March Madness? Who cares? While most of the sporting world is focused on a bunch of college basketball games, I decided to take in a Tigers game this afternoon. Why? Because I am dedicated to baseball, spring training or not. And, there was terrible games this afternoon until mighty Norfolk State stepped onto the floor. Enough about Cinderella and the Big Dance though. I wanted to talk about the team that owns the golden slipper in the Central Division, not a team that just borrows it for a couple hours.
The Tigers path to the playoffs looks like it is going to be impeded by only one team, and that is themselves. They have the best rotation in the division and arguably the best offense now that Prince Fielder has been added to the mix. What I saw today, besides a pretty injury riddled and bad Mets team, is a team that looks focused on taking care of business. The Tigers cruised to a 9-0 victory today, and as the Mets announcers mentioned at one point, it’s not the results, it’s how you look playing the game at this point. The Tigers look good.
Rick Porcello was quite good today, pitching 4 innings of shutout ball. Now, it wasn’t against a very good lineup, but he did lower his spring ERA to 1.80. It’s been said many many times that Porcello is a key to the rotation, but I don’t think that is the case anymore since the Tigers added Doug Fister. That’s not to say improvement isn’t expected, but what he has been giving us the past few years is acceptable. I didn’t notice any increase in velocity today (89-91 all day), and honestly, he looked much like he has in the past.
Two relievers in particular continue to perform well in Luis Marte and Brayan Villarreal. Marte did a tremendous job of spotting a low 90′s fastball and mixing in a good slider. Marte was the first reliever out of the pen, and I think people should always take notice of things like this. It means that the Tigers are wanting to get him in against the Mets regulars. Marte went two shutout innings and hasn’t allowed an earned run this spring.
Villarreal, much like Marte, hasn’t allowed an earned run either this spring. Villarreal made quick work of the Mets in the 8th inning, pumping mid 90′s fastballs regularly over the dish, essentially all this spring.
Offensively the Tigers were pretty impressive against Johan Santana. They put up a lot of good at-bats against the former Minnesota Twin, who is working his way back into pitching shape. Offensive stars on the day included Delmon Young, who drove in 2 with a bases loaded single, and Andy Dirks who went 2 for 3, scoring one and driving in one.
The game was also interesting because it was a travel game, and as the visiting team the Tigers brought along some of the youngsters. I’ve seen Steven Moya before, but he looks a little more confident in the batters box. I also had the opportunity to check out Daniel Fields, who showed off impressive opposite field power, doubling to the left field wall in the late innings. Players like Dixon Machado and Brandon Loy saw some time as well.
Spring training numbers may not mean a lot, and neither does the win and loss record, but next chance you get, take some time and watch this team.
They are playing well. They are playing like they are on a mission.
Let’s hope that it becomes a mission accomplished.