Results tagged ‘ Yu Darvish ’

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/14-4/20

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

 This is an important year for Leonys Martin. A few years ago, the Rangers spent a good deal of money on the Cuban import, although not as much as countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman, among others, received. Martin spent two seasons in the minors before breaking into the starting line-up in 2013. He went through one great hot streak in the middle of the season but overall hit a mild .260 with eight home runs and 36 stolen bases, but also over a hundred strikeouts. For the Rangers to compete for a pennant, Martin’s numbers must improve. So far, so good. Martin’s season has started at a .322/.385/.421 clip. His strikeout rate is about the same, but his walk rate has improved thus far from about once every 16 at bats to once every 9 at bats. In Friday’s 12-0 pasting of the Chicago White Sox, Martin fell a double short of the cycle, going 3 for 5 with a single, triple and home run, scoring twice and knocking in four runs. With Geovany Soto and Jurickson Profar out at least through May and the Rangers making do with Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson, Robinson Chirinos and J.P. Arencibia, Martin’s production is even more vital at the bottom of the order. Thus far, he’s doing the job.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Prince Fielder is off to a slow start as a new member of the Rangers. While Prince hit his first two home runs in a Rangers uniform in the past week, his power numbers are NOT why he’s being honored as the full week Star of the Week. No, it’s his PERCEIVED power that brings him the award. For the week, Fielder hit a mild .273, albeit with two doubles and two home runs among his six hits on the week. What really pops out on the week is the seven walks compared to only four strikeouts. Of those seven walks, five of those were intentional walks. With Adrian Beltre on the shelf, Fielder has no real protection behind him in the line-up. Add to that the fact Fielder entered the week without a single home run on his ledger, you would think pitchers wouldn’t worry too much about pitching to him. Guess again. I could give the weekly award to Kevin Kouzmanoff, who made opposing pitchers pay for walking Fielder by knocking home eight runs on the week. He would deserve the award, but not more than Prince Fielder. After all, pitchers intentionally walking the big first baseman changed the complexion of the games played and were integral to the Rangers’ 5-game win streak from Tuesday through Saturday. Fielder also was, surprisingly, a fielder on the week, with several outstanding defensive plays at first base. Here’s Fielder’s first home run in a Rangers uniform:

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Now for the first repeat winner of 2014. Thanks to the strong work of Martin Perez, Rangers fans haven’t been sweating as hard about the return of Matt Harrison to the rotation. Sure, Harry’s missed and is vital to Texas in 2014, but Perez has made Rangers fans realize he is a very good #2 to Yu Darvish. That will take a lot of stress off of Harrison’s back as he’ll only need to worry about being a decent #3. The 23-year-old Perez tossed his second complete game of his career and his first complete game shutout with a superb 3-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox on Friday. Perez got staked to a quick lead and never let the pile-up of runs affect him on the mound. Many pitchers lose focus when staked to a big lead, but Perez went the full nine on an economical 109 pitches in securing the 12-0 win. Perez has now tossed 17 consecutive scoreless innings.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

After going through a roller coaster of win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, the Rangers finally put together a string of wins. After dropping the opener of their series with the Mariners, Texas ripped off five wins in a row, all at home, with three coming against the Mariners and two versus the White Sox before falling to Chicago 16-2 in Sunday’s finale. With Kevin Kouzmanoff making teams regret intentionally walking Price Fielder and Robinson Chirinos staking a claim as more than just a platoon catcher, the Texas offense is starting to gel just a bit. Meanwhile, the pitching has been bi-polar. Most of the time it’s been very very good, but when it’s been bad, it’s been rotten. With this team, there aren’t a lot of 6-5 or 5-4 games. Either the pitching staff is throwing goose-eggs or they’re giving up runs in bunches.

Texas will be on the road the entire week and all six games will be against division rivals, starting tonight with a 3-game set in Oakland against the 2-time defending AL West champions. The Rangers send their two top pitchers, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez, against Oakland Monday and Wednesday. For the weekend series with the Mariners, the Rangers will welcome back Adrian Beltre, expected to get activated off the DL for Friday’s opener at Safeco Field. Matt Harrison could also return to the fold and start one of the games against the Mariners. Harry threw eight shutout frames of 3-hit baseball in his last rehab start for AA Frisco and is accompanying the team on the West Coast trip. The Rangers coaching staff will watch over his off-day bullpen session. If they like what they see, Harrison’s next start will be in a Rangers uniform this weekend. This team is coming close to resembling the Rangers team most folks were expecting at the start of the season.

 

What A Pleasant Surprise

It had to wait until 16 games into the season, but the Texas Rangers finally have a winning streak. Sure, it’s just three games. But when you consider the Rangers are putting out a daily starting line-up with no Adrian Beltre; guys at the bottom of the order like Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson and J.P. Arencibia; a slow-starting Prince Fielder sitting at .164 with just one home run and 4 RBI; a pitching staff that started the season with ZERO pitchers who had started for the Rangers the year before; a catching tandem hitting a COMBINED .113 on the season; and a surprisingly porous defense sitting at the bottom of the league with more errors than anyone, then sitting at 2 games over .500 16 games in is really a miracle.

