Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

Checking Out The Enemy Camp: Safeco Field

Back and refreshed from vacation. The wife and I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, spending three days in Victoria, BC and another three days in Seattle. My wife being the kind sort she allowed me to have two hours to support my baseball fix, so we went in 50 degree coolness to a tour of Safeco Field, home of division rivals the Seattle Mariners.

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I would love to include the sounds of Safeco Field a few weeks before Opening Day but sadly, that wasn’t in the cards. Who wouldn’t want to hear the sound of power washers going full blast? Our tour guide informed us that the Mariners were in full stadium preparation phase already and that included power-washing every brick, stone. iron and concrete in the stadium to get it clean as a whistle for the first game of the season. The loudest sound came when we were on the patio in the upper deck. Enjoy the view of this picture and envision the hum of engines and force-fed water at 100 decibel while doing so:

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Enjoying my new Smartphone, I enjoyed playing with the panorama setting which shows the stadium in all its glory:

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Down on the field, the bases weren’t in place yet. In fact, the infield was far from ready:

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But the grounds crew was already hard at work:

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What ballpark tour doesn’t love to show fans the luxury suites. I won’t show a shot of the owner’s suite, but here’s what greets every luxury suite attendee when they get off the elevator:

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The Press Box is the Press Box, except for one thing at Safeco: The windows are open and foul balls fly through on a regular basis because the netting behind home plate is lower than anyone else’s netting in the bigs. Every year Safeco has to patch up the walls there. However, they do have a frame they put over one dent that never gets fixed:

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Because I like the odd, I took this snap outside the umpires dressing room. You’ll find all kinds of official MLB policy signs posted at stadiums across the country. These are mostly rules the media has to follow as it pertains to umpires:

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The Visitors locker room is just about ready. The locker room itself IS ready. What you don’t see off to the left of this picture is where the visiting teams eat. That room was piled high with boxes when we were there:

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Here’s what the players see when they turn around at home plate:

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The unexpected fun part came when our guide was telling us about the retractable roof at Safeco. While he was talking, I looked up. It was almost imperceptible at first, but the longer I looked up the more I realized the roof was closing as he was speaking! This even took our guide by surprise. Turns out we were there on the day they were testing the roof for the first time. I got a bit of it on video. If you look at the actual roof, you probably won’t really notice it. Instead, check out the shadow as it covers up the pitcher’s mound:

Finally, I loved the sculpture at the left field entrance. As you can see, my wife is quite a catch!

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This was our third ballpark tour, following Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Fenway Park. All three have things the others didn’t. Safeco was the first that let us go into the locker rooms. RBiA used to do it but apparently once someone stole a jersey from Josh Hamilton‘s locker so they stopped allowing it. On the other hand, the RBiA tour included the batting cages, while Fenway let you see their Hall of Fame and sit in the Green Monster seats. I give the Mariners kudos on their ballpark tour.The guide was very knowledgeable and even in the off-season, the park is beautiful. The team is still probably no better than third place in 2014.

Now we’re just two weeks away from the regular season and I’d like to announce a couple changes/additions. I’ve changed the URL for the blog so I can tie everything together a little better. The new URL is: mlblogsonestrikeawaytwice.wordpress.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @RangersBlogger and I now have a Google + page called One Strike Away…Twice! Follow me anytime and get ready to PLAY BALL!

Former Ranger Gets Foot In Mouth Disease

Our top story: Jon Daniels is a “sleazeball.”

That, of course, according to the dearly departed Ian Kinsler, now plying his wares for the Detroit Tigers. In a story for ESPN: The Magazine, Kinsler was quoted as calling Daniels a sleazeball and expressed his hope the Rangers would finish 0-162 this season.

Needless to say, it was bound to make the national headlines because of the old axiom: “Thou shalt always complain when athletes and managers use manager-speak but thou shalt complain even louder when a player or manager doesn’t use manager-speak.”

We fans just love to complain about everything and our wonderful media folks are more than happy to feed our appetite for complaining. Ian Kinsler, thus, was a gift from God.

But really? This is all we have to complain about?

