Results tagged ‘ Roy Oswalt ’

Reconstruction

The rebuilding of the Texas Rangers is about to begin. How much rebuilding will happen is anyone’s guess at this point.

The first salvo occurred Tuesday, when the Rangers decided not to pick up the options of Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama. Really no big surprises there. Tateyama, who pitched pretty effectively for Texas in 2011 (2-0, 4.50 ERA in 39 games) was a disaster in 2012 (1-0, 9.00 ERA in 14 games). Feldman, expected to fill the long relief/spot starter role, became a fulltime starting service after Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz were lost for the year with injuries and Roy Oswalt failed to do well as a starter. The biggest surprise of Feldman’s season is that his 6-11 record and 5.09 ERA was good enough to earn a 0.0 WAR. In other words, 6-11, 5.09 must be considered a replacement level starter. Wow.

The only potential minus here is if Feldman just needed longer to get over microfracture knee surgery in 2011 and posts a great 2013 for someone else. For all the good Jon Daniels has done as GM, this past season saw at least five Rangers cast-offs who performed credible jobs for their new teams: Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day for Baltimore, Cody Eppely and Clay Rapada for the Yankees. Constructing a pitching staff is so often a crap shoot, with many relievers having an awesome year, following up with two terrible seasons, then suddenly finding lightning again. Many teams’ fortunes rise and fall on these variables. If those castaways had been able to put together those seasons for the Rangers, it might have been a post-season difference maker.

So we know Feldman and Tateyama won’t return, unless they re-up with Texas at a major discount. The next step is the free agent process.

Josh Hamilton will get the league standard $13.3 million dollar offer to stay in Texas for another year. He will turn it down and if he signs elsewhere, Texas gets a supplemental draft pick. More unknown is whether the Rangers will make the same offer to catcher Mike Napoli. Because he had a down year, Naps could accept a $13.3 million offer for another year, hoping to turn it around in 2013 and get even bigger bucks and a multi-year deal a year from now. If no offer is received, then we’ll know Texas has committed to totally overhauling the catching.

The Blue Jays are stockpiling catchers, having picked up Yorvit Torrealba after Texas let him go and, just last week, inking Bobby Wilson after his release by the Angels. Since they already had two well-regarded home-grown catchers, it’s a good bet the Blue Jays will deal some of their catching in the off-season. The Rangers have expressed interest in both J.P. Arencibia and Travis D’Arnaud.

Other Rangers getting ready to test the free agent waters include Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster. Of that group, Oswalt is most certainly gone. Since Adams’ year ended prematurely to injury, the hope is he’ll be willing to sign again with Texas, as he might not now command the dollars he could have. I’d love to see them resign Uehara as well. Down the stretch, he was one of Texas’ most effective pitchers. Texas will allow Lowe to leave and I doubt there’s much interest in getting Dempster to come back, though that could depend on other factors.

If Texas lets both Hamilton and Napoli walk, we could be seeing a pretty big revamping of the offense. There’s a lot of power that would need replacing. That’s why, with Hamilton likely to go elsewhere, I think Texas will do what they can to at least keep Napoli.

I expect Texas to go hard after Zack Greinke in the free agent market, while the Angels will go all out to try to keep his services. If Greinke doesn’t materialize, Texas could pursue a trade with Tampa Bay for David Price.

Another reason to re-sign Napoli: to keep him for a first base platoon with Mitch Moreland. Moreland can hit the ball a long way and is an adequate defender, but at best is a streaky hitter with hot spells that don’t last long enough to off-set the cold snaps. And that’s just against right handed pitchers. Against lefties, Moreland is cold and colder.

There are several directions the Rangers could go this off-season. What’s definite is they’ll make more moves between now and Spring Training than they did the past two years combined. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

GOLD GLOVE AWARDS: For the second straight year, Adrian Beltre nabbed the AL Gold Glove Award for his defensive play at third base. The other two Rangers up for Gold Gloves, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus, didn’t receive the honor. Beltre was an easy choice. That’s easy to say, but judging by the actual award winners, it’s hard to back up. On the one hand, sometimes they give the award to people just because they committed so few errors, despite not having the range of other players at the position. Case in point: JJ Hardy of the Orioles. While I love Elvis, the winner probably should have been Brendan Ryan of the Mariners, who had range and only nine errors. On the other hand, some players win because of past reputation alone. Case in point: Adam Jones of the Orioles, who’s won the award before but had six errors in the field this year, a high number for an outfielder. In other words, there’s no set criteria for winning Gold Gloves. That’s why I’m happy Beltre won. With no set criteria, there was no guarantee he would.

So Dude, Like, What Happened?

While it is disappointing that the Texas Rangers didn’t get past the Wild Card round of the playoffs, smarter heads like the front office prevail over the fans when it comes to breaking down the season. If we just took the pulse of “message board” fans, you would think Texas won only 65 games all year. In fact, they still managed 93 wins and were a very good team overall. They just weren’t a very good team over the last 14 games.

The question is, what went wrong? The front office will be addressing that over the next few weeks and make changes accordingly. To help them out, I’ve compiled this nifty little summary, compiled in the order I think is the most important to the eventual success level of the team.

