Results tagged ‘ Scott Feldman ’

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.

Beards

Things haven’t been going to well in Texas Rangers land of late. Since Ian Kinsler went on the disabled list, the club has gone 11-13. Now they were a pretty decent 9-7 until Mitch Moreland joined Kinsler on the walking wounded list. With both players out, Texas has gone 2-6 in its last eight games.

So the heck with losing streaks and disabled players (Kinsler should be back Monday!). Let’s talk about beards!

I may be old but I’m not a prude. There are many beards I like. There’s this one:

Abraham-Lincoln-9382540-2-402

OK, that makes me seem even older than I really am. From a show business angle, there’s certainly no beating these beards:

jk12 1107 zz top 079

So I’m not against beards per se. I am, however, enough years past my hippie days to feel like today’s era of major league ball players are taking the beard thing a little too far.

Yeah, Brian Wilson of the Giants (not the Beach Boys one who had a pretty impressive beard at one time in his day) really started the trend of ball players beards behaving badly.

Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys circa 1968

Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys circa 1968

Since then, we have been treated to chin after chin of hair that is not only unshaved but really unkempt as well. I don’t mind a nice trim beard like Scott Feldman has. Sure he looks like he’d fit in to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise“, but at least it’s neat.

Scott Feldman

The Rangers aren’t immune to the Hatfield and McCoy look. Recently recalled Kyle McClellan has a prodigious red goatee that is even more horrific than this photo shows:

McClellan 2

Former Ranger Mike Napoli and Dale Thayer of the San Diego Padres look like they haven’t set foot outside a (man) cave in years now.

"<strongMike Napoli

Dale  Thayer

Did I mention I don’t like this Neanderthal look? Seriously, what if Rangers management decided they were going to emulate today’s players? Can you imagine what they’d look like?

Fortunately, you don’t have to. I’m here to show you. I may not be a Photoshop expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Thanks to that, I can show you what Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore would look like with a Jonny Gomes beard:

Jackie Moore with the Jonny Gomes Look

Jackie Moore with the Jonny Gomes Look

How about Rangers manager Ron Washington sporting a Josh Reddick monstrosity:

Wash Sporting the Josh Reddick

Wash Sporting the Josh Reddick

Heaven forbid Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan should show up to work one day deciding  Jayson Werth was one dude worth emulating:

Nolan Ryan is Jayson Werth-esque

Nolan Ryan is Jayson Werth-esque

And if Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided Brian Wilson was right all along? We’d be wondering if Fidel Castro had defected to the United States:

And Jon Daniels as "The Leader"

And Jon Daniels as “The Leader”

And what if Mike Maddux

 Mike Maddux

You know, never mind. Even guys can appreciate how much Maddux rocks that look.

As a fan, I urge today’s MLB players to start trimming back on the facial hair. If you don’t do it for me, think of the endorsement fees you’re probably missing out on looking like a troglodyte. In the meantime, my beloved Rangers, you think you could start winning a couple of games now and then?

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):

Rangers primary logo

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:

Texas Rangers logo

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.

Who Will Stay And Who Will Go?

The Rangers looked horrible against the lowly Chicago Cubs last night. Former Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman made Texas batters look silly and only the woeful Cubs bullpen prevented the Rangers from being shut out for the game.

As terrible as the Rangers looked, I can forgive them this game. Originally, the Rangers were to have Monday off, so they scheduled one of their big charity benefits for Sunday evening after the afternoon game with the Red Sox. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, a game with the Cubs got rained out a couple of weeks ago and Monday was chosen as the make-up date. Late flight out of Texas, late arrival in Chicago, tired team overall. I get that.

STTX13_Tepesch_006

Nick Tepesch (Photo credit: mikelachance816)

Except for Nick Tepesch. The rookie pitcher wasn’t part of the benefit. Since he was the scheduled starter, he got a head start in going to the Windy City. He had a good night’s sleep. He took the hill and had his worst start of his young career. Tepesch gave up a 5-spot in the fourth inning, putting his team down 6-0 and the Rangers never recovered.

Rookie pitchers are going to take their lumps, even rookies like Tepesch, whose first three starts were outstanding. Now, though, he’s started getting knocked around his last couple of times out. Why is this important?