Sure, Kinsler said his comments about Daniels were taken slightly out of context. That was proven as bunk when his exact words were played back today on Buster Olney’s podcast. Still, what’s the big deal here? I like the job Jon Daniels has done in building the Texas Rangers franchise to a year-in, year-out contender. Daniels is not 100% infallible, though. He subscribes to the notion you should get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late. Thus he’s burned bridges with quite a few players over the years: Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli. All felt disrespected by the Rangers GM when their times came. It’s the nature of the job. So when someone who signed a club-friendly long-term deal, only to get traded in the middle of it, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them miffed at their former boss. Maybe he shouldn’t have called him a sleazeball publicly, but I’ll bet there’s no shortage of players in major league baseball who haven’t felt the exact same way about a GM they once worked with.

Then there’s the wish for the Rangers to go 0-162. So what? I’m a Rangers fan and I would love to see the Angels finish 0-162. The Mariners, A’s and Astros too. Probably the Yankees as well. It ain’t gonna happen but it’s a fun thing to wish for.

Kinsler opened another tempest in the article, putting himself square on the side of Nolan Ryan and against Jon Daniels and said it was Daniels’ ego that caused the rift that eventually led to Ryan’s departure from the Rangers. That brought both sides of fans on that debate back into the open debating each other and calling each other names. For what? Why is it so hard for Daniels fans to acknowledge that Ryan had at least a little to do with the growth of the Rangers organization to where they are today. And why can’t the camp of Ryan supporters give props to the work of Daniels and the scouting department for their role as well? I like Daniels, I liked Ryan. They both did and have done great things for the Rangers. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

If you’re a Rangers fan, what you should really get upset about with Kinsler is the comments he made about Michael Young‘s leadership, the change in the clubhouse in 2013 and his own lack of desire to fill the leadership void left by Young’s departure. I get that there are some people for whom mentoring and leadership come naturally. For others it’s hard. For Kinsler it was hard. Ian won’t ever be a Michael Young type in the clubhouse, but to say he just wanted to focus on playing hit me the wrong way. Josh Hamilton was (and probably still is) the same way. Every team needs at least one person who helps bring the group together. Michael Young was once that player- always mentoring, comporting themselves in a professional manner and even motivating others by example by getting the absolute most out of his physical abilities day in and day out. Kinsler didn’t like that role. The problem with that is, if everyone has that attitude, there’s nothing to help glue it all together. If that’s truly the way Kinsler feels, I’m kind of glad he isn’t a Ranger anymore. I don’t want someone who refuses to switch positions for the betterment of the team. Be upset about it, sure. Even tell us you don’t like it. But be a TEAM player in the end. Someone helped you when you got to the bigs. Pass it on. ESPECIALLY when it’s best for the team.

I don’t blame Kinsler for his feelings about Jon Daniels or his wish for his former team to fall apart without him. Just don’t tell me you don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a veteran. That’s the area where Ian Kinsler needs to grow up.

What If Koji Uehara…?

In 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, Koji Uehara threw 47 innings, allowing only 25 hits, walked a mere 8 batters and struck out 62. He allowed only 9 earned runs and had a 1.72 ERA.

In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.

In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.

In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.

Why?

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.

Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.

The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.

If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.

If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.

Dear Houston Astros Fans

Dear Houston Astros Fans,

You know it’s been a tough season when you’ve been mathematically eliminated from the pennant race before September even arrives. That’s where you found your team Tuesday. Making matters worse, it looks like 2013 will be the third consecutive season your team has lost over 100 games and, thanks to your minuscule payroll and despite no local over the air or cable TV coverage in the Houston market, your new owner will be turning the biggest profit of all 30 big league teams this year. At least, that’s what the folks at Forbes Magazine say.

Why am I telling you all this? Is it because I, as a Rangers fan, want to rub it in? Nope. I actually want to tell you to hold your head high and enjoy the rest of this season. The fact is, if you’re an Astros fan right now, you are a die-hard because nobody in his or her right mind would want to keep watching this team lose over 100 games year after year. I know. I’ve been a Texas Rangers fan for over 40 years now.