INJURIES TO THE STARTING PITCHING STAFF: In 2011, the Rangers were the most blessed team in baseball. The starting five started all but five or six games the entire season. After converting from closer to starter, Neftali Feliz lasted only eight games, seven of them starts. His last start was May 18th before he was lost for the rest of 2012 and the first half of next season as well to Tommy John surgery. Two months to the day later, Colby Lewis went down with an elbow issue, never heard from for the rest of the season.

Jon Daniels gets a lot of credit for making the moves that built the Rangers into a winner, but not every move works every time. When Feliz went down, Texas signed Roy Oswalt. It was considered a brilliant move at the time, but Oswalt was rushed back to the big leagues a week or two too early and flopped as a starter, finishing the season in the Rangers bullpen as the middle reliever.

After Oswalt came Scott Feldman, who was as streaky as they come. Feldman started out 0-6, then won his next six decisions. Unfortunately, Scooter ended up dropping his last five decisions to end at 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA. At the trade deadline, JD acquired Ryan Dempster from the Cubs after failing to land Zack Greinke from the Brewers. To be fair, Dempster did compile a winning ledger with Texas. The problem was, he only beat teams with losing records. He lost every game he pitched against fellow playoff contenders.

Also getting a few spot starts for Texas were rookies Justin Grimm and Martin Perez. Both had one good start but also combined for four poor ones.

BULLPEN INJURIES: Coming into the season, the Texas bullpen was among the strongest in the majors. By mid-season, the pen had become an issue. There was a revolving door in middle relief. After Feliz went down and Oswalt struggled, Alexi Ogando made a spot start and promptly pulled a hamstring early after just three innings of work, losing a month of playing time. Koji Uehara, who ended the season as perhaps the Rangers most effective reliever, went down just the day before Ogando, losing six weeks of time to the DL. Mark Lowe also found his way to the injured list. During the Rangers down month of July they were relying on relievers like Michael Kirkman, Yoshinori Tateyama and rookie Tanner Scheppers. Not a great recipe.

Josh Hamilton, ROLLER COASTER: While “Message Board Fans” put the entire blame on the 2012 season on Michael Young‘s poor offensive showing and Ron Washington’s habit of never giving Young a day off, Josh Hamilton’s June and July swoon had even more to do with it. Potent as the Rangers line-up can be, it is Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who pace the offense. Hamilton was the AL’s Player of the Month for both April and May, but fell off the face of the Earth in June and July, batting a paltry .208 and striking out on three pitches more than any player has a right to. Hamilton compiled a 4.7 WAR for the season according to Fangraphs.com, but that’s deceiving. By the end of May, Josh was at a 3.3 WAR already and pacing towards almost a 10 WAR for the season. While a drop-off from those lofty heights could be expected, it’s still pretty reasonable to assume he should have given the Rangers 6-7 WAR production for the season. In other words, Hamilton probably cost the Rangers more games from June to October than Michael Young did all season on the basis of WAR.

TOO MANY PLAYERS WITH DOWN YEARS: Much has been written about Michael Young’s off year. Not as much was said about the down years of Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler. Tampa Bay Rays skipper Joe Maddon called 2011 the Year of the Napoli. There was no better hitter in baseball over the second half of 2011. This season wasn’t nearly as kind. Napoli fell from a .320/.414/.631 with 30 HR and 75 RBI to .227/.343/.469 with 25 HR and 56 RBI. Kinsler had essentially the same batting average in 2012, but his power numbers were down, his walks were down and his strikeouts were up. He also regressed defensively, leading all AL second basemen in errors. Nobody, though, sunk as much as Michael Young. Young’s batting average went from .338 to .277, his RBI from 106 to 67 and from 58 extra base hits, he sank down to 38 in 2012. By the WAR stat, only Jeff Francouer had a poorer year.

DEPRECIATION OF THE RUNNING GAME: In their presser, Ron Washington called a question about the fall-off in the Rangers running attack “nitpicking”. I’m a Wash fan, but the question wasn’t nitpicking. As pointed out in a previous post, the fall-off from 2011 to 2012 was precipitous. Stolen bases were down from 143 to 91 while getting caught one less time in 2012 than they did in 2011. They were also picked off seven more times in 2012 compared to 2011. Conversely, opposing teams stole 106 bases on Texas in 2012 compared to 85 in 2011. Overall, that’s a difference of 73 bases from a year ago. By season’s end, the Rangers had virtually stopped running. Over the last 30 days of the season, Texas had only three steals and were caught stealing four times. Sorry Wash, that’s not a little thing.

WHEN BEING HEALTHY HURTS: Much has already been made of the Rangers offensive malaise over the last week and a half of the season. Wash has already said maybe he didn’t rest his regulars enough. In a couple of cases, there could very well be something to that. Take the case of Nelson Cruz. On one hand, Cruz set personal highs in RBI with 90 and runs scored with 86. On the other, Cruz only topped last year’s RBI total by three while playing in 35 more games. His home runs were down to 24 after hitting 29 a year ago. In 2011 his OPS was .821, in 2012 it was .779. Before this season, Cruz had five different stints on the disabled list over the previous two seasons. While his bat was missed, it could be surmised he had the advantage of being fresher when he returned from those DL trips. The same could be said of Ian Kinsler. 2011 was the first year in a while that Kins was healthy enough to play virtually the entire season. Playing over 150 games two years in a row, for someone with an injury history, could take its toll more than other players. Multitudes of articles have been written about innings counts for young pitchers and pitchers coming off injuries, but but hardly about game counts for young position players or position players coming off injuries. It may very well have had some effect on certain players.

