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July 31, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled pitcher C.J. WILSON from AA Frisco and oprtioned 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ to AAA Oklahoma.

Texas needed a pitcher to replace Rogers (Wilson qualifies, barely), and Gonzalez wasn't going to play with the addition of Phil Nevin. On any given day, the Ranger bench will consist of Sandy Alomar, Mark DeRosa and either David Dellucci or Phil Nevin.

Posted by Lucas at 01:30 PM

July 30, 2005

Old Times Were Good Times

Only supernatural beings can fully contemplate just how awfully Chan Ho Park pitched for Texas. Mere mortals quail in terror and hide in caves at the sight of his stat line. Nevertheless, I will go where angels fear to tread by examining Park’s tenure with the Rangers.

How did Park become a Ranger? An ugly confluence of desperation and availability. In 2001, The Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a ten-year, $250 million contract and expected to contend immediately. The ’01 offense ranks among the best in franchise history, yet it was undercut by a spectacularly awful pitching corps. The Rangers’ ERA+ of 78 that season was the worst in the American League in the history of divisional play. The top six members of the rotation combined for 145 starts and an ERA of 5.74. After three division titles in four years, the Rangers had finished in the basement for the second consecutive season.

Meanwhile, Chan Ho Park had finished his fourth solid season in five as a starter with the Dodgers. In eight years with Los Angeles, Park amassed a 3.80 ERA, and ERA+ of 110, and a record of 80-54. He struck out over eight batters per nine innings. He had the same agent as Alex Rodriguez, the notorious Scott Boras. At that time, Boras and owner Tom Hicks were on unnervingly cordial terms. On that basis, Texas signed Park to a five-year, $65 million contract on January 16, 2002.

Alas, Hicks and new General Manager John Hart did not do their homework, or perhaps they assumed away Park’s warning signs. Park walked or hit nearly five per nine innings. Outside of Dodger Stadium, among the friendliest parks’ for pitchers in baseball, he had an ERA of 4.80. He had a reputation of emotional fragility and perhaps lacked the mental toughness to be a staff ace.

ESPN.com’s Tom Candiotti provided this terse assessment in his 2002 preview:

Chan Ho Park comes to Texas with a big contract and high expectations to be the staff ace and leader. It won't happen. Park will struggle away from the pitching-friendly atmosphere of Dodger Stadium.

Even in retrospect, it’s hard to fathom how quickly Park descended to pariah status. Park pitched adequately in Spring Training (4.50 ERA, 5 BB, 16 SO in 16 IP) but was troubled with a hamstring pull. On April 1, 2002, he started Opening Day in Oakland and offered the kind of performance that would signify his entire career with Texas. Park allowed a leadoff single to Jeremy Giambi and hit Randy Velarde but escaped unharmed by inducing a double play grounder from Scott Hatteberg. In the second, he allowed a solo homer from Eric Chavez. In the third, he permitted an RBI-double by Frank Menechino and a two-run homer by Dave Justice. He gave up two hits to start the sixth and was replaced by Todd Van Poppel, who allowed both runners to score before returing a batter. Final line: five-plus innings, nine hits, no walks, a hit batter, six earned runs, only ninety pitches.

Park aggravated his hamstring pull and hit the Disabled List. He would not pitch again until May 12. On June 23, he offered his first quality start in nine attempts. The effort lowered his ERA to 8.52. Park missed another three weeks in August with blisters, but in his final eight starts (and with the season effectively over) he showed why Texas signed him. Park had six quality starts, five wins, and a 3.29 ERA. He gave Texas some hope for 2003.

It didn’t last. Park had struck out a career-worst 7.5 per nine innings in 2002, yet it was his high mark as a Ranger. Park allowed six runs in 3.2 innings in his 2003 debut at Anaheim. By the end of the month he had a 7.16 ERA and revisited the Disabled List with a sore lower back. He returned on June 27, allowed three runs in two innings to Montreal, and left after 33 pitches when he reinjured his back and rib cage. Park would not pitch again in 2003.

2004 granted little improvement. Park did make eight consecutive injury-free starts to begin the season with a relatively benign 5.80 ERA, but he hurt his back once again and missed over three months. He finished with eight more starts and a 4.87 ERA. His ERA+ of 93 would be the best he would ever tally as a Ranger.

Park had to earn a rotation spot in 2005. With “only” two years and $29 million left on his contract, Texas considered waiving him during the spring. Park did earn his job and has remained healthy, making twenty consecutive starts. The results have been the usual grab-bag: ten quality starts mixed with a pitiful effort against Oakland last Sunday and a dumbfounding, one-inning, eight-run line at Los Angeles in June. Even with a rotation in tatters, Texas jumped at the opportunity to rid themselves of Park.

So, how bad was he?

In three-plus years, Park spent 319 games on the active roster and 278 on the Disabled List. Aside from 2005, he never made more than fourteen consecutive injury-free starts. He leaves Texas with an ERA of 5.79 and an ERA+ of 85. Per the folks at Baseball Prospectus, Park made 68 starts and won all of 2.5 more games than a replacement-level pitcher, assuming typical run support.

I collected the statistics of every pitcher who pitched at least 80 innings a season during 2002-2004 and 50 innings this season. There are 81 of them. Park himself does not make the list, as he pitched only 29 innings in 2003, but I wanted to compare him to his rotation peers. Again per Baseball Prospectus, the average pitcher had a total VORP (Value Over Replacement Player, measured in runs) of about 110, with Pedro Martinez leading the list at 241. Here are the bottom four plus Park:

Ryan Dempster (-4)
Chan Ho Park (0)
Jason Jennings (19)
Joe Kennedy (19)
Aaron Sele (27)

If not for Dempster (who has resurrected his career as the Cubs’ closer), Park would stand alone as the worst starter in baseball during the last four years. Park’s VORP of zero means he’s pitched exactly at replacement level as a Ranger. What is a replacement level? John Wasdin. R.A. Dickey. Pedro Astacio over the last few years. Guys like that. Almost no one compares to Park, because everyone else in baseball pitching this poorly has been pulled from the rotation or cut. That would have been Park’s fate if not for his contract.