That’s why I want to tell you to embrace this team. Be glad you have found Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. They’re your version of Cecil Espy, Geno Petralli, Pete O’Brien and Oddibe McDowell- players who were supposedly the next best thing ever to wear a Texas Rangers uniform but only turned out to be yet more cogs in the Rangers history of sub-.500 teams. But they were MY guys and they helped pave the way for better guys to come. They were the ones who, on the odd nights when they rose to the occasion, kept giving me optimism that the team had turned the corner and good times were on the way. Altuve and Castro are two of those players who help you see brighter times ahead and I can guarantee you do have brighter days ahead.

All of your full-season minor league teams made the playoffs in their respective leagues this year. The Astros have a very strong farm system and soon those players will contribute on the big-league level. I will make a bold prediction to you Astros fans. I think the Astros will be competing for an American League West title again BEFORE the Los Angeles Angels do the same. The Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Despite their massive TV money, they’ll be paying Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols big bucks long after their effectiveness has gone. They’ll have to pony up more bucks in a couple of years to keep Mike Trout and thanks  to that bad minor league system, have no big chips to trade for established help. No, Astros fans, you may be on a 3-year 100+ loss streak now, but three years from now I bet you’re a force in the AL West. I think the Rangers still will be as well and that’s going to make for some intense battles for the Silver Boot.

When your team comes back and they WILL come back, it is years like 2013 you are going to remember. It is those years that will make the success taste even sweeter. I guarantee it because three years ago, this lifetime Rangers fan got to experience it for the first time. When Texas went to back to back World Series in 2010 and 2011, the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler and pitchers like Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz made all the years of following Scott Fletcher, Don Slaught, Charlie Hough, Jeff Russell, Pete Incaviglia, Benji Gil and Kevin Mench worth it.

People who climb on the bandwagon may get excited when the team they just adopted go all the way (or almost all the way), but the pure JOY belongs to us old-timers, the ones who weather through all the bad years first. That’s why I implore you, Astros fans, to embrace this bad team. Go out to Minute Maid Park in September with no hope and make your owner even richer this year. Come September 1st when rosters expand, you’ll also start seeing the first glimpse of the future Astros, the ones who just might take you back to the heights, the players you’ll adopt as your own just as you love Jose Altuve and Jason Castro now.

I’m not going to apologize or feel bad about my team being 14-2 against your team this year. I’m just going to look forward to two or three years from now when that 14-2 is 8-8 and there could be one big three-game series that will decide the AL West title. Now that’ll be fun. Oh, and thanks for sending us Travis Blackley.

Super Streak, Super Streak, They’re Super Streaky

It must be because the Texas Rangers front office is trying to appeal to the bi-polar community. How else to explain what goes on in the realm of Rangers baseball these days. There’s no telling what team will show up. First there’s the Rangers team that came out of the All-Star break and proceeded to get swept by the Orioles, split four with the Yankees, then got swept again by the Indians. Now you have a Rangers team who does the sweeping, taking three in a row from the Angels, each one in walk-off fashion. First there was Monday night, when Texas trailed 3-2 going into the 9th, promptly tied it on an A.J. Pierzynski home run and, two outs later, sealing the deal with this shot from Geovany Soto:

Tuesday night, it started with Adrian Beltre hitting a 2-out, 2-strike single to bring home the tying run in the 9th, sending it to extra innings when it was Leonys Martin‘s turn to set off the fireworks:

Finally, Texas celebrated my birthday by having Beltre lead off the 9th in a 1-1 game:

Three wins, all by walk-off home runs, the first time that feat has happened in MLB since 2004. Yes, it was a sweep over the Angels, who have now sunk into 4th place with the loss of Albert Pujols for the season, but consider this. With the exception of C.J. Wilson‘s pitiful performance on Tuesday, everything pointed to this being a good series for the Angels. 1) Jered Weaver and Jerome Williams provided two excellent starts- a combined 14.2 innings pitched with only 2 runs given up; 2) Mike Trout was even more Mike Trout than usual: 6 for 6 with 4 walks in the first 2 games alone; 3) Josh Hamilton actually resembled the Josh Hamilton the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. Hamilton went a combined 5 for 11 with a double, a home run, 7 RBI and 3 walks; and 4) the dominant Rangers bullpen was extremely ordinary on Tuesday, getting torched for 5 runs. The Angels got all that and they were still swept.