THE MYSTERIOUS STOMACH VIRUS: This came early in the season, but who knows if it had an ultimate impact on the Rangers’ lack of energy at season’s end. In the month of May, Mike Napoli came down with a stomach virus. It spread through the clubhouse quickly. Ian Kinsler got it. Josh Hamilton got it. A host of Rangers players missed a game or two because of it. Nobody was affected more than Derek Holland. The virus caused Dutch to lose 20 pounds. At the end of May while battling the virus, Dutch didn;t make it out of the second inning, giving up 8 runs to the Mariners. Five days later, Holland’s fastball velocity was down so sharply he was pulled after 5 1/3 gritty innings. He would miss the next month getting his weight back up and back into playing shape. Whether this had anything to do with Holland’s dismal 4.67 ERA on the season is uncertain. Stories have come out in the last couple of seasons about players taking a long time to get their strength back after contracting Desert Fever and recovering from appendectomies. There’s always the chance the stomach virus had more of an impact than just the two-week span it was spreading in the clubhouse.

On the positive side, all these things happened to the Rangers in 2012 and they still managed to get to 93 wins on the season and a berth in the Wild Card playoff. This is still a team with a lot of potential.

Next Up: Looking ahead to potential off-season moves.

Future Hints From A Present Press Conference

This was going to be the “Why The Season Broke Down” analysis post. Instead, Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan, General Manager Jon Daniels and Manager Ron Washington decided today would be a great day to hold their first post-season press conference to talk about the season ending prematurely and what could transpire in the future.

First off, Dallas Morning News writer Evan Grant put to rest one rumor that has run rampant among Rangers on-line fans. He noted Jon Daniels not only gave Ron Washington his endorsement as manager of the club, but that both appeared quite relaxed and comfortable with each other. Many Rangers fans had imagined a power struggle between Wash and JD over the handling of highly regarded prospect Mike Olt after his promotion to the parent club. I never bought the whole power struggle conspiracy theory in the first place. Hopefully, this presser puts those rumors to rest.

English: photo of Josh Hamilton playing.

Josh Hamilton- Outta Here? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, but there was much to report beyond Ron Washington’s job security, with the biggest item reserved for the biggest free agent on the market this off-season, one Josh Hamilton. Daniels said the Rangers are NOT going to make Hamilton an offer during the exclusive negotiating window and will allow him to explore his options first. This is a gutsy call on JD’s part, but maybe not as risky as one might think.

Going into the off-season, Hamilton oftentimes stated the odds of him remaining a member of the Rangers was about 50-50. He also was quoted on more than one occasion he owed it to the Players Union to get the best deal possible, but would give the Rangers the first shot at his services. Daniels decided they’d waive the first shot. I find it highly doubtful Hamilton would have accepted the Rangers first offer no matter how generous because of his allegiance to the Players Union, so the front office passing up the chance to make that first offer might be much ado about nothing.

In addition, knowing Hamilton’s spiritual side, I believe (but have no proof) Josh’s agent and the Rangers already have a gentleman’s agreement to return to the Rangers after all the offers have come in to give Texas the last chance to re-sign him. That said, I’m sure the Rangers already have a final price and contract length in mind and will not hesitate to let Josh go if someone else offers him a better deal. That’s what they did a year ago with CJ Wilson and that’s what they’ll do here.

More from the presser: Daniels said no decisions have been made yet on coaching staff, the 2013 plans for Michael Young haven’t been discussed and that everyone in the organization accepts responsibility for the disappointing way the season ended. Washington admitted he probably played his regulars too hard and could have rested them more in the summer to keep them fresher for the stretch drive. He also said, despite a disappointing season, he still has faith that 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler can still do the job.

Reading between the lines, I think there will be casualties among the Rangers coaching staff, with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh being the top candidate to face the chopping block. Young’s fate likely rests on the outcome of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes. If Hamilton goes, Young stays and vice versa. Daniels is right about everyone taking responsibility and should be lauded for including himself. After all, while the moves he made during the season were all considered the right ones, the fact is they didn’t work out. Roy Oswalt. Ryan Dempster. Geovany Soto.

For Wash’s part, I applaud him for addressing his fault of playing his regulars into the ground, but it won’t be enough for his detractors. Human nature, you know. You just want someone to admit they made a mistake. Then, when they do, you jump up and say, “See, that just proves what an idiot he is!” Fans. Gotta love them. Especially since I’m a fan (but a pro-Wash one).

Surprisingly, Mike Napoli’s impending free agency was not discussed during this press conference.

Two last tidbits. Daniels said the Rangers likely will carry a slightly larger payroll than they did this year. And Daniels said the Rangers still aren’t in a rebuilding phase. That’s a strong message, telling the faithful “Even if we lose Josh Hamilton, we’re planning on reloading for 2014.” Of course, that could also mean Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar aren’t in the 2013 season plans.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season. I can’t wait to see how they’re planning to remold this team.

The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!

