"I've known Rich Dubee way back from the Florida Marlin days, and I can tell you we're very excited to have him," general manager Al Avila said Thursday. "Rich brings the knowledge and experience to deal with veteran Major League starters, but he also comes from a background of developing young talent. So he's got that combination that we all look for."
Dubee was the Marlins' pitching coach from 1998-2001, leading the club's rebuild behind A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett and Brad Penny. Dubee's first season on staff was the final season in Florida for then-Marlins manager Jim Leyland, one of several people who recommended Dubee to Ausmus.
Dubee's longer, better-known tenure was in Philadelphia, where he served as pitching coach from 2005-13. He coached a star-studded pitching staff that included veterans Halladay and Cliff Lee, but he also coached Hamels for the first eight years of his Major League career. He helped J.C. Romero and Jose Contreras resurrect their careers in a Phillies bullpen bolstered by bounceback stories.
Other Phillies pitchers to work under Dubee included Brett Myers, Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Ryan Madson, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and made it back to the Fall Classic a year later, part of a run of five consecutive National League East titles. They led the NL in ERA in 2011 behind a dream rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Dubee has some universal beliefs, emphasizing first-pitch strikes with a variety of pitches while not being afraid to pitch inside. But he also has an individual approach.
"Every pitcher has their own way they go about doing things," Dubee said, "and you try to find that balance that makes them work most effectively. A veteran guy has a little more say, where you might be more forceful with a young guy."
Dubee has spent the past two seasons as Minor League pitching coordinator for the Atlanta Braves.
The Tigers spent the past week and a half interviewing candidates to replace Jones, who retired after five seasons as pitching coach. Other candidates included former Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty and Tigers Minor League pitching coordinator A.J. Sager.
"Brad did just about all the legwork and research," Avila said. "He turned over a list of names of guys he wanted to interview, and I gave my thoughts, and [Dubee] was at the top of the list."
Said Ausmus: "Really, it just came down to Rich and his experience with the Phillies. I had a lot of recommendations for him. I actually spoke to a number of pitchers who worked with Rich as well, and they all gave glowing recommendations."
Ausmus caught several Astros pitchers who went on to the Phillies, including Oswalt, Lidge and Chad Qualls.
Dubee will inherit a pitching staff led by veteran starters Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez but supported by several young arms, among them Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Ian Krol, Shane Greene, Buck Farmer, Drew VerHagen, Kyle Ryan and Bruce Rondon.
Detroit's 4.64 ERA ranked as the highest in the American League in 2015, a sharp departure from four straight division titles won behind a dominant set of starters. The pitching is expected to improve with better health and experience, along with a potential infusion of free-agent talent. The Tigers are also expected to add relievers after ranking next-to-last among AL bullpens with a 4.38 ERA to go with a Major League-high .271 batting-average against.
"I think a pitching coach can have a lot of impact," Avila said. "But at the end of the day, you have to have health and you have to have talent."
Dubee also walks into a Tigers organization that is using an increasing amount of analytics, from player evaluation to scouting reports, in its operations. Which statistics coaches used, and how open they were to new metrics, was part of Ausmus' interviews with his list of six finalists.
Among other statistics, Dubee said he looks at batting averages in swing counts, first pitches and when a pitcher is behind in the count.
"I believe in using everything, but I think there has to be some type of balance," Dubee said. "And I think there has to be a balance in how much [information] you give pitchers themselves.
"I believe in analytics, and I believe in my eyes also."