Park made 68 starts for Texas. 26 were "quality" (at least six innings, no more than three runs), 22 were "disasters" (at least at many runs allowed as innings pitched), and 20 were intermediate. Here's how they break down:

Category
Games
% of
Total
Park
W-L
Team
W-L
ERA
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
SO/9
Quality
26
38%
14-3
16-10
2.44
7.2
0.5
3.5
6.3
Intermediate
20
29%
6-6
11-9
5.58
9.2
1.3
4.7
6.5
Disaster
22
32%
2-14
7-15
11.88
15.1
2.7
5.6
6.4

Park's best five starts as a Ranger, ranked by Game Score:

Date
Opp.
Score
Inn
H
R
ER
HR
BB
SO
Game Score
10/03/04
@SEA
W 3-0
7.00
2
0
0
0
3
3
73
05/22/05
HOU
W 2-0
7.00
6
0
0
0
0
2
67
04/29/05
BOS
W 7-2
7.00
3
2
2
0
4
7
66
07/21/02
@OAK
W 7-3
8.00
5
2
2
0
4
5
65
04/23/05
@NYY
W 10-2
7.67
3
1
1
0
5
6
65

Park's worst five starts as a Ranger:

Date
Opp.
Score
Inn
H
R
ER
HR
BB
SO
Game Score
06/21/05
@LAA
L 8-6
1.00
10
8
8
0
1
0
0
06/07/02
ATL
L 13-7
1.33
8
9
9
1
1
1
2
04/01/03
@LAA
L 10-0
3.67
6
6
6
1
3
0
19
07/24/05
OAK
L 8-3
3.33
9
6
6
0
2
3
19
05/04/05
@OAK
W 16-7
4.67
8
5
5
2
6
3
22

Finally, Park's stats with the Dodgers and Rangers:

Team
W-L
Inn
ERA
ERA+
H/9
HR/9
BB+HB/9
SO/9
Los Angeles
80-54
1184
3.80
110
7.6
0.94
4.8
8.3
Texas
22-23
381
5.79
85
10.0
1.30
5.5
6.6

I won't miss him.

Posted by Lucas at 04:55 PM

July 29, 2005

Transaction!

Pending MLB approval, Texas has traded pitcher CHAN HO PARK to San Diego for C/1B/OF PHIL NEVIN.

Good. More to come tomorrow.

Posted by Lucas at 11:53 PM

Weekend Cat Photo

Jack, Cheyenne and Colby

Posted by Lucas at 06:49 PM

July 27, 2005

ESPN Column

Soriano’s Days Numbered In Single Digits?
With the Rangers quickly falling out of the race for the postseason, Texas looks like they’ll be selling. ALFONSO SORIANO stands out among tradeable players, and rumors abound of him going to the Mets, Yankees, and even the Twins and Mets. Trading him makes sense for Texas (in my opinion), but his departure is by no means assured. Owners in AL-only leagues need to prepare to compensate for a hole in their lineups. Owners in mixed leagues can relax; Soriano would move to a more pitcher-friendly park wherever he goes, but he’ll remain an elite fantasy performer. Prospect IAN KINSLER would probably take Soriano’s place. Kinsler is batting an unexciting .261/.329/.454 in AAA and wouldn’t have any value in mixed leagues at the onset.

Rogers Officially Suspended, Sort of
Baseball upheld the 20-game suspension of KENNY ROGERS for shoving two cameramen and generally making a fool of himself. The Players Association has appealed the ruling and will get a hearing on August 8, but in the meantime Rogers really and truly will not play. In his absence, Texas will need a replacement for this Saturday in Toronto and August 6th versus Baltimore. Candidates include C.J. WILSON, recently acquired JAMES BALDWIN, JOHN WASDIN and JUAN DOMINGUEZ. Baldwin has pitched well in relief but really isn’t ready to start. For fantasy purposes, none is desirable in any league, though Dominguez has the best chance to do well.

Nix Done
LAYNCE NIX will have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Nix actually injured his right shoulder two weeks ago. Apparently the tear is a remnant of an injury suffered last June that caused him to miss a month. Barring a trade, GARY MATTHEWS will start most games in center field. He has batted incredibly well of late but doesn’t have much of a track record. He’ll provide some assistance in AL-only leagues but is a dubious long-term choice in most mixed leagues.

Gonzalez Recalled
ADRIAN GONZALEZ has rejoined the squad after three months in the minors. Gonzalez has started three of five games since his return and has batted .333 with a run and RBI. It’s hard to predict how often he’ll play since the personnel could change by next week. For that matter, Texas might trade Gonzalez. At the moment, he has some value in larger AL-only leagues. He stands a good chance to see more playing time down the road assuming he doesn’t switch franchises, so keep an eye on him. His arrival also permits Texas to play DAVID DELLUCCI in the outfield occasionally and rest KEVIN MENCH and RICHARD HIDALGO.

Other Rumors
I can understand why Kansas City covets Mench. I can’t see Texas giving him away for whatever the Royals have to offer. Expect Mench and Dellucci to stay with Texas. John Hart inexplicably bears a fondness in his heart for Baltimore’s Sidney Ponson and is dangling Hidalgo. What a blockbuster that would be. Ponson has an ERA of 5.01 in what has been an extraordinarily pitcher-friendly park this season, so it’s tough to fathom how he could assist even the rotationally challenged Rangers. If Hidalgo leaves, Texas may re-recall JASON BOTTS and actually give him an at-bat or two.

Posted by Lucas at 11:54 PM

Predictions Are Fun!

Now seems an appropriate time to mention the last two sentences of my Rangers preview at The Batter's Box, March 18, 2005:

Texas did not adequately address last year's shortcomings in the offseason. They could win the division but will not, instead retreating to about 84 wins and a third-place finish.

Not a bold prediction, but that's the point. Texas had holes, didn't fill them, and in late July they find themselves hovering around the .500 mark. Eminently unshocking.

Posted by Lucas at 12:26 AM

July 23, 2005

Is Laynce Nix An Everyday Player?

The Dallas Morning News reported that Laynce Nix may undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The news is startling because Nix injured his left shoulder against Oakland last week. If Nix does miss the rest of 2005, Texas will enter 2006 still unsure of whether Nix is worthy of everyday play.

Early reports on Nix suggested he could be a “tweener,” someone who didn’t field quite well enough to play center but also wouldn’t hit quite enough to man a corner spot. Nix spent more time in right than center his freshman year, though he has since displayed sufficient defense prowess in center. The problem is, to date, he’s not hitting well even as a center fielder.

On July 10, 2003, Texas recalled the 22-year-old Nix from AA, where he was batting a robust if unspectacular .284/.344/.487. Nix debuted with promise, and despite a weak finish he added some hope to yet another dire Ranger season. In 2004, he hit the cover off the ball for two months, tapered off for two weeks, then suffered a shoulder injury that cost him a month. Since then, he hasn’t hit at all, performing roughly at replacement level during the last calendar year. As shown in the jagged 20-game OPS line in the chart above, Nix only rarely attains mere adequacy with the bat.

Nix’s rather disheartening lack of progress begs the question of why he reached the Majors at such a young age. He had all of 87 games of experience above A-ball when he debuted as a Ranger. Again, his performance in AA was strong but hardly eye-popping. Why catapult him all the way to Arlington?