A day later, that’s what it feels like. One reign is over, but now it’s time to pay honor to the new one that takes its place.

After a magnificent three-year run that no other stretch in over 40 years of fanhood even came close to, the end came as more of a thud than a gradual tapering off process. By failing to win more than four games of their last 14 or even one game of their last four, my Texas Rangers no longer have an ALDS playoff match-up to look forward to. No best of five showdown with the Yankees. No shot at finally achieving the ultimate prize that had eluded them in the previous two seasons.

An era has come to an end.

Make no mistake, this probably is the end of this cycle of Rangers vying for the ultimate prize. To be sure, they are far too talented to stumble to a losing record a year from now. There’s plenty of talent in place, more in the pipeline coming up and plenty of money to spend. But will the World Championship window be open a year from now? I tend to doubt it.

English: photo of Josh Hamilton playing.

Is the Josh Hamilton era over in Texas?. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of free agents to be from this year’s Rangers team: Ryan Dempster. Roy Oswalt. Mike Adams. Koji Uehara. Mark Lowe. Oh and two guys by the name of Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton.

Some speculate there is a very real chance the longest-serving Ranger, Michael Young, could be traded or released in the off-season. It’s even more likely Scott Feldman suffers the same fate.

Because of the ignominious way the season ended, there could be turnover on the management side as well. While I think Ron Washington‘s job is safe, it wouldn’t surprise me to see hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh take the fall for the Rangers late-season offensive woes. Baserunning/first base coach Gary Pettis could become a casualty, as the Texas running game became a shell of what it had been the past two seasons. Maybe even bench coach Jackie Moore could be asked to think about retirement so the front office can give Wash a bench coach who more statistically inclined to convince the skipper he’s about to make a foolish move.

A month into the 2012 season, the narrative was “Pay Josh Hamilton whatever money he wants to keep him here”. On October 6th, the narrative has changed to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Josh”. Hamilton received standing ovations in April. He and the nationwide TV audience heard audible boos following his last two meek at bats.

Something changed on this team in 2012. I don’t know whether there was clubhouse discord or whether the stomach virus that swept through the team in May had longer-lasting repercussions than anyone wants to admit. But something changed and by the time the season mercifully came to an end Friday night, it appeared the Rangers offense just flat-out didn’t have anything else to give.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll have plenty to say about what went wrong, the Hamilton situation and what changes I think are in store. For now, I’ll just let it hurt for a day or two, posting my picks for BBA post-season honors, and cheering the AL West champion Oakland A’s in their ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.

The Rangers are dead. Long live the Rangers.

And The Walls Went Tumbling Down

Sure, it’s easy to say the Texas Rangers are in the playoffs as a Wild Card, so the term “collapse” doesn’t really apply. The playoffs don’t matter in this case. All the playoffs do is make the Rangers 4-9 finish and ceding the AL West title to Oakland seem not as bad as the collapse of the Red Sox a year ago.

Honestly, it’s worse than the Red Sox. My last post mentioned the A’s were 13 games behind Texas on June 30th. This makes the Rangers downfall the third largest lead ever given up to a team in baseball history.

On the other hand, one has to hand it to the Oakland A’s. I had them picked as my worst team in the AL at season’s start. Think about this. For the early part of the season, their best starting pitcher was Bartolo Colon. He got suspended for PED use. As soon as he was suspended, here was Brett Anderson coming back. He pitched brilliantly before an oblique strain put him on the shelf for the rest of the season. Brandon McCarthy, the overall ace of the staff, was literally knocked out of the season by a line drive to the head. This was a good starting pitching staff that was getting decimated and every time, someone else just came in and took someone’s place and pitched just as well. Contrast this to Texas, who lost Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz to injury for the season. As replacements, the Rangers tried Roy Oswalt. Then Scott Feldman. They acquired Ryan Dempster. Rookies Martin Perez and Justin Grimm were given brief shots. None of them panned out the way the Rangers hoped. Every one of the A’s did work out. Kudos to Oakland and their coaching staff.

Oakland’s offense outperformed the vaunted Rangers offense throughout the second half of the season. Look at the overall offensive stats and almost everything  indicates the Rangers had the superior offensive team. Here’s where statistics can lie to you, though. Texas led the American League in most innings scoring five runs or more. They’d also follow-up these monster games with spans where the offense would flat-out disappear for three and four game stretches. It was a testament to the most consistent starters, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, that the Rangers avoided long losing streaks during these offensive swoons (their longest streak was 5).

Rangers primary logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once the Rangers season is officially over, which could very well be Friday night, this space will list the “whys” in order of importance. For now, a hearty congratulations to the Oakland A’s for their accomplishment, for it wasn’t entirely a collapse to end the Rangers regular season. The A’s didn’t back in because of the Rangers. They drove straight in by their own right. They earned the title.

Texas will host  the Baltimore Orioles Friday night for the right to play a 5-game set with the New York Yankees. The Rangers will be the favorite Friday, playing at home with Yu Darvish on the mound. But if anything has been proven over the last two weeks of the regular season, it’s that favorites don’t always come out on top, much as you might want them to.

