(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
No one needs to be reminded of how unimportant Spring Training stats are (but if you did, there’s another reminder). But what about the overall format of Spring Training itself? It’s structured such that players are eased into full-scale baseball activities, but how much do they really need that structure? Every player is different and needs to do different things to get themselves into full game shape. Some guys need lots of time in the cage and on the field to get right and some like Mo seem to be able to roll out of bed and be at the top of their game. There are some Yankee regulars that have missed significant amounts of time with injuries this spring, and thus find themselves well behind the typical Spring Training schedule. None are expected to miss Opening Day, but when you consider the sport being played it’s worth asking how effective they can be without a full spring routine under their belt.
Baseball isn’t a sport that requires tremendous amounts of continuous physical exertion, at least not compared to sports like hockey and football, but it does require an incredible amount of skill to be successful. That skill is rooted in things like mechanics, timing, balance, body control, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination, all things that aren’t as simple as running or jumping and thus require more practice time and more repetition. It makes sense to me that missing significant portions of that practice time in Spring Training would have an adverse reaction on a player’s preparedness for the regular season. I’m sure Dave Robertson, Derek Jeter, and Nick Swisher all had their own individual ways of working out and training this past offseason to prepare themselves for 2012, and I’m sure they all had certain plans and things they wanted to accomplish in the structure of the Spring Training schedule to continue that preparation. Falling out of that schedule, scrapping those plans, and not being able to work on the things they planned to must have a negative impact on their game, no?
D-Rob has been out of game action and full team activities since March 8. He’s thrown exactly one inning of official baseball this spring and likely won’t be appearing in another game until early next week. He’s thrown some side sessions recently and is scheduled to pitch BP on Friday, but a lot of that work has been to test his foot and make sure there’s no lingering effects of his bone bruise. I can’t imagine pitching in those watered down situations is anywhere near similar to how D-Rob would pitch in a real game, so how far away is he from being in true “game shape?” Pitching is a lot about feel and one inning is hardly enough time to get the feel for one’s pitches. As a pitcher known for bouts of wildness here and there, D-Rob seems like the ideal candidate for needing a full Spring Training routine to harness his stuff, find the command of his curveball, and put everything together to be prepared for the season. Can he condense that routine into 10-12 days and be where he needs to be on Opening Day?
Same thing with Jeter and Swish. They’ve gotten far more reps than D-Rob this spring (20 AB for Swish, 18 for Jeter) but now both are looking at over a week of inactivity before they can get back on the field, back in the lineup, and back into their routines. Even with as many at-bats as these two have had in their careers, they still need to get the feel and timing of their swing back and then need reps at the plate to get their timing down reacting to live pitches, which is exactly what they’ve been doing in camp. After two weeks of scheduled, regimented work at the plate and in the field to round themselves into game shape, now they essentially have to hit pause. If they were at 60-70% of where they’d need to be to be ready for the start of the season when they paused, can they pick it back up there and get to 100% in the last week or two they will have to work with or are they starting from scratch? As someone who could barely hit a baseball when it was on a tee in front of me, I’m dying to know.
I can throw off my routine by going out until 3AM, getting hammered drunk, then dragging myself out of bed in the morning to go to work hung over, and I know that I can still do my job well. But I spend the majority of my day starting at a computer screen. It’s a little different when you have to throw a ball very hard and with a certain rotation to a precise predetermined location or be the guy trying to hit that ball as it’s coming at you at 95 MPH. Joe keeps saying that D-Rob, Jeter, and Swish will be ready for Opening Day, but with the amount of time they’ve missed this spring, can he really say that? They might be ready in that they are physically able to play, but without being able to go through their full Spring Training routines they might not be “ready” to play their best baseball. If they start off slow in April, I think we’ll know just how “ready” they are.
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