Now that the Dodgers' equipment truck has arrived at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, spring training is well within our sights. I hope one they packed candles on that truck, since this is a busy birthday week in Dodgertown. Yesterday, Russell Martin turned 27 and The Penguin celebrated number 62. Today, pitcher Ramon Troncoso turns 27, with a future that appears more secure than it did when he turned 26.
Troncoso had a fine major league debut season in 2008, putting up a 3.00 FIP and 4.26 ERA in 38 innings, all while striking out a batter an inning. That said, a spot on the major league roster for 2009 wasn't a lock as spring training began last year. There was some talk last year of using Troncoso as a starter, something he hadn't done since 2005. As BHSportsGuy, JJ24, and I took a tour of the Camelback Ranch grounds, there were two players in the clubhouse as we walked through -- Troncoso, and some Venezuelan pitcher named Belisario, whoever he was -- a pair we thought for sure would at least start the season in Albuquerque.
In Troncoso's case, it's not as if he was unnoticed; after all, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs in December 2008 called Troncoso a "hidden gem." Well, Troncoso of course ended up making the club, and had a good season. Among his highlights from 2009:
- The four-inning save in Colorado, entering with a one-run lead and making it hold up
- 23 relief appearances of four or more outs, third-most in the National League
- He allowed just five of 32 inherited runners to score, and was sixth in the NL in inherited runs prevented (per Baseball Prospectus)
- The two-pitch, two-out save against Oakland
- Held right-handers to a paltry .291 slugging percentage
The life of a middle reliever can change in a heartbeat -- just ask Cory Wade -- and there is reason for some concern with Troncoso. His strikeouts decreased (from 23.9% of plate appearances to 15.8%). His walks were up in 2009, but nine of his 34 free passes last year were intentional. His unintentional walk percentage was pretty much the same this year (7.2%) as last (6.9%).
However, with Troncoso there is also a lot to love. The power sinker, inducing a ton of ground balls (admittedly, we should hope for more of the 60.8% ground ball percentage in 2008 than the 55.1% in 2009), is too good of a pitch for Troncoso not to succeed. At the very least, with Casey Blake threatening to play this season clean shaven, Troncoso (seen here with Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is My Homeboy) may have to assume the role of The Beard for 2010.
At any rate, happy birthday Ramon. Here's to a fine 2010 season.