Yu Darvish is the ace of the staff. When he starts, the Rangers are 3-0. What’s unusual about that 3-0 is not that Darvish himself is only 1-0. What’s unusual is Darvish has thrown 22 innings and has yet to take the mound with a run on the Rangers ledger. The only game in which he got credited with the win, Texas scored in the bottom of the 7th and a new pitcher came on in the top of the 8th. A 1-0 record in three games with what is literally ZERO run support.

If you had told ANY Rangers fan that 16 games into the season the most valuable player on the team would be Kevin Kouzmanoff, you either would have gotten laughed out of the room or asked how much money you were willing to bet on it. Yet here’s Kouzmanoff, not even on the team for the first seven games, hitting .414 with five doubles, a home run and six RBI since replacing the injured Adrian Beltre in the line-up 9 games ago.

The Rangers are averaging less than four runs per game and have gotten outscored by five runs thus far, yet they have four walk-off wins and lead the league in shutouts with four. Prince Fielder is only hitting a buck-64, yet he leads the league with six intentional walks. According to Baseball Reference, Texas should have been 6-9 entering the finale of the Seattle series instead of 8-7.

It’s still at least a week before Adrian Beltre is back on the field. Matt Harrison wants to return to Texas by April 24th but is likely out at least a week longer than that, despite the poor performance by Tanner Scheppers in Thursday’s outing. Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto are still at least six weeks away and Derek Holland maybe ten weeks. The spare parts currently outperforming their expectations have to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They may not sustain their current production.

For now, though, I plan on savoring what they’ve accomplished so far.

 

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/7-4/13

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

 Robinson Chirinos is making a claim to start most of the games as catcher while Geovany Soto is on the mend.While this award is for a single game, Chirinos actually had two outstanding games during the week. In Tuesday’s 10-7 win over the Boston Red Sox, Chirinos led off the third with a towering home run over the Green Monster to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. It was the start of a 5-run uprising in the inning. Chirinos also added the last RBI of the inning when he walked with the bases loaded. In the fifth, with Texas up 8-1, Chirinos led off with a double and later scored the ninth run of the game. That’s the OFFICIAL game Chirinos gets Star of the Week for. As an honorable mention, Friday’s and Sunday’s twin 1-0 wins over the Astros both featured Chirinos prominently. In Friday’s 12-inning nail biter, Chirinos provided the 12th-inning single that plated the only run of the game in walk-off fashion. Sunday it was time for his defense to shine, as the Rangers catcher threw out two would-be Houston base stealers, helping Martin Perez earn his second win of the season. Below is Chirinos’ home run in the Boston game:

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Kevin Kouzmanoff was the last man NOT to make the Texas Rangers 25-man squad out of Spring Training. The only reason he didn’t make the team was because he was strictly a corner infielder, while Texas needed someone like Josh Wilson, who could play three infield positions. When Adrian Beltre went down with a tight quadriceps muscle in Tuesday’s win over the Red Sox, Texas summoned Kouzmanoff from AAA Round Rock in a hurry. Despite not having played in the majors in almost three years, Kouzmanoff got off to a quick start for the Rangers, getting hits in each of his first four games with Texas. Kooz actually has a six game big-league hitting streak going now, with a 900+ day gap between games two and three of the streak! For the week, he hit .417 with a double and RBI. With Sunday’s announcement of Beltre going on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday 4/9, Kouzmanoff will be the Rangers starting third baseman for the next week and a half minimum. If he continues to play the way he has the first four games, not only does it help the Rangers short-term, it will make it hard for Jon Daniels to send him back to Round Rock once Beltre is back.

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Originally, Yu Darvish was my winner for the second consecutive week for his dominant effort against the Astros, where he threw one-hit ball at the Astros over eight innings, striking out nine. Then along came Martin Perez on Sunday. To be sure, Darvish had a “better” game than Perez but the 23-year-old was just as spectacular against a woeful offensive attack from Houston. Plus, unlike Darvish, Perez got credited with the win. In his third start of the season, Perez went eight strong innings, giving up no runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. The young lefty also started resembling southpaws who have come before him over the past few years in Texas, Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson. Both were among the league leaders in getting hitters to ground into double plays. Over his past two starts, Perez has induced nine double plays including four by the Astros in Sunday’s game. Add in the two caught stealing by Robinson Chirinos and Perez never allowed an Astros baserunner to get into scoring position. Click here to see highlights of the Perez win.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Texas went 3-3 the second week, treading water while dealing with their injury woes. Texas went 1-2 in Boston against the Red Sox, while winning two of three from the Astros at home. The offense has struggled mightily since Beltre went down as shown by the two 1-0 games against the lowly Astros. With no Beltre, Houston intentionally walked Prince Fielder three times over the weekend. Fielder has yet to hit a home run as a Rangers player, though he stung the ball hard both Saturday and Sunday. The once-feared Rangers power attack has only managed five home runs in the first 12 games. That HAS to improve or treading water will soon become an extended losing streak, no matter how great the pitching.

