the new President Of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, has no intention of making a managerial change right now. If A.J. were to be let go tomorrow, he'd have another job the next week. He belongs here. He just needs better players. That's easier said than done.