Hinch: ‘Parallels’ with Tigers, ’15 Astros

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Six years ago, A.J. Hinch received a second chance as a manager with an opportunity to lead a talented young roster of players who hadn’t won anything but were ready for the next level of their careers.

Hinch led the Astros into the playoffs that year, and three more seasons after that. As Hinch leads the Tigers back from a 9-24 start — they entered Friday with a 23-19 record since then — there are parallels, even if the Tigers still have a ways to go before playoff contention.

“Obviously, inheriting some really good young talent is an easy parallel,” Hinch said. “When I got to Houston, it was right at the arrival of the young position player core that turned into an incredible nucleus that the club built around. So that in itself, I think, is similar, a little bit more pitching-centric on this side as far as the prospects that we now have, our trio here in the big leagues.”

The 2015 Astros had a multi-time All-Star in Jose Altuve at age 25, but they also had a 20-year-old rookie shortstop in Carlos Correa, and George Springer in his first full big league season. Houston’s pitching was different: Dallas Keuchel won Cy Young honors at age 27 with a 20-win season that year, his fourth in the Majors, and Lance McCullers Jr. had a very good rookie season, but the rest of the staff was largely older.

“The young talent just arriving in the big leagues is the easiest parallel,” Hinch said. “After years of losing, the change in the identity and the culture and the mindset is also remarkably similar. We were focused on that the very onset of my time in Houston, and we started expecting to win, and we won right away.

“Winning is what breeds all of that confidence. It’s not just preaching it. It’s not just talking about it. You’ve got to live it. Certainly over the last two weeks to two months, we’ve been able to do that here, and we feel like we have a chance to win every game. That in itself is, I think, the mindset that winners are built on.”

With that change in mindset comes a measure of patience when young players make mistakes. The 2015 Astros could hit, but they also led the American League in strikeouts. Houston stole a league-best 121 bases that year, but was also caught 48 times, second-highest in the league.

“I think the patience comes in the overall outlook of what you’re trying to do for the organization,” Hinch said. “I have very little patience when it comes to winning the day’s game. You don’t want to concede anything no matter where you are in your process of getting back to winning days. We are trying to establish habits that are going to develop a winning team, and we’ve seen that flourish at times. We’ve also seen us struggle at times. But I think the experience handling young players and going from point A to point C, so to speak, on what it takes to win at this level is pretty similar.”

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