Ausmus has been under a lot of fire from many, I’ve criticized him privately at times. But he’s a good manager in a league that’s hard to become a good manager in. He kept K-Rod in the closer role despite struggling, easily explained by the fact that he may have just hit a rough patch, as he is one of the best closers in baseball. He fixed that issue, albeit a little late, by putting Justin Wilson in the closer role.
He isn’t a bad manager though, I promise. While he makes decisions that make him viewed widely as an incompetent manager, he is comparable to one of the better managers in my lifetime. Jim Leyland, Detroit’s manager from 2008-2013, is a fair comparison in my eyes. In Leyland’s first season as manager, Detroit went 95-67 in the regular season, and won the AL pennant. While Ausmus didn’t lead Detroit to the pennant, he did manage the team to a 90-72 record. Just a 5 game swing between the two in their first seasons as manager, and, in baseball, that’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Their second and third years, they were polar opposites in. In Leyland’s second season, Detroit went 88-74, whereas Ausmus led the team to a 74-87 record. I won’t even vouch for Ausmus here, a drop from 90 wins to 74 is inexcusable for a team that has one of the highest payrolls in baseball. The third season is where the polar opposite part comes in though. Leyland led the team to a 74-88 record, and Ausmus led them to an 86-75 record. Despite not making the playoffs, you can’t argue against the team having significantly improved over his second season.
Now we’re in Ausmus’s fourth year, and fans are calling for his head. At this point in Leyland’s Tigers career, on May 24th, the team was 24-18, a very strong showing and getting the team off to a hot start. Leyland went on to lead the team to an 86-77 record. This year’s Tigers team is 21-23, just 2 games under .500, and something easily fixed if Ausmus had pulled K-Rod from closer sooner, but hindsight is 20/20. On this date, in 2009, Jim Leyland had a win percentage of .532. Ausmus, as I write this, has a .513 win percentage. Meaning, Ausmus has won 1.9% fewer games, which, in a full 162 game season, is a 3 game swing. Not a lot, especially considering the fact that Detroit could get hot at any point this season, and completely negate those 3 games.
Even thought Ausmus isn’t up with Jim Leyland in managerial legacy, yet, the two are very, very comparable throughout their first 4 years in the Tigers manager position. And I know I, like many others, would take Leyland back as manager in a heartbeat. All Tigers fans have to do is give Ausmus a chance and look at the grand scheme. We are in May, and there’s already fans calling for his job, and while it’s fair to believe Ausmus should be on the hotseat, I think he is, it’s not fair to call for his job quite yet. Leyland brought success back to Detroit in the baseball world, and Ausmus needs the chance to continue that success. He’s a young manager still learning the ropes of managing.
All statistics were from Baseball Reference