Week 22 In Review

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: 4-2

Overall: 83-57 (1st Place AL West) (+3.5)

Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Adrian Beltre .286/.310/.679  3 HR  5 RBI

Raspa Cold (Offense): Nelson Cruz  .120/.214/.240   8 K’s in 25 AB

Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Yu Darvish 1-0, 2.40 ERA, 14 K’s in 15 IP, 0.53 WHIP

Derek Holland0-0, 1.13 ERA, 11 K’s in 8 IP, 0.50 WHIP

Raspa Cold (Pitching): Roy Oswalt 0-1, 10.38 ERA, .350 BA, 1.83 WHIP and left Sunday’s start with a sore elbow.

The Rangers were on the road all week and, while they lost two of three to the Rays, they ended the 10-game road trip at 6-4, while they finished the week at 4-3. Thanks to the Angels sweep of the A’s earlier in the week, Texas survived the A’s sweep of the Mariners and gained an extra half game of ground on second-place Oakland. The Angels went 6-0 on the week with sweeps over the A’s and the Tigers to pick up 2 1/2 games on the Rangers, but the Angels remain in third place, six games off the pace. Following an off day today, Texas is at home all week with three against the Indians and three against the Mariners. The A’s and Angels have at each other in a 4-game set at Los Angeles. The A’s follow with three at home against the Orioles, while the Angels hit the road for three at Kansas City. While the A’s and Angels beat up on each other, the Rangers could whittle the magic number down further with a sweep of the Indians, They haven’t accomplished a sweep of any team since taking three in a row from the Padres June 18th through the 20th.

 

Deadline Day Pt. 2

As much attention as the July 31st trade deadline receives, today’s trade deadline is just as important. That’s because any player acquired after August 31st CAN’T be on a team’s playoff roster. In other words, if the Rangers are going to acquire proven major league help for their post-season push, today is the last day to do it.

The August 31st deadline is what the whole revocable waivers is all about. We’ve heard Roy Oswalt cleared revocable waivers, so Texas could trade him to anyone today if they so desired. Other players have probably been put on revocable waivers by the Rangers as well, and probably have cleared as well. If a player is put on revocable waivers and a claim is put in for that player, the team can either take the player back off the table (the revocable part) or work out a deal with the claiming team within something like 48 hours.

Julio Borbon

Julio Borbon: Trade Bait? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also entering into the equation at this time are players in the minors who have no options left after this season. They could become part of a trade package. Two of those for the Rangers are Julio Borbon and Brandon Snyder. I’ve been thinking all year Borbon was going to become part of a package but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s had three big league seasons under his belt and while he hasn’t fulfilled the promise he showed in his first year, 2009, he’s had a good season at AAA Round Rock, hitting over .300 with speed and some pop in his bat.

Snyder started the season with the Rangers but was sent down to make room for Mike Olt on the roster. Snyder made some good contributions to the Rangers earlier in the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as part of  a package either.

That said, who would the Rangers want in return? Here are the possibilities:

1) A back-up catcher: Geovany Soto has done a decent job since coming over from the Cubs. His back-up, Luis Martinez has been your prototypical replacement player. The fact is, nobody knows how much longer Mike Napoli is going to be out. Because we don’t know, I’d want a better option to back up Soto. Maybe try to get Jerrod Saltalamacchia back from the Red Sox or see if the Blue Jays would allow JP Arencibia to be pried from their hands.

2) Utility Infielder: Rangers fans are not thrilled with the idea that Michael Young is currently the back-up shortstop to Elvis Andrus. Another Blue Jay and former Ranger Omar Vizquel would be a nice little pick-up to head down the stretch with.

3) Bullpen: I’m actually pretty OK with the bullpen as it’s constituted, but if there’s one slot that’s worrisome, it would be the role currently filled by Michael Kirkman. Kirkman’s had glimpses of being very good this year, but the consistency still isn’t there. I don’t know what southpaw might be available out there, but an acquisition here is a distinct possibility.

4) Starting Pitcher: This is very unlikely to happen and maybe it doesn’t really need to. Still, I do have some trepidation about Texas heading into the post-season with a starting four of Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Dempster. The thing is, I don’t think an August 31st deal is going to be able to land any kind of an upgrade here. At best, it might get you an innings-eater that will allow the Rangers to bypass Scott Feldman in the rotation in September, but not much beyond that.

Texas could be busy today. Or Jon Daniels could just say this is the team we’re rolling with into the 2012 post-season. Neither outcome would surprise me in the least.

LAST DAY!!!

If you haven’t entered, today is the last day to submit your entry for a chance to win the 4-DVD set of the Essential Games of the Texas Rangers from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. The set contains the complete games of Nolan Ryan‘s 7th No-Hitter, the Rangers first ever playoff win against the Yankees in 1996 and the Rangers two AL Championship clinching wins in 2010 and 2011.

To enter, just submit the form below. Entry deadline is Friday 8/31/12. Winners will be drawn Tuesday 9/4/12. FIVE WINNERS IN ALL, so enter today! Only 1 entry per e-mail address please.

The Rangers Blogger Diatribe

English: Michael Young

Michael Young (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michael Young destroyed a good narrative today.

Young hit his first home run since May 7th and knocked in a season-high 5 runs in the Rangers 11-2 pasting of the Blue Jays. This came five days after I officially joined the ever-growing bandwagon calling on less playing time for Young.

