May 26, 2005
Texas removed pitcher R.A. DICKEY from the 15-day Disabled List and optioned him to AAA Oklahoma.
Dickey has options, Benoit does not and has pitched pretty well lately. Dickey's perseverance is swell but he's just a rich man's John Wasdin. Even with Carlos Almanzar and Frank Francisco out, Dickey doesn't merit an increase in responsibilities.
Posted by Lucas at 11:06 AM
May 20, 2005
AL West Report
(originally appeared at The Batters Box.)
For most of the last decade, the AL Central has featured one good-but-unspectacular squad and four teams ranging from average to poor. So far in 2005, the AL West is trying hard to usurp that hollow crown.
LAA 23-17 .575 TEX 21-20 .512 OAK 16-24 .400 SEA 16-24 .400
Runs scored per game: 4.15
Runs allowed per game: 4.05
Batting Line: .245/.297/.378
Team OPS+: 85
Opponent Batting Line: .263/.326/.414
Rotation ERA: 4.11
Bullpen ERA: 2.96
Team ERA+: 112
The TV wags correctly say that the division is LA's to take, but the Angels don't seem very eager to do so. They've outscored their opponents by only four runs, and their peripherals are worse: LA has a woeful OPS of .675 and has allowed an OPS of .740. Furthermore, they've played only six games against Chicago, Minnesota, Boston, Baltimore and New York. Oakland and Seattle have played eighteen each against them, Texas twelve. Per ESPN, Los Angeles has faced the weakest opposition in baseball. If the standings were based on peripherals (and they aren't, thank God), only Texas would be playing .500 ball.
As in 2004, the offense prefers to swing early and often, an acceptable strategy if the team bats .280 but a poor one when it hits in the .240s. Los Angeles has thirteen fewer walks than any team in baseball and is on pace to draw fewer than 400 on the season. Vlad the Impaler has done his part, and Garret Anderson has kept his average despite losing much of his power. Everyone else has struggled. Seven weeks in a four-year, $32 million deal, Orlando Cabrera is batting .236/.308/.361, and the well-paid Steve Finley has offered a line of .202/.273/.403.
The pitching has kept the team competitive. Bartolo Colon has pitched like a #1 starter, and none of the other rotation regulars has pitched poorly. The team's saviors have been the bullpen quartet of Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Jake Woods, who have combined for 71 innings and a tiny ERA of 2.14.
Los Angeles ought to win the division handily, if only by default. Their offense is impatient by design, but they have more than enough talent to pull their on-base percentage above .300. Even in The Year Of The Pitcher, the pennant winner had an OBP of .302.
Runs scored per game: 5.05
Runs allowed per game: 4.98
Batting Line: .260/.322/.437
Team OPS+: 104
Opponent Batting Line: .275/.344/.409
Rotation ERA: 4.43
Bullpen ERA: 5.43
Team ERA+: 87
Meet the Perfectly Average Ballclub. Texas has a winning percentage of .512, a Pythagorean winning percentage of .507, and I calculate a percentage of .502 based on their peripherals. Texas has yet to lose more than two consecutive games or win more than three in a row. They've hovered within three games of .500 the entire season.
The Rangers are the only team in the division not embarrassing themselves at the plate. Texas easily leads the West in all the major offensive categories despite lackluster performances from Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock and Michael Young. The unlikely hero so far is David Dellucci, who has drawn an astonishing 36 walks in 34 games and sports an OBP of .477. On the downside, Texas has wasted several hundred at-bats on Richard Hidalgo, Gary Matthews and Rod Barajas, all of whom have an OPS below .650. The feeling is that despite scoring over five runs per game, the offense should be better.
David Copperfield seduced Claudia Schiffer, and Kenny Rogers has a 30-inning scoreless streak. Ladies and gentleman, gaze in awe at the power of magic. Overall, Texas has the 7th-best rotation ERA in the AL, but it's mostly a function of Rogers' unfathomable 1.49 ERA. 25-year-old Chris Young is showing he could pitch for any team, not just Texas, but the rest is the usual assortment of queasiness. Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio have pitched about as well as you'd expect, but the real worry is putative ace Ryan Drese, who is on pace to allow 277 hits and only 55 strikeouts.
