AUSMUS NEEDS GOOD PUNCH … OFF THE BENCH

By:  Kurt Snyder

Yeah I can hear you guys, “You’re kidding me! Kurt’s picking on Ausmus again today?” Well, yeah, a little. It’s a topic with so many options, so many angles, so much material, and so many mistakes.

I have to admit, I hope Brad Ausmus does a better job picking his bench for this year than he did prior to last year’s playoff series with Baltimore.

As much as we would like to forget the Orioles sweep of the Tigers, much can be learned. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference between winning and losing. And Brad is going to have to master how he handles the big things and the little things this season.

I remember the day that Brad Ausmus announced his post season roster which mysteriously included Hernan Perez. There are points during every season where it seems that the average fan really can make a better decision than the manager. This was one of them.

Ausmus was asked why Perez had been chosen for the roster over left-handed hitting Tyler Collins.

His answer? “The presence of the 2 left-handers (Andrew Miller and Zach Britton) at the back of their bullpen.”

So, Hernan Perez, a career .205 hitter, with 5 at bats all season, was getting the nod over Collins, the only guy off the bench with actual ability to hit the ball hard somewhere. Why? Perez hits right-handed.  And I use the word “hits” quite loosely.

Heck, Collins should have been added to the roster just as insurance for Davis, who hobbled into the playoffs, after convincing Ausmus that he could steal a base.

But, once we saw Davis run, it was obvious he would be of no value to the team. Speed is his game and speed to burn. So strip it away, and he has little value. He had as much value on that roster as Hernan Perez.

But shame on the Tigers for not having someone, maybe a veteran, specifically for late inning situations, who could pose a threat.

The Orioles had that in Delmon Young. The San Francisco Giants had Michael Morse.

What an advantage that was to have a guy who could come in and have the ability to get an extra base hit, a guy who could hit the ball out of the park. Both Young and Morse were nice luxuries to have for both teams and they paid dividends in the playoffs in 2014.

So the bench will again be an interesting subject for the Tigers in 2015. Tyler Collins, I would think, will certainly be a part of this team and I would expect him to get a lot of playing time. He’s got some pop in that bat and he plays hard. And he’s that left-handed bat that the team always seems to lack.

What will be strange is that the Tigers won’t have Don Kelly to kick around anymore. Regardless of how a lot of fans felt about him, he was valuable. But as versatile as he was, he had a weak and powerless bat.

It’s been a staple of Tiger utility players in the past. They would have versatile bench players but few with much offensive punch; Ramon Santiago was another.

Recently, over the last few years, you could always count on the team to make a big splash with a huge addition at the trade deadline. But this season, the Tigers could add pieces to supplement the lineup, addressing depth as opposed to some big, high impact move.

If nothing else, we have to keep that final inning of last season in mind. In every area of the roster, you must give yourself a chance, and if you do that, you can live with the results. But there were no hitters on that post season bench last year, and it finished the Tigers off.

8 thoughts on “AUSMUS NEEDS GOOD PUNCH … OFF THE BENCH

  1. I’ll start saying I was one who loved to see Kelly on the roster, his versatility was priceless. That said, it would be useful to have Collins coming off the bench, but here we have another question mark called Iglesias. How healthy is he? How deep can he play in a game? Can he be on the field every day? Till the Tigers know that, my guess is both Romine and Perez will come north on Opening day. If one of them doesn’t, we might lose him on waivers, and with all the middle infielders traded away the last few months, I don’t see that happening. Mochado is for real, but needs more seasoning in the minors.The tigers have a pretty good and balanced lineup, maybe versatility will take over better hitting.

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    • Frankie – I understood Kelly’s value, never participated in the “why does Kelly play so much?” frenzy. But we need a bat we can go to. We cannot get caught in the same situation in October. Thanks, Kurt

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      • Yeah, having “value” doesn’t necessarily equal being “valuable”. I wouldn’t call Kelly’s versatility exactly priceless. I think “beneficial” would be a more accurate word.

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      • Randal – versatility is a necessity on every team. I would guess most teams have a “Don Kelly.” Not everyone can hit, but on a given day, it’s good to have a guy who can manage his way around the field. I just think you have to have one guy that is on that bench because of his bat. The Tigers have lacked that guy for awhile. Thanks, Kurt

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  2. It would have been nice to have a bat with punch on the bench last year but unlikely to have changed the outcome. A bat with punch is a luxury. Baltimore had Delmon Young, but the flip side is that he is a huge defensive liability. Not fair to compare to San Fransisco or any NL team, they don’t carry a full time DH. And that is part of the problem for the Tigers, they do carry a full time DH in Victor. Now the benefits he brings far out weigh the downside. As far as bench construction, most AL teams with a full time DH will carry a back up catcher, back up OF, back up IF and depending on the positions the backups can cover, one additional player to fill in the holes. That is why DK was valuable, he filled all the holes, except the one in his bat. For this year, yes, Collins would be nice to keep on the team. He can play all three OF positions if needed. But with 4 OF who should play a lot, I really don’t see him being able to get that many AB’s, and for a guy still pretty green, seems a waste to have him on the big club sitting and spitting on the bench. Both Romine and Perez can play SS, 2B, and 3B, and both are out of options. That is why you see both taking some OF during spring training. So I can see keeping both and putting Collins in Toledo, at least until you could trade one of them. That does not solve your bat on the bench issue however. But honestly, who are you going to need to PH for? Gose? Rajai can do that. Avila? You would use McCann. Iggy? Maybe, but seems it would be pretty rare during the regular season to want to pull one of the best defensive SS in the game for a PH. At least not early in the season. Crunch time, different story. Which is why I could see the Tigers keeping Collins in Toledo to start, and bringing him up later in the season and for the playoffs.

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    • Robert – Collins needs a fair shot and regular diet of major league pitching. So when the post season rolls around, maybe you have someone major league ready and he can be plugged in for the post season (assumed). If not, you make a small move to be sure you have that bat and some more flexibility.

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      • Kurt, all respect due to your opinion, but I think you are way too ahead thinking the post season roster in March. At the time the tigers will know much about the health and athletic form of all players. My opinion is that teams should not carry a full time DH, even though VMart forced the tigers to resign him. Not carrying a full time DH of course give the team more versatility and more chances to carry a potential good hitter off the bench.

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      • Frankie – I believe this is a playoff team and our bench will be important in helping getting us there. All 25 guys are important. And at the deadline, if you have a weakness in depth, you address it if it can’t be solved from within. I was using last year’s playoff to help illustrate the need to improve your depth, or at least make better decisions with it. Thanks, Kurt

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