This game actually didn’t do anything to dissuade me from saying Young should probably play less. On the other hand, I DON’T belong to the group that thinks he should never play again in a Rangers uniform, of which there is one, and a very vocal one at that. It has, though, finally given me the impetus to rant about some things that have been in my mind for the past five postless days.

At the outset, my invective is aimed at certain members of the SABR community. I’m sure there are many in said community who are very savvy and, dare I say, open-minded about what those who don’t prescribe to every number and statistic they come up with. There are some, however, who try to bury any debate in an avalanche of numbers and using it to advance their own biases. Michael Young is the perfect example of this.

Sunday’s performance against the Blue Jays aside, Young has not had a good year. As pointed out in my last post, his batting average is down, his power numbers are down, his walk rate is down. In all three cases, they are down considerably from what anyone could consider an average Michael Young year. Despite his being used as a “Super” Utility Infielder, Young has liabilities at any position he happens to be playing defensively. As a non-SABR guy who does his best to understand some of the new SABR stats, that is enough for me to think Young merits a little more time on the bench, at least until he starts to figure it out, if he can.

The day after my last post, then, imagine my surprise when Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted this stat: Since the first of July, even from a SABR point of view, Michael Young has been outperforming Adrian Beltre. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Michael Young has outperformed Adrian Beltre offensively for the past 49 days. That’s seven weeks. That’s almost two months. That’s one-quarter of the season and one-third of the season played to date.

English: Third Baseman Adrián Beltré

Adrian Beltré (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was shocking. So I went to baseball-reference.com to check it out. Sure enough. Not including Sunday’s breakout game for Young, here’s what we see from July 1st to the present: Young 14 RBI, Beltre 16. Young BA .260, Beltre .263. Then, getting into some of those SABR areas, Young’s WPA (Win Probability Added) -.312, Beltre -.535 and in RE24 (Base Out Runs Added) Young was at -6.46 and Beltre was at -8.23.

What do these stats say? They say for the past 40 games, Beltre has been just as bad a Michael Young. I hadn’t even noticed how much Beltre had been scuffling. He was still at .305 in BA for the season with 19 HR and 68 RBI entering play Sunday. Everyone sure noticed how badly Josh Hamilton slumped in June and July and some even called for Hamilton’s benching for a couple of days. People are just now noticing how Ian Kinsler has been in a slump for a few weeks (some even want to blame Wash for giving him a day off when he was in a hot streak). Beltre, though, has gotten a pass. So, armed with this knowledge, I pointed out this lengthy Beltre slump on a more SABR-oriented site and opined how it was more important for Beltre to improve offensively than Young because a no-hitting Beltre would be more disastrous to the Rangers in the post-season than a no-hitting Young.

Boy, was that a mistake. I was hit with everything from “Yes, but Michael Young has done this all year” to “Yes, but Adrian Beltre is a defensively superior player” to “Yes, but these are Adrian’s stats and these are Michael Young’s for the season and they don’t compare”. All three of those statements are 100% true. What they DIDN’T do, however, is address the specifics of my point- that for the last one-third of the season, Adrian Beltre offensively HAS compared to Michael Young and if it continues, it will be a BIG problem for the Texas Rangers and their World Series aspirations. I don’t care how many stellar defensive plays Beltre makes in the post-season. If he hits .190 or less in a post-season series, it will be awfully difficult for the Rangers to win it.

But that doesn’t fit the narrative of the SABR Rangers fan. Argue otherwise and most will counter with “You’re looking at a small sample size”. I’ve seen one who, when confronted with an argument using his own advanced stats against him, will slyly change his tune to say “Yes, but the stat that REALLY tells the biggest story is this one”. Over the past two years, that has changed from WAR to wOBA (weighted On Base Average) to wRC (Weighted Runs Created).

I don’t mind getting into a debate with someone. I think it’s even possible for a SABR-ist and a non-SABR-ist to debate and make each other understood. What I detest, though, are the many who use their SABR stats to talk down to other people like they’re dim bulbs. You know what? We’re not. And sometimes, we make good points about what’s going on without having to refer to spreadsheets to make our point. So yeah, Michael Young has sucked most of the year and Beltre hasn’t. Baseball though, is like life, with a lot of people saying “What have you done for me lately?” and lately, Adrian Beltre has not been very good offensively. The problem is, we’re now a little over a month away from the playoffs so Beltre is running out of time to get it together, as are Michael Young and Ian Kinsler.

And another thing. Sometimes you guys throw out your numbers and don’t even realize how you could make your point easier for everyone to understand. For instance, something I now hate hearing is the talk about pitchers having “good luck” and “bad luck” with BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). I’ve seen perfectly good Rangers fans refer to Roy Oswalt having a lot of bad luck with BABIP and how it’s going to eventually regress to the mean. They point out it’s because his xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching)  shows good numbers so it’s going to happen. Here’s where I trust my eyes better. Oswalt has had a bad BABIP because hitters have tattooed his pitches, and his xFIP is low because, even though he’s been getting hit from one side to the next, he hasn’t given up a lot of gopher balls. I’m sorry, but everything I’ve read about BABIP is just a fancy way of saying either a pitcher is getting shelled or he isn’t. Regressing to the mean merely means a guy who’s been bad a few straight games is bound to have a couple of good ones soon.

