Kansas City, Mo. – The similarities between this September and September 1996 are stark.
The 1996 Tigers team, of which current manager Brad Ausmus was the team’s catcher, went 4-23 in the final month of the season. The current team took a 4-22 record into play Thursday. The all-time worst record for September-October is 4-24 by the Orioles in 2002.
The starting rotation in 1996 — Justin Thompson, Trever Miller, Omar Olivares, Todd VanPoppel, Felipe Lira — was 0-14 with a 7.92 ERA.
The current rotation is 2-17, with a 6.49 ERA.
The Tigers rank last in the major leagues in runs allowed, ERA, WHIP, opponent’s batting average and OPS. But overall, the pitching staff in 1996 was worse in September, with an ERA of 7.31.
The Tigers overall ERA this month is 7.02.
The highest one-month ERA in major league history is 7.60, set in 1936 by the Philadelphia A’s.
“It’s just not fun,” said Ausmus, who hit .275 in September of 1996. “Miserable is strong. You are still coming to the field and your job is baseball — that doesn’t stink. But it’s definitely less fun to be out of it and not winning.”
He was asked if a month like this is tougher on a player or a manager.
“It’s tougher on a manager,” he said. “Because the only stat you have as a manager is wins and losses.”
Ausmus doesn’t care for the insinuation that he should have been more forceful regarding Cabrera and his season-long back issues.
“Listen, if a guy says he can play, especially a guy like Miguel Cabrera, you play him,” Ausmus said. “It’s pretty simple. Miggy has a history of playing through injuries.”
Ausmus played through similar back pain (bulging discs) the final 10 years of his playing career.
“You can only go on the information they give you,” he said. “If a guy comes in and says he can play, and he’s one of your guys who should be playing, he plays.”
Cabrera, who has two herniated discs, said on Wednesday that it was his choice to continue playing through the pain.
Around the horn
During this nine-game losing streak, the Tigers have been outscored 68-30. The team ERA is 7.52 and the bullpen’s ERA is 10.38. The starting pitchers have allowed 66 runs and the bullpen 40.
… Ausmus, who is not returning in 2018, was asked if he thought Nick Castellanos, who was moved from third base to right field this month, could easily transition to first base if necessary. “I wouldn’t move him again,” he said. “I’d just leave him where he is.”
… Castellanos has been one of the few hot bats in September. He’s hit safely in 24 of 26 games, hitting .373 with a 1.034 OPS, 10 doubles, six home runs and 20 RBIs. His 38 hits leads the American League.