Ultimately, what may keep the team from catching the Angels is the bullpen. Last year, Texas featured the best relief corps in the AL. This year, so far, it's the worst. The loss of Frank Francisco and Carlos Almanzar has forced high-leverage innings onto the arms of Doug Brocail, Nick Regilio and Ron Mahay. All are worthy of roster spots, but none is the kind of guy you want to see on the mound in the 8th inning protecting a 3-2 lead. Yet there they are.
I doubt that Texas can catch Los Angels with their current roster. They need another bat and another arm.
Runs scored per game: 3.95
Runs allowed per game: 5.28
Batting Line: .244/.318/.350
Team OPS+: 77
Opponent Batting Line: .253/.337/.400
Rotation ERA: 4.73
Bullpen ERA: 4.31
Team ERA+: 108 (The Coliseum has been improbably hitter-friendly to date.)
My AL West cohort John Gizzi probably can explain the Athletics better than me, but he probably wouldn't want to. Oakland is not being cheated; they really have been this bad. Indeed, their run differential and peripherals indicated they're lucky to have even a .400 winning percentage.
Goodness, what a bone-ugly offense. Oakland is the anti-Angels, a team that draws plenty of walks but can't do much else. The team's best hitter has been Bobby Kielty, a virtual afterthought when the season began. Eric Chavez formerly had trouble hitting lefties and now has trouble hitting anyone, and he's shown no signs of improvement. Jason Kendall has flopped, batting .234 with no power and suddenly incapable of throwing out baserunners. On the whole, this is a case of everyone slumping simultaneously, but still, scoring runs could be a season-long problem.
Oakland has one starter with an ERA below 4.75, and he's disabled. While Rich Harden heals, the Athletics hope for success from the likes of Seth Etherton and Kirk Saarloos. Barry Zito's ERA has jumped a run compared to last year though he's pitched about as well. For the moment, Danny Haren has lost his ability to keep the ball in the strike zone and in the park.
The bullpen rivaled the Angels on paper when the season began. Juan Cruz and Kiko Calero have provided a bleaker reality, each handing out base hits and walks like so much Halloween candy. Justin Duchscherer and rookie Huston Street have pitched brilliantly, but they need help. Closer Octavio Dotel has allowed only two homers: two gut-wrenching, soul-destroying homers.
Oakland almost has to play better than they have to date, but I can't see this group of players imitating the second-half surges of years past. Billy Beane may again be active at the trading deadline, but he'll be planning for 2006, not a postseason run.
Runs scored per game: 4.33
Runs allowed per game: 4.88
Batting Line: .250/.312/.376
Team OPS+: 89
Opponent Batting Line: .265/.333/.418
Rotation ERA: 5.63
Bullpen ERA: 3.02
Team ERA+: 95
Last year, Seattle collapsed to a 99-loss season thanks to the only AL offense scoring fewer than 700 runs and a terrible rotation. In 2005, the Mariners have partially cured one problem and are still hoping the other solves itself.
Seattle doled out a wheelbarrow of cash to Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre over the winter. Sexson, seemingly the riskier acquisition, has provided needed offensive support despite his .223 batting average (his line is .223/.333/.508). Beltre, on the other hand, has flailed away like the destitute man's Alfonso Soriano, batting .237 with four homers and five walks. With the rest of the regulars essentially playing to expectations, the offense is improved but far from what's necessary to win a division.
Seattle's rotation had a 5.63 ERA last season, dreadful anywhere but especially so in a pitcher's park. This year, with a similar cast, the rotation's ERA is… 5.63. Management did banish an aghast Joel Pineiro to Tacoma but has no obvious replacement. Jamie Moyer appears near the end of his fine career, and Aaron Sele has been toast for several years. "King" Felix Hernandez awaits his coronation, but unless he brings all his knights from Camelot, he'll lord over a pretty motley collection of subjects.
The bullpen has been solid outside of Matt Thornton. Jeff Nelson and Shigetoshi Hasegawa have rebounded nicely from last year's misery, and Eddie Guardado is ten-for-eleven in save situations. This group can protect the lead if given the opportunity.