There’s a guy getting started on rehab right now in Arizona by the name of Colby Lewis. It may still be more than a month away, but Lewis will be returning soon. When he does, someone is going to have to go, and that someone will be either Tepesch or Justin Grimm. As much as you’d like to just write it off as one (or two) bad starts, if you’re a GM like Jon Daniels, you’re looking at every start a player makes. Add in that this a team with playoff aspirations and you’re faced with a real “win or go home” attitude. Tepesch needs to step it up in his next couple of starts or he’s got a date with AAA Round Rock in his future. His competition to continue in the Rangers’ rotation, Justin Grimm, now has a leg up, as he hasn’t gotten pummeled yet. If he continues to pitch well, there’s little Tepesch can do to change the decision.

The Free Agent Wish List

Now that Mike Napoli and Scott Feldman have officially left the fold of the Rangers, the question becomes, who will Texas be replacing these guys with?

After non-tendering and then re-signing Geovany Soto, Texas basically has one “proven” catcher to go with into Spring Training. Pardon me for being singularly underwhelmed. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays seem to be skirting Security and Exchange Commission rules by trying to corner the market on catchers, having now stockpiled JP Arencibia, John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud and Eli Whiteside. I’m pretty sure they’ve got about four more on their AAA roster as well for safekeeping.

I was hoping Naps would return to the Rangers but it was not to be. We still don’t know if Josh Hamilton will return to the fold or not. Also out there from the Rangers roster are Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe.

But enough about who could be departing. Let’s talk about who I’d love to see arriving via the free agent route. I’d planned this article a month ago but the rigors of the “real job” got in the way. As a result, one of my prime free agent picks was snatched up, when the Giants re-signed Jeremy Affeldt to a 3-year deal. Texas never would’ve gone for three years on a reliever so c’est la vie.

BJ Upton may have gone on the list as well (though I’m not 100% sure of that), but Atlanta snatched him up. There are still quite a few out there, so here are the free agents on my Rangers wish list, starting with the obvious:

1) Zack Greinke: Well why not? He’s the prime pitcher in this year’s free agent class. The Dodgers are said to be the favorite at this point, which I can grudgingly accept. I do NOT want him returning to the Angels. I would LOVE to see Greinke in a Rangers uniform. He’s just the right age, he has playoff experience and his social anxiety issues have nothing to do with him pitching. MLB Radio this morning kept talking about how the “band box” in Arlington would not be good for Greinke, which goes to show how hard reputations die. Rangers pitchers have more than held their own at RBiA the last three years and additional construction in the 2011 off-season actually lessened the famous summer jet stream in 2012. I would love to see a Darvish-Greinke-Harrison Top 3.

2) Adam LaRoche: Put LaRoche at first base and all of a sudden Texas has one of the best defensive infields in baseball. Add in the production which certainly tops Mitch Moreland‘s the past two seasons and you’ve got a good recipe for success, whether Hamilton comes back or not. LaRoche certainly isn’t the top tier in first basemen but he’s at the top of the middle tier.

3) Eric Chavez: Hear me out on this one. Chavez did a great job in a utility role for the Yankees and, unfortunately, will probably re-sign with them now that the Bombers know A-Rod will be out for 4-6 months. Chavez is close to Rangers manager Ron Washington and credited Wash for his Gold Glove in Oakland. As overplayed as the Rangers were and as many nicks that Adrian Beltre got during the 2012 season, a proven guy like Chavez would fit right in with the Rangers.

4) Kyle Farnsworth: The bullpen has to be rebuilt and Farnsworth would be a good addition as a late inning guy. He’s closed and set up for the Rays and he could fill a variety of roles with the Rangers, spelling Joe Nathan when he’s pitched a couple of games in a row and setting up otherwise. Plus he’s one bad-ass martial arts dude.

5) Joakim Soria and/or Rafael Soriano: The same applies with these guys as it does to Farnsworth, minus the bad-ass martial arts dude part.

If Texas can’t get Greinke, I could see them possibly targeting Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum or Brandon McCarthy, but not much beyond that. I would also love to see Uehara come back in 2013.

Beyond that, I think the Rangers will look to improve more via the trade route than free agency. I also don’t expect them to get much done during the Winter Meetings. They don’t have a big history of splashy moves during this time.

This is a team in flux. I can’t wait to see what moves Jon Daniels has in store over the next two months.

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.

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.

The Running Game (Or Lack Thereof)

Texas Rangers fan that I am, I cheer my guys on through thick and thin. Many a time, I get my brains twisted all out of sorts when I read fellow Rangers fans who are overly critical of the moves Ron Washington makes, the failures at the plate of Michael Young and the like.