The Rangers are at home all week with four games against division-rival Seattle and three against the Chicago White Sox.  The biggest highlight of the week is Wednesday night’s game, when Yu Darvish squares off against Felix Hernandez. Darvish has thrown 15 scoreless innings thus far (15 innings in which the Rangers have not scored a run for him either), while Hernandez has struck out 30 batters in his first 21 1/3 innings. Also on tap: the return of Colby Lewis, who throws the opener against the Mariners tonight. Lewis hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 18th, 2012. He’s not only coming back from elbow surgery but also a hip resurfacing procedure. Nobody knows whether Lewis will have the stamina to go every fifth day for the rest of the season, let alone if he can still pitch effectively in the big leagues. Nobody has ever tried coming back from hip resurfacing in baseball before. What we do know is, based on how he performed in the World Series years for Texas, Globe Life Park will be rocking tonight and Lewis is sure to get an incredible reception from the fans when he strides to the mound in the top of the first.

Oddity of the Week

Elvis Andrus got ejected from Sunday’s game for arguing a called third strike at the end of the third inning. As a result, from the top of the fourth until the top of the ninth, when Alexi Ogando came in to record the save, Texas for the first time fielded a line-up containing NO players from the Rangers’ 2011 World Series team.

The Friday/Saturday Sundry: 4/11/14

BaseballMinor-League-BaseballDOWN ON THE FARM

The Rangers’ minor league teams uniformly got off to slow starts but Thursday’s games saw all four full-season teams secure wins, the first time all four have won in the same day. Even then, there was good and bad news. On the good side, last year’s first-round pick, second baseman Travis Demeritte, cranked his second and third home runs of the season for the Hickory Crawdads. Hickory entered the game hitting in the .180′s as a team but managed to improve their BA to above the Mendoza line with nine hits overall, including Demeritte’s two dingers. Also on the good side was Myrtle Beach’s third baseman Joey Gallo. At 19, Gallo is among the top power hitters in all the minors. After a slow start at the plate, yesterday Gallo unleashed a 4 for 4 day for the Pelicans including a double and his first two High-A home runs. If Gallo can cut down on his strikeouts, he could be a major league presence for years to come.

The negative side of the ledger came from the pitching staffs. Luke Jackson, one of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects, had a bad game, giving up seven runs in only 3 1/3 innings for the AA Frisco RoughRiders. Even more troublesome was the performance by Cody Buckel of Myrtle Beach. Just a year ago, Buckel was not only one of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects, he also made his first appearance in the big-league camp in Spring Training. All of a sudden, Buckel picked up a case of what they call the “yips”. Suddenly, he lost all command on his pitches. In the minors, Buckel exhibited great control. Now he was walking batters, hitting batters and struggling to find the strike zone. He got shut down in AA after several ineffective starts. He popped up late in the season in the Arizona Summer League but got shut down again after things didn’t get any better.

This spring, Buckel was back and, while he was a bit on the wild side, he did seem to have improved his command. Buckel had worked with pitching coaches and sports psychologists and looked like he was on the road back. Texas started him at High-A Myrtle Beach this year. His first start showed the strides he had made when he allowed only one hit and no runs in four innings of work. Yes, he walk four in four innings but insiders said he had command of some of his pitches.

In his second start, though, it was like none of the improvements had ever happened. After getting the first two outs with relative ease, Buckel walked the next four batters to plate a run before getting a groundout to end the first. When he opened the second inning by walking the first two batters then hit the third to load the bases, Buckel’s night ended. One inning, one run, six walks, a hit batter and no strikeouts. I’ve rooted for Buckel to come back. They say his stuff is great. But something has happened to him and it’s iffy whether he’ll ever return to the prospect he once was.

 BELTRE’S QUAD

The good news is Adrian Beltre has just a mild quad strain so he isn’t expected to miss substantial time. The bad news is we still don’t know if he’ll be placed on the 15-day DL anyway. The Rangers plan to give Beltre the weekend before deciding what to do. The only thing we know is he won’t play in the home series with the Astros this weekend. Expect Kevin Kouzmanoff as the Rangers’ starting third baseman this weekend. Not placing Beltre on the DL this weekend means the long-awaited return of Colby Lewis won’t happen for a few more days. Lewis was originally slated to start Saturday’s game. With Beltre NOT on the DL, Lewis graciously agreed to push back his return to the Rangers until Monday or Tuesday (he had an out in his contract that would have allowed him to declare free agency if he wasn’t on the Texas roster by Thursday 4/10). For a team already missing Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto, losing a third starter, especially the likes of Beltre, would be a crippling blow. Here’s hoping he’ll be back in the line-up Monday when the Mariners come to town.