The answer goes back to Spring Training of 2003. Having made the obvious yet belated discovery that Carl Everett was no longer a center fielder, Texas started Doug Glanville in center for the season’s first two weeks. When he fell to injury, they recalled Ryan Christenson. Christenson hit .179/.255/.255, excellent stats if your home park is in a 2.5-G environment like the planet Jupiter. Texas traded Everett at the end of June and rookie Kevin Mench suffered a broken wrist on July 9th. On the morning of July 10th, the roster contained three healthy outfielders: Glanville, Juan Gonzalez and Ryan Ludwick. Enter Laynce Nix.

Whether or not Texas rushed Nix, the operative question is whether they can make the 2006 postseason with him in center field. Nix’s bugaboo has always been plate discipline. Rare talents like Alfonso Soriano can excel despite their dreadful walk and strikeout ratios, but Nix doesn’t hit for power or contact like Soriano. In 2005, Nix has shown genuine improvement in his strikeout rate. Unfortunately, his walk rate has fallen to a Ramon Nivar-like level.

Nix doesn’t turn 26 until February and has time to improve, but Texas might not be able to wait. They are expected to contend, not just compete. If Nix can return during the season, Texas needs to play him every day. They’ll need those extra data points come winter, when they have to decide whether an upgrade at the position is necessary.

Posted by Lucas at 10:14 AM

Transaction

Texas added pitcher JAMES BALDWIN to the active roster, recalled 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ from AAA Oklahoma, and optioned pitcher ERASMO RAMIREZ and infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL to AAA.

Gonzalez's presence gives Texas some positional flexibility, namely allowing David Dellucci to play some outfield while one of Gary Matthews or Richard Hidalgo sits. It also gives Texas a very belated opportunity to showcase Gonzalez for a trade.

Laynce Nix is out for the season with a torn labrum.

Posted by Lucas at 09:08 AM

July 22, 2005

Weekend Cat Photo

Jack (inside) and Kingsford (outside)

Posted by Lucas at 03:59 PM

July 21, 2005

Acquisitions

Texas acquired reliever KEVIN GRYBOSKI from Atlanta for pitcher MATT LORENZO. Texas also claimed pitcher JAMES BALDWIN off waivers from Baltimore and optioned pitcher C.J. WILSON to AA Frisco.

Both moves fill a need, though neither is the type that engenders an expectation of gaining ground in the standings. Baldwin pitched well in relief for the Orioles this season. Unfortunately, on the whole he shouts mediocrity with his ERA+ of 91, flyball tendencies and grim home run ratio (1 per 6.5 innings). With Texas, he’ll join the rotation while Rogers enjoys his forced vacation.

Gryboski walks as many as he strikes out but survives with an extreme groundball rate and the ability to keep the ball in the park. Certainly, he’s a giant upgrade over C.J. Wilson, who simply has no business being on a Major-league roster right now. Texas drafted Lorenzo in the 5th round of the 2003 draft. He struggled mightily in AA and in June was sent back to High-A, where he posted a 4.02 ERA with uninspiring peripherals. Atlanta surely sees potential in him if they’re willing to trade a reliever in the middle of a division race.

Posted by Lucas at 10:16 PM

ESPN Column

Rogers Starts Thursday, Then What?
MLB will hear KENNY ROGERS’ appeal of his 20-game suspension on Friday. Should it be upheld in full, Rogers would disappear until August 11 against the Yankees. Or, perhaps not. The Players Association may file a grievance if the suspension isn’t reduced significantly (on technical grounds, as Bud Selig himself decided the punishment instead of baseball’s veep of operations), so Rogers might hang around for a while longer. His fantasy owners should keep him in the lineup it is confirmed that he’s suspended. Rogers will pitch next Tuesday in Baltimore if he remains a free man.

The Replacements
The Texas rotation should consist of CHRIS YOUNG, CHAN HO PARK, RICARDO RODRIGUEZ, and… man, this is depressing. JOAQUIN BENOIT started Wednesday night against the Yankees. Benoit has always pitched much better in relief, and pitching in The Ballpark against a superior offense didn’t help. Benoit might lose what value he has in AL-only leagues if he continues to start. JOHN WASDIN might get another chance, but he also has bombed as a starter after making several strong relief appearances. Texas might recall R.A. DICKEY from Oklahoma, where he has worked on becoming a knuckleballer. Former Astros prospect WILFREDO RODRIGUEZ could get a chance once he returns to good health. Basically, I’ve named a bunch of guys who have no value in any league.

Trading Season
At seven games behind LA, fifth in the wildcard standings, and staring at three weeks of a sub-patchwork rotation, Texas might already be looking ahead to 2006. ALFONSO SORIANO seems the obvious candidate to leave: an arbitration-eligible player who stands to make in excess of $10 million next year. AL-only owners of KEVIN MENCH shouldn’t worry. Trading him makes no sense as he’s inexpensive and the only current outfielder hitting at all. Texas also probably will retain DAVID DELLUCCI, who is a Showalter favorite and badly needed source of OBP. I suppose RICHARD HIDALGO is on the block, but he’s been worthless aside from the occasional homer. Texas isn’t inclined to trade any pitching.

Outfield Duty

Hidalgo and GARY MATTHEWS have started every game since LAYNCE NIX hit the DL with a shoulder injury. Texas recalled masher JASON BOTTS from AAA but never let him swing a bat before returning him in place of C.J. WILSON and his 8.78 ERA. Playing the unproven Botts in a playoff race would have been risky, but no more so than playing Matthews and Hidalgo every day. That is, of course, based on the assumption that the team is actually trying to win as opposed to showcasing replacement-level players to trade for C-level prospects. Anyway, I expect Botts to return sometime in August, and he might have value in AL-only leagues. Nix should return after the minimum 15-day waiting period.

Posted by Lucas at 02:36 PM

July 20, 2005

Transaction

Texas placed catcher GERALD LAIRD on the minor-league Disabled List.

Laird had to leave the previous game in the first inning. I don't know why.

Texas also released pitcher Ryan Snare, part of the swag for Ugueth Urbina in 2003. The 26-year-old pitched well for AAA Oklahoma the rest of the season but has gotten progressively worse results. Snare had a 6.38 ERA and allowed 108 baserunners in 60 innings this season. He was a second-round pick, 63rd overall, in the 2000 draft.

Posted by Lucas at 03:41 PM

July 19, 2005

Transaction

Texas optioned outfielder JASON BOTTS to AAA Oklahoma and recalled pitcher C.J. WILSON from AA Frisco.

Even Moonlight Graham got to take the field. C.J. Wilson will shore up a tired bullpen, at least on a theoretical level.