The Mariners will go nowhere with this rotation. They strike me as less likely than Oakland to reverse their fortunes.
Posted by Lucas at 05:53 PM
May 18, 2005
ESPN Fantasy Column
Kenny’s Magical Mystery Tour
KENNY ROGERS has extended his scoreless inning streak to thirty with his fourth-consecutive stellar outing. How is this possible, in light of his miniscule strikeout rate of 3.6 per nine and his good-but-not-supernatural 1.20 WHIP? Is it the steady stream of weak-hitting opponents? The .253 average on balls hit into play, when .305 or so is more likely? Those are indeed components of his astonishing 1.49 ERA, but here, fellow fantasy owners, is the money stat: Rogers’ opponents are batting .346/.402/.449 when the bases are empty and .110/.200/.121 with runners on base. I’m not permitted niceties like bolding and italics, so I’ll repeat for emphasis: .110/.200/.121! This cannot stand. Those lines with and without runners on should begin to converge very soon.
Nevertheless, I still think owning him is fine. Assuming the rotation stands pat, Rogers will face Houston (15th in the NL in runs scored), Kansas City (last in the AL), Detroit (9th, AL) , Philadelphia (12th, NL) and Florida (14th, NL) in his next five starts. Just keep in mind that you are taking a risk. A good ERA for any Arlington pitcher usually hovers in the low-four range. Also, Rogers is 40 and tailed off badly after the season’s first three months, so you’ll need to watch him carefully.
More on Ranger Starters? What A World!
Another guy receiving some mixed-league attention is CHRIS YOUNG, who sports a bright and shiny 3.18 ERA. In his favor and unlike Rogers and RYAN DRESE, Young can make hitters miss the ball. On the down side, he throws so many pitches per inning that he’s completed six innings only twice in eight starts, thus hampering his ability to earn wins. Also, he won’t maintain his current ratio of one homer allowed per 45 innings pitched. Like Rogers, he’ll face some of baseball’s weaker teams in the coming weeks, so perhaps he could offer some fantasy rewards. Based on his so-so track record and the factors outlined above, I can’t give him a blanket endorsement.
Ever-Popular Outfield Update
Some readers have asked if DAVID DELLUCCI might become an everyday player, apparently a point of concern with his potential ownership in mixed leagues. The answer is no, and for that you should be glad. Dellucci has a career line of .118/.206/.172 against lefties from 2002 to the present. Akin to Kenny Rogers, Dellucci is known to collapse after a fast start, so watch him carefully. Meanwhile, RICHARD HIDALGO is batting pretty well in May (.279-8-3-11) and could help those in 12-team mixed leagues. He’ll play almost every game, as will KEVIN MENCH. LAYNCE NIX plays only against righties and isn’t hitting enough to help any mixed leaguers. Come 2006 (or sooner), Texas may decide that Nix is unworthy of a starting role.
For AL-Only Fans Only
Though PEDRO ASTACIO pitched poorly in his last outing, AAA’s RICARDO RODRIGUEZ pitched just as badly, making an imminent jump to the Majors highly unlikely. Texas signed STEVE KARSAY to a minor-league deal and assigned him to AA Frisco. Expect him to join the Rangers unless he proves unable to retire Texas League opponents. He’s a potentially useful middle reliever in larger leagues. In case you just got back from Guam, FRANK FRANCISCO and CARLOS ALMANZAR are done for the year. ANDRES TORRES will start against lefties while GARY MATTHEWS rests his hammy. I wouldn’t bother with him.
Posted by Lucas at 10:18 AM
May 17, 2005
Texas transferred pitcher RYAN BUKVICH from the 15-day to the 60-day Disabled List.
Bukvich recently had ligament replacement surgery and won't pitch in 2005. The 40-man roster drops to 39, and with Carlos Almanzar and Frank Francisco also out for the season, Texas has more wiggle room if needed.
Posted by Lucas at 10:14 AM
May 15, 2005
Texas signed reliever STEVE KARSAY to a minor-league deal.
