By:  Kurt Snyder

We all knew it didn’t we? We all knew it was a dangerous move. Mike Pelfrey on Saturday had survived a horrible beginning. Texas had begun the game with back to back homers.

But after the opening damage, Pelfrey settle down and headed into the 6th inning with a 5-2 lead. What a turnaround! Finally, it appeared that Mike was in a position to get his first win; a victory sorely needed by the Tigers.

So what was the dangerous move? Well, the Rangers began the 6th with the top of the order, Odor and Mazara, who had opened the game with the back to back homers. They came to the plate and began the inning with 2 consecutive hits, resulting in their third run. Meanwhile, appropriately, Ausmus had both Alex Wilson and Kyle Ryan warming in the pen.

With Beltre coming to the plate, it would certainly be the end of the day for Pelfrey. Didn’t it have to be? Wasn’t it important, after such a rough start to the game and to his season, that Pelfrey leave the game with the lead and feeling relatively good about himself? And more importantly, with the bullpen warming with both a righty and a lefty available, why gamble with Pelfrey against a player who has routinely killed the Tigers over the years?

The Ausmus decision? One more batter for Pelfrey. A dangerous gamble. An unnecessary gamble. As soon as I heard Beltre’s name announced, I expected Brad to emerge from the dugout. And he did eventually; after Beltre’s homer that is.

It reminded me of one of the strengths of Jim Leyland’s managerial style. It was important for him to give his starters the opportunity to win a game. It was important for a rookie or a struggling starter in need of a win to instill some confidence going forward to get that win, or sometimes just not get the loss. So Leyland often removed his starters at a time when they may be in danger of losing the lead and the opportunity to getting the win after pitching well.

This was a time when that way of thinking needed to be put in motion. Pelfrey has struggled so much as a Tiger. And the Tigers were still reeling from the sweep in Cleveland and the series opening loss to Texas.

It’s hard to say Saturday’s game was critical. It’s hard to say that this May game against Texas would make the difference in the team’s quest for a division title. It is still “early.”

But it didn’t have to be this way, and Saturday showcased another reason why Ausmus continues to attract criticism. He needed to be looking for the best time to get Pelfrey out and I find it hard to fathom that he thought that time was after Beltre batted, not before. It was so important in my mind that he leave the game with the lead.

There must be so much that needs to be considered during every game, every situation in order to be a successful major league manager.  And with a tough schedule ahead of them, Saturday’s game needed to be treated with more of a sense of urgency.

The Tigers need Mike Pelfrey. They need him to be successful. And setting him up for failure puts undue pressure on him going forward, even as a 37-year-old veteran pitcher.

After giving up the game tying Beltre homer and subsequent “too late” removal, camera shots into the dugout showed Pelfrey suffering on the bench; beating himself up over another failed start.

But this was not his fault; he should have never been in the game when Beltre came to the plate. Anyone knowing the situation could see that. Why our manager couldn’t is troubling.

It’s why I harken back to the days of Leyland. Sure, Jim never won a World Series with the Tigers, but he won a lot and I mentioned long ago that his shoes would be hard to fill.

Managing requires a constant peek into the future. Brad not only needed to get a win under Pelfrey’s belt, but he also needed for him to begin feeling better about himself, whether the game is won or not. A confident Pelfrey is sorely needed going forward and it’s the very last thing he will be, heading into his next start. There won’t be confidence. There will be doubt.

So is this another Totally Tigers trashing of our manager? Well, it’s certainly a situation again worthy of discussion. This is the state of our team and we are obligated to discuss what is ailing the Tigers when things are not going well. We can’t ignore the source.

There is continued evidence that the Tiger manager continues to fail in both execution and the psychological aspects of the game. Poor decisions can have lingering consequences. Mike Pelfrey was a victim today and who knows how it will affect him going forward?


  1. Brad Ausmus has yet to show any special gifts or talents. He is mediocre at best. Obviously the owner cares enough about this team to staff the best players he can find year in and year out, but for some reason when it comes to the skipper, he settles. I guess he does not assign value and priority for the managerial position to the degree that fans like me do.

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  2. I can’t actually cite specific instances but my memory of Leyland is that he would leave pitchers in that were obviously struggling and remove pitchers that were seemingly pitching well. Just saying.

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  3. Yes, Ausmus has a track record of leaving starters in until they have been bombed, but Pelfrey simply has not performed at the major league level. He has more walks than K’s, a WHIP of 2.053, and ERA of 5.68. Manage that..


  4. I like the general topics you and Holly cover, but I really like discussing the prior days game. Second, I noticed how Leyland would pull pitchers at what we both agree was the right time in the cases you cited. I often wonder with the goofy lineups, etc. if Brad is trying to prove that he’s smarter than everybody else in the room. Pelfrey looked shattered, and it didn’t have to be.


  5. What about the effect that it has on the rest of the team? I sense that the team isn’t responding to anything Ausmus does and this is another reason why. Oh sure, they still have to play the games but they are not putting much effort into their play.


  6. I’m expecting that Ausmus will be gone by the time the team gets back from Baltimore. Leyland has been seen traveling with the team. He’s said he’ll be on the road with the team until the end of the road series with the Orioles. It’s rumored he’s been asked by Mr. I to take Ausmus’ place but there certainly are other candidates for the job close by.


  7. Pelfrey should not have started the 6th inning… Leaving with a 5-2 lead and in position to get the win would have been huge for him…

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  8. Mr. I will dispense with Brad NLT June 1 if we do not see a dramatic turn around….and we won’t. For now, irrespective of Pelfrey’s inflated salary, he needs to mop up until he gets his act in order. I have never, ever, felt so negatively about a Tiger starter.


  9. Good post Kurt. I agree with every word. Apart from Pelfrey’s particular need for confidence, there was the third-time-through-the-lineup factor. With the team now carrying eight relievers, the presumption should be to go to the bullpen to start the sixth inning, or at least at the very first sign of trouble.


  10. I don’t have an issue leaving Pelfrey in for that situation. He had settled down and his pitch count was < 80. Pulling him could also have had negative implications on confidence (as could pulling him to have the bullpen blow the game–as they did).


  11. Normally I would agree leaving someone in with 80 pitches thrown, but with Pelfrey… there is history with him falling apart around the 5th and 6th. I tried to look for stats on what his average pitch count is for both those innings but could not find it. Maybe Holly or Kurt may have a special place they know to look?? lol


  12. During the Beltre at bat, he had him 0-2 and then threw him 3 strikes!! The pitch calling/selection for that at bat was terrible and many Tigers pitchers have given up 0-2 hits recently. Somebody has to take responsibility here. The great Gene Mauch used to fine pitchers who gave up 0-2 hits.


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