By: Holly Horning
How can you tell if a player is having a great season? That’s easy – look at his stats. A GM? By seeing how all his off-season acquisitions performed. But what about the manager? Ah, well that’s a little harder!
So how are we going to judge Brad’s performance this year? How can we replace what really is the fans’ personal opinions with a uniform evaluation system?
On Monday, I wrote a piece on Bruce Bochy, undoubtedly baseball’s current most successful manager and sure inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Over the years, analysts have consistently focused on the issues he addresses that result in success. If you haven’t had the chance to read the piece, you may find it here:
In that blog, I identified and defined six major components that Bruce utilizes in order to maximize performance from his players. Let’s use the same criteria once again and set a performance rubric for Brad. We’ll be sure to revisit this grading system during the year as we hopefully chart Brad’s growth as a second-year manager.
BULLPEN: We all remember what happened last year when the same relievers kept getting hammered day after day. Ausmus must be able to dump rigid role assignments when they’re not working this year. Bonus points if he goes outside the box with a pitcher to match a specific situation.
CONFIDENCE: In his interviews, Brad comes across as hesitant and unsure – and makes some of us miss Jim Leyland’s occasional fiery tone. He needs to speak more decisively, add strong verbs to his descriptions and ramp up the energy level and tone to his voice. He needs to motivate the troops and inspire the fans.
EGOS: All the players need to know that those who perform get to play and those who struggle get to sit. True for the BP especially. But a real progress marker will be giving the Opening Day start to the pitcher who performs the best in Spring Training instead of the guy anointed by tradition.
EXPECTATIONS: The 2014 Tigers were characterized by winning just enough…. to losing… and then regaining first place in their division. Rollercoaster behavior, that resulted in a division title on the very last day of the season, has to be significantly modified for 2015.
FLEXIBILITY: Ausmus certainly was “Mr. Rigid” last year with managing by-the-book. He needs to surprise us with strategy and personnel changes befitting certain situations. He also needs to persevere in maintaining new play strategies that were introduced in the spring.
ROOKIES: JD Martinez sat forever on the bench last year until he could no longer be ignored. Brad has to trust his rookies much more this year so keep your eye on how much play time McCann and (probably) Collins receive.
So what does this all mean? That Ausmus needs to dig deep within himself this year and go well beyond what he did last year. He needs to be confident, courageous and creative. But Bruce Bochy says it best, “Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in the muscles.”