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Tigers exercise manager Brad Ausmus’ option for 2017 season

Ausmus has a 250-234 record in his three years with the Tigers, and has led the team to outperform their Pythag by 12 wins.

Toronto Blue Jays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Fans can expect to see manager Brad Ausmus around for at least one more year. The Tigers have chosen to exercise his 2017 option and are bringing their manager back for a fourth season, the team announced. The decision was originally reported by Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

The option to retain Ausmus is a logical one, if nothing else. There are few better options available at the moment, and jumping to a new manager for the sake of change is risky, at best.

Heading into the 2016 season, general expectations of the Tigers were that they’d improve by a few wins but finish poorly and fall far short of postseason hopes. The team did nothing to squelch that perspective when they fell into a grim May stretch and questions swirled around Ausmus’ job security.

The Tigers and general manager Al Avila didn’t blink regardless of the tough road, and the team eventually turned it around. Ausmus also has a calm and collected demeanor that, while appreciated by the team, didn’t sit so well with the fans. Rarely has he lost it in a game — with one hoodie exception — and his stoic attitude is in direct conflict with the persona that former manager Jim Leyland built for himself.

But this isn’t the era of Leyland, it’s one of Ausmus and Avila. After four straight seasons of division championships, the Tigers are in a new place that constitutes patience. That includes Ausmus, who is quite literally learning on the job how to be a major league manager.

Doing that so far has been an up and down journey, but 2016 was far better than in the two years past. There’s only so much influence a manager can affect on a team and the outcome of a game: bullpen usage, who plays, and when to take the starter out of the game at hand. The rest is up to the players, and in most respects, he’s grown.

"Brad was instrumental in leading the team through adversity and with the development of our younger players, particularly the young starting staff," executive vice president and general manager Al Avila said in the team's press release. " The team improved from last season, and under the leadership of Brad and his coaching staff, the ballclub kept fighting, and remained in contention for the postseason. Moving forward we want to build off that progress."

The bullpen improved this year, but it still had its moments of relapse. Having better options should help make decisions easier, but it’s when things go wrong that Ausmus struggled in the past. Not as much this year, as he carried a shorter leash with relievers — and according to FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris, he handled the bullpen better than most MLB managers, even with his rigid reliever approach.

The same goes with the starting rotation, except with the added difficulty of juggling three rookie/near-rookie starters. Combine that with the myriad of injuries suffered in 2016, and the daily lineup instability that caused, and it’s a wonder the team didn’t tank early in the season. Ausmus may not be a popular choice, but he’s a far better option for the Tigers than other choices currently available.

Managers can put out the lineup, make rotation and bullpen calls, and handle changes due to injuries. But it’s still up to the players to play the actual game, and that is beyond Ausmus’ control. Insomuch as what he’s been given to work with, Ausmus has done well, and the decision to bring him back for another year is about as logical as it comes.