Ausmus, Brad : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Ausmus, Brad

Bradley David Ausmus

The starting catcher for the Houston Astros, Ausmus is a two-time National League Gold Glove-winning catcher, a Dartmouth graduate, and a 1999 All-Star. In examining the history of Major League drafts, Baseball America wrote (June 21-July 4, 2004 issue): "Which is more impressive: going from the 48th round to the All-Star Game, or completing a degree in government at Dartmouth after turning pro? Ausmus did both."

Brad had a valuable season for Houston, hitting a solid .258 (his best since 2000) with 3 homers and 47 RBI. He added 19 doubles, and gave the Astros another dimension by stealing 5 bases in 8 attempts. As usual, his defense was sensational: his fielding average was an astonishing .999, as he made only one error the entire season. After making the playoffs in 2004, the Astros defeated the Braves in the 2005 NLCS to gain Houston's first-ever appearance in the World Series. Though they were swept by the White Sox, Ausmus was a key contributor during Houston's postseason.

Brad seems to be the object of a strange mutual regard between the Detroit Tigers and the Houston Astros: he was first traded from Detroit to Houston, then back to Detroit, then back to Houston. A superior defensive backstop, Ausmus not only calls an outstanding game, he is also a fine all-around athlete. He has reached double digits in steals five times during his career.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 14, 1969

Career Highlights:
A lifelong Red Sox fan who attended Carl Yastrzemski's last game, Ausmus was originally selected by the New York Yankees in the 47th round of the 1987 draft. When Brad initially refused to sign, the Yanks allowed him to attend classes at Dartmouth while playing in the minors. In 1992, he moved to the Colorado Rockies organization in the expansion draft, and finally broke into the majors the following year with the San Diego Padres.

Pressed into regular duty in his rookie season, Ausmus was the Padres starter for three seasons. His best season was 1995, both as a hitter and behind the plate -- he batted .293, stole a career-high 16 bases, and threw out 39% of opposing baserunners, second-best in the NL. In the middle of the 1996 season, Brad was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He then became part of a ten-player trade after the 1996 season between the Tigers and the Astros.

Catching for Houston, Ausmus appeared in a career-high 130 games in 1997, finishing with a .266 average and career highs in doubles (25) and RBI (44), while leading the league's catchers in caught-stealing percentage. Brad continued his solid play for the Astros in 1998, coming in second in the Gold Glove voting, and finishing with 45 RBI and a .269 average. In both 1997 and 1998, the Astros made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the NL Division Series. In the 1997 playoffs, Brad hit .400 against the Atlanta Braves.

Despite his good play, Ausmus was traded back to the Tigers before the 1999 season. During 1999, Brad committed only two errors in 124 games, and led the league with a .997 fielding percentage. At the plate, he batted .275, and helped his team in another way -- he was hit by pitches 14 times. Ausmus was chosen as the Tigers' lone representative at the All-Star Game by Yankees manager Joe Torre, who was apparently unaware that in Brad's old room in Connecticut is a sign that reads: "Yankees Stink."

In 2000, Brad appeared in 150 games, starting 140, which was the most ever by a Detroit catcher. That year, he threw out 30 of 74 baserunners attempting to steal (43.2%), leading the AL in that category. He finished the 2000 season hitting .266, with 7 home runs and 51 RBI. He also added 25 doubles and 11 stolen bases -- thus extending his streak of double figures in stolen bases to four consecutive years, unusual for a catcher. The Astros regretted having ever traded him (their catchers had thrown out only 22% of base stealers in 2000) and tried to pry him back from the Tigers. On December 12, 2000, Ausmus was traded from Detroit back to Houston.

Though he endured a mediocre offensive season in 2001 -- Ausmus played in 128 regular season games and hit .232 with 5 HR and 34 RBI -- Brad compensated with his usual excellent defense. It's no coincidence that Houston's stretch of four postseason appearances in five years began during Bradís first tour of duty with the club, and resumed upon his return.

Ausmus, who shuts down an opponents' running game, had the second best caught-stealing percentage (40%) in the majors in 2001. His footwork is nimble, he frames pitches deftly, and he has a strong arm and quick release. He received part of the credit for the accelerated development of young pitchers like Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt. Reliever Octavio Dotel put it this way, "Brad is a great catcher...If he feels 100 percent I should throw a pitch, then I will go with him. He knows more than me."

The emergence of the Astro pitching staff enabled Houston to win the NL Central in 2001 (their fourth division title in five years) with a record of 93-69 (they lost to Atlanta in the playoffs). Bradís terrific defense was a factor in their success -- a .997 fielding percentage, and he committed only three errors out of a career-high 1,013 total chances in 2001.

During the 2002 season, Ausmus hit.257 (115-447 with six HR and 50 RBI), though this figure did not accurately reflect his tremendous value to the team. His worth is more accurately reflected by his celebrated leadership and defense; when he plays, the team tends to win. Ausmus played in 130 games, and had a .997 fielding percentage -- he committed only three errors in 1,010 total chances. The Astros finished with a record of 84-78 and in second place in the NL Central.

In 2003, the Astros finished with a record of 87-75 and in second place in the NL Central, only one game behind the Chicago Cubs. Brad played well for the Astros as he appeared in 143 games; he had an almost flawless -- though typical for him -- .997 fielding percentage, having made only three errors in 1,61 total chances (982 put-outs, 76 assists, and 13 double plays). He finished with a batting average of .229 (103-450) with four home runs, 47 RBI, and 43 runs.

With the addition of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens to an already excellent pitching staff in 2004, and with defensive ace Ausmus behind the plate, the Astros were expected to be one of the top teams in the NL. Although playing poorly through much of the season, the Astros improved late in the season and clinched the NL Wild Card with a record of 92-70 (they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS). Ausmus finished the season hitting .248 (100-403) in 129 games with five HR, 31 RBI and 38 runs scored.



Career Dates:
Ausmus played for the San Diego Padres, 1993-96, the Detroit Tigers, 1996 and 1999-2000, and the Houston Astros, 1997-98, and 2001-present.

Position:
Catcher

Physical description:
5'11", 190 pounds
Right-handed

Career Statistics:
(through 2005 season)

Games: 1,577
Batting Avg.: .255
Slugging Avg.: .353

At-bats: 5,117
Hits: 1,307
Doubles: 224
Triples: 30

Home Runs: 71
Home Run %:
Runs: 615
RBI: 508

BB: 515
Strike Outs: 812
Stolen Bases: 92

Pinch Hitting
At-bats: n/a
Hits: n/a
Home runs: n/a

Fielding Statistics
Put-outs: 1,0358
Assists: 794
Errors: 70
Double-plays: 105

Fielding Avg: .994



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