By the way, I know Hamilton has been bad, but you can’t prove it by the Rangers. Against every other team in MLB, Hamilton is hitting .209. Against his old team, the Rangers? .389 with a .978 OPS.

Also of significance, Texas for the first time in a month gained ground on the front-running Oakland A’s, going from 6 games behind to 4, with a big weekend series coming up in Oakland. The August schedule favors the Rangers, so this race could be getting tighter again after what appeared to be a Rangers free-fall.

Oh, and the best part? Not only did I get to enjoy a Rangers sweep of LA this week, my beautiful wife surprised me at work with this piece of edible art for my birthday:

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Sure, there are storm clouds on the horizon. All indications are Nelson Cruz faces a suspension soon in the Biogenesis scandal, though some reports indicate he will appeal; Lance Berkman is contemplating retirement as his knees continue to be a problem; Manny Ramirez is not considered major-league ready and may find himself released in the next couple of weeks; and Texas found no willing partners at the July 31st trade deadline and can only hope they can grab some players through waiver wire transactions in August. For a team as offensively challenged as Texas has been for long stretches, this is not a good sign, especially if Cruz is lost for the season. Still, this is MY team and I’ll cheer them on regardless. I’m just glad they’re back on an upswing again.

What If Hamilton, Napoli Et Al Were Still Rangers?

I’ll start this out by saying what I’ve said in these pages many a time before: I’m NOT a major proponent of WAR. I understand the concept of it, I just don’t totally agree with it because of the subjectivity of the defensive metrics. I don’t “speak” sabermetrics, but a great sabermetric argument for the way I feel was published today, as a free article, on Baseball Prospectus.

A way I can use WAR, though, would be as a comparison tool that doesn’t involve delving into a lot of different stats. I thought it would be interesting to see, at the 1/4 point of the season, how the Texas Rangers might look, record-wise, had they decided to keep everyone from last year’s Rangers team, instead of adding the pieces they added. To do that, I examined the respective WAR of the departed Rangers to their counterparts from this year’s team.

For this study, I’m using essentially the Texas Rangers team that essentially comprised the Rangers following the July 31st trading deadline.

Here’s how the former Rangers are faring so far in 2013, based on bWAR (via Baseball Reference.com):

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Mike Adams (Philadelphia) 0.4

Ryan Dempster (Boston) 0.5

Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs) 0.8

Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels) -0.6

Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Angels) -0.3

Mike Napoli (Boston) 1.0

Koji Uehara (Boston) 0.5

Michael Young (Philadelphia) 0.3

Roy Oswalt, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar have not logged any major league time yet in 2013.

Total: 2.9

Now let’s look at this year’s Texas Rangers counterparts:

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Jeff Baker 0.7

Lance Berkman 0.6

Jason Frasor 0.0

Leury Garcia 0.1

Derek Lowe 0.0

Leonys Martin 0.7

Joe Ortiz 0.0

A.J. Pierzynski 0.6

Nick Tepesch 0.0

Total: 2.7

The two biggest things that jump out at me: Leonys Martin‘s defense (the subjective part) has led to a much higher WAR figure than I thought, while, of the former Rangers, Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman have both far exceeded what I most Rangers fans would have expected of them. Overall, the former Rangers out-WAR the current Rangers, but only by .2. If you’d like to extrapolate that to an actual record, WAR suggests the Rangers would be just where they are, at 24-14 or maybe one game better at 25-13, had they just stood pat with last year’s team. Of course, they’d have that record for a significantly higher payroll than they currently have, which would be a discussion for another day.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 4

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 4-3

Overall: 16-9  (1st Place AL West) (+2.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Mitch Moreland   .393/.393/.571   5 Doubles 3 RBI

Nelson Cruz   .360/.467/.640   2 HR   9 RBI   5 Walks

Raspa Frio (Offense):

David Murphy   .185/.241/.222

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Yu Darvish   1-0   0.00 ERA   11 Strikeouts in 6 IP