Posted by Lucas at 05:16 PM

Fun Tables and Graphs Make Ranger Pitching Slightly More Palatable

Texas waived Ryan Drese on June 8th. Chris Young pitched respectably in a loss to the Phillies that evening, but ever since, the Ranger rotation has floundered:

Game Set
RA
ERA
Innings / Start
Hits /
9 IP
2B /
9 IP
HR /
9 IP
BB /
9 IP
SO /
9 IP
Avg. Game Score
1-57
4.42
4.14
6.1
9.5
2.1
0.7
2.8
5.1
50
58-92
6.91
6.44
4.9
11.3
2.6
1.6
2.9
5.4
40

The home run rate is particularly unsettling. For two months, Texas pitchers displayed an astonishing facility for keeping the ball in the park. Lately, every fly ball seems to catch that center-field jet stream to Green Hill.

Keeping Drese might not have helped; after all, his Ranger ERA of 6.46 is actually higher than the rotation’s ERA since his departure. On the other hand, replacements John Wasdin and C.J. Wilson have fared even worse on the whole, with Wasdin’s out-of-body experience on June 28th (eight innings, one run) providing a memorable exception.

Posted by Lucas at 12:46 AM

July 16, 2005

Botts Up, Nix Out

Texas placed outfielder LAYNCE NIX on the 15-day Disabled List with a sore shoulder and recalled outfielder JASON BOTTS from AAA Oklahoma.

The 1,375th player taken in the 1999 Amateur Draft joins the Rangers. Botts has batted .296/.387/.550 for Oklahoma, including 17 homers and a 45 BB / 95 SO ratio in 393 plate appearances. That Texas recalled him over Chad Allen would indicate that they intend to give him some playing time, but Adrian Gonzalez once fancied himself a regular, too.. Starting a rookie in the middle of a division race has its downside, but arguably no more so than starting Gary Matthews and Richard Hidalgo every day.

Nix hurt his shoulder diving for a looper on Thursday. He might miss the minimum or close to it.

Posted by Lucas at 09:33 PM

July 15, 2005

ESPN Column

Buyers or Sellers?
With last night’s loss to Oakland, Texas finds themselves six games behind Los Angeles and two games out of the wild-card spot (but behind three teams). Through the 24th, the Rangers play no one but the white-hot Athletics and Yankees, then they finish the month with the still-competitive Orioles and Jays. A week’s worth of bad baseball could effectively eliminate Texas from a playoff spot. Whether buyers or sellers, Texas has reason to be active at the trading deadline. If sellers, Texas could move ALFONSO SORIANO, due to earn about $10 million in 2006, his last year of arbitration. The Rangers might also consider KENNY ROGERS’ recent actions a breach of their “handshake? no-trade agreement.

Plenty of teams want outfielder KEVIN MENCH, but I believe he’ll stay. He’s young, inexpensive and, unlike his fellow outfielders, he can hit. If Texas decides to make a run for it, they’re in the awkward situation of not wanting to trade either major-leaguers or their top prospects. Among ML players, Texas is more likely to trade LAYNCE NIX than Mench, who is only 24 but is beginning to give the idea that he’s not going to evolve into a quality hitter. As for who to acquire, Texas could use a starter, reliever, and another bat. The last part sounds silly, but Nix and Hidalgo/Matthews have hit so poorly that the Rangers effectively have a seven-man lineup. Texas could recall outfielder JASON BOTTS if Nix departs, and IAN KINSLER probably would replace Soriano.

Rogers Gets To Play For Another Week
KENNY ROGERS will start tonight in Oakland and at home against the Yankees before he receives an appeal hearing. Assuming the suspension is upheld in full, he’ll disappear until the second week of August. With JOHN WASDIN already in the rotation, Texas may replace Rogers with EDISON VOLQUEZ. Volquez ought to be a dandy Major-League pitcher by 2007 but for now is a 22-year-old with 38 career innings above A ball. When Rogers returns he could start in Yankee Stadium, not exactly his favorite place on the planet.

Young Rocked Again
CHRIS YOUNG lasted only four innings and seemed to tire quickly against Toronto last Sunday. In front-loading Rogers’ starts, the Rangers also pushed Young back to give him two extra days of rest. Young is young (25) and has never pitched over 144 innings in a season, so perhaps throwing 100 in just over three months has worn on him. On the other hand, Texas has managed his pitch counts carefully all season. I’d stick with him for the time-being. He is still striking out batters at a healthy rate and could nab some wins even with a sub-par performance thanks to the Texas offense.

Starting Lineup Unchanged
Barring trades, don’t expect any fancy new lineups for the next few weeks. The infielders and Mench will play every day, and ROD BARAJAS will catch about three of every four games. DAVID DELLUCCI will start only against righties, Nix will start against all righties and some lefties, and GARY MATTHEWS will draw most of the starts in right in favor of RICHARD HIDALGO. I ought to amend what I said about Matthews; practically any regular has value in an AL-only league, so he is worth owning. Just don’t expect him to maintain his July line of .273/.351/.697. He’s good for a .260 average and a dinger about every ten games.

Posted by Lucas at 11:35 PM

Your Weekend Cat Photo

Posted by Lucas at 01:33 PM

July 14, 2005

Transaction

Texas optioned reliever JUAN DOMINGUEZ to AAA Oklahoma and recalled reliever ERASMO RAMIREZ.

The Eraser returns. Texas might stretch out Dominguez in anticipation of him starting while Kenny Rogers has to stand in the corner.

Update: Dominguez flew to the Dominican Republic instead of Oklahoma City and has been placed on the restricted list. Now, rather than stretch him out as a starter, Texas might stretch him out on a rack.

Update: He showed up.

Posted by Lucas at 11:05 PM

The American League At The Break

American League Offense Indices

Team
Runs / G
RS+
OPS
OPS+
BALTIMORE
4.95
120
0.803
123
BOSTON
5.44
114
0.808
116
TEXAS
5.53
112
0.812
107
NY YANKEES
5.56
106
0.803
103
LA ANGELS
4.77
105
0.745
100
TAMPA BAY
4.48
98
0.736
100
TORONTO
4.86
97
0.750
92
KANSAS CITY
4.32
97
0.714
96
CLEVELAND
4.61
97
0.757
100
CHICAGO SOX
4.80
94
0.743
89
DETROIT
4.50
94
0.740
97
MINNESOTA
4.60
94
0.746
97
SEATTLE
4.33
93
0.711
93
OAKLAND
4.60
90
0.731
94

RS+ measures the team's runs scored in terms of its home park and converts it to an index, 100 equalling a league-average offense. Higher is better.

In terms of this statistic, the worst hitting team in the East (Toronto) has a better offense than the best hitting team in the Central (Kansas City). Imagine what Chicago could accomplish with an offense.

