Can you teach an old catcher new tricks?

Pudge Rodriguez’s power surge has been a pleasant surprise this spring. With two more homers today, he now has a MLB leading six for the spring. But as Jason Beck notes, Pudge is focusing less on the homers, and more on being patient. This is a guy after all, that is one of only 4 players since 2003 to have more than 500 plate appearances in a season and fewer than 15 walks. And he did it twice!

Still, Pudge sez:

“No, I don’t think I’ve had a Spring Training like that as far as home runs. But I don’t look for that. It’s good, yes. I have six home runs in Spring Training. The main thing about it is I’m just doing what I want to do and just be more selective at the plate, try to hit some strikes and take the balls. I’m just trying to see 4-5 pitches per at-bat. That’s what I’m trying to do. And so far, that’s what I’m doing. I’m feeling pretty good about that.”

Keep in mind here that Pudge’s pitch selection in 2007 wasn’t just poor, it was horrendous. Using pitch f/x data from last year we saw that a typical big leaguer would offer at 29% of pitchers out of the strike zone. Rodriguez was around 50%.

As for the 4-5 pitches per PA, that would be quite a jump. Beck noted that Rodriguez ranked near the bottom in terms of pitchers per PA last year when he averaged 3.51. But that was actually the most pitches he’s seen since becoming a Tigers with rates of 3.44, 3.33, and 3.39. In fact the 3.51 was the 2nd highest mark of his career.

Rodriguez’s ability to carry this over into the regular season would seem to be far fetched. Still, this is a contract year which may provide some extra motivation to be a more complete hitter. Secondly, he’s had some early success this spring which should provide some positive reinforcement that the approach is working. Third, he’ll be in a great lineup. Okay, that last one doesn’t make a lot of sense but it is a popular refrain for why players will do really well for the Tigers this year.


  1. Jim

    March 12, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    yeah, he wants one more big contract.

  2. Big Al

    March 13, 2008 at 12:11 am

    If Pudge walks 20 times this season…Come on, what am I saying?! That’s crazy talk!!

    The day Pudge, the free swingingest of all free swingers, becomes patient at the plate, pigs will fly, the Lions will win 10 games, and Jim Leyland will stop smoking. In other words, it ain’t gonna happen. Once a hacker, always a hacker.

  3. David

    March 13, 2008 at 2:17 am

    2 players who have gotten little coverage IMO are Jones and Rentaria

    As far as Pudgey goes
    I’m hoping for 80 RBIS and a .300 BA

    Walks pft, I’d rather he keep himself durable and keep his decent speed intact

    Work with what you’ve got

  4. Chris in Dallas

    March 13, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I’m glad to see he’s at least *thinking* about being more selective. I was worried he might be the first big leaguer in history to post a negative on base percentage…

  5. Chris in Nashville

    March 13, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I think walks will be the key to this offense. If they can just keep turning that lineup over and over, there will be no stopping them. It should also lead to everyone getting better pitches to hit because when our A lineup is out there, there is not 1 hole in that lineup. Opposing pitchers will have to attack the offense instead of trying to be careful to all 9 guys.

    I’ll believe it when I see Pudge being more patient at the plate.

  6. Joel in Seattle

    March 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I’m glad to see that he wants to focus on it. With a player of his stature, it would be really easy to adopt an attitude where he felt he didn’t need to change anything. That he’s cognizant of the problem and apparently working on it is half the battle.

  7. T Smith

    March 13, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    About two weeks ago I got this interesting premonition that Pudge was going to have a career-kinda year. He stepped up his workout regiment during the off-season so to compensate for the age factor — and he now seems more focused, looks stronger, and appears to have matured somehow. There is also a humbling factor that seems to suit him — batting eighth in star-laden cast — he looks like a man on a mission. I don’t think it really has to do with his contract year. I think it’s more a pride thing for a professional competitor playing with an all-star cast.

    Looking at him, he actually looks younger to me. As every baseball aficionado in grade school knows Pudge’s weaknesses as a free-swinging hacker, there is no reason to believe Pudge himself is not aware of shortcomings and knows what need be done to improve himself as a player. If he can focus and build on this spring, I say there is no reason he can’t have a career year.

    Here’s my bold perdiction for Pudge 2008:

    .314/.345/.510 — 23 hr

    I may be nuts, but if we can get that from Pudge, fogettaboutit

  8. David

    March 13, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Hey for all of you Tiger fans

    I’ve one extra opening day ticket – section 117 (lower level behind 1st base) $225 if anyone is interested

    For many other games in April I have 5 tickets (section 117) – we paid 30$ for them I believe and stadium parking (lot W on Madison right next to the stadium

    Wed 2 Thurs 3 Fri 4 Sun 6 (8:05 pm) rest are 1:05 all of these I’d be asking $170

    I’m going to post this a couple more times because I figure it is a lot better to at least gage the interest here before going to stub hub and paying them.

    Again 1 Opening day ticket – asking $225

    5 tickets to April 2, April 3, April 4, April 6 (comes with very nice Comerica Park parking) asking $170

    all are in Section 117 (behind the first base bag)

    anyone who is interested/has an offer please email me at

    I’m trying to have my father wait for a few days before he re lists them on stub hub so ASAP would be best if you are interested

  9. billfer

    March 13, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Hey David, what’s my cut?

  10. David

    March 13, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    how much do you want?

    I’d probably ask a little more then (ie boost it up by whatever % you would want), if I were to cut you in – if any sold to someone via this site

    Still I’d much rather pay you a “fee” than fork it over to stub hub

    sadly they are still out there (NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THE WS 2008 WINNERS 1st game?!)