Karsay missed all of 2003 and most of 2004 because of shoulder surgery. This year, he hasn’t pitched well but the Yankees didn’t give him much of a chance by limiting him to six appearances in the team’s first 26 games. He’s thrown all of 12.2 Major-League innings since the end of 2002. Karsay will report to AA Frisco to show his readiness for big-league action. A small but nice move by Texas, and a wise decision by Karsay to recognize the opportunity.
Posted by Lucas at 12:25 AM
Texas added outfielder ANDRES TORRES to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Texas also placed outfielder GARY MATTHEWS on the 15-day Disabled List.
Matthews pulled up lame running out a grounder and hits the DL, where he will visualize contemplate walking more often than his current rate of once per 39 plate appearances.
Torres has batted .302/.362/.381 in Oklahoma after receiving some consideration for a roster spot with a hot spring in the Cactus League. Torres has a line of .214/.264/.282 in 264 Major-League plate appearances, most of them for Detroit’s historically bad 2003 squad. The 27-year-old need to show improved patience and baserunning to reestablish himself in the Majors. For now, he should start in place of Laynce Nix against lefties and might see some pinch-running opportunities.
Posted by Lucas at 12:24 AM
May 12, 2005
KENNY ROGERS lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.79 with a third consecutive run-free start on Monday against the Tribe. Everyone knows that won’t last; the questions are whether he’s a total fraud and could he help your mixed-league team? Problem 1: Opponents are hitting only .263 against him on balls in play. .300 is more likely in the future. Problem 2: His 1.30 WHIP, while also good, is more indicative of an ERA in the threes. Problem 3: His starts have come against LA (twice), Toronto, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Oakland and Cleveland. Yawn. Rogers faces a decent-hitting Twin squad next, but then he’ll battle the dire Kansas City and Houston squads assuming the rotation stays in form. So perhaps, in the short run, he actually can help a mixed-league team.
Any owner of a Ranger outfielder should know the routine: LAYNCE NIX and DAVID DELLUCCI play only against righties, GARY MATTHEWS starts against all lefties and the occasional righty, KEVIN MENCH starts against all lefties and most righties, and RICHARD HIDALGO… Well, Hidalgo is back in the lineup and has started seven of eight, though with little to show for it (.253/.211/.353 in May, and yes, his OBP is lower than his batting average). Hidalgo is turning into one of the premier busts of the season, and I regret suggesting he could help your team. Nevertheless, unless those of you in AL-only leagues find a pot of gold on the waiver wire, you probably have to hold on and hope for the best.. In mixed leagues, waive goodbye.
Also for those in AL-only league, remember to keep that waiver pick handy when trade season heats up. Assuming Texas stays in contention, they may upgrade their outfield. This is pure speculation on my part, but I’m going with the bold prediction that an outfield of Mench, Nix and Matthews/Hidalgo is not conducive to an AL West division title. Also keep an eye on JASON BOTTS, currently hitting a robust .300/.396/.617 in AAA.
No Ricardo Yet
PEDRO ASTACIO possibly saved his job with a six-inning, two-run performance on Wednesday. If he proves incapable of maintaining a roster spot, Texas may recall RICARDO RODRIGUEZ from Oklahoma. Rodriguez narrowly missed making the rotation out of Spring Training, and with the shape of the rotation it was assumed that he’d be in Arlington within two or three weeks. Unfortunately for him, with the entire rotation healthy and reasonably effective (read, not abjectly ineffective), he’s been stuck in OKC. Should Rodriguez get the call at some point, don’t knock over your grandmother in the rush to get him. He has potential but has shown little of it in the Majors to date. Tack on his home park and you have yet another mediocre fantasy pitcher.
Good, Bad, Ugly
MICHAEL YOUNG is batting a grim .182/.234/.273 in May, dropping him to a .243 average on the season. Young has always run hot and cold, a product of his free-swinging style, and you’ll have to live with it. Conversely, GARY MATTHEWS is having himself a pleasant little May (.333/.324/.528) and garnered interest in AL-only leagues. That’s fine, but keep in mind that he is and will always be Gary Matthews. Like Hidalgo, he hasn’t drawn a walk this month and has a lower OBP than batting average. Laynce Nix has cooled off as predicted. He’s strictly an AL-only type.