American League Pitching Indices

Team
Runs / G
RA+
ERA
ERA+
Rotation IP/G
Rotation ERA
Rotation ERA+
Bullpen ERA
Bullpen ERA+
CHICAGO SOX
3.94
125
3.62
127
6.55
3.72
124
3.26
141
MINNESOTA
4.19
114
3.78
118
6.36
4.08
109
3.14
142
TORONTO
4.33
112
4.11
110
5.77
4.13
110
4.00
114
CLEVELAND
4.15
112
3.82
113
5.97
4.25
102
2.87
151
OAKLAND
4.44
112
3.95
117
6.01
4.03
115
3.72
124
LA ANGELS
4.03
109
3.79
108
6.22
3.85
107
3.53
116
DETROIT
4.36
106
3.88
111
6.07
4.14
104
3.25
133
NY YANKEES
5.01
102
4.55
104
6.02
4.83
98
3.95
120
SEATTLE
4.46
102
4.24
100
5.90
4.87
87
2.96
143
TEXAS
5.00
96
4.78
94
5.71
4.71
95
4.86
92
BOSTON
4.93
94
4.84
89
6.09
4.51
96
5.64
76
BALTIMORE
4.70
85
4.41
85
5.86
4.66
80
4.00
93
KANSAS CITY
5.57
78
5.39
75
5.36
5.88
69
4.66
87
TAMPA BAY
6.21
71
5.87
70
5.55
5.92
70
5.65
73

How good is Chicago's pitching staff, and how bad is Tampa Bay's? Tampa Bay actually has a better offense (when adjusting for park) but has won 29 fewer games than Chicago.

In the history of divisional play (1969-present), no team has finished with an ERA+ lower than 78 (meet your 2001 Texas Rangers!) and scores below 85 are rare. Tampa Bay has an ERA+ of 70 going into the second half.

The only teams above 100 in RS+ and RA+ are LA and New York.

American League Park Factors (2005 Only)

Team Park Factor (Runs) Park Factor (OPS)
NY YANKEES 1.09 1.09
OAKLAND 1.06 1.00
CHICAGO SOX 1.06 1.08
TORONTO 1.04 1.07
TEXAS 1.03 1.06
MINNESOTA 1.02 1.01
CLEVELAND 0.99 1.00
DETROIT 0.99 0.98
BOSTON 0.99 0.98
SEATTLE 0.97 0.95
TAMPA BAY 0.95 0.95
LA ANGELS 0.94 0.97
KANSAS CITY 0.93 0.93
BALTIMORE 0.86 0.89

Baltimore usually slightly favors pitchers (contrary to what almost every "knowledgeable" announcer will tell you) but has drastically favored them this year. Yankee Stadium also usually favors pitchers but is the best hitter's park in the AL. Texas and Detroit are much closer to neutral than is typical.

Posted by Lucas at 10:37 AM

July 13, 2005

AL West At The Break

PARK FACTORS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
OPS 1.056 .966 1.000 .952
Runs 1.031 .944 1.061 .970

OFFENSE
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Games
86
88
87
87
Runs Scored
476
420
400
377
RS+
112
105
90
93
Average
.272
.274
.264
.259
OBA
.332
.326
.336
.319
SLUG
.480
.419
.395
.392
Team OPS+
107
100
94
93
Steals
28
73
21
57
Caught Stealing
8
32
14
26

Texas outshines its division peers offensively, even when accounting for the hitter-happy Ballpark. The OPS+ of 107 would be the sixth-best in franchise history if it holds up, and the slugging percentage of .480 would be the best. It would be better if not for the out machines manning center and right field. Richard Hidalgo has batted worse than replacement-level.

PITCHING
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Opp. Runs Scored
430
355
386
388
RA+
96
109
112
102
Opp. AVG
.277
.255
.244
.259
Opp. OBA
.340
.316
.315
.330
Opp. SLUG
.422
.400
.388
.407
Oppo. OPS+
99
96
89
103
Opp. Steals
30
35
67
50
Opp. Caught
17
22
14
18
-
-
-
-
-
ERA
4.78
3.79
3.95
4.24
ERA+
94
108
117
100
- - - - -
Rotation IP/G
5.71
6.22
6.01
5.90
Rotation ERA
4.71
3.85
4.03
4.87
Rotation ERA+
95
107
115
87
Bullpen ERA
4.86
3.53
3.72
2.96
Bullpen ERA+
92
116
124
143
-
-
-
-
-
Unearned Runs
25
22
48
28

Even with the recent chaos, Texas has fielded a fairly stable rotation compared to last year. Sadly, this has not resulted in improved performance despite the heroics of Kenny Rogers and Chris Young, as the 2004 rotation had an ERA+ of 98. The Rangers can survive a mediocre rotation, but they have no hope of winning without substantial improvement from the bullpen. The 2004 version was the best in the league; this year's corps is easily the worst in the division.

PERIPHERALS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Scored / Game
5.53
4.77
4.60
4.33
Expected Runs / G
5.39
4.62
4.53
4.24
Luck / Game
0.15
0.15
0.06
0.10
Off. Lucky Runs
13
13
6
8
-
-
-
-
-
Runs Allowed / Game
5.00
4.03
4.44
4.46
Expected Runs / G
4.87
4.24
4.25
4.62
Luck / Game
0.13
(0.21)
0.19
(0.16)
Def. Lucky Runs
(11)
18
(16)
14
-
-
-
-
-
Total Lucky Runs
1
31
(11)
22

STANDINGS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Actual Wins
46
52
44
39
Actual Losses
40
36
43
48
Actual Win%
.535
.591
.506
.448
-
-
-
-
-
Pythag Wins
47.4
51.3
45.0
42.2
Pythag Losses
38.6
36.7
42.0
44.8
Pythag Win%
.551
.583
.518
.486
-
-
-
-
-
Periph Wins
47.4
47.8
46.3
39.8
Periph Losses
38.6
40.2
40.7
47.2
Periph Win%
.551
.543
.533
.457

Texas leads the Peripheral Amercian League West! Seriously, the Rangers can take heart that they're not playing any worse than Anaheim. Texas unfortunately cannot erase their five-game deficit with peripherals.

Posted by Lucas at 11:42 AM

Brad Fullmer Sighting

Whatever became of Brad Fullmer? Texas signed Fullmer in 2004 to mash righthanded pitching, and I touted him as a worthy pick in fantasy leagues. Fullmer flopped as a Ranger (though not nearly as badly as Richard Hidalgo) and seemingly fell off the planet. I couldn't find him on a roster anywhere and assumed his knee injury had ruined his 2005.

Mystery solved. On July 8, The AAA Charlotte Knights signed Fullmer and immediately placed him on the Disabled List. He has no chance to contribute to the parent-club White Sox, but he might parlay a good six weeks into a Spring Training invite for '06.

