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.