Ausmus proving successful with challenges

After getting two calls overturned Saturday, manager credits video team

Ausmus proving successful with challenges

HOUSTON -- Detroit's Brad Ausmus is off to a good start with his manager's challenges in 2016.

After getting a pair of calls overturned in Saturday's 5-3 win in Houston, Ausmus is now 4-for-5 on the season.

He's quick to deflect credit, especially for Saturday's calls, lauding the work of baseball video operations assistant August Sandri and coach/defensive coordinator Matt Martin.

Ausmus said if he alone were responsible for challenges based on his own eye, "It'd be a coin flip a lot of times.

"For instance, the pickoff play yesterday, we couldn't tell. To be honest, I didn't think he was out. We just checked, called down to make sure."

It's an instructive look at Ausmus' philosophy, and like most managers who are former players, he's learned to rely on his video team over his gut.

Overall, Ausmus is only 38-of-70 on replay reviews as a manager in two seasons and change, but the two outs Detroit saved in Saturday's win helped leverage a comeback from an early 3-0 deficit. And while Ausmus' raw challenge success percentage is slightly below league average in replay's first two seasons, he was third in the leverage (clutch rating) of his challenges in 2015, per FanGraphs.

Ausmus explained the entire process that goes into these calls, using Justin Verlander's pickoff of Jose Altuve on Saturday as an example. Altuve was called safe, but Ausmus told his pitcher to stall for just a few seconds while he checked with the duo back in the clubhouse.

Verlander picks off Altuve

"Problem is you have to do it quickly, before the pitcher gets back on the rubber and the hitter gets back in the box," Ausmus said. "He knew it might be close and looked toward us.

"[Miguel Cabrera] said he couldn't tell, that he tagged [Altuve] a little high and so he thought he got his arm in there. If the guy making the tag can't tell, how am I going to tell from 120 feet away? Without the video, it'd be 50-50."

But the system Detroit has in place, like most teams, is designed to maximize efficiency re-watching these kind of bang-bang plays.

"They have two screens and they have, depending on the game, multiple camera angles," Ausmus said. "They literally can click and sync them up very quickly. The key is finding the best angles to look at right away.

Ausmus said, like many fans, he can get caught up in how something looks live or having a natural bias to root for a specific outcome.

"You can't be influenced by anything other than what you see on the monitor," Ausmus said.

Chris Abshire is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.