Posted by Lucas at 01:17 AM

July 12, 2005

Song Lyric Of The Day

Jet pilot for a day, washed his sins away
Loves to see the Rangers play
His daddy has a job in Washington
Wants to raise a Harvard son

from "Jet Pilot" on the new album by Son Volt (site has sound)

Posted by Lucas at 05:53 PM

July 11, 2005

The Curse Of The Long Ball

Jamey Newberg had this to say on July 7th:

Mark Teixeira was invited to represent the United States in next Monday's Home Run Derby in Detroit, the day before the All-Star Game. I was half hoping he wouldn't be chosen -- the Home Run Derby seemed to throw Hank Blalock into a slump last summer. Blalock hit .303 with 23 home runs before the Break last year, and .240 with nine homers afterwards. You can argue whether there's any correlation, but I'd just assume avoid the issue a second time around.

Did the Derby really affect his bat? I don’t recall Blalock claiming it did, so that probably provides the answer right there. Still, the cliff-drop in his performance after the break (especially the .166 decline in slugging) merits genuine concern. Armed with my strongest weapons, a spreadsheet and some free time, I have delved further into his mysterious second-half decay.

The chart above displays a rolling OPS for Blalock in seven-game (green) and twenty-game (blue) spans. Blalock’s tremendous first half peaked on June 30th when he completed a five-game stretch that included four doubles and four homes. On the morning of July 1, he had an OPS of .977 for the season.

Then, trouble began. Slumps don’t have rigid requirements, of course, but Blalock arguably began his during the week before the All-Star game. On July 11, the last game before the break, Blalock’s oh-for-five gave him a .555 OPS over his last seven games, his lowest of the season in any seven-game span up to that date. He actually hit pretty well the week after the break, but in the 23 games from July 24 to August 16th, Blalock batted a sub-Mendoza .117/.244/.156. He then batted respectably over the season’s last seven weeks, if not at his earlier torrid pace.

Blalock’s appearance in the Home Run Derby doesn’t appear to have harmed his offense, though it also certainly didn’t help. Having said that, I was guiltily relieved to see Teixeira’s lackluster performance in the 2005 Derby. He didn’t hit twenty awe-inspiring and potentially swing-altering homers. I expect Monday to be a non-issue in terms of his second-half output.

Posted by Lucas at 11:54 PM

July 09, 2005

Ryan Drese Is Responsible For EVERYTHING

Todd Willis of the DMN points out the following:

“Since [Ryan] Drese was designated for assignment on June 8, Rangers' starters are 11-16 with a dreadful 6.09 ERA.?

True enough, and very bad. It is also 0.37 lower than Drese’s ERA of 6.46 with the Rangers. Viewed narrowly, Ricardo Rodriguez and his ERA of 3.90 have proved a more-than-worthy replacement for Drese. Kenny Rogers, Chris Young and Chan Ho Park had an aggregate ERA of 3.09 before Drese departed and 6.25 afterwards. That isn’t management’s fault, unless Drese possessed the magical power to depress everyone’s ERA but his own.

Having said that, I did not favor Drese’s dismissal, if only because I (along with most other sentient beings) knew that Astacio’s shelf-life as a Ranger would soon expire. Replacing Drese with Rodriguez was painless in and of itself. Finding replacements for two starters within a two-week period would daunt just about any team. Surely the Rangers considered that issue when they risked losing Drese. Right?

Posted by Lucas at 04:15 PM

July 07, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher C.J. WILSON to AA Frisco.

Wilson goes back to Frisco, where he never should have left. In a perfect world, McDougall would get a chance to prove that he has a future as a Major-League utility player. Unfortunately, with Laynce Nix batting against lefties for the time being, McDougall probably won’t see even an occasional DH start.

Posted by Lucas at 12:45 PM

July 06, 2005

ESPN Column

Rogers: Two or More Starts Before Suspension
KENNY ROGERS received a 20-game suspension for decking two cameramen last week, but since he appealed the sentence, he remains a free man. With their increasingly ragged rotation, Texas is setting him up to pitch as often as possible before the appeal is heard. Rogers will face Toronto at home on Saturday, then pitch next Thursday in Oakland where he has prospered. He pitched well in his last start despite the broken finger in his non-pitching hand. Rogers has dropped to 76% ownership in mixed leagues, so he might be available in your league. I recommend him for his next two starts.

Young Rocked
Boston torched CHRIS YOUNG for six earned runs Tuesday night. It could have been worse; several caught fly balls came uncomfortably close to the bleachers. With three weak outings in four starts, Young's ERA has jumped to 3.79, a more realistic number than the sub-three ERA he sported a month ago. I see no reason to worry much. Boston has a tendency to beat up other pitchers. Young does have 20 strikeouts during his four-start span of ugliness, so he is helping his owners in that regard. If you're the active type, you might consider benching him against the league's offensive titans (NY, Boston, Baltimore).

Other Rotators
RICARDO RODRIGUEZ is entrenched with Ryan Drese and Pedro Astacio gone. He really hasn't pitched as well as his 3.90 ERA suggests (four homers allowed and only eleven strikeouts in 30 innings), so he has yet to make the jump to usefulness in typical mixed leagues. The ever mercurial CHAN HO PARK has offered two consecutive strong outings after averaging allowing twenty runs in his previous fifteen innings. I don't recommend him outside of 20-team AL-only leagues. He's just too risky. Likewise, JOHN WASDIN is a huge risk despite pitching exceptionally in long relief and one spot start. He'll start this Friday and probably gets the nod in Rogers' eventual absence. JOAQUIN BENOIT and JUAN DOMINGUEZ are longshots to replace Rogers; neither has a strong track record as a starter.

Outfield News
RICHARD HIDALGO has hit bottom. After batting .139 with six RBI in June, Hidalgo sat for three of four games, then missed last night with knee tendonitis. Injured or not, I have to grumpily concede that he's a lost cause; I really thought he'd make a decent outfielder in larger mixed leagues. GARY MATTHEWS has hit no better than Hidalgo but has "earned" a platoon with him in right field. Avoid him in mixed leagues, and don’t go out of your way to claim him in AL-only leagues. LAYNCE NIX is drawing regular work against lefties for the first time in his career. This season, he's batting 6-for-17 against them in sharp contrast to his struggles in prior years. He takes a step up in fantasy value, but not enough to merit ownership in all but the largest mixed leagues.

Names to Remember
Should Texas fall too far in the race for the division or wild card, their minor leagues have some names you might want to keep in mind. Perhaps most likely to help the team this season is outfielder JASON BOTTS, currently hitting .283/.379/.541 in AAA. Botts won't impress anyone with his glove but could take right field away from Hidalgo and Matthews as the season wanes. ADRAIN GONZALEZ, who made the team in April but never got a chance to prove himself, is batting .314/.382/.502 in AAA. He'll receive a September call-up at the very least. Should Texas trade ALFONSO SORIANO, Texas could give his job to either MARSHALL MCDOUGALL or prospect IAN KINSLER, batting .278/.340/.474 in AAA.