 BAD “D” IN BIG D

One of the biggest red flags after the first nine games is the Texas defense. It was expected there would be some weakening of the Rangers D in 2014. Prince Fielder isn’t as good a defender at first as Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler was a pretty good defender at second when he was a Rangers player. What wasn’t expected was Texas committing eleven errors in the first nine games, easily the worst mark in the major leagues. Even more shocking, six of those eleven errors have been by the most reliable defenders in a Rangers uniform, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. One of the three errors on each of them can partially be blamed on Fielder’s inability to pick up a short-hop throw. The other two are strictly on them. Andrus in particular got shut down for the last couple of weeks in Spring Training with a sore arm. I think we’re seeing the result of that layoff. As for Beltre, one of the best third basemen in the game, I hope this early showing isn’t a sign of his reflexes starting to slow down at age 35. Only time will tell.

THIS WEEKEND

The Rangers begin a 10-game homestand this weekend against the Houston Astros. Texas was 17-2 against Houston a year ago. The Astros are a little improved, ie they could win 70 games this year instead of 60, so 17-2 might give way to 14-5 this year. Still, if Beltre is going to miss a series, this is the one he can most afford to miss. Texas has two of their most trustworthy pitchers, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez, going in the three game set, so winning at least two of the three is realistic.

MAJORS: Houston (4-6) at Texas (4-5)

AAA: Colorado Springs (Rockies 4-4) at Round Rock (RANGERS 5-3)

AA: Frisco (RANGERS 3-4) at NW Arkansas (Royals 2-5)

High-A: Myrtle Beach (RANGERS 3-4) at Wilmington (Royals 2-5)

Low-A: Asheville (Rockies 4-4) at Hickory (RANGERS 5-3)

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 3/31-4/6

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game): Elvis Andrus Texas had two walk-off wins in as many days against the Philadelphia Phillies. Adrian Beltre came through with the game-winning hit in the first walk-off win, while Shin-Soo Choo coaxed a bases-loaded walk to decide the following game. Still, nothing topped the dramatics of the 7th inning Sunday in Tampa Bay. Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb had matched seven innings of scoreless baseball. Texas hadn’t even seriously threatened to score the entire game. In the top of the 8th inning, with two outs, Shin-Soo Choo managed an infield single off the glove of pitcher Joel Peralta. Elvis Andrus then worked the count to 3-2 when Peralta threw him one more fastball:

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_04_06_texmlb_tbamlb_1&mode=video&content_id=31878961&tcid=vpp_copy_31878961

It was the first Rangers home run since Alex Rios cleared the fences on Opening Day. Elvis has never hit more than six home runs in a season, so to say this was unexpected would be an understatement. The man who now resembles an Amish farmer also supplied some nifty glove work on two line drives late in the game to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard and preserve a Texas win.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): Shin-Soo Choo One of the keys to the Rangers success this season is their new lead-off hitter. Choo has one of the highest On Base Percentages in baseball over the past few seasons, despite less than sterling numbers against left-handed pitchers. His ability to take pitches and get on base was the major reason Texas signed him to a big bucks multi-year deal. In the first week of the season, Choo did not disappoint. While a modest .273 batting average for the week with no extra base hits doesn’t sound like a lot, he’s started out strong against the southpaws: 3 for 9 plus two walks. In addition, Choo saved his best for the times it mattered most. In Tuesday’s win over the Phillies, he led off the 9th with a walk and scored the winning run on Adrian Beltre’s single. The next day, Choo battled back from a 1-2 count to get a bases-loaded walk, plating the winning run in another walk-off against the Phils. Finally on Sunday, in a scoreless tie with two outs in the top of the 8th inning, Choo worked Joel Peralta for seven pitches, finally earning yet another walk and setting the stage for the Elvis Andrus fireworks to come. Prince Fielder is off to a slow start, but Choo has already earned a lot of love from the Rangers fan base.

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: Yu Darvish Yu Darvish originally was to pitch the first game of the season. Instead, a stiff neck earned him a DL stint and Tanner Scheppers the Opening Day start. Nothing went right for Texas in Game 1 as they dropped a 14-10 decision to Philadelphia. In fact, the first four games of the season saw not one Rangers starter last six innings, the first time that’s happened since the Washington Senators moved to Arlington to become the Rangers. Rookie Nick Martinez managed to make it through six in his début Saturday, but it was important for Darvish to set a new tone following his activation Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, going seven strong innings and picking up the win in his season début. Darvish has been victim of high pitch counts his first two seasons but got through seven innings on just 89 pitches while throwing 65 of them for strikes. At one point early on, Darvish K’d three consecutive Rays batters on just nine pitches. In the first inning, Darvish got his 500th career MLB strikeout and set a record for reaching 500 K’s in the fewest innings pitched (just 401 IP). Darvish provided the shot in the arm the Rangers pitching staff needed. As a special treat to honor Darvish this week, check out this YouTube presentation of every one of Yu’s strikeouts in 2013, courtesy of the massively talented Drew Sheppard:

Texas went 3-3 the first week. The three wins had plenty of late-inning dramatics, while the three losses featured poor pitching, poor defense and, in two of the three losses, silent bats. This week in Rangers baseball finds Texas in Fenway Park for a 3-game series against the defending World Series Champions and former Rangers Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara. After an off-day Thursday, it’s back to Arlington to start a 10-day homestand with three against the Houston Astros.

