As the 2019 season approaches, Brad Ausmus will be the Angels 17th manager in franchise history. He replaces Mike Scioscia, who was the highest winning percentage (.536), most wins (1,650), and most playoff wins (21) among all Angels managers in franchise history.
Scioscia is also the only manager in Angels history to get the Manager of the Year award and he received it twice (2002 and 2009). Unfortunately, the Angels hadn’t won a playoff game since 2009 and missed the playoffs the last three seasons causing Scioscia to step down as the Halos manager. The Angels now turn to Brad Ausmus, who is trying to rebound from a very bleak ending to his Tigers managerial career in 2017. In his last season as the Tigers manager, his team went 64-98, causing him to finish his tenure on a sour note with Detroit. In 2018, Brad Ausmus became a special assistant to Angels manager Billy Eppler and spent the whole season getting familiar with analytics and a much needed break from managing. Now Eppler is giving him another chance for Brad Ausmus to show off his baseball acumen and to prove that he will be a a great communicator and performer in the dugout. So what do we know about Brad Ausmus? We will answer some of the most important questions in order for you to get more familiar with the new Halos skipper.
How was Brad Ausmus as a player?
Brad Ausmus wasn’t expected to be much of a player. He was selected in the 48th round of 1987 draft (1,152nd overall pick) by the New York Yankees and he chose to alternate between attending Dartmouth College and playing minor league baseball. He would go to college in the fall and winter, and play in the minors during the spring and summer.
Despite low expectations by major league scouts and big league managers, Ausmus had an 18-year major league playing career with the San Diego Padres, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers. His most productive season was in 1999, when he was an all star that year. In that year Ausmus had 9 home runs, 54 RBIs, and batted .275. He also had 25 doubles, 6 triples, and a .365 on base percentage.
He’s also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2001, ’02, and ’06), and won the 2007 Darryl Kile Award “for integrity and courage”. Here’s an ironic side note: Darryl Kile was also not expected to make it to the majors since he was also picked low in the 1987 draft (30th round and 782nd overall pick).
Ausmus ended up a five-time league-leader at catcher in fielding percentage. He also led the league twice each in range factor, percentage caught stealing, and once each in putouts and assists.
He finished his playing career in 2010 ranked third in major league history with 12,839 putouts as a catcher (trailing only Iván Rodríguez and Jason Kendall), seventh in games caught with 1,938, 10th in both range factor/game (7.12) and fielding percentage (.994). He also ranked first all-time among all Jewish major leaguers in career games played (1,971), fifth in hits (1,579), and eighth in runs batted in (607; directly behind Mike Lieberthal). He was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
As a catcher, Ausmus was able to get respect from Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, and Brad Lidge because they were able to get into a rhythm and trust Ausmus behind the plate. Ausmus had a knack for understanding the weaknesses of opposing hitters while also being able to stop any wild pitches skipping past back him.
Because Ausmus was a catcher, he was required to see the entire game. He paid attention to hitters and how they were swinging and what they were attempting to do and what they’d been thrown in the past. He also knew defensive alignments and game situations and was able to think along with his manager.
He finished his career after the 2010 season with a less than stellar .251 batting average and only 80 home runs. Ausmus said at the time, “Offense has always been hard for me. Every single day of my career. It wears me down at times.” Ausmus is the kind of guy that can understand what a struggling player is going through because he has been through it all before. He spent 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, and defense was always his bread and butter.
After some success as a defensive catcher and retiring in 2012, Ausmus credited his wife, Liz, for his greatest accomplishment — his two daughters, since she raised them when he was gone during the summers.
What was managing like for Ausmus before coming to the Angels?
In 2013, he joined Team Israel as the manager for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Other notables on that team were player/hitting coach Shawn Green, the best Jewish player since Sandy Koufax, and player/bench coach Gabe Kapler, who played in the 2004 World Series. Israel failed to advance from the qualifying round despite losing just one game. Israel beat South Africa and Spain in the quarterfinal and semifinal of Qualifier 1, then lost to Spain in the final. Under WBC rules, that meant Israel was eliminated from qualification with Spain advancing.
This lead him to beginning his Major League managing career in 2014 as the manager of the Detroit Tigers. He led them to the playoffs by winning the AL Central with a 90-72 record after finishing one game ahead of the Kansas City Royals. Unfortunately, the Tigers season ended on October 5 after they got swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series. Prior to that season, Detroit had been to the American League Championship Series three times in a row.
2015 was an even more disappointing season as the Tigers finished in fifth place with a 74-87 record. They had their first losing season since 2008 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. It was a season plagued by injuries to star players Justin Verlander, Víctor Martínez, Miguel Cabrera, José Iglesias, and Aníbal Sánchez.
The Tigers finished 2016 in second place in the American League Central division, with an 86–75 record. They had a chance for a Wild Card berth until the final day of the regular season, but their 1–0 loss to the Atlanta Braves and wins by the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays kept the team out of the playoffs. Ausmus was probably on the hot seat at that moment since the Tigers had talented teams, but failed the make the playoffs for the second straight year, mostly due to injuries.
2017 was a disaster for Brad Ausmus. The Tigers finished last in the AL Central, last in the league and tied with the San Francisco Giants for the worst record in MLB at 64–98, the team’s lowest win total since 2003. However, since the Tigers held a tiebreaker over the Giants, they were able to pick first in the 2018 MLB draft. This was ace pitcher Justin Verlander’s last season with the Tigers, having been with the team since 2005. He was traded to the Houston Astros on August 31. Verlander was the last remaining member of the 2006 American League Champion team.
