Monday was the Detroit Tigers’ Truck Day, a far more consistent predictor of spring than a certain groundhog, and so we’re in the final approach to pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. Whatever comes for the Tigers this year, and expectations seem be extremely low, major league baseball is finally about to gear up for a new season.
Players booked to play in the World Baseball Classic are set to arrive in camp on Monday, February 13. The Tigers don’t have anyone currently in the international tournament, but they’ll likely have some arrivals on the 13th. Either way, spring training starts next week and we’re happy knowing that a month from now we’ll be completely fed up with “best shape of his life” stories, and needing the regular season to start.
For now, we’ve got Bally Sports Detroit’s spring broadcast schedule to discuss. The fate of the company is very much up in the air, as this fine piece from Ben Clemens at FanGraphs explains in depth. Either way, the 2023 broadcasts shouldn’t be affected, though they may be subject to change as ownership of the broadcast rights becomes a chip in bankruptcy filings.
As always, the Tigers and Bally Sports refuse to give us sickos what we really want, instead planning the usual very limited schedule of televised broadcasts. Presumably, MLB.tv will have most of the other games as always, otherwise we’ll be listening to the Tigers Radio Network broadcasts.
The first game of Grapefruit League action is set for February 25 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Gregory Soto will get to say goodbye to his old teammates, as will new Tigers Nick Maton, Matt Vierling, and Donny Sands. The first televised game isn’t slated until March 5 against the Minnesota Twins.
As reported last week, Bally Sports Detroit has parted ways with color analyst Jack Morris, and it appears that Kirk Gibson’s schedule with be understandably trimmed back. They’ve added former Tigers Cameron Maybin and Todd Jones in the booth, while Craig Monroe and Dan Petry should have enhanced roles.
Alex Lange and the curveball of doom
Leo Morgenstern at Fangraphs has an article up on likely Tigers closer, Alex Lange that is well worth a read. We’ve written about it before, but Lange truly has one of the best, most unique curveballs in baseball. He decided to really lean into his best offering, a trend that has become more and more prevalent in recent years, and it paid off in a big way.
Lange threw the curve more than any other full-time reliever last season, and used it 48.2 percent of the time. He also got way more whiffs, posting a ludicrous 57.8 whiff rate that was over four percent higher than anyone else in that group. Morganstern explores just how bizarre a pitch it is by spin rate, efficiency, and movement in pretty good depth. We’re looking forward to seeing if Lange can command his sinker-changeup backups a little better this year and take his career to new heights. The opportunity is right there for him.
Parker Meadows is good now?
One of the more common reactions to our new BYB top 30 prospect list from more casual fans was surprise, or scorn, that outfielder Parker Meadows was ranked sixth after largely being written off nationally over the previous two years. Three years with extremely limited improvement will do that to you. Meadows made major changes to his swing and approach coming into the 2022 season, and after a period of adjustment everything clicked.
Meadows was perhaps the most valuable hitter in the Eastern League from June 1 onward. There are still flaws in his game, namely a distinct weakness against left-handed pitchers, but the recently turned 23-year-old center fielder with plus power potential is suddenly on track once again and trending toward a debut in Detroit this summer. He may yet prove to be a platoon outfielder, but there is a chance after such huge improvements, that he can take it even further and become something much closer to the Tigers hopes on draft day.
Rogelio Castillo for Woodward Sports has a good piece up on Meadows’ swing changes and how he managed his breakout, while a good side-by-side swing comparison to illustrate the adjustments he made. While I’m hyping them up, there are also really good long-form interviews with Colt Keith, Justyn-Henry Malloy, and Josh Crouch up at Tigers Minor League Report on YouTube.
Around the horn
Ben Clemens explores how to use exit velocity in terms of average and more importantly, max EV, to analyze and project hitters for FanGraphs.
Anthony Castrovince explains the new rules for the 2023 season. The pitch clock, shift limitations, and the bigger bases are the three big ones. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Pitcher deliveries are so much more compact nowadays than they were in the 1980’s and earlier, so I don’t think we’re going to see the emergence of a new Rickey Henderson or Tim Raines, but we may low-key have a new era of the speed player in the works, which I would love.
Catcher Eric Haase finally looks primed to be the Tigers starting catcher this year after spending the last two camps as the likely backup. He makes MLB.com’s All Underrated Team for 2023.
New York Mets owner Steve Cohen fired back at criticisms from other owners that he’s spending too much money and making them look bad. Meanwhile Bleacher Report has some late offseason trade ideas to float. MLB Trade Rumors has an interview with former pitcher and current scout Tim Fortugno on th
Finally, the Athletic’s Evan Drellich did fantastic work breaking the story of the Houston Astros cheating scandal. In concert with his new book on the scandal, Winning Fixes Everything, he’s written a few pieces explaining some of the key lowlights uncovered in his investigations. Awful Announcing breaks it down. Here is Drellich’s piece explaining how the story unfolded for the Athletic.
Finally, Prospects Live has a really good piece up explaining how teams are learning to quantify and develop deception for pitchers.