Brad Ausmus is an Ivy Leaguer.
In other words, he’s known guys with pocket protectors. He’s seen number crunchers up close in action.
And yet when you ask him about Moneyball, he’ll tell you it doesn’t add up.
“There is value in numbers,” admitted Ausmus, the Dartmouth product who manages the Detroit Tigers. “I think the important thing is you don’t want to inundate players with numbers.”
Ausmus doesn’t completely discredit Moneyball, sabermetrics, or fancy stats, whatever you might want to call it.
Nor should he.
Nor should anyone.
What he does point out – and again, he’s correct in this assessment – is that taken alone, it’s simply not a formula for winning baseball.
The Athletics are living proof of that.
These Sultans of Sabermetrics, operating with the sixth-lowest payroll in the game, Oakland came to Comerica Park boasting the best record in baseball.
They left Wednesday with their tails between their legs, a 9-3 drubbing cashing out Detroit’s three-game sweep of these masters of Moneyball.
“It wasn’t a very good series for us,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin understated. “When you get swept, it doesn’t feel very good.”
The A’s are supposed to be all about finding ways to put runners on the basepaths and manufacturing runs, but Wednesday, it was the Tigers who did a better job of that.
“The sixth inning had a lot to do with how the game ended up,” Melvin admitted.
With Oakland trailing 3-2, Brandon Moss doubled and Derek Norris beat out an infield single, leaving them with runners on the corners and none out.
Two weak pop ups and a fly out and Detroit starter Justin Verlander wiggled out of the jam.
Detroit scored six times in the bottom of the inning to put the end result beyond doubt.
“We had first and third with nobody out and couldn’t score and then they put up a six spot,” Melvin sighed.
This three-game set offered up a microcosm of what Moneyball alone can do for a team. It can only get them so far, as the Tigers have proven three times in post-season play by eliminating the A’s.
It should be noted that Detroit’s old system of station-to-station baseball and waiting for the three-run bomb hasn’t garnered the Tigers a title, either, so they’ve tweaked things this season under Ausmus.
They still swing at too many pitches early in the count, but are growing more aggressive on the base paths. Detroit has swiped 56 bases this season, compared to 35 all last year.
As for Oakland, Melvin still believes in the process, believes in his team, and thinks they have what it takes to get over that playoff hump.
“I hope we do get to play them again (in the playoffs),” Melvin said of the Tigers. “We feel like we can play with any team.
“They just beat us this series.”
Ausmus is also a believer in sabermetrics, just not on a daily basis.
“There’s value in it, but on a day-to-day lineup basis, you wouldn’t use that,” Ausmus said.
“If you’re a general manager projecting what a guy’s going to do over the next 2-3 years, whether to give him a multi-year deal, what his age is, how that plays out in terms of success, from an analytical sense, there’s probably more value in that for a general manager than a manager.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t use some numbers in our decision-making process, whether it’s in making out the lineup or defensive positioning.
“I see the value in it, but I certainly don’t live and die by it.”
The A’s continue to live and die by Moneyball.
Living large in the regular season. Dying off quickly in the playoffs.
© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star