Phillies have tough task ahead in quest for repeat
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TROUBLE LURKING FOR PHILLIES
By Orel Hershiser, ESPNThe Phillies have a lot going for them this year in their effort to repeat as World Series champions, but another title is far from a lock.
BEST OF THE BLOGSEach day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. The Royals are getting plenty of love this season from experts who think they can make some noise in the AL Central. Buster Olney thinks Mark Teahen is one of the reasons why: Mark Teahen's transition to second base began on a Little League field in Peoria, Ariz., in December. He went there with his brother and girlfriend to take grounders, and really, it would've made no difference, as he got his work in that day whether he was standing at third base or at second base. But Teahen had thought about the way the Royals' roster was shaping up in the aftermath of Kansas City's trade for Coco Crisp, and he recognized that he was probably going to be bumped out of a starting spot in the outfield. So he decided that maybe it was in his best interests to start thinking about playing some second base. So that day, when his brother started hitting him grounders, he jogged in that direction. A few weeks later, he went to Texas. There, Hillman approached him with a thought: You might get some work in at second base. That is where Teahen has played the most in what has been an outstanding spring training for him. It's also been a great spring for the Royals. "I feel like I could handle [second base], the way that I feel right now," he said Tuesday evening. For the rest of this entry from Buster Olney's blog, click here.
An improved camera system to monitor umpires' calls of balls and strikes will be used in all 30 major league stadiums starting opening day, ending the contentious QuesTec era but expanding the scope of baseball's oversight program. And it appears to be rankling umpires anew.
Major League Baseball had been using QuesTec since 2001 to try to standardize the functional size of the strike zone, which often varies from umpire to umpire, despite the rulebook definition. But QuesTec cameras were installed in only about a third of major league stadiums, raising the suspicion among players and fans that umpires called games differently depending on whether QuesTec was watching. Umpires also questioned if the system was sufficiently accurate to gauge their performance.
The new system, called Zone Evaluation, relies on pitch-tracking data already collected by cameras in all 30 parks and distributed through applications on MLB.com and iTunes. Zone Evaluation software will rate umpire performance more quickly and accurately than QuesTec, according to Mike Port, baseball's vice president for umpiring.
"It's an upgrade from where we were," Port said in a telephone interview. "The umpires, they don't want to miss a pitch any more than a batter wants to strike out. Where the Z.E. system will give us a lot of help is more data to help identify any trends: 'The last three plate jobs, you missed seven pitches that were down and in. Here's how one of the supervisors can help you adjust your head angle or your stance to have a better chance of getting those pitches.'"
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BBTN MINUTE: TAKING A LOOK AT THE NL
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WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST
|• The Indians and Mariners each scored 14 runs in one of those famous spring training ties, so there are plenty of nice offensive lines. The best, though, came from Ben Francisco, who went 4-for-6, homered, drove home four runs and scored four.||WORST|
|• Jeremy Guthrie's start against the Marlins didn't go all that well Wednesday. He lasted four innings, gave up 10 hits and eight runs in a 13-2 loss against the Marlins. Over his past two starts, Guthrie has watched his spring ERA go from 5.40 to 10.57.|
BBTN'S AL EAST PREVIEW
NUMBERS TO KNOW
The Detroit Tigers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season last year after appearing in the World Series in 2006. The club announced Wednesday that 2007 first-round pick Rick Porcello will start the season in the rotation. The Tigers hope he'll provide an impact arm at the back of the rotation and help bolster the pitching staff, which allowed 5.3 runs a game last season, third-worst in the AL. Here's a look at where the staff had its biggest issues last year:
|Detroit Tigers pitching|
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