Don’t Worry About Cordero
Just don’t. He isn’t going to lose his job to Doug Brocail or Brian Shouse. God help us all if he does.
Posted by Lucas at 10:19 AM
May 06, 2005
Texas designated pitcher MATT RILEY for assignment and recalled pitcher KAMERON LOE from AAA Oklahoma.
Riley allowed runs in five of his seven appearances, and in four of those appearances he allowed at least two runs. Last year, perhaps, Texas might have given him a bit more time to realize his potential. Now, with a bullpen in disarray and the Angels distancing themselves from the pack, the Rangers need results. Riley probably won’t clear waivers; some moribund franchise like Kansas City or Tampa Bay will give him another shot (which he deserves). Even so, discarding Ramon Nivar for him was a worthwhile endeavor.
Loe had a 5.08 ERA in five AAA starts, mainly the result of five homers allowed in just 28 innings. He has fanned 23 batters and walked ten. He’ll join Texas as a long reliever but has a chance to move into a rotation spot if someone gets hurt or Astacio continues his descent into hell.
As an aside, it’s refreshing to note how low John Wasdin appears to be on the depth chart. Nothing against him, but, well, you know. I think Texas would give starts to Loe, Ricardo Rodriguez, Juan Dominguez and possibly even John Hudgins before they allowed Wasdin to pitch in Arlington.
Posted by Lucas at 05:53 PM
Cordero: Saving Ugly
FRANCISCO CORDERO provided a three-walk, one-hit “save” against Oakland Monday that recalled the Tums-popping glory days of Mitch Williams. That and two runs allowed in a mop-up role last week have propelled his ERA up to 4.76 with a 1.50 WHIP. Nevertheless, he remains as secure as any closer in baseball. Even with a healthy Frank Francisco and Carlos Almanzar around, he’d be safe. Without them, his status is beyond question. What is Texas going to do, throw RON MAHAY out there? Please. Actually, Cordero has allowed a run in only four of twelve appearances. Reliever stats are often skewed by a few bad outings, and Cordero’s are occurring now. Francisco Say Relax.
Dellucci: The Next Barry Bonds
Dellucci had a reasonable walk rate of one per 10.4 plate appearances going into this season. This year, he has 28 walks in 23 games, an unfathomable one per 3.3 PAs. Why am I boring you with walks, a stat that helps only those in sabermetric leagues? Because Buck Showalter has placed him in the leadoff spot and dropped ALFONSO SORIANO and his .292 OBP to fifth. I’m going to suggest with confidence that Dellucci will fail to reach the 156 walks that is his current pace. Nevertheless, as long as he continues to reach base, he’ll stay where he is. For fantasy purposes, he’ll never, ever have more value than he does right now. He still doesn’t, and probably won’t, start against lefties, so you must check your roster daily if you own him.
Nix: Hot or Not?
Outfielder LAYNCE NIX credits a more open stance for his improved batting average. The career .250 hitter is batting a sparkling .346 since returning from his mini-demotion to AAA, albeit with just one homer. Alas, Nix has only two walks in 54 plate appearances and is batting .414 on balls hit in the field of play (that is, discounting homers and strikeouts). Will that last? Well, Pete “Hit King” Rose had a career batting average of .321 on balls in play. Tony Gwynn, .344. Laynce Nix before this season, .319. You see where I’m going. Perhaps Nix really has made an adjustment that will provide permanent benefit, but he won’t be batting .346 for long. Enjoy his effort in AL-only leagues, keep an eye on him in mixed leagues. Remember: he sits against lefties.
Those Other Outfielders
KEVIN MENCH missed a few games with a sore elbow, courtesy of two HBPs nailing the same spot in a three-game stretch. He is starting Friday night and should be back in your lineup. Opposing outfielders have robbed GARY MATTHEWS of a solo shot and a grand slam in the last three days. That doesn’t mean he’s good or anything, but perhaps he’s out of his month-long slump and might provide some value in larger AL-only leagues. He’ll start against lefties and occasionally spell RICHARD HIDALGO, who broke a 16-game, 25-day homerless drought on Wednesday. Grit your teeth and hold on to him in AL-only leagues. I still own him in my 12-team ESPN mixed league, though he’s resting comfortably on my bench.
