March 19th, 2007

Radar guns at spring training

Some parts of regular-season baseball don’t work well in spring training. Hot chocolate, for instance (coffee always works regardless of weather, because you have so many early mornings here). Night games arguably aren’t that fun. Luxury boxes only work in small quantities.

Add radar guns to that list.

I know they’re popular with fans, especially wherever Joel Zumaya pitches, but it’s not the greatest of ideas in spring training. Pitchers are building up their arm strength. Youngsters are trying to make an impression and give themselves a shot to make big-league teams. Players have more idle time to look for the readings. Not good.

The gun has been at Joker Marchant Stadium for a few days now, but today was the first time it was on with Joel Zumaya pitching. It seemed a little generous — a lot of fastballs registered at 102 mph, one at 103, and another at 101. He had a warmup fastball register around 99. I don’t doubt that Zumaya can still throw 102, but I don’t think he’d do it that many times in the regular season, let alone in the spring. Even Zumaya seemed skeptical of it.

Jim Leyland said it’s part of the "show business" at Comerica Park, but he’d rather not have them in spring training parks, because he knows certain relievers look to see what they’re throwing.

"Obviously at Comerica [Park] that’s part of the show business," Leyland said. "But I don’t like it in Spring Training. It’s not that big of an issue, but that’s just the way I feel about it."

Other notes:

  • Leyland argued today that nobody in the Majors made as many great plays in a season as Brandon Inge did in 2006. The email questions about Inge’s defense have dwindled with time, so hopefully that just about eliminates them.
  • With Campusano injured, Leyland sounds more like somebody who could have just one lefty in his bullpen on opening day. He said today he has Rodney, Zumaya and Jones from the seventh inning on regardless, and that part of the purpose for another lefty — to scare off opposing managers from inserting a left-handed pinch-hitter — is moot in the American League with the DH.
  • The trade front sounds quiet for the time being. Leyland said today that it didn’t sound like Dave Dombrowski has had very many calls, though that could change in the final week of camp. That said, Leyland said he doesn’t expect a deal.
  • Keeping that in mind, Leyland was asked after the game whether he’d have to make a tough call on who makes his bench. "I don’t think it’s going to be a tough call," Leyland said. "I think it’s going to be a disappointing call. There’s probably going to be two guys disappointed. That’s just the way it is."
  • Ran into scouting director David Chadd, who is on the last of three weeks on the road before he gets back home to Kansas. He likes the draft this year, calls it deeper in high school talent than collegians, and said there’s a good group of high school catchers and left-handed pitchers. That said, he’s not going to draft by need, even though the Tigers could use some catching in the system. They don’t pick until the 27th selection this year, but they gain a sandwich pick around the 60th overall selection. Because signability is such a factor with some teams, Chadd said, they have to scout as much top talent as they can and not assume somebody’s out of reach.
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