Tigers try to combat all-or-nothing offensive approach
New York — The conversation turned to hitting in manager Brad Ausmus’ office before the game Saturday.
The broad topic was declining offense across baseball, which has been the trend the last few years. It was suggested that with a higher premium placed on walks and on-base percentage, hitters have become too cautious, taking too many pitches and getting in poor hitter’s counts too often.
“I think it’s the opposite,” Ausmus said. “I think guys are swinging out of their (butts) nowadays. Home runs are the big thing. People are talking more about OPS and weighted on-base percentage. Home runs are so valuable now, players don’t care if they strike out.
“They want to hit homers and doubles.”
It is true that home runs and strikeouts per nine innings are both at the highest levels across baseball they’ve been in the modern era.
“A lot of guys now, their two-strike approach is no different than their 2-0 approach,” Ausmus said. “They swing to hit it as hard as they can and they don’t care if they strikeout. It’s something that started to happen over the last eight to 10 years. It’s pretty much all or nothing.”
That specific problem isn’t as pronounced with the Tigers as it is for other teams, like the Astros, who are built around an all-or-nothing offensive approach. The Tigers had 513 strikeouts entering play Saturday, which is sixth most in the American League, and their 73 home runs ranked seventh.
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“We have stressed to the players the last couple of years, ‘Do your job and let the guy behind you do their job, too,’” Ausmus said. “Everyone wants to be the ESPN or MLB.com hero on the highlight reels. We try to tell these guys, do your job but let the guy behind you do their job, too.
“If you are not a home run hitter, you shouldn’t be up there trying to hit home runs because you want to be on the highlight reel.”
It helps, Ausmus said, when the best hitters in the lineup — Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez — aren’t feast-or-famine hitters. They all have two-strike approaches and hit for high averages.
“Just keep the line moving through the batting order with the idea that everyone contributes,” Ausmus said. “As opposed to one guy trying to do everything or everyone waiting around for one guy to do everything.”
It was 13 years ago Saturday that Ausmus caught the only no-hitter of his career on June 11, 2003. It was not conventional.
“It wasn’t here, though,” he said. “It was at the old (Yankee) stadium.”
It was indeed in an 8-0 victory for Ausmus’ Astros over the Yankees. Roy Oswalt, Peter Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner combined to throw a no-hitter.
“Oswalt got hurt in like the second inning,” Ausmus recalled. “He was throwing 97 mph and had it going. It may have been a perfect game if hadn’t got hurt.”
It was the most pitchers ever to combine on a no-no (the feat has been equaled but not topped) and it was the first time the Yankees had been no-hit at home since 1952.
“I didn’t even notice it was a no-hitter till like the seventh,” Ausmus said. “There was a lot of traffic on the bases. At one point they had the bases loaded. I remember (Jorge) Posada swing at a 3-0 fastball and rolled over to first base to end the inning.”
Ausmus also had three hits in the game, which at the time raised his average to .205.
“On the way up,” he said with a laugh.