The Sign Of Things To Come?

In the middle of last night’s series closer with the Phillies, I tweeted about the first two games indicating what the Texas Rangers offense potential is while Game 3 was a sign that they’re not consistently there yet. Then the bottom of the ninth came up.

Rangers trailed 3-1. A lead-off single by Adrian Beltre on a pitch out of the strike zone. A strikeout by Alex Rios. Mitch Moreland then laced a double to the right field corner to put the tying run on second. Jim Adduci, the last position player to get a spot on the 25-man roster, beat a chopper down the third base line and just managed to beat the throw to first, plating Beltre with the second run. A Leonys Martin single ties the game at three. Donnie Murphy, the next to the last position player named to the 25-man roster, coaxed a walk to load the bases. Finally, Shin-Soo Choo, signed to a big free agent deal in part because of his On Base Percentage, fell down in the count 1-2 but still managed to stay patient and let Jonathon Papelbon make the mistake. Choo walked, Adduci scored the winning run, the Rangers had their second walk-off win in as many nights and the Rangers confirmed to me their offense could potentially be something special in 2014.

Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball pointed out one fact about this opening series that provokes die-hard fans to say, “Yup. That’s baseball.” The fact? Texas only scored one run against two different Phillies starters and won both games. They scored 8 against the Phillies best starter and lost. Yup. That’s baseball.

It’s baseball when the Rangers go 2-1 in a series in which none of their starting pitchers managed to get through six innings of work. They won a series in which three relievers who may not even be with the club in another two months combined to throw four innings of shut-out baseball. They won a series when the big guy they want to provide most of the power this season was mostly impotent.

Mitch MorelandOh, yeah, and the haters are already in mid-season form. When Mitch Moreland ended a potential rally by grounding into a double play, the Twitterverse was alive with fans questioning why Jon Daniels still wanted to keep him around (despite the fact Beltre would have been the DP scapegoat two batters earlier if not for the first baseman dropping the relay throw). When he plated the game’s first run a couple of innings later with a triple, it was mostly a “Yeah but…” reaction. Even when Moreland’s double in the ninth set the stage for the rally to come, there were mostly complaints about his success, such as “Now Wash will play him all the time and we’ll NEVER see Michael Choice in the line-up.” Hey Mitch- kudos to you. You’re a big reason the Rangers won the series this time.

Winning the first series feels good, especially when the two wins are in walk-off fashion. Now it’s on to Florida for three with the Rays. Texas announced Yu Darvish will come off the DL and pitch Sunday’s series finale, another piece of good news. Who loses their rotation spot when Darvish returns is unknown but it might come down to who performs better as a starter, veteran Joe Saunders on Friday night or rookie Nick Martinez on Saturday. My guess is Martinez is here for just one start but if he excels in that start, anything could happen.

Today is an off-day, but the minor league season begins today. Matt Harrison gets the start for AA Frisco as he works his way back into the rotation mix by the end of the month. Meanwhile, I’m taking today to savor this first series win.

 Schedule for April 3, 2014

Rangers: Off

AAA: Round Rock hosts Oklahoma City

AA: Frisco hosts NW Arkansas

Hi-A: Myrtle Beach hosts Salem

A: Hickory at Greensboro

Roster Projections 3/25/14

Jurickson Profar: Out 10-12 Weeks

Putting the roster pieces together.

Putting the roster pieces together.

Geovany Soto: Out 10-12 Weeks

The Rangers’ injury woes have mounted, but at least we can hold on to this: If anyone was going to miss 10-12 weeks, from an offensive perspective, Profar and Soto were probably two of the LEAST important cogs in the line-up. Not to say the line-up won’t miss them, but compared to Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo, it’s a hit that’s tolerable to the Rangers..

Still, these events open roster spaces and, with only six days to go before the Rangers have a date with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee on March 31st, the thought of what the Rangers’ roster will look like (come Monday (it’ll be all right) (Thanks Jimmy Buffett) becomes an interesting exercise.

Here’s what we know with certainty on offense because they aren’t injured in any way, shape or form as I write this:

Prince Fielder

Adrian Beltre

JP Arencibia

Leonys Martin

Alex Rios

Michael Choice

Here’s what is highly probable, as in they have reported injuries but it isn’t expected to put them on the DL to start the season:

Elvis Andrus

Mitch Moreland

Shin-Soo Choo

That’s only nine players. The Rangers still need a back-up catcher, another outfielder, a starting second baseman and a utility infielder. I suspect Robinson Chirinos will be the second catcher. He’s been excellent in camp and deserves a roster spot. Since Moreland has gotten some reps in left field, I think the Rangers are leaning towards him as the fifth outfielder at this point, meaning Texas really needs a starting second baseman and TWO utility infielders. Kevin Kouzmanoff has had a good spring as well and likely will get one of those spots to provide a third base back-up for Beltre. Now the question is, will Texas go for a platoon at second base while Profar is out? The candidates thus far are Brent Lillibridge, Josh Wilson, Adam Rosales and Kesuke Tanaka. Of these, I think one stays, either Wilson or Rosales. As for the last offensive roster slot? I’m betting on someone who is among the last cuts in someone else’s training camp or gets obtained in a minor trade before Opening Day. That’s how the Rangers got Matt Treanor in 2010 and Andres Blanco in 2011.

