Book Comments (DET) — If there's an area where you'd bet on a rookie manager struggling, it has to be handling the pitching staff. The game moves faster from the bench, where more variables are at play than on the field. Even former catchers, like Ausmus, have to adjust to supervising a great number of players and working through more complex scenarios, such as when to warm a reliever. Expectedly, that's where Ausmus took most of his lumps during his first season in charge. But it wasn't for the reasons you'd think. The Tigers led the majors with nine blown quality starts in '14, a product of his unwillingness to turn things over to a leaky bullpen. Sometimes Ausmus' stubbornness proved correct, though those successes were quickly lost to the past. Instead folks remember the failures.
Chief among them: standing by Nathan's side all season. Giving a veteran with Nathan's track record time to get things right is defensible; sticking with him as a high-leverage option when he's at the tail end of a miserable season is more questionable. Ausmus was in a tough spot either way, since he lacked good alternatives. Even Soria, added at the deadline to shore things up, missed time with injury and returned in an ineffective state.
None of that excuses Ausmus entirely. He erred plenty throughout the year, including when he cracked an absentminded joke about domestic violence. But Ausmus wasn't a total lost cause or numbskull out there. If anything, Ausmus' willingness to lose with his starter in the game shows that he comprehended his personnel's limitations too well; a different manager might have deluded himself into thinking the relief options could hold a lead, no matter how many times they'd proved otherwise.
Book Comments (DET) — Jim Leyland heads out into the sunset a borderline Hall of Famer. He won a ton of games, but he also finished barely over .500. He was always a prominent manager, but also overshadowed by the trinity of Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. Only two men have ever won pennants with three teams and both are in Cooperstown: Bill McKechnie and Dick Williams. Leyland nearly became the third, as he went to the Fall Classic with the Marlins and Tigers and came a pinch-hit single from advancing with the Pirates. Just think—Francisco Cabrera might be what keeps Leyland out of Cooperstown.
Incoming manager Brad Ausmus hasn’t managed a single game yet, so it’s hard to say much about him. We do have some idea who he learned from, though. In 18 seasons, he played in 1,971 games for nine skippers, and it breaks down as follows:
585 games for Phil Garner
343 games for Jimy Williams
286 games for Larry Dierker
153 games for Bruce Bochy
150 games for Jim Riggleman
127 games for Larry Parrish
95 games for Cecil Cooper
75 games for Buddy Bell
57 games for Joe Torre
Make of that what you will.