Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Scattering of Thoughts

It goes without saying that I wish I was still in Florida. Lakeland was wonderful and right now I'm back into the grind of school and work (and it doesn't help that at least two of my friends are in Lakeland right now). I'm not sure when I'll get to my first regular-season Tigers game. I know I'll be going to games on July 16th and August 20th, and if all goes well I'll be attending their four games in Oakland in September, but I'm holding out hope for more than that. At any rate, I don't really have anything concrete to discuss (since I really don't find the battles for the final spots in the bullpen and on the bench to be all that interesting), but it's been a week since I've posted, so I have to say something. Hence, you get this.

It's occurred to me in the last few days just how thoroughly uninteresting most of the Tigers' starting pitchers are (regardless of their level). Now, by that statement I do not mean I don't think they're good pitchers, but watching them pitch (or listening on the radio) is not very exciting (Verlander is awesome, but he's really the only one that I enjoy a lot; I enjoy Rick Porcello a little bit, but Max Scherzer and Phil Coke are only marginally interesting and the most positive thing I ever feel about Brad Penny is complete apathy, and that's when I'm in a good mood). I've gone through the past three years with two starting pitchers that I've gotten passionately excited about and really enjoyed watching. Now that I'm down to one, I'm realizing that I just don't go for pitchers all that often. However, I did notice a trend. The starting pitchers that I have developed some level of interest in (not necessarily Tiger pitchers) have all thrown no-hitters. But what's weird is that in every case except one, I got interested in them BEFORE they threw their no-hitter (the lone exception is Anibal Sanchez, who threw his in 2006, before I really got into baseball). And you should know very well by now that I don't necessarily develop interest in pitchers with traditional "no-hit stuff." Right now, there is one Tigers starting pitcher prospect that I'm intrigued by, and that's Brayan Villarreal. I wonder what that means for him (I know there's talk of moving him to the bullpen because he's theoretically blocked by Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver, but I really hope they don't do that; the starting corps in the minors could use a spark like him).

Is there a reason why Jon Heyman has a personal vendetta against Miguel Cabrera? He seems to have gotten tired of making unfunny drunk jokes about him on Twitter and has moved on to making unfunny fat jokes on Twitter (and they don't need to be justified by linking to them). He quoted Dave Dombrowski expressing confidence that Cabrera will be at the weight he needs to be at once the season starts, but then pointed out that he didn't say what Cabrera's weight is, as if to discredit him. First of all, Cabrera himself said he was at about 270 pounds when he arrived in Lakeland (though I think he was exaggerating a little). Second, I did see a couple pictures of him during the offseason where he looked kind of big, but he wears really baggy street clothes (which'll make anyone with a large build look even bigger) and for the past couple months, he's been working out intensely with a personal trainer in Florida (I've talked to him several times on Twitter; he's also been working with Magglio OrdoƱez and Alex Avila). The extra weight is almost entirely muscle. Third (and most importantly), I've seen him up close and in person. He looks fine. If there's anyone on the team who looks like they've put on weight, it's Brad Thomas, of all people.

If all you want to hear about is Tigers stuff, you can stop here. I won't be offended, but I guess I'll give an update on the two of my Magnificent Six who are no longer with the Tigers (Pudge Rodriguez and Armando Galarraga). Pudge started off the spring pretty hot, but he's fallen off quite a bit. Last I checked he was hitting .238 with two RBIs, and in the last couple years, his bat hasn't been what it used to be (although he did have a good first half last year, which was wiped out by a terrible second half). However, his defense is as strong as ever and catching prospect Wilson Ramos isn't hitting that much better (.250 with one RBI). Pudge has been battling a minor calf injury for the past couple days. Currently, the Nationals plan to have Pudge begin the season as the starting catcher and then have Ramos take over after the All-Star Break (this is leading to speculation that Pudge could be a trade deadline candidate). However, there is speculation that Ramos could take over sooner than that if he gets off to a hot start. All I'm going to say is that Pudge is 183 hits away from 3000, I really want him to get to that mark (and I know that's his big goal), it'll probably take him two years as a starter to get there, and it's going to be really hard to do if he's relegated to a backup role. As far as Galarraga is concerned, well, remember when I said that he doesn't pitch well in spring training? That has not changed. I can't bring myself to listen to any radio broadcasts or watch on (I can't even bear to look at a picture of him in another uniform right now), so all I have to go on is Gameday, but it hasn't been pretty. His first spring outing was an exercise in lack of control (according to one of the Venezuelan writers). The second was against Texas and was probably the best one so far (featuring strikeouts of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz). The third was last Saturday against the White Sox and was a complete disaster (In three innings he gave up seven hits, six of which went for extra bases). His last outing was Tuesday and was kind of a roller coaster. His first inning of work was terrible, giving up three runs (two of which came on a home run by Aubrey Huff). However, he followed that up with a pair of 1-2-3 innings, including striking out the side in his final inning (he had five strikeouts total, which is really good for him in a three-inning span). The problem is that he's not guaranteed a rotation spot. He's battling with three others for one of two spots (there had been four competing, but Zack Duke broke his hand and will miss 4-6 weeks). I know Barry Enright has pitched well (and I know this because he's been pitching on the same days as Galarraga), but I have no idea how Aaron Heilman is doing. I don't know what the Diamondbacks plan on doing with him if he doesn't make their rotation, but they're starting to get to the point where two competitors won't be able to pitch on the same day, so I imagine a decision may come shortly after the next outing.

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