What went wrong in the Tigers 2017 season?
On March 16, First baseman Miguel Cabrera left a World Baseball Classic exhibition game with back tightness. He never played again for Venezuela and had little time to completely rest the back after returning to Lakeland, Florida for the final 10 days of spring training. Cabrera’s back problems have plagued him all season: He hit the 10-day disabled list in late April and has posted career-low numbers across the board.
On March 18, J.D. Martinez was lost for nearly two months with a right foot sprain. Martinez, one of the best power hitters in baseball this season, was sorely missed in the middle of the Tigers’ order, with Cabrera ailing and Victor Martinez struggling. He did not return until May 12.
On May 7, Francisco Rodriguez blows his second consecutive save against the Athletics, his fourth in 11 tries on the season. Ausmus acknowledged after the game the closer’s role would be discussed. Two days later, lefty Justin Wilson took over the role. Rodriguez’s demotion significantly thinned the back end of the Tigers’ bullpen. He not only could he not close anymore, but he could not be included in any high-leverage situations.
On June 21, Justin Verlander opened with five perfect innings before Jarrod Dyson’s bunt single. Verlander couldn’t escape the inning, the Tigers’ bullpen once again faltered and they were beaten, 7-5, for their fifth straight loss. The losing streak reached eight against the Padres a few days later.
On June 18, The Tigers trade rightfielder J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks for three prospects. It was at that time the front office surrendered this era of Tigers baseball, with more moves to come in the next two weeks before the trade deadline including letting manager Brad Ausmus go.
His 4-year managerial record with the Detroit Tigers was 314-332 (.486 winning percentage) with one playoff appearance.
What was Brad Ausmus’s reaction after finding out that the Tigers wouldn’t renew his contract after the 2017 season?
“When I look in the mirror, I think it’s probably a good idea,” Ausmus told reporters at Comerica Park. “I’m completely comfortable with it. I’ve enjoyed my time thoroughly. I thank Mike and Marian Ilitch and Chris Ilitch. They were tremendous to me as a player and now as a manager. I’ve enjoyed where I lived here, I enjoyed Birmingham, where I lived.
“People outside of Michigan and the Detroit area, they don’t really get what’s happening inside this city. This city and area is on the brink of a renaissance. This is the place it’s going to be and I’ve enjoyed my time here.”
What did Brad Ausmus regret most as the Tigers manager?
“I wish, if nothing else, that we could have won a World Series. Quite frankly, I wish we could have done it before Mr. I passed away. But sports aren’t perfect. And we’ll just part ways very amicably, no hard feelings, I wish Al the best. I think he’s got the organization pointed in the right direction. He’s beefed up the analytics and scouting and he made some touch calls in trading guys like Ver (Justin Verlander) for prospects and rebuilding the minor league system and it’s going to be a little bit of a haul here for the next couple of years but they’re moving in the right direction and I wish the Tigers and Al nothing but the best.”
What did Brad Ausmus say about managing after the disappointing 2017 season?
“It teaches you you gotta have thick skin. That’s the one thing it teaches you. I had pretty thick skin coming in so it wasn’t too bad, but you gotta have thick skin in this business especially as the manager.”
How has experience helped Ausmus as he begins his career as the 17th manager in Angels history?
“There’s no question that experience is an asset,” Ausmus said. “I think in every walk of life, experience is an asset. In managing, whether you experience something in the clubhouse or you experience something tactically on the field, rather than have to reconsider it, it becomes a little more reflexive. You can react to it and understand what the end result will be if you don’t react quickly or properly.
“I know part of the reason I was actually hired in Detroit was the new wave of hiring a young manager with no experience that can relate to the players. But the truth of the matter is that experience helps you everywhere. And if you can still relate to players and have experience as a manager, I don’t understand how it can’t be an asset.”
Why did the Angels approach with analytics sway him to join the Angels?
“It allowed me to dive into what is the meat and potatoes of analytics now and the amount of information. It was remarkable to me because I hadn’t seen it,” Ausmus said. “I think I’m a pretty quick study on it, but that was the crux of why, when Billy asked me to come over here, I felt like it was going to be a really good fit.”
Does Ausmus think he can duplicate Scioscia’s success as the Angels manager?
“I really appreciate what Scioscia did. He immediately brought me in as part of the team in Spring Training, even on the field, in uniform, throwing batting practice or hitting some ground balls,” Ausmus said. “Replacing him? It’s not ever going to be easy to replace someone like Scioscia … he was here for 19 years. I don’t know that we’ll ever see that again. But I’m not here to try and be Mike Scioscia. He was a great, great manager. Maybe he continues to manage. But I’m not here to be Mike Scioscia.”
Ausmus gets a chance to show what a leader he is. He has baseball knowledge, loves his family, and wants to win. Ausmus deserves a chance to prove Eppler right.
Let’s hope that translates into a winning record for the Halos and a playoff berth before Mike Trout becomes a free agent. Trout needs to know that the Angels are serious about winning and Ausmus will get a chance to convince Trout to stay in Anaheim. Die hard Angels fans would want nothing more than that.
Featured Image: Brad Ausmus/ ABC7.com