TEMPE, Ariz. — Although Reid Detmers has dived into the analytics of pitching that are now mandatory for any big-leaguer, he is also somewhat of a throwback.
The Angels’ 23-year-old left-hander has set a simple goal for himself this year.
“I just want to get 20 wins, honestly,” Detmers said. “That’s always a goal. … That should always be the goal for a pitcher. You see the top guys get 19, 20, 21 wins every year. You want to be that guy.”
The Atlanta Braves’ Kyle Wright was baseball’s only 20-game winner in 2022. In the previous four full seasons, excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020, there have been a total of five pitchers to win 20 games.
Detmers won seven games last year, including a no-hitter, in 25 starts. His 3.77 ERA suggested he could have won more with better support from the offense or bullpen, both of which the Angels expect to be improved this year. There is also reason to believe Detmers could make a significant jump in what he can control.
And it starts with numbers on a radar gun.
“I got to catch him a few times last year, and he was outstanding,” Angels catcher Matt Thaiss said. “And I’ve caught him this spring, and the stuff just jumped from last year to this year.”
Detmers’ fastball averaged 93.2 mph last season. When he started Friday in a Cactus League game against the Dodgers, his fastball was consistently at 95-97 mph.
Last season, the evolution of his slider was well chronicled. He was throwing it 82-84 mph early in the season. After he was sent to Triple-A, he made an adjustment and returned throwing the pitch 86-88 mph.
Last week against the Dodgers, his slider was 89-91 mph.
“It’s a pretty big difference,” Angels pitching coach Matt Wise said. “With all the guys, if you can increase the stuff, it gives you more margin for error.”
Detmers’ slider is particularly effective because of the way it spins. Many sliders have more of a diagonal spin, which makes the ball go down and toward the pitcher’s glove side. Detmers’ slider has a gyro spin, like a quarterback throwing a spiral, so it drops straight down.
“It’s extremely tough,” Thaiss said. “It comes out looking just like his fastball. As a hitter, as a lefty I wouldn’t want to face that. It’s probably his best weapon. It’s a really good pitch.”
It became a much better weapon when he increased the velocity last season, so now that it’s increased even more, there is reason to believe Detmers could have a breakout season.
“It will definitely make a difference,” Detmers said of the extra velocity. “Obviously it’s good to have, but I’m not out there thinking I want to throw this hard, because then your mind is not in the right spot. You’ve still gotta make pitches.”
Detmers said he didn’t set out to increase his velocity. He did spend some time last winter working with Driveline. He also worked out with Eric Cressy, the well-known training guru who runs a facility in Florida.
“I said I just want to get stronger and more explosive,” Detmers said. “We made up a program for the whole offseason and I just stuck to that. And the velo came.”
FIGHTING FOR A JOB Non-roster invitees Jake Lamb and Kevin Padlo have made impressions on manager Phil Nevin this spring. Lamb is hitting .333 with a .941 OPS in 24 plate appearances, and Padlo is hitting .321 with a .976 OPS in 30 plate appearances.
Lamb, 32, is a left-handed hitter who plays primarily first and third. He’s played parts of nine years in the big leagues. Padlo, 26, is a right-handed hitter who also plays the corner infield spots. He’s been up and down with four organizations in the majors over the past two years.
The Angels seemed to be set with six infielders: Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo, Brandon Drury, Jared Walsh and Gio Urshela. Barring an injury, it would be surprising for the Angels to keep Lamb or Padlo over any of those players, and the Angels would need to be creative with their roster to keep a seventh infielder.
Nevin is not closing any doors, though.
“We’re gonna take our best players,” Nevin said. “Jake has a history of doing a lot of good things at the big-league level. Padlo’s had a lot of great seasons in Triple-A. People don’t realize he’s 26 years old. He’s still got a lot of baseball in front of him. I’d be surprised if both of them didn’t help us at some point this year.”
NOTES Jaime Barría rejoined the Angels on Tuesday after pitching for Panama in the World Baseball Classic in Taichung, Taiwan. Barria pitched one game for Panama, allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings. He also pitched an inning in an exhibition game. Barria said he’s expecting to return to Cactus League action sometime this weekend. The Angels are trying to decide if Barria will be strictly a reliever or bounce between the rotation and bullpen. …
Angels’ 19-year-old catcher Edgar Quero, one of the organization’s top prospects, has caught 18 innings in seven big-league exhibition games this spring. He’s come to the plate seven times, going hitless with three walks. “He’s caught a lot of our guys and we’ve been impressed with what he’s been able to do,” Nevin said. “As far as game-planning and sticking to what our game plans are, that’s what’s impressed me the most. I know he’s gonna hit. I know he can catch. It’s the game-planning, the mental side of getting behind the plate that impressed me this spring for a 19-year-old guy. … He’s gonna be a good big-leaguer some day.”