Justin Grimm   1-0   7 Shutout Innings

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Derek Holland   0-1, 6.39 ERA in 12.2 IP

Joe Ortiz   0-1   27.00 ERA   5 ER in 1.2 IP

Considering all the games were on the road, 4-3 is an acceptable record but Rangers fans were hoping for more after starting the week 4-1 and having Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando on the bump for the last two games of the week. Sadly, the Rangers offense went south in those two games and the Twins broke close 1-0 games open in the later innings. Still, the Rangers were easily the best of the West for the week, picking up two games in the standings on the Oakland A’s and starting week 5 with a 2.5 game lead. This assures Texas of first place when April comes to a close.

This week it’s home cooking for the Rangers as they play six games against the American League’s pair of Sox: Chicago Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday followed by Boston Friday through Sunday. The highlight will be Tuesday night when Yu Darvish takes the hill for Texas. If Darvish wins the game, he will join Rick Helling, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Bibby, Aaron Sele and Bobby Witt as the only Rangers pitchers to earn five wins by April 30th. The way Darvish has been pitching, the odds are in his favor to join that elite company.

The weekend series will be interesting as well with the return of Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara to Arlington. As bad as the initial reaction to Josh Hamilton was in his first at bat in front of the DFW crowd, expect an equal but opposite reaction to Napoli’s return. He never said anything disparaging about Rangers fans and professed love for his time with the Rangers so he’ll get a warm reception his first time to the plate. As good as Uehara was in 2012 for Texas, he probably won’t elicit much of a reaction one way or another. That’s the life of a relief pitcher.

How Are The Rangers 15-7?

AL West Standings 4-26-13

AL West Standings 4-26-13

Let’s see. Let Josh Hamilton go. Reluctantly let Mike Napoli go. Gladly let Michael Young go. And while we’re at it, let your best bullpen set-up guys, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara go. Then, once the season starts, have your Opening Day starter go on the DL after three ineffective starts, make sure your previously platooned left-handed hitting left fielder and first baseman get off to miserable offensive starts, especially against southpaws, and have two rookies fill up 40% of your rotation. Mix it all together and VOILA! you have a team tied for the AL’s best record as we near the end of the season’s first month.

The question is, how the heck are they doing it?

This year’s Texas Rangers are certainly not resembling what we’ve expected from Rangers teams in the past. No longer is the offense a home-run hitting machine. You would think the pitching staff is nothing to write home about. Not a lot of household names there. It certainly doesn’t get the press of the starting staffs of Oakland, Detroit or even Tampa Bay. Here the Rangers are, though, winners of five of their first seven series. The two series they didn’t win, they split. The longest losing streak Texas has had in the first 22 games? One. That’s right, they have yet to lose consecutive games in 2013.

The question gets asked again, how the heck are they doing it?

 

AL Team ERA Leaders 4-26-13

AL Team ERA Leaders 4-26-13

Pitching is certainly the biggest answer. Through 22 games, the Rangers are first in the American League in Earned Run Average and it isn’t even close. At 2.76, the Rangers’ ERA is almost a half run better than the 2nd place Chicago White Sox. Yu Darvish (as chronicled in yesterday’s post) is approaching Ace status as a starter, Derek Holland has been much more consistent in the early going and rookie Nick Tepesch, winner of last night’s 2-1 victory over the Twins, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tepesch has walked three batters in four starts. All three walks came in ONE INNING of his first start. None in the 19+ innings since. The bullpen features a 5’7″ rookie in Joe Ortiz whose first year is resembling the successful debut a year earlier by his teammate Robbie Ross. Tanner Scheppers has gone through 10 games and 11.2 innings without giving up a run, earned or otherwise. Texas is the only bullpen in the AL not to have blown a save yet on the season.

The pitching is paving the way. The offense, despite some good pieces, hasn’t come close to gelling as yet. They spend the early part of games making the opposing starter look good. To date, Texas has only scored 5 runs in the first inning and have scored in the 1st in only 3 of their first 22 games. In the first three innings of games, essentially the first time through the line-up, Texas has scored only 18 of their 102 total runs scored. The second time through? A different story. 52 runs scored in innings 4, 5 and 6.