Thus, the Opening Day offense is:

1B: Fielder

2B: Wilson or Rosales

SS: Andrus

3B: Beltre

C: Arencibia

LF: Choo

CF: Martin

RF: Rios

DH: Moreland

Bench: Chirinos, Kouzmanoff, Choice, Mystery Infielder

BaseballFor the pitching staff, Texas has a starting rotation in flux. Matt Harrison isn’t ready to help at season’s start. The back-end of the rotation is still unsettled. Let’s start by looking at health again. Here are the definite roster members who have no reported health issues:

Martin Perez

Tanner Scheppers

Robbie Ross

Alexi Ogando

Joakim Soria

Neal Cotts

Jason Frasor

The only one with a potential health issue that’s a lock is Yu Darvish, who’s officially ruled out to pitch Opening Day. That’s seven pitchers, leaving another five slots open. The following are in the mix for roster spots: Colby Lewis, Tommy Hanson, Joe Saunders, Neftali Feliz, Michael Kirkman, Pedro Figueroa, Rafael Perez and Shawn Tolleson. For this exercise, I’m going to assume Robbie Ross will be in the rotation, leaving one open starter position and four bullpen slots.

I want Colby Lewis in the Rangers rotation. I just don’t know if he’s ready yet, having gone through hip replacement surgery. Lewis is the talk of the camp and I think he’ll help Texas in 2014, but I think it best if he starts the season at AAA Round Rock. By default, that would hand the fifth starter spot to Hanson or Saunders. Neither one excites me. I’ll go with Saunders only because the DFW media seem to feel Hanson would work better than Saunders in the long reliever/spot starter role.

In the bullpen, it has already been established Soria is the closer and Ogando will set him up in the 8th. Frasor and Cotts are there for the seventh inning. Assuming Hanson is the long man, that leaves two slots open. Neftali Feliz has disappointed Rangers brass with his lack of velocity as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. I think he starts the season in AAA. Michael Kirkman is out of options but I don’t think the Rangers see any future for him with the club, either. He might be a trade piece for the extra infielder the Rangers need. I think Tolleson and Figueroa will be the last two pieces added to the pen. Thus we have a pitching staff that looks like this:

Starters

Darvish

Perez

Scheppers

Ross

Saunders

Bullpen

Hanson

Soria

Ogando

Frasor

Cotts

Tolleson

Figueroa

More moves still could be on the horizon between now and Monday that throw these predictions all out of whack. For the short-term, I hope this roster will be okay because for a pennant run, there’s still a lot of help needed.

QUICK NOTE: Every year, the C70 At The Bat blog, part of Cardsconclave.com, does a “Playing Pepper” feature looking at the other MLB teams. Today is Texas Rangers Day and some of my comments, along with a half dozen other Rangers bloggers are there. Make sure you give it a read!

Who Are These Guys? -or- Can You Identify That Strange Odor?

Adam Rosales and Josh Wilson your Opening Day middle infield? Doesn’t exactly strike fear into the heart of the AL West, does it?

Jurickson

Jurickson Profar

That’s a possibility for the Rangers come Opening Day against the Phillies on March 31st. We know for a fact Jurickson Profar won’t man second base for the first game, or the second, probably not for the first 81 games. Profar got diagnosed with a torn muscle in his shoulder and will miss 10-12 weeks.

Meanwhile his middle infield partner, Elvis Andrus, is still experiencing soreness on  his throwing arm. He is currently DH-ing and isn’t supposed to throw until this weekend’s final exhibition games in San Antonio, cutting the margin extremely close for the opener.

The Opening Day starter, Yu Darvish, got scratched from his last start because of a sore neck. He insisted it wasn’t an issue but the word out of Rangers camp Sunday made it sound like it hasn’t cleared up as much as he’d like.

Who will start Opening Day? For sure not Profar. Maybe not Andrus. Maybe not Mitch Moreland, still getting over and oblique strain. Maybe not Darvish. Maybe not Shin-Soo Choo, who still has left elbow soreness. Maybe not Geovany Soto, who got pulled in the first inning of Sunday’s exhibition when his leg locked up.