Rotation: Kenny’s Siren Song
KENNY ROGERS pitched a masterful game last week against a torpid Oakland squad, striking out a whole five batters in the process. His 1.28 WHIP, fine though it is, normally indicates a higher ERA than the 2.11 he currently sports. He has allowed only one homer in 38 innings. Still, with his high age (40) and low K rate (3.76 per nine IP), his risk remains high in mixed leagues. He might help you in the form of spot-starts against weak-hitting teams, but he’s not an own-him-and-forget-him type. His converse, PEDRO ASTACIO, has utterly collapsed after three stellar starts. Friday night, he allowed seven runs in less than one inning. He might rebound against Detroit next week, but obviously he’s a high risk. Your league probably has someone better on the wire.
CHRIS YOUNG has improved to a 3.90 ERA thanks to his 5.2 innings of shutout ball last Tuesday. While he does have potential and can strike out more batters than Rogers and RYAN DRESE combined, he did allow ten baserunners in those 5.2 innings and has more blowup potential than the average bear. Plus, who doesn’t shut out Oakland nowadays? Just watch him in mixed leagues.
Posted by Lucas at 03:54 PM
May 01, 2005
April Statistical Review
Texas posted a 12-13 record in April and the statistics validate their record. Texas has pitched better than their 5.10 ERA would suggest, but on the whole they’ve played like a .500 ball club or thereabouts.
12.0 - 13.0 (.480)
11.2 - 13.8 (.450)
|Standings based on offensive and defensive peripherals||
12.4 - 12.6 (.496)
|Steals / Caught||
11 / 3
6 / 7
|Runs scored per game||
|Expected runs based on peripherals||
|Park Factor (hitting)||
|Adjusted League OPS||
|Park Factor (pitching)||
|Adjusted League ERA||
|Component ERA adjusted for .301 average on balls hit into play||
|Team K / 9||
|Team BB / K ratio||
|Rotation innings per start||
Texas has scored about four more runs than expected based on a batting line of .258/.322/.430 with 11 steals and three caught. The Ballpark has played neutral to hitters so far in terms of OPS. That won’t last, but supposing it does, Texas still has no chance to contend if they continue to score under five runs per game. Even with league-wide offense down from previous years, their .258 average and .322 OBP won’t suffice. Their walk rate is adequate, but otherwise this team lives and dies by the home run.
Best Hitter: David Dellucci, even with only 17 starts.
Worst Hitter: Richard Hidalgo, or, if you like, Gary Matthews.
The staff allowed a mere fourteen homers in 24 games but also surrendered a league-worst 54 doubles, an unsightly 2.25 per game (about 1.5 per game is typical). Texas permitted a slugging percentage of only .406 but still permitted 5.44 runs per game, almost two-thirds of a run per game more than expected. Opponents are slugging only .410 with runners in scoring position but are also batting .293. Singles score runs, too.
Texas used only five starters in April and finished with a respectable 4.41 ERA and just over six innings per start. In a complete reversal of last year, the weak link is the bullpen, which has a walked five batters per nine innings. While the peripherals indicate the bullpen ERA should be over 5.00 instead of 6.50, that 1.73 WHIP tells a truer, uglier tale. Losing Francisco Francisco and Carlos Almanzar (effectively, if not corporeally) has crippled the bullpen, forcing Doug Brocail into high-leverage situations and dropping fifteen innings into the wild hands of Matt Riley and Ryan Bukvich.
Best Pitcher: Kenny Rogers, though his 2.67 ERA is a red herring. Pedro Astacio gets honorable mention.
Worst Pitcher: Matt Riley, because Carlos Almanzar has other things on his mind.
Posted by Lucas at 09:09 PM
Texas placed reliever CARLOS ALMANZAR on the 15-day Disabled List and activated reliever JOAQUIN BENOIT from the DL.
Almanzar's placement on the DL is due to a sudden onset of elbow inflammation.
Posted by Lucas at 08:02 PM