Tigers retain 5 coaches, not Van Slyke

I had been expecting an announcement about the coaching staff, but this wasn’t it . The Tigers invited 5 of their 6 coaches back for the 2010 season, but Andy Van Slyke is pursuing other other options.

In addition to coaching first base and catching the ceremonial first pitches, Van Slyke also had responsibility for the outfielders and baserunning. Mike Rogers looked at the numbers on both of those fronts and found them to be largely inconclusive. The Tigers baserunning hasn’t been good, but they haven’t had a lot of speedsters or 1st to 3rd guys. Their outfield defense has been mostly adequate.

Tom Gage notes that the replacement will most likely come from within the organization and that the early speculation is that roving minor league instructor Gene Roof would get the gig, though staff assignments haven’t been finalized yet.

I’m most concerned that there doesn’t appear to be any organizational traction to alleviate Lloyd McClendon of his duties.

Fire Jim Leyland: Andy Van Slyke’s Impact on the Tigers
Tigers say goodbye to Andy Van Slyke | detnews.com | The Detroit News
Andy Van Slyke Won’t Return Next Season – Bless You Boys


  1. Andrew O

    October 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I can’t believe it! I read an article about this last night. How can McClendon keep his job after this season’s offensive performance where the team proved that they don’t respond to his coaching? Time for a fresh start like this year with Rick Knapp. I’ve been calling for Lloyd to be replaced since June, but I live in New York and most people don’t even know or care who I’m talking about.

  2. dredford

    October 10, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Interesting. Of all the changes that need to be made, specifically those involving the lack of hitting, the first coaching change to be made is the first base coach? I’m not sure, but I don’t remember anyone, at any time, saying that any of this team’s deficiencies could be remedied with a new first base coach. If the next coaching change involves a new “bench coach” or a new “bullpen coach,” you’re going to have to talk me off the ledge. I just don’t understand why Van Slyke and not McClendon.

  3. Mark L

    October 10, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I’ve always liked VanSlyke, if for nothing else than his comment about playing outfield in the Humphreydome as being like “playing inside a toilet bowl.
    How about we make him hitting coach? He actually showed during his career that he could hit.
    I think you’re forgetting the incriminating photos McClendon has of DD and/or JL.

  4. Chris Y.

    October 10, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve said this before, here, and elsewhere:

    Why would you ask a career .244 hitter to be your hitting coach? I think the results over Lloyd’s tenure are obvious, and in some fairness to Lloyd, should have been expected.

    As a former teacher, I can tell you that someone with a poor background in a particular field should not be teaching that subject, regardless of their ability to impart knowledge. Under that scenario you have an individual that is merely good at coaching misconceptions and incomplete concepts.

    LINK: http://www.baseball-reference......ll01.shtml

    • Vince in MN

      October 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm

      Or for that matter, why would you have someone who never played a major league game, manage in the Bigs.

      • jb61973

        October 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm

        WIth all due respect to both of you, what someone did as a player has zero relevance.

        • Andre in Chi

          October 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm

          I wouldn’t say it has zero relevance. It might not be the end-all-be-all, but there’s certainly some relevance in there somewhere. That’s my guess, having neither played nor coached.

        • dredford

          October 10, 2009 at 3:16 pm

          I’m not sure it has “zero relevance,” but I think it probably has some. Fast forward 15 years…does anyone think Adam Everett has much of a future as major league hitting coach? Possible, but highly unlikely. The question then becomes, what measurements are we to use to judge the effectiveness of a hitting coach? I could suggest several:

          1. A higher OBP from year to year, both for the team as a whole and the batters individually.
          2. Plate discipline as measured by pitches per at-bat.
          3. Runs scored. After all, the goal is to score runs.
          4. More walks (tied to #1 and #2). More walks are better than fewer walks.
          5. Fewer strikeouts, as nothing good can happen if the ball is not put in play (ask the Cardinals what can happen when a ball is put in play).
          6. Conversion of prime scoring opportunities.

          All that being said, I would like to hear–from Leyland or DD–what IS the measurement for a hitting coach? What do they use?

          • Andre in Chi

            October 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm

            “5. Fewer strikeouts, as nothing good can happen if the ball is not put in play (ask the Cardinals what can happen when a ball is put in play).”

            This is a double edged sword, because while nothing good generally comes out of striking out, it is a lesser evil than a double-play ground out, for example.

            I will agree though that, generally speaking, less Ks = good.

          • Coleman

            October 10, 2009 at 5:56 pm

            Good point about the GIDPs Andre…if the Tigers had struck out instead every time they hit into a GIDP they would have won the division (OK, I realize I’m hardly out on a limb here claiming a team with no GIDPs would do well…). Of course, that’s not very likely when you’re leading the league in 1st pitch GIDPs…

          • Coleman

            October 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm

            Strike outs generally have no correlation to won/loss records.

            The teams that struck out the least were the Twins (OK), the Yankees (yep) and #1, the Orioles (oh…). The teams that struck out the most were the Indians (ha), the Rays (hmm), Texas (hmm), and the Red Sox (oh…).

            Unless you’re in a runner on 2nd-no outs or runner on 3rd less than 2 outs situation, or playing a team with an astoundingly atrocious defense, or bunting against the Tigers in the postseason, a strike out is just an out, that’s all.