While the offense has been inconsistent, there are good signs of things to come. Texas is showing a more discerning eye so far in 2013. Last year, they struck out 17.7% of the time. So far in 2013, that’s down to 15%. Meanwhile the walk rate is up from a year ago, from 7.7% to 8.6%. Part of it is due to the arrival of Lance Berkman, but the approach preached by new hitting coach Dave Magadan plays a large part as well. Taking more pitches is one thing. It’s staying patient while still being able to swing with authority that will come in time.

Meanwhile, backing up the great pitching has been pretty stellar defense. Thus far, Texas has only 8 errors in the first 22 games. How much has the defense improved? Well, when your Gold Glove-winning third baseman is the player with the most errors on your team, that has to tell you something. Yep, Adrian Beltre has three E’s for the Rangers. Who doesn’t have errors? Shortstop Elvis Andrus, for one. Not a single E-6 on his ledger. On the entire 25-man roster, only four different Rangers have been charged with errors. Not one of them is a pitcher or a catcher. The catching tandem of newcomer A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto hasn’t allowed a passed ball as yet. Rangers pitchers have only 5 wild pitches.

In the most telling defensive statistic of all, Rangers opponents have only stolen four bases in the first 22 games and been caught three times. A year ago, 80% of the steals against Texas were successful and opponents stole 108 bases in all. At the current rate (which of course won’t remain this low), that figure will be more like 30 by season’s end. I’m not going to say this is all Pierzynski, as he’s not known as one of the greats in cutting down would be thieves. Part of it is due to Rangers pitchers not allowing as many runners to reach base in the first place. Currently, Rangers pitching is giving up fully one less hit per 9 innings than they did a year ago. Fewer base runners  fewer steal opportunities. Still, it is a dramatic improvement thus far over a year ago and one that bears remembering as the season progresses.

Pitching and defense winning games for the Texas Rangers. Whoever would’ve thought it possible?

The Stupendous Awesomeness of Yu Darvish

Prediction: Yu Darvish will be the American League starting pitcher in this year’s All-Star Game.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who follow Derek Holland on Twitter know Dutch has been known to unleash torrents of of 140-character phrases letting us know the utter fearsomeness of one Chuck Norris. Chuck can do no wrong in Derek’s eyes. If you take the first five starts of 2013 and combine them with the last month and a half of the 2012 season, a case can be made for substituting the name Yu Darvish in place of Chuck Norris. Darvish is not only winning, he’s often making opposing offenses look silly while doing it. It wasn’t just the near perfect game in his first start against the lowly Houston Astros. Darvish was golden last week against the Seattle Mariners in a 7-0 win. Wait, you might say. Aren’t the Astros and the Mariners notoriously bad offenses? You can’t count them. First of all, the Astros offense isn’t as bad as it looked the first week of the season. The Mariners also are an improved offensive team from their previous two seasons. Even if I were to grant you your point, though, last night’s gem against the Los Angeles Angels should dispel any doubts you might have had. The Angels sport the most dangerous line-up in the American League with the likes of Trout, Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo. All Darvish did against them last night was fan 11 batters in six innings of work. Darvish has not given up a run in three of his five starts. The two starts he gave up runs, he was bothered by a blister in his throwing hand. His current scoreless streak is at 18.1 consecutive innings. He’s faced 13 batters this year when he’s gotten ahead 0-2. Ten of them subsequently struck out. Darvish has an arsenal of up to ten different pitches. He can throw them all at varying degrees of speed. The second time he faced his old teammate Josh Hamilton last night, Darvish started him off with a sub 62 mph curve ball. Hamilton flailed helplessly at it. The very next pitch, though taken for a ball, was a 98 mph fastball. Try adjusting to something like that regularly. In this case, it’s funny because Darvish lost that battle with Hamilton, but the hit Josh got was a little nubber on the infield that may have been an out had Darvish not stumbled when he arrived at the first base bag.

