Dombrowski: Fix offense by hitting to opposite field

Dave Dombrowski doesn’t believe eliminating or restricting defensive shifts is the solution to rekindling offense in baseball. He thinks one key to getting hitters going again is the hitters themselves.

It was a response to a question from somebody Tuesday at the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association winter luncheon, where Dombrowski usually makes his last appearance before Spring Training. It was an interesting response from one of the senior team executives in the game.

“I’m not an advocate of [outlawing shifts],” Dombrowski said, “but I know I’ve heard people discuss it. I don’t like the idea, but there are some people in our front office that think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a mistake. You should never penalize intellect, so if you’re smart enough to play players in certain positions, you shouldn’t be penalized for that.

“I think one of the biggest problems that we have is that, and I’ve talked about it before, is players have gotten away from using the whole field. Now, pitching is better than ever. I mean, you see these guys come in from the bullpen, and nowadays the average velocity out of the bullpen is 93+. When I first broke in, the average fastball was, say, 89-90 miles an hour. Now it’s 91+, and in the bullpen almost 94. So velocity has improved. But I think overall, hitting is tougher, facing more guys with more pitches, but using the whole field will help offense. So to me, instead of saying you can’t play that person there, what you need to do is be in a position where that hitter needs to take advantage of driving the ball the other way.”

Dombrowski had talked about that earlier in the luncheon, using J.D. Martinez as an example. He believes Yoenis Cespedes could find the same benefit once he has a chance to settle in and watch Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez at work.

“I think in today’s game, one of the reasons offense is down is that people have become pull-oriented,” Dombrowski said. “I think a guy like Cespedes, for example, will benefit a great deal being around Miguel and Victor on a daily basis. Cespedes, he can use the whole field. When he was a youngster and we saw him, he would drive that ball to right field and right-center. I haven’t been around him quite as much of course over the last few years, but when he’s around them and how they use the whole field, I think that will be good for his approach.

“Sometimes guys, they’re not purposely doing it, they’re just like, ‘OK, I’m going to start pulling the ball more.’ But when you’re around Miguel and Victor, these guys talk hitting all the time. [Nick] Castellanos, I know he’s a rookie and he didn’t hit .300 his first year, but he kept his head above water and did well for a club that’s in contention, which is not easy to do as a 21-year-old rookie. He has a good approach. When you start talking to him, part of the reason he’s learned some of the things he’s done is watching those guys over the last year.”

On J.D. Martinez, Dombrowski said, “Look at how he used the opposite field. Look at how he drove the ball out of the ballpark to right field and to center field. A lot of hitters don’t do that, and I think that … again, if you use the whole field, part of the thing is you usually have less holes, you’re in a spot where you can drive more pitches rather than just have one zone that you can handle. And J.D. definitely benefited, and we saw how good of a hitter he became as the year progressed.”

As far as Tigers related matters, there wasn’t much news coming out of the lunch. Many matters are the same now as they were during TigerFest a week and a half ago. That includes Miguel Cabrera, who’s still working out but is awaiting a follow-up exam next week or the week after to be fully cleared for baseball workouts.

Other Tigers matters:

  • Dombrowski is leaving the door open for another addition on the pitching front, but mainly for minor-league deals. “At this time of year, you see guys sign as non-roster invitees or sign for a little bit,” Dombrowski said. “We’re basically set, but it’s not like you don’t take a phone call or know what else is going on out there. Anything can happen, but we’re basically set with what we’re trying to pursue. … It’s not that we don’t lob a phone call in too, occasionally, to see what somebody’s situation is. But not any high-profile, high-dollar type of situations. A guy may fall through and [we’ll say], ‘Do you want to come to camp? We’ve got a situation that may be available. Would you be interested?'”
  • Nothing has changed with them on Joba Chamberlain or Phil Coke, both of whom remain free agents. Dombrowski hasn’t ruled out either returning, but a source close to Coke said the two sides haven’t talked at all.
  • Dombrowski also said their status hasn’t changed on James Shields from earlier, when he indicated they weren’t pursuing starting pitching.
  • Dombrowski confirmed interest in Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada, but offered little else. “He’s a good player, no doubt,” Dombrowski said.
  • Asked who could end up competing for the last roster spot, Dombrowski indicated it would likely come down to carrying an extra utility infielder or a fifth outfielder. Andrew Romine and Hernan Perez are competing for the utility infield job, Dombrowski said, while Tyler Collins is part of the outfield mix. “Or [it could be] someone who comes out of the blue that I’m not even thinking about at this point,” Dombrowski said, “because that happens in Spring Training once in a while. I think that [last] guy, whoever he is, is extremely important in the sense that how they fit the manager’s bench, and how he likes to use his club, can make a difference.”

