On the latest Woodward Tigers podcast, Mike Petriello of MLB.com and co-host of the Ballpark Dimensions podcast, talks Tigers and the newest Statcast numbers coming in 2023. What rule changes he is looking forward to in 2023 and the Tigers’ offensive potential in 2023. Here’s some of the podcast transcribed when Rogelio asked about the 1st and 3rd base situation.
Rogelio: Where do you see the tigers in terms of teams? I know they’re not gonna contend this year, but it just seems like what’s, in other words, I really don’t know what they’re gonna have at first base or third base when Spencer Torkelson still hasn’t been able to be have consistency.
Mike: Well, I agree with you there. I just don’t think they have any choice other than to let him. Like you look at the situation they’re in. I don’t, I don’t, I I think we kind of look at young guys who come up, especially highly touted guys and we, we get a little spoiled by Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna and these guys who just destroy from day one.
Like the level of young talent we have in this sport is unbelievable. But then we kind of forget, like Mike Trout wasn’t very good his first couple months in the majors. There’s a ton of guys who have needed some time. I don’t know if Torkelson is going to be a good player or not, but I do know that the situation that the Tigers are in, like you literally have no choice.
You have to let him play. And I think they’re in an extra weird spot in the sense that they do have a new general manager, right? It’s Scott Harris has come in. So, usually when that happens, it’s because a franchise hasn’t. Playing well, which is definitely true, and you get a bit of a grace period now.
I don’t think anybody expected him to do almost literally nothing to the offense, which is kind of what’s happened. But I don’t have a problem with him. Sticking with torque at first base. I think I heard AJ Hinch on the radio not long ago saying he expected Miguel Cabrera to play a little at first base this year as well.
So like, that’s fine, and as far as like third base goes, I’m kind of surprised they haven’t signed Brian Anderson yet. Just because he’s a placeholder, he can play the outfield. If it turns out one of the internal third basemen are good. I was a little surprised they let Jeimer Candelario him go, to be honest. But we are in this weird spot where it’s like you had some amount of potential helium last year that didn’t go well, so you can’t like blow it up, obviously. But I also understand why he’s not out there giving like 12 year contracts to try to get guys to come here.
Chris: You have a lot of people have been speculating about, know, what the shift change is, might mean, and, and I think there’s a general feeling among fans that it’s gonna be more impactful than it probably is, and you’ve been doing a series of articles about that. So I’m curious if if you wanna lay out some of the findings you’ve got so far.
Mike Petriello: Yeah, I, I’ve been doing a lot of work on it and the whole thing, it’s fascinating. I have long been against the idea of a shift, I still kind of am against the idea of it, but the more I have thought about it the more interested I am just to see what happens. And it’s not necessarily whether it’s going to affect guys as much as people think it will.
I’m mostly interested to see how different hitters approach it. because what I’ve really learned by looking into this, every left-handed hitter is not the same hitter. They’re not gonna get impacted the same way. And I fully expect there’s gonna be some guys who will say, I don’t care. I I’m going to hit the ball as hard as I can.
I don’t care where you put your outfielders. Like Joc Peterson said. It’s probably a good example of that, and then there are gonna be guys who are like, oh, great, there’s not three guys that were there. I can get my singles back and they’re gonna go for. Not everybody’s gonna have the same value proposition.
Like if you’re, if you’re Anthony Rizzo and you’re playing in Yankee Stadium, why would you want that single back You’re like, no, I kind of wanna hit the short porch over there, . Like, that’s, that’s what I’m doing. But to, to kind of give you like a high level explanation of. How I tried to do this with the numbers with Statcast, we know how hard the ball was hit, the, the angle lunch angle and also the horizontal angle.
So, you look at the likelihood of all those combinations being a hit and you look at it based on where the fielders were allowed to play last year and you compare it to where the fielders could play this year, and you kind of take the difference between those two things. So, when I did it, the first three guys who potentially would’ve regained the most hits made a ton of sense, right, Corey Seager
Kyle Schwarber and Carlos Santana great. Like wonderful, no problems there. And then I went through it and it’s like, Hey, weird. Like Anthony Rizzo’s not on this list. Matt Olsen’s not on this list. So I had to go explain why. And it’s just reasons about like how they hit the ball and where they hit the ball and all that kind of stuff.
But, I think the flaw in any evaluation of what the shift might do, including my own, is that you can’t just take what happened in 2022 as far as the batted balls and expect it will be the same next year. And that’s partially just cuz you know, batted ball distribution is noisy, but it’s also cuz guys won’t act the same.
Jeff McNeil is not gonna act the same. He’s the kind of back control guy who can do that. Freddie Freeman, right? Some guys will act the same. It’s just gonna be so noisy and I think you’ll be able to see the impact at a league level. You’ll probably be able to say, okay, left-handers as an aggregate, got back batting average on ground balls.
I think that’ll happen, but it’s gonna be really hard to do it on a batter to batter basis cuz imagine. Max Kepler gets traded to Houston or something and gets 30 points of batting average, is that gonna be cuz of the shift or is it gonna be because the short porch there or because the Astros hitting coaches are telling him something different?
It’s so complicated to dig into this
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