It’s always so exciting when spring training starts. Watching them play in the warm weather makes me more jealous of baseball players than any other time of the year. But, other than that, it’s great. They actually start playing real live baseball on Wednesday. I will be stuck up in the DC area, walking to the metro in the cold cold mornings. Hopefully some of you are actually going to get out to Florida and check out a game or two. If not, you can probably catch a game or two on tv, but other than the ESPN game which is Tuesday 3/18, 1:05 vs. Detroit, good luck finding what games are being shown. Because I can’t find it ANYWHERE! All my googling just leads me to the 2007 spring training tv schedule. Which would have been useful last winter. If someone has the schedule, please send it over.

If you are able to watch some games, there are some things you should be looking out for. Things that may tell you whether this team is going to approach a .500 record, or maybe have less wins compared to last year.

  • John Patterson’s velocity and movement: He has been hurt longer than Carl Pavano, and he came back last year only to throw a moderately curving curve and an 85 mph fastball. I’m not saying he needs to be the same pitcher to be successful. But if he can come out and throw in the low 90s, and have anything approaching the 12-6 curve that he had a few years ago, Patterson could surprise many people that counted him out.
  • Wily Mo Pena’s hitting against righties: Baseball Prospectus projects him to hit .270/.343/.512 in under 300 ABs. First of all, if he can do that, it will be a boon to the team’s run scoring ability. But if he could improve his ability to hit right handed pitching, he could turn into a truly formidable full time outfielder. Imagine that power from a guy playing every day? It’s almost as nice as imagining yourself in Florida right now.
  • Rob Mackowiak’s hitting against righties: I truly believe he was brought in to spell the all-righty outfield rather often. All of them have significant drops against righty pitchers, and the left handed Mackowiak should be a decent fill-in. But if he doesn’t do it in spring training, Manny may lose patience with the journeyman outfielder quickly.
  • Felipe Lopez hitting/on base ability: Lopez actually was able to draw quite a few walks considering he hit under .250. But he needs to get that AVG/OBP to more like .280/.350 to be really effective as a leadoff. Look for how much he’s getting hits, the power is alot less important with him (although the more the merrier with that).
  • What Odalis Perez has left in the tank: Perez wasn’t included on my starting pitchers review because he wasn’t a National yet. But he signed on Feb 19, and he’s an interesting one to take a flyer on. He had one stellar season, in 2002 when he had an ERA of 3.00, with 155 Ks and 38 BBs. The next year his ERA went up, then back down in 2004, but each time he had at least a 2.91 K/BB ratio. His K/9 has gone down as has his K/BB. Without getting too much into the numbers, he has seen both ratios fall as he is striking out less and walking more per inning. Watch for him to strike people out and keep his walks down. Sure, you look for this from every pitcher. But if Perez can keep his K/9 around 6 and his K/BB above 3, he may be able to win a spot in the rotation.
  • Nick Johnson’s Health: If he is healthy, he could once again be the most effective hitter on this roster. He could be fighting Zimmerman for the RBI crown on the team. If his healthy ‘stache is any indicator, he’s feeling 100% right now, but I’ll definitely be watching how he runs.
  • Lastings Milledge’s hitting, fielding, running: I don’t know if there are any real indicators here, I just have heard he sprays line drive to all fields. That shoudl translate to a high AVG now, and as he gets older it means high AVG and SLG. For now I just want to see him play every day, he is supposed to be an incredible athlete.
  • Shawn Hill: Nothing specific, I just want to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating with his performance last season. I’m not looking for any peripherals or numbers, other than ERA and Ws. Hopefully we see more of the same.
  • Customs and Border Patrol possibly taking Jesus Flores away: He showed up late to camp because he couldn’t get into the US. Hopefully his visa issues are all taken care of.

By Charlie