Last night, news broke that Brad Ausmus would be the Tigers’ next manager and Dombrowski and Ausmus met the media to announce the 3 year deal this afternoon. My general thoughts can be found here and the basic takeaway is that it looks like a good move, but there is so much we don’t know about how he will fill the role.
In answering questions, Ausmus made a few comments that really encouraged me. When asked about sabermetrics, he discussed the need to take that information and boil it down into something he can give to players who are resistant to a lot of information. This is a really good mindset in that Ausmus knows it’s his job to pay attention to the advanced numbers and use that to craft his instruction and decision making. It doesn’t matter if Miguel Cabrera knows what his wOBA is, but it does matter that Ausmus knows why wOBA is something to focus on instead of batting average. I think that he does.
Ausmus also talked about leaning on Alex Avila and Gene Lamont during the transition which is a sign of wisdom. Ausmus doesn’t have all the answers, but he knows what he doesn’t know and knows who in the organization can help him. Lamont has been at the wheel before and Avila has marshaled this pitching staff for several years. I study political leadership and decision making in my other life and one characteristic that stands out is knowing who to rely on for assistance.
That said, he hasn’t made up his mind about the rest of the staff. The only thing that matters is Jeff Jones and he said Jeff Jones is a candidate for the job. Hopefully when he takes the time to sit down with Jones and talk with Avila and Lamont about a pitching coach, he’ll see the value Jones brings.
Finally, Ausmus spoke about thinking ahead and communicating, especially as it relates to taking pitchers out and having the bullpen ready. I’m not sure how far down the road he wants to take this, but it sure sounds like he’s going to use his communication skills to deploy a more flexible bullpen strategy. I don’t know if he’ll totally reinvent the wheel, but I would bet he won’t be afraid to use his set up men in much less rigid roles than his predecessor. It’s hard to say how the whole closer thing will go until we actually know who he’ll have in his bullpen, but it sounds like the Tigers are moving in the right direction.
As I said yesterday, we won’t know how Ausmus will do until we see him take the reins but the signs are pointing in the right direction. He gave good answers, even if the press asked predominantly routine questions. Ausmus seems to be a mix of good old boy credibility with some modern sensibilities. That’s the kind of change the Tigers needed. Now the only question is if the perception we have of Ausmus today will match the reality we find in April.