Detroit Tigers Newsletter: A short bit about small sample sizes

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Ford | Detroit Free Press

You get three strikes.

Then, if that isn’t enough, you get three outs.

No good? OK, nine innings. No? How about 162 games? (Most years, at least.)

What we’re saying is, baseball is a sport built on tiny, almost indistinguishable segments that mean nothing at all, that build and build and build until … Blammo! You’re holding the World Series trophy. Or, in the Tigers’ case, you’re shaking off 98 losses, 98, 114, 35 … well, you get the point.

Hello, welcome to the Detroit Tigers Newsletter, and please stick with us for the next 200 words or so — we’re on a budget — while we suggest that the past week really didn’t matter.

JEFF SEIDEL: Tigers spring observations: 10 surprises and frustrations through three weeks

It was baseball, yes, and sunny skies, and the Tigers went 5-2 — which is not something we’ve gotten to write a lot in this newsletter — in the first segment of camp.

But catching prospect Jake Rogers went 1-for 9 with five strikeouts.

Third base (why not?) prospect Spencer Torkelson went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

And Harold Castro, who led all MLB rookies with a .347 batting average last season, went 1-for-10.

But we’re not telling you to take the under if you bet on Tigers games this year. (A few thousand TV commercials tell us that’s legal now.)

Because it wasn’t all bad, either: Akil Baddoo, Willi Castro and Niko Goodrum hit .364, .417 and .571, respectively. (We might bet the under on those averages, though, if any casinos are offering.)

And now they’ve got a day off — today! — before playing another nine games, and then another day off (March 18) before the final 12 games of spring training. Segments, see? And then … Blammo! Opening Day!

And maybe by then, we’ll have enough of the segments to think we know what will happen. At the very least, we’re pretty sure Rogers, Torkelson and Castro will have picked up a few more hits.

But hey, if you want to do a deep dive into the first eight games of the spring, you could do worse than checking out Evan Petzold’s breakdown of the backup catcher competition. Or Jeff Seidel’s summation of the first few weeks of camp. (He’s with us on the small sample size thing, by the way.)

Mazara and blues

Speaking of small sample sizes, well, Nomar Mazara would like you to forget his 2020 season, in which he had one home run in 42 games, after hitting 20, 20, 20 and 19 in his first four (regular-sized) seasons. Our Man Petzold talked here with the free-agent addition, who finally took the field this weekend, about his rough season in Chicago: “Baseball is crazy. If it would have been a long season, I would have been like, ‘OK, let me work on this. I’ve got time.’ “

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Jim dandy

On the other end of the sample-size spectrum, you have ex-manager Jim Leyland —whose managerial career spanned 3,499 games, including nearly 1,300 in Detroit — who was in camp catching up with the latest generation of players. Our Man Seidel had a chat with Leyland, too; click here to find out which prospect had the skipper saying, “If I miss on that one, I’m totally off.”

A bag of swag

Speaking of prospects — which we do fairly often, come to think of it — the Tigers are experimenting more and more with 22-year-old Isaac Paredes at second base in an effort to alleviate an impending log jam at third base (Torkelson, Jeimer Candelario). The results are encouraging so far, according to Our Man Petzold. Click here to find out why.

Mark your calendar

The radio is one thing, but we’ve missed actually watching the Tigers for five months now. Good news! They’re back on the cable, satellite or internet provider you get Fox Sports Detroit from, beginning at 1:05 p.m. Friday against the Yankees. (That gives Michigan a whole 90 minutes to build up a comfortable lead in the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament quarterfinals, or make us so disgusted that we can’t watch anymore.) FSD will have its second broadcast of the spring on Sunday, with the Orioles’ visit to Lakeland for a game that could feature the past three No. 1 overall picks –Torkelson, Casey Mize and Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman.

Three to watch

Hey, since they’re on TV, keep an eye out for these three Tigers:

GREG GARCIA: The utility infielder could be ‘glue’ that brings team together

JOSE URENA: Wild, but perhaps not effectively so in his Tigers debut Sunday

RILEY GREENE: Our Man Seidel got a dad’s-eye view last week

This week’s Tigers birthdays: Juan Encarnacion (45 on Monday), Justin Thompson (48 on Monday), C.J. Nitkowski (48 on Tuesday), Blaine Hardy (34 on Sunday).

Another spring for Mr. Tiger

No one had more small segments turn into long seasons as a Tiger than Al Kaline. This is the first spring in Tiger Town without Kaline in nearly seven decades. But Mr. Tiger still has a locker in Lakeland, for the 67th straight season. Our Man Seidel has the inside story on the tribute here.

TL;DR

Of the 25 pitchers who’ve appeared in a game this spring for the Tigers, 21 have yet to allow an earned run, which should tell you exactly how small this particular sample size is in 2021.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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