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.”