Today I saw the argument that Oswalt has actually been the better pitcher than Scott Feldman to this point of the season. In this case, of course, the xFIP and SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) stats are the MOST important ones to use, according to the person making the argument. Except all that really indicates is that Oswalt has a better fly ball to home run ratio than Feldman in xFIP, and Oswalt has a better strikeout percentage than Feldman, an important component of SIERA. Well, of course. Feldman is a ground ball pitcher, so batters managing to get it in the air have probably tagged the ball,  so a higher percentage would be home runs. And Feldman isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He never was. So why not just be a fan and say you prefer a fly ball, high strikeout pitcher like Oswalt than a one like Feldman? Why the need to prove one is better when, in fact, both have been mediocre to below average in 2012? Heck, according to xFIP,  Oswalt (3.44) has been better than Matt Harrison (4.26) this season. Does anyone really want to make that argument?

If you’ve been with me this far, let me throw one more thing out there. There are a substantial number of SABR Rangers fans who love to throw out what all these numbers “mean” to chastise virtually everything manager Ron Washington does. Wash admittedly makes curious moves from time to time, but most of these fans take their arguments to extremes. Since the numbers say the use of the sacrifice bunt lowers the expectancy for a big run inning, the sacrifice bunt should NEVER be used except in certain situations. They will use these same types of arguments to take Wash to task for pitching moves, non-pitching moves, intentional walks and where certain players bat in the line-up, among others. To you, I say this in all sincerity: While I often agree with you, you can’t say that Wash going against the grain of “the book” is necessarily the WRONG decision.

Here’s why. First is the element of surprise. If you always go by “the book”, you’ll never catch the opposition by surprise. Certain plays like bunts have a higher percentage of success when the other team isn’t expecting them. Second, regardless of what “the book” says, if the strategy worked, it becomes the right decision. Which leads to the last argument: All numbers used in the game of baseball have been accruing from the time they started keeping statistics and continue to accrue. That means the decisions Wash makes today have an effect on the overall numbers, minute as that difference might be. So if the success rate of “A” is 40% and, throughout his time with the Rangers, Wash’s teams are successful at “A” at a 50% clip, then not only has Wash made the right decision for his team, he has also done his part to improve the success rate of “A” from 40% in “the book” to maybe 40.2%. Maybe, just maybe, if enough other teams were to incorporate the Rangers’ manager’s strategies the same way, it could cause a rise in the success rate of “A” to the point that this decision is now the accepted norm by “the book”.

That said, I haven’t the time to actually delve so deep into Ron Washington’s history as the Rangers skipper to know if he is, indeed, more successful at some of these moves than the norm of history. It sounds like an interesting project for someone to take on, though.

There will always be fans who dislike the manager of their team, for whatever reasons. Using all kinds of numbers to try to prove he’s a dunce is disingenuous. I’d rather you come right out and say “I don’t like Wash. Period. Doesn’t matter what he does, I just don’t like the man.” Let it go at that. You’re not really proving anything with all your numbers except your natural bias.

For those who have followed me from beginning to end of this post, I thank you. You may have had better uses you could have made with your time than reading this, but the fact you have done so humbles me.

Rich Men Behaving Badly

Less than two minutes after posting about the weekend series with the Royals (Feldmania And That Olt Time Religion), the latest scandal to appear out of the Rangers popped up. It seems that Roy Oswalt, who had pitched two brilliant innings in the 7th and 8th against the Royals, decided he wasn’t going to go out for the 9th inning. The big question is, which way did he mean for his statement to be taken?

Rangers manager Ron Washington said Oswalt told him “he had had enough.” It’s no secret Oswalt was not happy with being demoted to the bullpen when Texas acquired Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline. When told of the demotion, Oswalt reportedly “took it like a professional”, according to Wash.

Roy Oswalt - Philadelphia - 2010 Road Batting ...

(Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

Roy O pitched two scoreless innings of relief in the Rangers Thursday win over the Angels. He followed that up with two innings Sunday against the Royals, an outing in which he allowed no hits and struck out four of the six batters he faced. It was easy to now envision a new role for Oswalt and add a new weapon to an already formidable bullpen.

Then Oswalt told Wash he had had enough and wasn’t going out for the ninth inning for a third inning of work. It is true that Oswalt all told had now thrown over nine innings of work in three appearances over a seven-day span. Could “he had had enough” simply mean Oswalt knew what his arm could take and it had reached his limit? Or could it be his balky back was acting up again?

Maybe. Here’s the thing, though. Virtually every member of the media who heard Wash seemed to infer by Wash’s body language and/or inflection that Oswalt was being whiny and making his displeasure over his new role known.

At the time of his demotion, Oswalt told the media he wasn’t happy with the demotion and said he didn’t know what more he could do, considering the Rangers were 4-2 in his starts. This shows the difference in the way baseball fans think and the way actual baseball players think. Fans look at things like stats. We see good starts, bad starts, hot streaks and cold streaks. Professional baseball players, and pitchers in particular, are trained to look at their job as just keeping their team in the game. Stats are for contract negotiations. The real day to day job is just keeping the team in the game.