Question-Mark-34Let’s make matters even worse, shall we? The Rangers announced Friday Tanner Scheppers had earned a spot in the rotation and Joakim Soria will be the closer, making it a four-way battle for the last two rotation spots between Tommy Hanson, Joe Saunders, Colby Lewis and Robbie Ross. So what happens? Hanson starts on Saturday and gives up 7 runs in 5.2 innings. Advantage Saunders, right? Wrong! Saunders started Sunday and couldn’t even make it through two innings, giving up 9 runs in an inning and a third. Ross has pitched well enough to earn a rotation slot. I’ve always loved Colby Lewis but this is a guy coming off a hip replacement whose last two starts have come in minor league games. That makes the starting rotation Proven Commodity with a sore neck (Darvish), Second Year Starter who may or may not have a sophomore slump (Martin Perez), Former Reliever (Scheppers), Former Reliever (Ross) and Hip Replacement Guy (Lewis). One of them will get replaced in a few weeks by Missed All But Two Starts Last Year Guy (Matt Harrison). So there’s no concern about the starting rotation, right?

You sense a trend here? Opening Day for the first time in five seasons is filling me with dread. The optimism just isn’t there now. The Rangers have a lot of depth in the minor league system but there’s not much there now at the big league level. That’s why we have a possible starting middle infield of Adam Rosales and Josh Wilson.

Rougned Odor

Rougned Odor

A national beat writer wrote last night the Rangers wouldn’t miss a beat at second base if they start rookie Rougned Odor while Profar is on the mend. Odor is one of the Rangers top prospects, a player Rangers minor league analyst Scott Lucas says just has “that look” about him. Maybe so but he also has only 134 at bats at the Double A level. Is he ready for that big a leap? And if he succeeds, what then? Now there’s another logjam in the middle infield with three quality players for two positions.

I’m not totally against the idea of Odor playing at the big league level. He may already offer more than Rosales or Brent Lillibridge over the next three months. Or he could flame out spectacularly, which is why someone like Rosales or Lillibridge could be the stopgap measure. We know they won’t add much, but as veterans, their output is more of a known commodity. Also to be considered is if Odor hits the big stage, that accelerates his free agency timetable by at least a year. Is the front office willing to risk that year right now?

Only a week to go before Opening Day and there are still a lot of decisions to be made.

Post-Season Hardware

After your team’s eliminated, it sure is hard getting back to evenings with no Rangers baseball to watch. Sure I follow the playoffs and football is always there as a distraction, but night-to-night living is completely different. Fortunately there are still things like the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season awards to think about and write about to take some of the edge off.

BaseballBloggersAlliance

There are five awards announced annually by the BBA and, being a blogger about an American League team, that is the only league for me to vote. Just as well, because I really don’t know enough about the season in the NL to vote with certainty. I would, however, feel strongly that Clint Hurdle should get honored for his work with the Pirates and Paul Goldschmidt, being a Texas boy, has at least staked a claim as the league’s best player this year. But enough about things I know not nearly enough about. Here are my picks for the American League honors.

 

English: Connie Mack, in ballpark grandstand, ...

Connie Mack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Connie Mack Award (Manager)

I don’t hate honoring a manager, but I do hate the game that’s played for that honor. Face it, the manager who receives this award annually is more often than not the man whose team had either a surprising year or they had the biggest turnaround of the year. Thus managers like Joe Girardi or Ron Washington, whose teams have been consistently good for several years, will seldom get any recognition and when they do, such as when Ron Gardenhire won it for the Twins in 2010, it really should have gone to someone more deserving (Wash should have won in 2010). I voted for Girardi a couple of years ago because of how well the Yankees did despite several key injuries. I think Washington should get strong consideration this year for his work with the Rangers, considering the injuries to the pitching staff and how much weaker they were offensively due to no fault of his own. Through all that, he still managed Texas to 91 wins and within an eyelash of the official playoffs. Still, as much as I love the Rangers and as much as I respect Ron Washington, there’s no doubt who will win, and probably should win this year. It’s the Red Sox’ John Farrell. While he was once pitching coach for the Sox, this was his first season as a manager and he turned Boston from worst to first in one year’s time. Maybe that’s a sign of how bad a fit Bobby Valentine was a year ago, but I’m willing to give Farrell his due. Terry Francona gets an honorable mention along with Wash, not because of the overall turnaround for the Indians, but the fact he did it with a starting rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir, two pitchers who were on the verge of being put on the junk heap a year ago.

WINNER: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Willie Mays Award (Rookie)

This was not the strongest rookie class in the world. Offensively, there wasn’t a rookie in the AL who topped 60 RBI. Only one scored as many as 60 runs. Fourteen home runs was the top power number and 18 steals was the tops in the speed department. Most rookies considered for a top honor will put up numbers in one of those categories that resembles a fulltime starter. This year’s class had numbers befitting platoon players at best. So instead of Wil Myers or Nick Franklin, I’m looking at pitching this year. There I see two more deserving candidates: Dan Straily of the Oakland A’s and Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers. Both players won ten games for their clubs, tops among all rookies. Both were pretty even in ERA: Straily at 3.96, Perez at 3.62. The edge, though, goes to the guy who had a better WHIP (1.24 vs. 1.33) and led all rookies in innings pitched. Rangers fan that I am, reluctantly that means the guy with Oakland.

