Everything changes in baseball, from hitting and pitching theories to the rise of analytics vs. scouting and eye-tests. So why not also Major League Baseball’s spring training, which wrapped up on Wednesday, March 28.
The most fundamental change to spring preparation Dave Roberts has seen in his pro career?
“Where we’ve really adjusted is in trying to keep players off the field more,” said the Los Angeles Dodgers skipper during the exhibition Freeway Series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“When I came up, you were on the field a long time. Pitchers would shag flyballs during batting practice. Nowadays, pitchers don’t shag very often. And we’re really starting to focus on the ‘rest-and-recovery’ side of things. Spring training is still six weeks long. But as each individual organization is aware of, a priority is to try and shorten the time on the field for the player.”
But one thing spring training should always do is create hope for the fan base, a realistic belief their team might play past the 162-game regular season schedule.
That season begins today, March 29, for the Angels, Dodgers, and the other 28 major league teams this year (for the first time since 1968 when there were only 20 teams) in the earliest Opening Day in baseball history. This is the first season in a while in Southern California that both teams reaching the playoffs seems to be more than a wishful notion.
The Dodgers won a major league high 104 games last year and reached the World Series for the first time since 1988 (losing in seven games to the Houston Astros).
They can certainly envision making the playoffs this season, just as they have the past five years by the virtue of winning five consecutive National League West Division titles. They are heavy favorites to make it six straight division titles, although the Blue Crew should expect challenges from Arizona and Colorado in the division, and Chicago, St. Louis and Washington for overall National League supremacy.
The Angels last played October postseason ball in 2014, and last won a postseason game in 2009. But they have upgraded their talent and depth, and can certainly feel like contenders.
For fans of interleague play, the Angels are matched against the National League West, and the Dodgers go up against the American League West. They will play each other July 6-8 at Anaheim Stadium, and July 13-15 at Dodger Stadium, just before the All-Star break.