The return of baseball must be near, because the first episode of "TigerTalk" in 2014 aired Monday night on 97.1 The Ticket. Host Pat Caputo talked Tigers baseball with radio play-by-play man Dan Dickerson, as well as new manager, Brad Ausmus.
Dickerson shared his thoughts on the Prince Fielder trade, saying that was something that "needed to happen," however unlikely it seemed. "You didn't get the sense that he enjoyed his home ballpark, or even being here, really. I know that sounds harsh," he said.
With the loss of Fielder, however, comes a drop in offensive power. Dickerson expressed his optimism, saying, "I LOVE the look of this offense. They may score fewer runs, but it's going to be a more interesting offense." That may seem like an odd thing to say, but Dickerson elaborated later, explaining that an offense that can go first-to-third on a hit to right field, or steal bases even when the opposing pitcher knows it's going to happen, is an offense that can put "more pressure on the [opposing] defense."
Part of the reason behind Dickerson's optimism lies in the improved Tigers defense: "Will they score fewer runs? ... Probably ... but I think they're going to prevent more runs." Still, certain key players will need to improve their performance this year, as Dickerson added, "Andy Dirks and Alex Avila have to have better years. They just do."
As far as the upcoming 2014 batting lineup, Dickerson favors a bit of a shake-up: "It's more a 'feel thing,' but, Kinsler, one, Jackson, two, drop Hunter to five ... Cabrera and Martinez at three and four." An interesting proposition to imagine, for sure.
Manager Brad Ausmus also took some time to talk with Caputo and Dickerson, noting that, now that the New Year has begun, "I've already started grinding over stuff for Spring Training."
How does Ausmus feel about the revamped offense? "It's probably a little bit more athletic, there's a bit more speed with Davis, and Kinsler." He quickly returned to the idea that "it all comes back to pitching and defense," pointing out the luxury of being able to "throw those front three starters out there ... Max, Justin, Anibal ... there's not a manager out there who wouldn't want that."
Dickerson asked Ausmus about the value of having an official closer in the bullpen, and the response left little doubt as to where he stood: "I have yet to come across a manager who says 'I don't care who pitches the 9th.' ... The rest of the bullpen knows where they slot [when you have a closer]," and in that situation, "It's beneficial if guys kind of know their roles [in the bullpen] ... it creates a bit more of a comfort level."
Is Ausmus concerned at all, coming in as a young manager with no real managerial experience of which to speak? No, he says, "I think the players know that I haven't forgotten how difficult this game is ... I know what it's like to go 0-for-40 ... The fact that I'm not that far removed [from the game] will help me relate to [the players] a little bit better."
Caputo asked Ausmus a rather pointed question about his opinion on sabermetrics, to which Ausmus said that advanced statistical data is more for analysis "after-the-fact ... it doesn't blend too close into game action." While he acknowledged that "there's data that I will look at, that we will use during the course of a game," he noted that "it's the players who win or lose the games." Ausmus referred directly to the fact that "people got the thought that, because of my age and my background, I'm a sabermetrician," but dispelled this idea by adding, "I'm really not."