WINNER: Dan Straily, Oakland A’s

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever)

I’m going to concede the odds are long that the guy I vote for here is going to win. That’s because I’m going strictly on stats for this one. The guy who most likely is going to win had a great year in 2013. It was also his last year before retirement, so I suspect a lot of people are going to vote for him as a goodbye honor, kind of a Lifetime Achievement Award that will last the five years it takes before he’s enshrined in Cooperstown. The thing is, I don’t like Lifetime Achievement Awards like this. The Hall of Fame will be award enough. Fact is, the best reliever this year didn’t play in the Bronx. He played in the worst possible market to play in in the American League. We’re talking Kansas City here, folks. Greg Holland was filthy good for the Royals this year. 47 Saves, better than everybody except one. A 1.21 ERA. I thought Joe Nathan was outstanding for Texas with a 1.39, but Holland outdid him. Then you add in 103 strikeouts in only 67 innings of work, a 0.87 WHIP, and only 40 hits allowed. That is one ornery closer my friends. Mariano Rivera deserves all kinds of accolades for the career he had, as well as the way he came back in 2013 from a serious injury to post the numbers he posted. They don’t top what Holland did for the Royals, though and Holland shouldn’t get penalized because a guy who didn’t match his numbers is retiring.

WINNER: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)

Wins don’t mean anything. That’s what the SABR crowd says. They’re probably right. After all, all kinds of great pitchers get tagged for losses they don’t deserve. Yu Darvish lost four games this year 1-0. They also get credited with wins they don’t deserve. When you give up six runs in five innings but your teammates put up nine, you may have gotten the win but you won’t necessarily sleep well because of it. A couple of months ago, the debate was already beginning to form because the numbers of Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and even Yu Darvish were right up there with Max Scherzer, but Max was the guy with all those W’s on his ledger compared to the other guys. The thing is, the other three guys all started having their problems shortly after the debate started. Hernandez in particular got shelled by the Rangers to the tune of nine runs (8 earned) in only three innings of a late August start. From August 17 on, King Felix was a pedestrian 0-5, 6.46. Darvish was only 1-4 over that span but with a decidedly better 3.38 ERA. Chris Sale was 3-3 with a 4.02 the last month and a half. And Scherzer? He closed out with a 4-2, 3.08. There may have been a debate in mid-August, but only one of the four players in the debate made it count down the stretch. In this case, the guys with the most wins gets the award AND he deserves it too.

WINNER: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)

One year ago, another traditional vs. new era debate raged and it concerned the top player in the league. Traditionalists loved Miguel Cabrera, who was the first to win the AL’s Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960′s. On the SABR side was the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout who, according to WAR, had one of the best seasons anyone in baseball history has ever had. Cabrera won the vote of the sportswriters so the traditional won out. In the blogosphere, however, Trout was the decisive winner over Cabrera in the BBA vote. So what happened in 2013? Cabrera had an even better batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage than he had a year ago. Trout nearly doubled his walks from a year ago from 67 to 110. He also had a higher on base percentage and OPS. Then there was a new guy in the mix: Chris Davis of the Orioles, who exploded for 53 home runs. There was also a bit of love for the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, who had a torrid July and August and helped ease the loss of the suspended Nelson Cruz. A year ago I voted for Cabrera myself because I like my top player playing for a contender, plus Cabrera had a much stronger September than Trout did and that counts for something. So let’s compare Septembers for my top four in 2013:

Cabrera: .278 BA  1 HR  7 RBI

Trout: .281 BA  4 HR  15 RBI

Davis: .216 BA  6 HR  16 RBI

Beltre: .262  2 HR  10 RBI

Cabrera was battling injuries the last month, Beltre’s hamstring issues caused him to lose his power stroke in the late stages, Davis hit for power but not much average. That leaves the guy who missed out in the sportswriters vote a year ago. Yeah, he still wasn’t playing for a contender but he was a big part of a late surge that nearly brought the Angels back to .500 with a lousy pitching staff, no Albert Pujols and a mostly ineffective Josh Hamilton. I’m not as conflicted this year as I was a year ago.

WINNER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

There you have it. I may be a homer when it comes to the games, but none of my Rangers quite measured up in the end for the post-season hardware. As 29 teams always say on the last day of their seasons, there’s always next year!

The logo for the American League.

Everybody Refuses To Lose

Rangers primary logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since splitting a 4-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers have won five of their last seven games, including the last four in a row. That’s a .714 clip.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, the two teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, the Rays and the Cleveland Indians, have both gone 7-0 in the same time span.

Talk about your must win scenarios. There are three games left in the season. If the Rangers are one game better than the Indians over the last three games, it forces a one-game playoff to decide who gets to go into another one-game playoff.

If Cleveland refuses to lose as they have the last seven games, there’s nothing the Rangers can do about it. One game better and rookie Martin Perez gets to face the Tribe in Cleveland. Do two games better and Perez squares off against the Rays.

The odds are still against Texas, but Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish give the Rangers the best odds of getting to a Game 163.

I said it Monday and I’ll say it again. Every game is a must win this week and, with only three games remaining, 3-0 could still spell failure. So far, 4-0 this week has only been good enough to tread water.

Time for a miracle, boys.

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