From Oswalt’s perspective, that’s what he did and the Rangers were 4-2 in those starts. What fans see is the quality of those starts and in Roy’s case, the numbers were pretty ugly. Six innings against the Tigers, giving up 13 hits and five runs. 4.2 innings against the White Sox, giving up 13 hits and 9 runs. And, in his last start, 5.1 innings, 11 hits and 8 runs against the Angels. Roy also had two quality starts and one that just missed being one because he didn’t pitch six innings, but there was no in between. Either he was great or he sucked eggs. That’s why he was demoted to the pen.

It’s OK if Oswalt isn’t happy with the move. I wouldn’t expect any player to be happy being demoted. I also have no objection to Oswalt and his agent working behind the scenes to either finagle a release or get the Rangers to change their minds and put him back in the rotation (and if Derek Holland doesn’t get it together soon, that could very well happen). What ISN’T OK is for Oswalt refusing to go back into the game as long as he is physically able to perform. To do otherwise is putting self before team and essentially telling his superiors they can’t tell him what to do.

If that’s what Oswalt did yesterday, and all accounts indicate that’s most likely what happened, it’s not only wrong, it could mean the end of Oswalt’s brief Rangers career.

Feldmania And That Olt Time Religion

One could find so many nasty things to say about the Texas Rangers, Ron Washington, Elvis Andrus and countless others associated with Sunday’s giveaway loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Rangers, though, took two of three from the Royals and gained a game on both the Angels and the A’s in the process, so Sunday’s game notwithstanding, it seems appropriate to say nice things about the team that once again has the best record in the American League.

Scott Feldman

Scott Feldman (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Just six weeks ago, Rangers fandom, this writer included, was ready to jettison Scott Feldman to the Mars mission scheduled to land tonight. On June 4th, Feldman stood at 0-4 on the season. After finishing his fourth start as Neftali Feliz‘ replacement in the rotation, Scooter had an ERA of 7.01. While the ERA would improve over the next two starts, he still stood at 0-6, 6.50 on June 14th, a mere six weeks ago. What has transpired since then has been nothing short of amazing.

Over the next three starts, Feldman won two games and got one no decision. They weren’t lights out starts, but they did lower his ERA from 6.50 down to 6.11 on July 4th. At this point, it appeared Feldman would be returning to his original role of long relief, as Colby Lewis was coming off the DL and Roy Oswalt was now on board. Feldman expressed his displeasure at being pulled in one direction and then another, once again earning him little favor from the fans. He picked up his third win with two innings of relief in an extra inning win over the Twins. When Lewis’ season ended, Feldman was back in the rotation. Since then, he has been the Rangers steadiest starting pitcher. Over his past three starts, he’s allowed only three runs over 22.2 innings, lowering his ERA to 4.52. The three wins he’s earned in that span has brought him all the way back to 6-6 after an 0-6 start.

Feldman isn’t going to strike out a lot of people. He pitches to contact and when his cutter and sinker are working, the contact is usually poor. It was that talent that led him to a staff-leading 17 wins in 2009 and earned him the Opening Day spot for the 2010 season.

2010 wasn’t kind to Feldman. He struggled early and never got back on track. His season ended early and he underwent microfracture surgery on his knee, one of the first in baseball to undergo the procedure. He got a ring for being a member of the 2010 World series team, but he really didn’t contribute a lot: a 7-11 record with a 5.48 ERA. This didn’t gain him many friends in the fan base, considering he had signed a contract worth $8 million a year following his 17-win campaign.

He continued to alienate folks in 2011. He started the season in the minors, working his way back in shape from the surgery. At one point, disabled list rules called for the Rangers to call him back up unless Feldman agreed to continue his minor league rehab. Scooter refused. The Rangers were forced to bring him back up. He was used sparingly by the Rangers the rest of the year. In fact, he was with the club for almost two weeks before he was even called on to make a game appearance. By season’s end, he had appeared in just 11 games including two spot starts to give Alexi Ogando a rest. Feldman did pitch himself into at least decent graces again with the coaching staff and appeared in nine post-season games for Texas, including five games in the 2011 World Series.

Feldman began 2012 as the team’s long reliever. He made one spot start in April in which he lasted only 3.1 innings. Fans were willing to forgive him at first for a couple shaky starts. When he gave up eight runs in less than two innings of work against the A’s June 4th, that’s when the “Dump Feldman” griping came in earnest. Scooter persevered. Now he’s the Rangers most consistent starter. Good job Scott.

Meanwhile, the Mike Olt era began on Thursday when the heralded rookie was recalled from AA Frisco. Olt has now appeared in three games. On the negative side, Olt committed the game-ending error Sunday against the Royals. Everything else on his ledger has been positive. A noted power hitter, Olt has yet to get an extra base hit. He has, however, done exactly what Ron Washington preaches: he does what the game asks him to do. That’s why, after three games, Olt has just two singles in seven at bats. He also has three walks. He also has two sacrifice flies. He also has 3 RBI in three games, hitting in the 8 and 9 hole. He’s shown patience at the plate. He shortens up his swing once the count gets to two strikes. He’s made a lot of fans in just a short period of time. If he keeps it up for another couple of weeks, Olt might never see a minor league game again, unless it’s on a rehab assignment.

I still worry about this team’s post-season chances in 2012. Scott Feldman and Mike Olt are not a part of those worries.

 

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