Now that I’ve had a bit of time to calm down from my initial wtf reaction, I wanted to take a look at some of what makes up Brad Ausmus. It was far from a flashy move and in fact felt like a pretty “safe” move. It felt - average - just like the Angels have been for years now. An average manager for an average team. Is that really the case?
Brad Ausmus will probably be a good manager. Probably. If you are strictly playing the odds, there are more good managers than bad ones - right? Sure Ausmus was not well received during his tenure in Detroit, but people change. People learn. They evolve. Especially a guy who spent the past year around the organization and work with and for Billy Eppler.
During his final year with the Tigers, Ausmus did a pretty telling interview with FanGraphs. It’s unknown is how much of that thinking is still with Ausmus versus how much his thinking has been shaped by Billy Eppler.
Ausmus was pretty clear that analytics are not perfect - mainly because humans are a wild card. In other words, you can play the odds at the Blackjack table but if the guy before you hits on a 16, the probability of you winning the hand was just drastically changed. It’s not a bad way of thinking. In Ausmus’ mind it’s also about playing the odds. You look at what the likely outcome is of a given situation and you gamble. The question is how much will Ausmus be in tune with those odds? Is he going to look at actual splits data or assume a righty is better against a lefty in a given pinch hit opportunity? I’d like to think the later is true.
Much of the Ausmus criticism comes from his bullpen management.
Trust me, Angels fans are going to find it maddening in some tie game bases loaded situation in which Ausmus uses the team's worst member of the bullpen because he's the Official Seventh Inning Righty.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) October 21, 2018
Does this mean we get to see Cam Bedrosian in the 9th inning of a 1 run game? Let’s hope not. However, in that 2017 interview, Ausmus seemed pretty bent on defined roles - at least the kind that tell you who pitches the 9th inning and the like. He wasn’t a fan of putting in your best pitcher in a tight spot earlier in a game because then who closes? Agree with that or not, he makes a good point. Closing a game is NOT like pitching in any other inning as he says. Also, finding that closer requires a bit of trail and error. Perhaps that is Keynan Middleton when he returns, but don’t be surprised if we see some trail and error in the closing role to start the season. You don’t really know who can close until they try.
Gone may be the days when the Angels look for the best pitch framer at catcher. Ausmus saw this as important but not as important as how good the pitcher is. He seemed to downplay the impact of that skill and maybe is more of a game calling kinda guy over how pretty you make the pitch look.
Ausmus seems to be a guy with a pretty calm temperament but he can throw down when he needs to. Ausmus averages 4 ejections per year in his 4 seasons compared to Mike Scioscia who averaged just 2 per year over his 19 year and was only ejected once in the past two seasons. I think it’s important for the manager to be collected but also lose his sh!t at times from bad calls. That passion shows how bad you want to win and that fire was something that seemed to fade in Scioscia over the years.
Of course the big elephant in the room is how Ausmus will handle Albert Pujols. Healthy or not, will Pujols be taking at bats away from Shoehei Ohtani? Will Pujols continue to drive the ball into the ground and put up one of the worst offensive seasons of his career while batting in the 4 hole? Ausmus may win a lot of fans right away by not batting Pujols 4th and taking at bats away from him if he struggles.
One thing for sure is that Billy Eppler’s career may be on the line over the next few years. Mike Trout as an Angel may be on the line over the next year or two. Eppler’s legacy is on the line as a 3 year general manager who has yet to product a playoff team. Now that he has put much of his own people in position - especially a manager - it’s time to show up.
Time will tell what kind of manager Brad Ausmus will be and we may get a hint of that as he assembles the managing team around him. Leaders are often only as strong as their supporting crew and Ausmus is going to have to put together a solid managing team if he wants to turn the car around and help make this a winning team.