Welcome to the latest installment of Bless You Boys' attempt to track the general opinion towards Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. We run an approval poll about once a month, asking fans one simple question: Do you approve of the work Ausmus has done?
We've reached mid-September, and the Tigers are still playing meaningful games. We got a taste of the bad version of September baseball last season -- it had been a long time since the Tigers were irrelevant, and I think many of us forgot what it was like. Not much fun.
In that sense, the Tigers are doing great. We actually have a reason to care! But things could still be a lot better. The Tigers are still on the outside of the playoff picture, hoping they can play well enough over the next few weeks to clinch a Wild Card Game, which is really just a coin flip to get into the "real" playoffs. They have enough talent on the roster that it's fair to question whether competing for a Wild Card spot is deserving of celebration.
The Tigers currently sit at 77-66 -- an 87-win pace -- with 19 games left to play. The Indians' six-game lead in the AL Central is nigh insurmountable at this point, but the Tigers are only one game out of the second Wild Card spot and one game back from the first spot. However, six other teams are within five games of each other, all with a legitimate shot at one of the two Wild Card spots. This chase is shaping up to be straight chaos, and The Tigers are right in the thick of it.
The Tigers have a couple things going for them, though. For one, they still have six games against the last-place Twins, and end the regular season with three games against the last-place Braves. Secondly, four teams in the AL East are competing for the division title, with the losers hoping to snag Wild Card spots. If those four beat each other up, they could open the door for the Tigers to leapfrog one of them. FanGraphs' Playoff Probabilities gives the Tigers a 42.5-percent chance of making the postseason in some manner.
Complaints about manager Brad Ausmus seemed to quiet down a lot since the early season, and our poll results reflect that. Ausmus received a 62 percent approval rating last month, his highest mark since May, when the Tigers were 14-10 after a five-game win streak.
With every game feeling like a must-win, and with several key relievers suddenly struggling, some of those complaints have resurfaced. Ausmus has recently been criticized for sticking with Justin Wilson and Shane Greene in high-leverage roles while they struggle with command, and for starting Jordan Zimmermann, who has clearly not fully recovered from his injury.
But how much can we really complain about the Tigers' situation, or how Ausmus has reacted to adversity? Well, that's what we're asking! Is competing for a Wild Card spot a good thing or a bad thing, and how much did Ausmus have to do with getting the Tigers here?