Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random Spring Training Thoughts

Yesterday was quite a joyous occasion, because it marked the first spring training telecast on Fox Sports Detroit. Granted, I had been able to see the Tigers twice before this spring thanks to MLB.tv (Steven Strasburg’s debut on MASN, and the Mets game over the weekend on SNY), and I’ve listened to almost every game on one radio broadcast or another, but nothing beats having Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on the air for the first time in 2010 (and there were several points during the offseason where I felt in need of their spin). I didn’t even mind the interviews with Johnny Damon and Alex Avila that went on just a little too long.

I don’t have a lot of other thoughts (at least regarding spring training) at this point, but here are the few I do have:

In the battle for the final two spots in the rotation, the lefties have been more impressive than the righties in terms of results (though I haven’t seen either of them on TV yet). Bonderman had a shaky-but-scoreless first outing, a really rough second outing, and a much better third outing. Armando Galarraga (who is the one I personally would like to step up) seems to be portrayed as far behind the rest of the pack (partially because of performance, partially because he’s not as expensive as the others and he still has a minor league option left). Thanks to yesterday’s broadcast, he’s the only one of the four that I’ve seen on television. The fact that the camera angle was off-center made it hard to track the strike zone, but to me, the movement on his pitches looks closer to how it did in 2008 (His pitches in 2009 had a different sort of movement to them, and given the results, presumably it wasn’t a good sort of movement). His slider in particular looked pretty good and, for the most part, he seemed to be able to throw it where he wanted to. However, he had some command issues with the fastball, especially in the second inning when he fell behind several hitters and threw a lot of pitches. Oddly enough, he looked better in the third inning, which is when he gave up the runs (and for the record, he looked all right in the first inning). All in all, three strikeouts and no walks is a positive sign. I think there was some progress made. He’s still got a ways to go, and I don’t think he’ll get there before the end of the spring, but the fact that his pitches look good again is reassuring.

I did see the game against the Phillies today (and I’d like to point out that so far, the Phillies are really the only team that’s shut down the Tigers’ offense). Verlander did give up the two home runs (and cue that cliché about power pitchers giving up LONG home runs), but his stuff looked really good.

Every pitcher in camp seemingly has an ERA of zero or over five. I don’t think you can read much into that at this point, though.

Everyone’s hitting better than they did last year except for Guillen, Sizemore, and Everett (and Inge, but he’s only just started playing in games). I’m not going to read much into that either (I hate using this as an example, but in 2008, Pudge hit eight home runs in spring training and only hit nine for the entire 2008 season). There’s been some debate over at
Bless You Boys about the validity of spring training performances. If a guy turns in a really good spring training performance, you have the right to regard it with some skepticism (especially if it’s out-of-character), but on the other hand, you can’t not reward it. Sometimes you end up like Juan Rincon, but usually you can at least milk a little bit out of him and he may end up surprising you (like Carlos Peña did for the Rays a few years back).

There was a big knock on Austin Jackson for the amount of times he struck out in the minor leagues last year, but so far he’s demonstrated a decent amount of patience at the plate. I wonder what the split was last year on strikeouts looking versus strikeouts swinging.

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