This does not make me immune from criticizing my favorite team. I’ve taken my own shots here in this corner of the Internet universe, including but not necessarily inclusive of: wanting less playing time for Michael Young; the two-month disappearance of Josh Hamilton‘s offense; Scott Feldman‘s pitching; and Ian Kinsler‘s defense.

After splitting the first two games of their four game set with the second-place Oakland A’s, I could easily choose to go after the moribund Rangers offense, which has managed all of two hits with runners in scoring position over the past five games. But I won’t. I will temporarily give credit to the pitching staffs of the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s here. Both teams have good pitching and even the best offenses will struggle against good pitching.

What is more unforgivable in my book is the nature of the Rangers’ running game throughout the 2012 season, both offensively and defensively. If Texas doesn’t make it back to the Fall Classic, I will put a lot of the blame on this category.

Defensively, Texas is ahead of only Minnesota in the percentage of runners caught stealing at a mere 20%. Rangers catchers have only nailed 17 runners attempting to steal all season, while allowing 103 to swipe a base successfully. A years ago, that figure was 35% caught stealing and only 85 successful steals. With eight games to go in the regular season, that means the Rangers have already given up 18 bases more in 2012 than a season ago.

As for the offense, the figures are even worse. A year ago, Texas swiped 143 bases on the year and were caught 45 times, a success rate of 76%.  This year? Only 90 steals while being caught 44 times, a 67% success rate. Rangers runners have been caught just one time less than a year ago, while stealing 53 less bases! A year ago, Rangers baserunners were picked off base 22 times. This year, 28 pick-offs,  including three times in the last two games against the A’s.

 

David Murphy becomes 1 of the 28 Rangers picked off in 2012.

Elvis Andrus: 5 picks and 37 steals in 2011, 8 pick-offs and only 20 steals in 2012. Ian Kinsler: 30 steals and 7 pick-offs in 2011, 21 and 8 in 2012. Craig Gentry was 18 for 18 in steal attempts and wasn’t picked off once in 2011. This year? Only 13 of 20 stealing while getting picked off three times.

As potent as the Rangers offense has been the past few years, it flat-out hasn’t been as good as it was the past two seasons. Batting average, On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage are all down from a year ago, but no category is as extreme as the base running statistics.

Is this just a case of a team playing just a little more tired because of playing 33 extra games over the past two seasons? Maybe. I’m more inclined to say it’s more mental fatigue than physical. Texas is making more mental errors than I’ve seen them make in years. As much as I want them to go all the way and claim their first World Championship, my fear is these mental errors are going to catch up with them in the post-season this year.

I sure hope I’m wrong.

Week 24 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: 3-3

Overall: 90-62 (1st Place AL West) (+4)

Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Mike Napoli .417/.500/1.000  1 2b  2 HR  3 RBI

Raspa Cold (Offense): Elvis Andrus .167/.167/.250

Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Scott Feldman  0.00 ERA  5 K in 3 IP

Joe Nathan   0.00 ERA,  2 Saves 3K in 3 IP

Raspa Cold (Pitching): Ryan Dempster   1-1,  6.30 ERA, 7 ER in 10 IP

In what could have been a better week, the Rangers were 3-3, taking two of three on the road at Los Angeles, but then losing two of three to Seattle, including a 1-0 heartbreaker on Saturday. The Rangers did put another game of space between themselves and the second place A’s, who were 2-4 for the week, but a 5 game lead was definitely attainable if not for the moribund offense. The Angels gained a game in the standings, thanks to their weekend sweep of the White Sox, but it would take a miracle for the Angels to win the West at this point. A Wild Card bid is their best hope and they have a bit of ground to make up in their last nine games to get there.

Tonight the Rangers can start putting the West away. Seven games await at home this week: three this weekend with the Angels and a 4-game set starting tonight with Oakland. Normally, I would lay out the games behind scenario from worst to best and say after Thursday night’s game, the Rangers lead will be 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8. Now there are magic numbers involved, so I’ll do the reverse. After the series conclusion on Tuesday, the Rangers magic number will be 7, 5, 3, 1 or 0. Win three of four of the set and they’ve clinched at least a tie with 6 games to go. Get a 4-game sweep and it’s all over.

Josh Hamilton returns to the line-up tonight, after missing the last four games due to vision problems. Hamilton originally thought it was due to sinus issues. Turns out he’s been hitting the sodas and energy drinks too hard. The caffeine OD has caused his blurred vision due to causing his corneas to dry up. Yet another thing for Hamilton to have to give up.

10 games remain. The first goal is in sight. I think it will be attained by week’s end.

 

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