Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Training Catch-Up

He'll get better. Eventually.
In the context of a 4-or-5 week spring training, 8-10 days can make a lot of difference in who's in the running for a spot and who's already played themselves out of contention. Injured veterans (see right), prospects who aren't just quite ready, and spring surprises have sorted themselves out quite a bit, at least in a few of the towns in Florida and Arizona. Pitchers are starting to go into the 5th and 6th inning when they're pitching well, batting averages are approaching something resembling normal, and sample sizes are starting to get sorta big enough that they might just actually mean something. So with all that in mind, it's time to look back at a few of the teams we spotlighted earlier this month. 

The first stop is back in Clearwater, Florida, where the Philadelphia Phillies have been having a bit of an interesting spring. The starting outfielder job has been locked down by Ben Francisco, thanks to a nice .368/.429/.737 line, not to mention a little bit of luck. So, with that out of the way, the two most interesting parts of Phillies camp are a) the rotation, and b) who's going to back up Wilson Valdez. Valdez, who filled in ably for Utley in 35 games (and Jimmy Rollins for 50) last year, batting .258, is off to a hot start this spring--how's .455/.514/.636 sound, Phils fans? I'm sure Valdez won't be able to keep that up, but he's certainly got a hold on the starters' spot as long as Utley can't take it. As for the rotation, it hasn't had the best of springs, but that's okay. The five starters (the Phantastic Phour plus Joe Blanton) have a combined ERA of 3.67 and a WHIP of 1.13, certainly not bad. Wait til you see what we're doing here at SportStatistics for rotation strength when it comes to the regular season!

Moving west, we also find a more settled situation out in St. Louis. Sort of. Kyle McClellan seems to be on the fast track to pitching in the rotation, putting up a very solid 0.75 ERA in 12 innings over the course of three starts. With a 3-to-1 strikeout ratio as well, McClellan has nothing to worry about at this point in the spring. Jaime Garcia, on the other hand, has to be worrying some people. His first three starts have resulted in 12 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings for a robust 10.00 ERA. We could be seeing the early signs of the dreaded sophomore slump. However, Ryan Franklin hasn't gotten a start yet and the rookies were sent back to the minors, so it seems the Cardinals have their rotation pretty much figured out: Carpenter, Lohse, Westbrook, Garcia, McClellan.

Manny's still smiling in the Sunshine State
Finally, we go back to Tampa Bay, to check in on a couple of former Red sox who've moved around in the division. Manny Ramirez has just been Manny so far this spring, and from a hitting standpoint (and thus far a personality standpoint), that has been a fantastic thing for the Tampa Bay Rays. This spring, he's got splits of .310/.344/.552, with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs in 29 at-bats. Compared to what the Rays were getting last year, these sort of numbers from Ramirez would really give the entire lineup a boost in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. His former and current teammate, Johnny Damon, isn't having a horrible spring either, with splits of .269/.296/.538, in just under 30 at-bats. The concern in Tampa comes from the pitching staff, where only one starter has an ERA under 4.00--James Shields, with a 3.68. Andy Sonnenstine (0-2, 9.00 ERA) is a concern, but at least the old sluggers aren't.

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