Five Wishes for the Detroit Tigers in 2014

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Dec 11, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus talks with reporters during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

4. Brad Ausmus Embraces The “New School” Approach

No manager can be expected to be perfect – many of the decisions need to be made in the heat of the moment, and even with piles of after-the-fact data it’s sometimes hard to determine what the optimal move ought to have been – but this doesn’t mean managers should just make the same tired moves that have been made for the last 100 years without applying critical thought to the tactical side of the job.

Jim Leyland was a staunch “old school” guy, and no one would argue that he was an above-average tactician. He excelled at managing the clubhouse, but his on-field moves were never going to be revolutionary. He didn’t like to shift much. He like defined roles for his bullpen. He didn’t like to mix up the batting order, even when players had a day off. He didn’t use his backup catcher as a pinch hitter. He wasn’t afraid to bunt if he thought the situation called for it. Leyland rarely made the repeated gosh-awful moves that drag down win expectancy (like over-use of the sacrifice bunt), but neither did he like to go outside the box and open himself up to second guessing. He lived in that safe middle ground called “tradition”. Ausmus, hopefully, will be willing to buck tradition for the sake of optimal strategy.

This isn’t to say, however, that he should manage to turn the game into something unrecognizable, but in this day and age, the manager’s job is to take in all sorts of new (and old) information to optimize the team’s chances to win every night. The “new school” approach isn’t about having all the right answers, it’s about listening to everyone – the scouts and the data guys – when formulating strategies, deciding when (or if) to bunt, and figuring out how your bullpen best matches up with the opposing lineup.

The Tigers have shown this offseason that they won’t be able to sustain an ever-expanding payroll. There’s a limit to the funds, and we might be just about there. That means extra wins will need to be squeezed out by optimal lineups, sound bullpen usage, and the like. Hopefully Ausmus will embrace this sort of open minded approach and eschew the old school “this is the way it’s always been done” mindset.

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