Yu  Darvish

Yu Darvish (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

There’s so much wonderfulness to see of Yu Darvish. The link below shows batters swinging and missing at five different pitches in Yu’s arsenal, all superimposed on each other:

http://i.minus.com/i3SXAH4AAxtWS.gif

This, courtesy of the Rangers: Darvish is the only pitcher since 1916 with 3 starts of 6 IP, 10 Ks or less and 3 hits or less in his 1st 21 games. Then there’s this gif showing all of Darvish’s K’s against the Angels last night, this one courtesy of shutdowninning.com. Note especially the bender that froze Mike Trout:

http://shutdowninning.com/uploads/2/8/8/9/2889029/4171046_orig.gif

And yet another link.  Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports wrote this about Darvish, with comparisons to Pedro Martinez:

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/rangers–yu-darvish-angels-victory-strikeouts-043922291.html

Since August 28th of 2012, Yu Darvish has gone 9-2 for the Rangers with a 1.77 ERA, a o.79 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in only 76.1 innings pitched, a rate of 11.55 K’s per 9 innings pitched. Opposing teams are hitting a putrid .147 in that time. He’s only given up one home run in that span. Yu Darvish is truly the first starting pitcher the Texas Rangers have had since Nolan Ryan that I would stop whatever I’m doing just to watch him pitch. He has talent, he has charisma, he has a chance to become the most dominant pitcher ever to come out of Japan. I’m pretty sure I’m glad he’s pitching for the Texas Rangers, too.

Rangers-Angels: Business Or Personal?

The Ballpark in Arlington home of the Texas Ra...

Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home Opener. Rangers vs. Angels. What a great way to start the season!

I know I’m only going to be lucky enough to see maybe one of the three games on TV, which will be the already highly anticipated pitching match-up of Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver, but still I’m looking forward to the series as a whole. Even though it’s only games 4-6 in a long haul of a season, the Angelenos will get their first chance to see if the revamped Rangers have talent enough to compete with their heavily favored selves in the AL West. Meanwhile, the Rangers get their first chance to see if their pitching staff can neutralize the vaunted Angels offense to any great degree.

For the teams, it’s strictly business. For Rangers fans, though, this weekend will be personal.

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not that Rangers fans have really hard feelings about Josh Hamilton signing with the Angels. Sure it didn’t help he went to a rival in the West. What we didn’t really do is begrudge Josh the money. Most of us know the Texas front office didn’t want to give Josh the number of years the Angels did. Most of us agreed with the front office on this one, too, that anything over four years was a risky move.

No, what many of us Rangers fans took offense with was Josh (and his wife) dogging the front office in the media. Then Josh compounded the problem when he didn’t choose his words carefully and appeared to dis Rangers fans as being spoiled and not being a real baseball town.

In one respect, I understand what Josh was saying. The Dallas area is a football town overall. The Dallas Cowboys rule the sports conversation by a wide margin over the Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. But when he goes on to say that any fan that boos him at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington isn’t a real fan and just doesn’t get it, you’ve just made a major misstep, my friend, no matter what city you just left.

If Josh hadn’t said anything, I think he would have received a healthy dose of applause his first time up as a thank you for what he meant to this franchise over the past five years. Instead, he said things (as CJ Wilson did the year before) guaranteed to spur a negative reaction from the home crowd.

For the Rangers, this weekend is business. For the fans, it’s personal.

I’ll be interested in hearing the reaction this afternoon on the radio feed of the game when Josh steps to the plate for the first time. There’s been a movement afoot to try to get the crowd simply to not react at all when Josh steps to the plate. Silence. No applause, no booing. I don’t know if it’ll be pulled off, but it’d be a hoot if it happened.

Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to seeing what Wash decides to do with Josh. Will he have his pitchers treat him like any other player or will he defer to his former star and do something like intentionally walking him if the game is on the line? Yesterday, Hamilton came to the plate against the Reds with two outs in the 9th and the tying run at second. The Reds pitched to him and Josh struck out to end the game. Will Wash pitch to him in the same circumstances? Later on in the season, he might take the same approach as the Reds. This weekend? In front of the home crowd? I’m not so sure. It may be business as usual for the Rangers, but if they’re to lose a game in the opening series at home, I’m not sure if Wash wants Hamilton to be the difference maker.

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