Future of pitching looks bright
Baseball headed toward placing a premium on pitching
DETROIT -- If this particular All-Star Futures Game is any indication, the future of baseball will be increasingly about pitching.
And that pitching future will be global in scope. On a bright, blue, nearly cloudless Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, the World Team defeated the U.S. Team, 4-0, in the 2005 Futures Game. This event was a compelling argument for a game that is headed back to the future, toward a game with more of a premium on pitching and less on hitting for distance. And those pitchers will be coming from all over the globe.
This was the lowest-scoring contest in the history of the Futures Game. If you wanted to make an argument on behalf of the hitters you could point to the spacious nature of Comerica, a ballpark in which the distant center-field fence seems to be in a separate zip code, or possibly another municipality.
But let's dispense with that. You're going to hear more of it Monday night when the sluggers aren't able to hit as many home runs as everybody wants in the Home Run Derby. "Oh, the dimensions are too large." No, they are not.
Comerica Park is a fair test of all facets of the game. There is nothing outrageous about it. There is no law that says that every one of the new-generation parks has to be a bandbox. In fact, it is kind of refreshing to find a place where a seemingly harmless fly ball is actually a seemingly harmless fly ball and not a home run.
And as far as the Futures Game is concerned, the outfield dimensions aren't a terrific factor when the ball doesn't leave the infield. The pitchers dominated much of this event, particularly the World Team pitchers. When the ball was struck with sufficient force, it traveled the required distance. Shin-Soo Choo, a Mariners prospect, proved this in the third inning, when he hit a solo homer off Zach Jackson. The ball flew over the right-field wall, with never a doubt from the moment it left the bat.
The American Future Stars had an imposing lineup. Holding this group scoreless in any park of a lesser size than Yellowstone National was a considerable achievement.
"You look at their lineup, and it's pretty impressive, and ours is, too" said pitcher Scott Mathieson, a Canadian and a Philadelphia Phillies prospect, who retired both of the hitters he faced. "We had great pitching today. One or two hits and it could go either way, and that's kind of what happened."
The save went to another Canadian, left-hander Adam Loewen, a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Orioles in 2002. The term "saves" has been in shorter supply than usual in Canada, what with the shutdown of the National Hockey League, but this was undoubtedly a Canadian save.
The Canadians are becoming a bigger presence in the American national pastime every season, and they were all over the Futures Game, too, with Russ Martin getting part of the catching duties in this shutout.
"A great day for us," Loewen said, on behalf of his fellow Canadian ballplayers.
"They (the United States) have some great players, guys who have already been in the big leagues, who are just a short callup away," said Lowen. "Pitching against those guys, our whole team did well."
There is something to be said for the notion that when hitters face pitchers they don't regularly see, the advantage generally goes to the pitchers. There was obviously some of that occurring here. But this wasn't a case of one or two hot pitchers dominating an opposing lineup, because no pitcher worked more than one inning in this game. The World Team used nine pitchers to achieve this seven-inning, four-hit shutout. The victory went to Edison Volquez, a Texas Rangers prospect, who is originally from the Dominican Republic.
This week, with the unveiling of the World Baseball Classic, and the Home Run Derby changing to a format in which sluggers represent nations, the All-Star focus is on the internationalization of baseball. The young World Team stars showed Sunday that part of the internationalization process will include a bigger, better, and geographically wider pool of pitching.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.