Posted by Lucas at 01:41 AM

July 05, 2005

Texas At The Midway Point, Part 2

2005 versus 2004

STANDINGS
2005
2004
Actual Wins
43
89
Actual Won-Loss Pct.
.531
.549
"Pythagorean Wins"
45.2
87.5
"Pythagorean" Won-Loss Pct.
.558
.540
Wins based on peripheral stats
44.1
81.3
Won-Loss Pct. based on peripheral stats
.545
.502

Texas is only three games off their 46-35 record from one year ago. I have to confess the margin feels larger, perhaps because last year's success was so unexpected and 2005's June was a trainwreck. Texas did everything "right" in 2004, finishing sixteen games over .500 despite middling peripherals. This year, their record reflects a pretty good squad but none of last year's good luck.

OFFENSE
2005
2004
Runs scored per game
5.43
5.31
Expected runs scored per game based on peripherals
5.31
5.06
"Lucky" runs (positive = lucky)
10
41
-
-
-
Batting Average
.270
.266
On-Base Percentage
.331
.329
Slugging Percentage
.473
.457
Net steals per game
0.12
(0.02)
-
-
Park Factor (OPS)
1.042
1.056
OPS+
108
98

In 2004, the allegedly powerful Ranger offense was largely a mirage based on park effects. They slugged with abandon but didn't reach base enough, finishing .011 below the park-adjusted league average for OBP. (Incidentally, I despise complaints like "Texas is over-reliant on the home run," as if the team could somehow hit too many home runs. Perhaps the issue is semantic, but such statements place the blame on what Texas does well instead of where they're lacking. Instead, say "Texas doesn't hit enough for average or draw enough walks.") So far in 2005, run-scoring is down about one-quarter run per game league-wide, and The Ballpark has played less hitter-friendly than during 2002-2004. Thus, Texas's seemingly insignificant increase of 0.12 runs per game is really quite an accomplishment.

PITCHING / DEFENSE
2005
2004
Runs allowed per game
4.84
4.90
Expected runs allowed per game based on peripherals
4.85
5.04
"Lucky" runs (positive = lucky)
1
23
-
-
-
Opp. Batting Average
.277
.274
Opp. On-Base Percentage
.339
.344
Opp. Slugging Percentage
.421
.432
Net steals allowed per game
(0.04)
(0.04)
-
-
-
Opponent OPS+
98
97
-
-
-
Park Factor (runs)
1.007
1.100
RA+
96
112
ERA+
93
112
-
-
-
Rotation innings per game
5.79
5.56
Rotation ERA
4.53
5.16
Rotation ERA+
96
99
Bullpen ERA
4.86
3.46
Bullpen ERA+
89
147
-
-
-
Unearned Runs Allowed
21
70

Likewise, because of a friendlier home park and lower scoring nation-wide, allowing 0.06 fewer runs per game is not cause for celebration. The Ballpark had a park-adjusted league-average ERA of over 5.00 in 2004. This year so far, it's only 4.34. Depressingly, the rotation on the whole has performed no better than the seventeen-man 2004 version. Texas has Kenny Rogers, Chris Young, and a month of Ricardo Rodriguez. The rest: a beehive swarming with earned runs. Worse still, the bullpen that made Texas a winner in 2004 has collapsed in injury and ineffectiveness. The retooled crew has performed much better of late, but Texas can't hope to fully overcome the loss of Frank Francisco and Carlos Almanzar.

Inconceivable though it may seem, the 2004 pitching staff offered the fourth-best performance in the American League and also the fourth-best in Ranger history in terms of ERA+. I swear it is true. In 2005, they're not quite average.

Posted by Lucas at 06:04 PM

Texas At The Midway Point, Part 1

Texas versus the AL West

STANDINGS
Texas
LA
Oakland
Seattle
Actual Wins
43
50
40
35
Actual Won-Loss Pct.
.531
.610
.494
.432
"Pythagorean Wins"
45.2
50.4
41.5
37.6
"Pythagorean" Won-Loss Pct.
.558
.615
.512
.464
Wins based on peripheral stats
44.1
45.5
42.7
35.2
Won-Loss Pct. based on peripheral stats
.545
.555
.527
.435

Division-leading Los Angeles set a franchise record with 51 wins after 81 games. As is often the case, they've won more games than their peripherals would suggest. Oakland has risen from the dead to reach the outskirts of the division race. Texas is playing better than the 2004 squad in some respects, while Seattle isn't quite bad enough to be interesting.

OFFENSE
Texas
LA
Oakland
Seattle
Runs scored per game
5.43
4.85
4.51
4.16
Expected runs scored per game based on peripherals
5.31
4.64
4.40
4.07
"Lucky" runs (positive = lucky)
10
18
8
7
-
-
-
-
-
Batting Average
.270
.275
.260
.254
On-Base Percentage
.331
.326
.334
.313
Slugging Percentage
.473
.419
.385
.384
Net steals per game
0.12
0.15
(0.11)
0.07
-
-
-
-
-
Park Factor (OPS)
1.042
.959
1.023
.960
OPS+
108
102
90
89

Unlike last year's park-driven effort, the 2005 Ranger offense really is good and easily the class of the division. Anaheim batted .308 in June to build a seven-game lead, but no other team relies so heavily on base hits. If they bat .260 and tally a few fewer hits with runners on base, they'll suffer greatly. One can hope. Oakland was sporting an OPS+ of about 80 six weeks ago; a solid June has propelled them from historic wretchedness to ordinary wretchedness. Even considering Safeco-diminished expectations, the Mariners don't reach base or hit or power.

PITCHING / DEFENSE
Texas
LA
Oakland
Seattle
Runs allowed per game
4.84
3.84
4.40
4.47
Expected runs allowed per game based on peripherals
4.85
4.15
4.17
4.64
"Lucky" runs (positive = lucky)
1
25
18
(14)
-
-
-
-
-
Opp. Batting Average
.277
.251
.241
.259
Opp. On-Base Percentage
.339
.312
.313
.331
Opp. Slugging Percentage
.421
.397
.383
.406
Net steals allowed per game
(0.04)
(0.11)
0.43
0.19
-
-
-
-
-
Opponent OPS+
98
92
83
100
-
-
-
-
-
Park Factor (runs)
1.007
.934
1.092
.983
RA+
96
112
115
101
ERA+
93
112
120
98
-
-
-
-
-
Rotation innings per game
5.79
6.23
6.07
5.84
Rotation ERA
4.53
3.64
4.02
4.98
Rotation ERA+
96
110
117
85
Bullpen ERA
4.86
3.38
3.64
3.08
Bullpen ERA+
89
119
129
137
-
-
-
-
-
Unearned Runs Allowed
21
21
46
21

Yes, they've been lucky, but Los Angeles features a solid rotation and superior bullpen. I fear that their offense must decline sharply for Texas to catch them. Conversely, Texas could catch up with improvement from the bullpen and something to quiet the giant sucking sounds coming from center and right field. Oakland has both the best and worst defense in the West. They lead in Defesive Efficiency but have the lowest fielding percentage. Also, they have allowed a division-worst 31 runners to reach via error and caught only 18% of would-be basestealers.

