Well, Angels Nation, here we go. On Sunday, the Angels announced that Brad Ausmus will take the reins as manager of the team in 2019. He has been signed to a 3-year deal, and judging by some of the things said in his press conference on Monday, the expectations and hopes are sky-high for the new skipper. But what can we expect from the Brad Ausmus era in Anaheim?
1. Like It Or Not, It Is Analytics Time In Anaheim
That’s right people. The analytical, probability driven approach to the game that has taken hold around the league for the last five years or so has made its way to Orange County. One of the first things that Ausmus said in his opening remarks Monday was that, “analytics is part of the game…I want to find out more about what we can do to make players on the field better,” and added later that it is important to understand the information at hand, so that it can be employed properly. This is something that Angels fans can be optimistic about, because for all the great things Scioscia was as a manager, one thing he was not was someone who seemed willing to change his more traditional, classical approach to the game. Ausmus has spent the last year as a special assistant to General Manager Billy Eppler, and said Monday that this year off of managing allowed him to “dive into what the meat of analytics is now.” Ausmus is ready to employ the same tactical approach that has led to many an interesting moves by baseball managers in recent years, and I for one am looking forward to seeing the Angels make this shift over the course of this year. The new coaching staff will be announced in the coming weeks, and expect Ausmus to include many people who are as committed to the analytical approach to the sport as he and Eppler seem to be.
2. Ausmus Wants To Win, Win, And Also Win
As we will see most new managers do in their introductory press conferences this year, Ausmus clearly and concisely summed up what the expectations of the fans should be for this team. He very frankly stated, “We want a championship…I don’t have a World Series ring, I want a World Series ring.” For a 3-year contract, these are some bold words, but in my opinion, not out of the realm of possibility for the Angels when you look at the players they have to work with. Certainly they can do better than in recent years, and Ausmus did win a division title with the Tigers his first year as skipper there. Winning has probably been the biggest source of skepticism surrounding Ausmus in the last 24 hours since his hiring was announced, as his record in four years in Detroit was under .500. However, it’s indisputable that, as talented as the Tigers may have been while Ausmus was manager, the Angels are an generally more talented team than he’s ever had to work with. The Angels also have something else that those Tigers didn’t have, which leads me to my next point.
3. We Will See A Number of Prospects Make Their Debuts This Year
If there is one thing that Ausmus seems fired up about for managing the Angels, it’s their prospects. He mentioned by name a number of players he has been impressed with over the last year of watching their game intently, as well as visiting with them, among them Jo Adell and Matt Theiss. He made it clear Monday that “these players are still developing,” but also added that “they have a chance to help the Angels. You’re going to see some of them at some point this year.” This is a virtual guarantee that this year is going to be an exciting year for Angels fans who have been eager to see what these guys are all about, and who may not necessarily watch a lot of minor league play this year. I expect the most debuts to come from pitching prospects, as the Angels have exciting names at both reliever and starter sitting in the minor league, but I do not think an Adell call up is out of the questions this year, based on Ausmus’ statements Monday.
4. The Angels Will Have Class and Professionalism
This isn’t something that the Angels necessarily have lacked in the last few years, but Ausmus made a point of this on Monday. Something he mentioned specifically, and perhaps because it is rather topical considering the blowback Manny Machado has received over the last week or so, is running out balls. Ausmus said that the Angels will play all-out and with professionalism, “and that starts with running out balls. I understand you pop it up, you’re frustrated, but you have to put in the effort.” He also added that, under his leadership, the Angels are going to be known as a team who plays the game “the right way.” I’ll be honest, this is a triggering phrase to me, because I would give the world to see Mike Trout aggressively bat flip just once in his life, or Andrelton Simmons beat his chest like a maniac after turning an amazing double play, and oftentimes the phrase “playing the game the right way” means that players will be encouraged to do the opposite of those things. However Ausmus meant it, how this statement and mindset translates onto the field is something to watch for sure.
5. Expect More Energy From Ausmus Than Scioscia Had
I use the word “energy” to be kind. What I really mean is expect manager ejections. Ausmus has been ejected 12 times through his managerial career, including twice against the Angels, interestingly enough. As someone who lives and thrives off of managers losing their cool over balls and strikes, I am looking very much forward to what Ausmus will bring to the team in that regard. Ausmus has continually shown that he doesn’t take anything that he sees as an egregious oversight by the umpires lightly, and even had this gem of a meltdown against the Twins. In my opinion, as long as a manager doesn’t go overboard with it to the point where it comes off as immaturity, those kinds of things are good for players to see, because it shows that their manager has their back when the umpires are slacking.
Overall, Angels fans should be optimistic about this change, if only just because it’s change. The game has been moving away from the way the Angels ran things before, and it seems like Brad Ausmus is up to the task for his second chance at leading a team from the manger position.
Photo: Maria Guardado, MLB.com