Detroit Tigers: What Would Brad Ausmus Do?
The Detroit Tigers are sitting at home this postseason. If Brad Ausmus was faced with the decisions Buck Showalter and Terry Francona had to make, Ausmus would have chosen Showalter’s path.
As the Detroit Tigers sit home, fans have an opportunity to watch the teams and managers that led them into the postseason. Over the course of three games, Tigers fans have had the opportunity to watch how their manager would have handled a high leverage situation, and how a different manager would handle his high leverage situation.
The Baltimore Orioles were tied with the Toronto Blue Jays. Buck Showalter had the best reliever in baseball and a Cy Young candidate in his bullpen. Since they did not have a lead and a save situation, Zach Britton stayed in the bullpen. Instead of managing for the game in front of him, Showalter managed for a situation that never happened.
Same Situation, Different Style
The Cleveland Indians were in a similar situation. Up just a run with the middle of the Boston Red Sox lineup stepping to the plate, Terry Francona turned to Andrew Miller in the 5th inning to get what he deemed the most important outs of the game. He believed the middle of the Red Sox order would hit twice more in the game, in the fifth and in the eighth, especially if his relievers did their jobs.
Francona kept Miller in the game for 40 pitches and two full innings. Instead of waiting one batter too long, Francona turned to another quality reliever who got him 2/3 of an inning. With one out in the eighth, Francona then turned to his closer to get him five outs. All of his moves worked.
One can say Francona just managed for Game 1, but he knew he had Corey Kluber pitching in Game 2 and will rely on his ace to get deep into the game.
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When faced with the same decision, Brad Ausmus falls into the Buck Showalter camp. He believes in bullpen roles where the closer pitches the ninth, and only on rare occasions pitch one out in the eighth.
Ausmus first showed this decision making in 2015 when he “saved” Alex Wilson for extra innings when he was their best reliever.
Toward the end of 2016, Ausmus started to hold his pitchers on shorter leashes, but when he needed an out in a key situation early in the game, he would not turn to his best relievers. The Tigers do not have pitchers like Andrew Miller and Brian Shaw in their bullpen which falls on David Chadd and Al Avila, but Ausmus’s style would not allow him to make the move that helped win the Cleveland Indians Game 1 of the ALDS.
Next: Tigers Need a Veteran Catcher in 2017
As Ausmus returns to the Tigers in 2017, he can only use the players on his roster; but, he will need to take another step forward in his managerial style to put his players in the best place to win on a nightly basis.