Coming soon: an explanation of how I calculate "expected runs" and "luck." You'll just have to take my word for the moment.

Posted by Lucas at 05:09 PM

July 03, 2005

John Wasdin: "Wayback" No More?

Originally published at the Lone Star Blog:

Coming into 2005, John Wasdin has had a career best described in polite company as “undistinguished.? From 1995-2004, Wasdin pitched for seven different clubs including the Yomiuri Giants in 2002. Only in 1997 did he spend a full season in the Majors; since 1998, he has 392 Major-League innings and 352 minor-league innings. In the bigs, he has a 5.38 ERA, and his ERA+ of 90 ranks among contemporaries Shawn Estes, Jason Johnson, Scott Shoeweneweis, and Jaret Wright.

His jacktastic tendencies have inhibited a more stable and lucrative career. Wasdin allowed 119 homers in 668 innings prior to 2005, a dire rate of one per 5.6 innings. Even in 1997, his most successful season, he allowed one per seven innings but survived by surrendering them with fewer runners on base. The homers have obliterated his strong points: only 2.8 walks allowed per nine innings, a solid strikeout rate of 6.2 per nine, and an average-against on balls in play of .293.

In 2005, Wasdin spent two months in AAA Oklahoma offering more of the same: a 4.93 ERA and eleven homers in 73 innings. Nevertheless, Texas bought his contract in mid-June when Ron Mahay, Nick Regilio and Joaquin Benoit hit the Disabled List within a five-day span.

What followed was revelatory. Wasdin saw action on his first day with the team and pitched four shutout innings against Florida. Three more scoreless outings followed, and on June 28, he held the division-leading Angels to one run over eight innings. Wasdin currently sports on ERA of 1.40 and has allowed only twenty baserunners in 25.2 innings. Even with so few innings pitched, he ranks third among Ranger hurlers in VORP.

Say it with me: Hooray for John Wasdin! Unfortunately, the question is not whether Wasdin will fall, but how hard. The statistics tell the story of an incredibly lucky pitcher.

Wasdin has allowed two homers in 25.2 innings, a rate less than half his career average. Before doing any research, I’d assumed that Wasdin had adopted Orel Hershiser’s grounder-heavy philosophy. Could Wasdin achieve long-term success with this approach, or would his career arc, like Ryan Drese, mimic Charly Gordon? Surprisingly and disconcertingly, Wasdin is allowing fly balls at a higher rate than his career average (0.63 vs. 0.82). For whatever reason, those flies are staying on the proper side of the fence. Maybe skill plays a role, but I’m skeptical.

Wasdin also has struck out only eleven batters, meaning he is allowing more balls into play than usual. You don’t have to be a true believer in DIPS to trust that pitchers have less control over batting average on balls hit into play than other peripherals. Certainly, drastic changes in hit rate should not last long. Wasdin’s average on balls hit into play during 2005 is .181, over 100 points below his career average.

In sum, John Wasdin has cut his home run rate by more than 50%, but he also is allowing more fly balls than ever, his strikeout rate is down, and his hit rate is unsustainable. Perhaps Wasdin has internalized some philosophical or mechanical change that will allow him to thrive in the Majors. I hope so, for the raggedy bullpen and soon-to-be-shorthanded rotation need his help. Unfortunately, the statistics suggest trouble ahead.

Posted by Lucas at 04:29 PM

July 01, 2005

Hitters After Three Months

Originally published at the Lone Star Blog:

As mentioned in the previous post, the Ranger offense has improved considerably over 2004, particularly in terms of reaching base (despite a slightly lower walk rate). On the whole, they aren’t responsible for the team’s middling performance. Still, most Ranger fans reasonably appreciate that the offense could stand to improve. Across the universe of message boards, informed and discerning fans grouse about hitting with runners in scoring position, advancing runners, too many strikeouts, and so on.

Humbug. The Rangers just don’t have enough talent:

OPS and OPS+ for Players with 50 At-Bats:

Player            OPS     OPS+  Career OPS+
David Dellucci   .925     142       92
Kevin Mench      .933     140      106
Mark Teixeira    .930     139      116 
Michael Young    .863     125       92
Alfonso Soriano  .870     122      111
Hank Blalock     .840     118      108
Rod Barajas      .740      92       60
Richard Hidalgo  .693      79      114 
Laynce Nix       .668      73       80
Sandy Alomar     .648      72       87   
Chad Allen       .649      71       80
Gary Matthews    .615      60       88

Team OPS and OPS+ by Position:

Pos     OPS   AL Rank  OPS+   AL OPS+
C      .708      6      85      83
1B     .924      1     137     108
2B     .867      2     121      96
3B     .836      5     117     105
SS     .840      2     119      94
LF     .982      1     152     105
CF     .605     14      58      96 
RF     .708     13      83     109
DH     .788      7     107     106

Richard Hidalgo has been a poor man’s Brad Fullmer with a pretty rich man’s salary. Laynce Nix has shown absolutely no improvement beyond a slight reduction in strikeouts and some balls sprayed to the opposite field. The bench would embarrass Joe Torre. Everyone else is pulling their weight.

Everyone? Even Rod Barajas?

Remember Lisa Simpson’s trepidation at entering the “Little Miss Springfield? pageant (sponsored by Laramie Cigarettes), and Bart grudgingly telling her she wasn’t ugly? Sure you do. Just as grudgingly, I say the following: Rod Barajas has performed respectably. History suggests he’ll recede, but if he somehow continues to bat .260 with power and a not-too-terrible walk rate, he’ll have earned John Hart’s graciously tendered $1.8 million.

Posted by Lucas at 04:26 PM

Perception Becomes Reality

Originally published at the Lone Star Blog:

The casual Ranger fan would probably describe 2004's surprising squad as a combination of good hitting and bad pitching, when in fact the opposite was the truth. Last year's bunch slugged with authority but had difficulty getting on base. The bullpen dominated and the rotation, cobbled together though it was, didn't perform that much below the league average.

In 2005, the team has changed to meet perceptions:

Team OPS+:
2004- 94
2005- 108

Team ERA+:
2004- 111
2005- 91

Note to the uninitiated: statistical terms appended with "+" are indexes that measure performance adjusted for league and home park. Higher scores indicate a better performance, and 100 is average.

Posted by Lucas at 04:24 PM