18 Comments

Caribbean Series:
Cuba 1- DR 6. 0-2 record. Last year they were out early
Magglio´s team 1-0 ,defeated PR with a great performance by Daryl Thompson ( FA)
The true? there are Venezuelan and Dominican players with the same talent and development level of Moncada and they wont receive that kind of money.He is not Puig or Cespedes, they had experience.I dont see how Moncada could be above Moya who has faced far better pitchers ( I realize Moncada is a SS and that add value).The Tigers left Adames walk who was a non miss prospect and was cheaper and they also have Machado.

David Dombroski .. Did not give any insterent what level he and the club had on Mancha the Cuba kid .. or bringing in Coke’s , I believe that Chambrlin is not worth it for the right handers we all ready have …

Completely agree with Dave on the defensive shifts. I believe they are a fad that will dampen soon. And if guys use the whole field, which they should do anyway, it will stop the shifts naturally. Someone like Avila is a much better hitter when he uses the whole field.

I heard Bill Buckner comment in the last year on his recent experiences as a low minors hitting instructor. One topic discussed was that his players’ hitting approach didn’t change much situationally. He cited the runner on 3rd less than two out, with the infield playing back. Defense basically conceding the run if the hitter can put the ball in play on the ground. He noticed that for many young players, the power stroke approach persists, often resulting in K, instead of adjusting to the defense and hitting for contact to get the RBI. Likewise, the defensive shifting being done rewards the hitter who adjusts approach and penalizes the hitter who cannot.

Situational hitting ability, once a standard part of the game, has become something remarkable and praiseworthy, often relegated to “less talented” hitters. Ramon Santiago anyone?

It will be interesting to see if anyone “emerges” out of spring training. That has been known to happen.
.
Here’s a question I probably should have addressed in the last topic but I’m curious about the hidden ball trick. I can’t remember anyone doing this even though it’s perfectly legit or would players nowadays think it’s a cheap shot?

Aside from Bergman, I think Mike Lowell did it years ago when he was still with the Marlins. A baserunner at third faked like he was going to tag up on a fly ball to left but didn’t go. Lowell got the throw from left, pretended to toss the ball back to the pitcher but kept it and took a look at the ump to make sure time out wasn’t called.

Norm Cash tried the hidden ball trick several times (among other shenanigans, like trying to bat against Nolan Ryan at the end of a dominant no hitter and trying to blow a slow roller into foul territory). I’m not sure if it ever worked for him.

Thanks, guys. You know some players get mad if they hit a single and the RF’er tries to throw them out at 1st base. Fair game as far as I’m concerned if they don’t hustle.

I , Think back , In or abouts …. In 1972 a rookie pitcher by Bill Slayback was pitching a no hitter there was a hit right at Al Kaline he charge the ball and fired the ball to first base batter ,,, he just beat out …even the Great Kaline will do the little things to help his team win ….

I do not understand why they are not bringing back Joba, he was one of the few bright spots in a terrible bullpen.

Kinda agree with you. The guy I wanted to see back was Johnson. How a guy with his creds and stuff wasn’t given a second chance escapes me given the history of the Tigers with players like Coke.

I remember once a balk was called on a Detroit pitcher but it was overturned when Norm Cash showed that HE had the ball.

It’s a balk if the pitcher stands on the rubber without the ball.

If a team wants to play 5 men in right field with a second and a first baseman, then pitch a left handed straight pull hitter inside, let them. Since when is there any rule that says 9 guys half to play in certain spots? Didn’t any of these guys ever play sandlot? These defensive shifts are exactly what is needed to induce changes to hitting approaches.

Me thinks: the Tigers do sign Coke and/or Joba….to Minor league deals. Jim Johnson pitches better (and more) than Rondon and Joel Hammerman combined.

Danny Worth also pitches more than Rondon at the MLB level in 2015

Hey Marty, maybe we can vote for a rule to allow a ghost runner🙂

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