The Tigers’ Real Problem: Brad Ausmus

MLB: Spring Training-Cincinnati Reds at Texas Rangers

By Jeff Moss
July 25, 2014

Approximately four hours before Dave Dombrowski finalized the Joakim Soria for Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel deal, I made the following prescient Tweet:

And just like clockwork, the Tigers miraculously healed their late-inning pitching woes in one trade for arguably the most effective relief pitcher in the big leagues this season.

Unfortunately, the man deciding when Soria will pitch is the same overwhelmed MIMBO who refuses to pinch-hit for Alex Avila against lefty pitching; continues to utilize Phil Coke in close games; places Don Kelly and his .302 slugging percentage in the 5 or 6 hole in the order; and generally makes two or three head-scratching maneuvers a game.

At this point I don’t think Brad Ausmus is as much Jim Leyland’s replacement as he is Cancer Stick’s UNDERSTUDY. But Ausmus might have even trumped Leyland on Wednesday afternoon during the last game of the Tigers/Diamondbacks series.

In the bottom of the seventh inning with one out and a runner at first, Ausmus summoned the best relief pitcher on his team — for at least a few more hours anyway — the grotesquely-tattooed Joba Chamberlain. The pitcher was due to bat second in the top of the eighth, so this was an opportune time to pull the old National League favorite — the double-switch.

You have to think that a rested Chamberlain was eligible to pitch the eighth if he got out of the 7th quickly. Which he did. With one pitch. A double-play ball. So, Joba eventually batted in the top of the eighth and predictably struck out. This debacle had no lasting impact on outcome of the game as the Tigers blew the game wide open and Chamberlain never even pitched the bottom of the eighth.

This OBVIOUS blunder was just a microcosm of Ausmus’ continued ineptitude this season. The game seems to move too fast for him; I’d say it sometimes appears that Body by Brad is playing checkers while others are playing chess, but that’s being too kind to the rookie manager.

Refusing to pinch-hit for Avila — who is striking out versus lefties at an INSANE 42% clip — and forgetting the double-switch was available? Getting outmaneuvered by noted lunkhead Kirk Gibson? I mean, Ausmus is playing Chutes and Ladders or Hungry, Hungry Scott Andersons by comparison. All of this leads us to the Soria situation and Ausmus’ asinine declaration on Thursday afternoon ….

I can’t even begin to comprehend how moronic this plan is. Instead of determining which relief pitcher to use based on the in-game situation, we’ll just pigeonhole ourselves into some arbitrary process based on inning.

You just gave up your second- and fourth-best prospects in your anemic farm system and your plan is to use Soria in potentially-low-leverage situations because you don’t want to upset the tender sensibilities of Joe Nathan and Joba? Are you fucking kidding me???

Look, I am not saying Soria should be the closer or the eighth-inning guy or any other such nonsense.

What I AM SAYING is the guy with the 2.70 ERA, 1.07 FIP, 1.7 WAR, 44 Ks, 4 BBs and ZERO homers allowed should pitch in the highest-leverage situations while the 39-year-old with ………

…… a 5.89 ERA, 4.18 FIP and who averages almost 4 walks per nine innings and 1.3 HR/9 with a WAR of .1 SHOULD NOT.

Ya know, common sense. Something that obviously isn’t taught anywhere in the game baseball or at Ivy League universities.

Of course, what the Tigers aren’t saying is that they are just waiting for two straight TERRIBLE performances by Nathan so they can slide Soria into the closer’s role, which isn’t the freaking answer at all.

If there were ever a bullpen capable of utilizing Jonah Keri’s grand plan instead of the antiquated system currently employed by every manager, it is this Tigers team. Especially come October when you will add Drew Smyly and his insane splits into the equation.

But Dombrowski and Ausmus are convinced that relief pitchers are fragile entities who must know EXACTLY what inning they are going to pitch hours before a game starts.

I mean, relief pitchers are just dumb baseball players throwing a ball around; they aren’t exactly Jeremy Renner’s character in “The Hurt Locker.”

This plan makes no sense at all and it is only being attempted because it’s the way it has always been done. Well, at least since the modern bullpen was invented.

Look, I am not worried about the Tigers roster at this point. I think the bullpen will be fine. I don’t even think Dombrowski needs to add another lefty reliever.

I am also not of the opinion that they need to acquire a left-handed bat before the deadline. Hopefully Andy Dirks will return at some point and add another option in the outfield.

Finally, I am convinced that Eugenio Suarez is more than competent at shortstop, especially considering whom the team had penciled-in to play that position anyway.

My biggest fear regarding the 2014 Tigers season is “Potato Latka” Leyland. The events of the past week have only heightened that anxiety.