            That the Tigers had a bad habit–OK, an awful habit–of striking out with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 out I think is less a function of guys who strike out too much, and more guys unable to adjust properly for situational hitting.

            I mean Inge–INGE!–rarely struck out in that situation, so I know it can’t be THAT hard. And that has to be at least somewhat on the hitting coach.

      • Chris Y.

        October 11, 2009 at 9:15 pm

        Management skills are almost universal. Great motivators and strategists who know a heck of a lot about a subject (here: baseball) can, with the right talent (baseball or whatever else), be very successful.

        A “hitting coach” by definition, is much more subject-specific. Does success in such a role require previous proof of a slugging savant? Probably not. But, anyone who claims that coaching ability trumps hitting knowledge in that role, has pulled a few too many turns at the pipe.

        To me, Lloyd McClendon is just another recycled manager who probably is “out-of-position” as a hitting coach. I only see the need for one manager on a team. Turn the tables for a second. How would you feel about making Joe Torre the Tigers next pitching coach? I bet he’s a great teacher. But I’d rather have someone who has a significant history as a pitching coach or someone with less experience who was successful as a pitcher (on some level) and with some skills as a mentor.

        For all we know, L. Mac may know plenty about hitting and is probably the baseball equivalent of John Keating, but what exactly are his credentials as a hitting coach? Detroit?

    • Coleman

      October 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm

      I think the best coaches are the ones who know the game best. These are sometimes quite marginal players, who managed to stay in baseball because of what was in their heads. It’s not a coincidence so many former catchers are/have been major league managers.

      As far as hitting coaches in particular, I’m not sure what my opinion would be–I mean there are pitching coaches out there who are legendary and pretty much standards for the genre–Dave Duncan, Leo Mazzone etc. But who are the legendary hitting coaches??

      I would think to some extent it is contextual–what is it you’re trying to change/accomplish? I think it’s completely relevant that McClendon was an aggressive low BA/OBP hitter in his career IF you’re trying to make an organizational change to a high-pitch-count type of approach. If they keep Lloyd as hitting coach Dombrowski is just blowing hot air…(and yes, this has to happen mostly in the minor leagues. Still…)

      As with most sports, the very best players are often the worst coaches, because, firstly, they are often so gifted they don’t have to think about what they do (look at poor Magic Johnson trying to coach the Lakers), and secondly, they often succeeded from a self-generated hard work/drive that almost precludes coaching–so they never learned what good coaching looks like. Even Ted Williams, who thought a lot, and well, about the game.

      Heck, it’s not just sports, this happens in all kinds of disciplines. On a personal note, once upon a time I was an English PhD student. So I was assigned as an instructor in a Freshman English class. Which I had no frickin’ clue how to teach, and it didn’t take me long to realize I was about the worst possible person to teach a course like that BECAUSE I was good at it–grammar, spelling, composition, all that stuff, I just sort of DID IT, and never had to think about it. Not a very good background, in my opinion, for teaching something…

  5. Kathy

    October 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Coleman, I just love what you wrote. You have tremendous insight. I’m not a very “verbal” person and don’t write real well, but I can certainly appreciate someone who does have those skills. I worked in public education for most of my life and I can tell you one thing I learned is that it’s not the person with the best grades or test scores who make the best teachers. It’s the person who has great classroom control strengths.

    • Coleman

      October 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      Yeah, but you can SCREAM, and whenever I try that, it comes out as kinda…well, shrieky, if you know what I mean. So it’s a skill I admire in others…


      Yeah, but, as you’ve no doubt heard, those that can’t, teach. But also–those that can’t teach…also teach, unfortunately…

  6. George Houchens

    October 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Coleman, I agree with you that success as a ballplayer doesnt necessarily make you a good coach. Take a look at some of the more successful coaches in baseball history: Casey Stengel, Sparkey Anderson, etc. To my knowlege they all were at best marginal ballplayers. But they had to study the game harder to make up for their lack of talent. And they had the ability to communicate and handle the egos of their players. Most importantly, perhaps, they were blessed with the job of handling exceptionally talented players. Bottom line, coaches are only as good as the talent they are provided.

    • Kathy

      October 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm

      And the talent performs under the direction of their manager.

      • Kathy

        October 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

        You can’t perform if you’re not on the field or vice versa. You can’t perform when you are set up for failure.

  7. Vince in MN

    October 11, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Two things are required for being a good teacher:

    1. You have to know your stuff.
    2. You need to be able to have a raport with your students.

    Part 2 doesn’t necessarily follow from part 1. Some folks can do it, some can’t. If you can, you still need a willing student. If you have the brain of Einstein and the charisma of the Dalai Lama and your student is Brandon Inge….. well, you’re just not going to get too far.

    In the end, we really don’t know where Lloyd McClendon fits in this scenario. The numbers on the stat sheet don’t look too good, but how much of the results are his responsibility as opposed to the offensive woes of the individual players.

    The following is a rhetorical flourish:
    And what about Rick Knapp? He came in with the rep of emphasizing the art of throwing strikes and what happened – BBs all over the place. Is he a bum because the Tigers pitchers didn’t cut their walks in half this year? There are too many variables to make a definitive assessment.

  8. David

    October 11, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    • Vince in MN

      October 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

      • David

        October 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

        What is your point?

        • Vince in MN

          October 13, 2009 at 8:38 pm

          Chapman is the guy Cobb gave the advice to.