DETROIT — Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire has noticed a subtle difference in the Detroit Tigers this season.
“I know this team is running a lot more,” Gardenhire said of the AL Central leaders. “That’s probably the manager, comes in here and kind of opens it up a little bit. You have to have your style.”
Under new manager Brad Ausmus, the Tigers have already stolen 30 bases in 40 attempts.
They went 35 for 55 through all of last season. Although Detroit lost Sunday to the Twins, the Tigers (21-12) have baseball’s best record thanks to a recent eight-game winning streak.
Ausmus replaced Jim Leyland, who stepped down after Detroit’s third consecutive division title last year. The transition to Ausmus has been almost completely devoid of drama. The Tigers added Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler in the off-season, and Davis has already stolen 12 bases.
But the aggressiveness on the basepaths is a fairly minor change in the grand scheme of things.
Detroit is averaging 4.9 runs per game – the same amount as last season. As in 2013, the Tigers are winning with a terrific starting rotation, with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer still the headliners.
Of the five teams with new managers this year, Detroit is experiencing the most success early.
The Seattle Mariners (Lloyd McClendon) and Washington Nationals (Matt Williams) are each a game above .500 under their new skippers. Meanwhile, Bryan Price and the Cincinnati Reds (17-19) have struggled to get untracked, while Rick Renteria and the Chicago Cubs (12-24) might be headed for another rough season.