AJ Hinch arrived in Detroit on October 30, 2020. In a little over three years as manager of the Detroit Tigers, he’s undoubtedly been the key driver in the effort to remake themselves into a cutting edge organization. However, on the field things have proceeded in fits and starts, leading to a 221-265 record over those three seasons. Based on the talent he had to work with, that’s not terrible, but obviously the club is still far from their goals.
So the question is how much confidence do knowledgeable Tigers fans have in AJ Hinch at this point?
One thing seems certain. Hinch is going nowhere. This is no surprise to us after seeing the level of influence Hinch has exerted at all levels of franchise. He’s had a rare opportunity as a manager to help reshape player development from the farm system to the major leagues, and had a big hand in the transition of the front office from Al Avila’s regime to Scott Harris. A small but vocal contingent believed that Hinch would jump ship at the first good opportunity after using the Tigers as a stepping stone to rebuild his reputation in the wake of the Houston Astros cheating scandal, but by now it should be obvious that he’s fully committed for the foreseeable future.
On Friday, Hinch appeared on the Foul Territory podcast, which features former major leaguers as guest hosts. At one point, asking about the Tigers and their future, a fairly shrewd question was posed to him. “Would he reach 1000 managerial wins with the Tigers?”
Currently Hinch sits at 791 wins, 209 short of that goal. We’d love to believe that the Tigers will average 105 wins in 2024 and 2025, but that’s pretty unrealistic. To reach 1000, he’ll need to stick around through 2026.
His answer? “Absolutely.”
Now, that isn’t much to go on. A manager can’t say much else. Still, he didn’t say “hopefully,” which is probably the standard answer. We wouldn’t want to make too much out of this, but Hinch’s “absolutely” is the most substantive comment Hinch has made about his contract status and long term plans since he took over. He declined reporters questions on the topic throughout 2023, Chris Ilitch nor Scott Harris have really discussed it in specifics other than to express full confidence in Hinch, and details of the terms or salary haven’t been public.
Of course, if you were watching closely, this wasn’t much of a question in the first place. Much of the overhaul of the Tigers’ front office and player development system has Hinch’s fingerprints on it. When Avila was fired, it was Hinch appearing with Chris Ilitch, assisting in the search that led to Scott Harris, and throughout the process his future as manager was never remotely in question despite a new front office taking over.
Unless things go very poorly, Hinch is going to be managing the Tigers for years to come.
Personally I think Hinch has been a major asset to the Tigers overall, but the one standout flaw to me is the consistently slow starts. He brought it up himself on the Foul Territory podcast. Through April 30, the Hinch-led Tigers have produced records of 8-19 in 2021, 7-13 in 2022, and 10-16 in 2023. The whole 2022 season was just a general mess, but in both 2021 and 2023 the Tigers picked up the pace after rough starts and played average or better ball the rest of the way.
The Tigers can’t afford enough faltering start in April and May if they’re going to threaten in a very winnable looking AL Central in 2024. Right now their most realistic path to the postseason is to convince leadership to be aggressive at the trade deadline with a good first half. Entering camp they should have a few less positional question marks than over the past three years. Hopefully Hinch and company can take advantage of that and be better prepared to hit the ground running.
What is your confidence level in AJ Hinch’s leadership right now? Vote below, and let us know what you think in the comments.
How do you feel about AJ Hinch?
Very confident he’s the right man for the job
Cautiously optimistic about him
Not very impressed with his performance
Would really like to see a change in leadership
90 votes total