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August 31, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled reliever SCOTT FELDMAN from AA Frisco and optioned infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL to AAA Oklahoma.

With the 31st being the deadline to set postseason rosters, Texas decided to go with an extra pitcher.

But seriously folks, Texas needed an extra reliever after Tuesday's doubleheader, and McDougall wasn't playing anyway.

Posted by Lucas at 06:12 PM

August 30, 2005

Transaction

Texas added pitcher EDISON VOLQUEZ to the 40-man and active rosters and optioned pitcher C.J. WILSON to AA Frisco.

Volquez turned 22 last month and began the season at high-A Bakersfield. Volquez had a 4.19 ERA and 12 BB / 77 SO ratio in 67 innings there, then a 4.14 ERA with 17 walks and 49 strikeouts in AA Frisco. On the whole, he didn’t dominate at either level though at times he pitched very well. Texas had to add him at the end of the season anyway, so Texas decided to see what he can do now. My guess: not much. Volquez is “only” a very good prospect, not King Felix’s older brother. As long as he doesn’t get shelled, I’ll be happy.

Wilson pitched well and won the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. He’ll rejoin the team when Frisco’s season ends in a few days.

Texas now has a full 40-man roster.

Posted by Lucas at 08:30 PM

August 29, 2005

It Could Be Worse

When Kansas City played the Yankees on Sunday, their lineup began with David DeJesus, Chip Ambres and Mike Sweeney. Nothing awe-inspiring, but a competent top three; they have a combined line of .294/.352/.474. As for the others…

4. Emil Brown
5. Terrence Long
6. Angel Berroa
7. John Buck
8. Denny Hocking
9. Joe McEwing

Kansas City’s four-through-nine batters have a combined line of .261/.305/.374. Today: two-for-eighteen including a double, with two walks.

The question that answers itself: Why does a team with a 42-87 record have Long, Hocking and McEwing in the same lineup?

UPDATE: DeJesus and Sweeney are both out with injury. Monday's lineup:

1. Aaron Guiel
2. Chip Ambres
3. Terrence Long
4. Emil Brown
5. Mark Teahan
6. Angel Berroa
7. John Buck
8. Denny Hocking
9. Joe McEwing

Posted by Lucas at 01:30 AM

August 27, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled reliever ERASMO RAMIREZ from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher JUSTIN THOMPSON to AAA.

Texas probably will bring back Thompson in September. He allowed a homer in each of his two appearances.

Posted by Lucas at 11:06 PM

August 26, 2005

Weekend Cat Photo

Cheyenne, born 1991

Posted by Lucas at 05:44 PM

August 22, 2005

One and Twelve

Whenever something goes horribly wrong, my mental soundtrack queues up a twelve-sheets-to-the-wind Neil Young croaking “Well it wasn’t supposed to turn out that way" from Tonight's the Night's "Tired Eyes." I had that song playing in my head repeatedly while watching the Rangers over the past two weeks.

I think most dedicated Ranger fans held no illusions about the situation going into the road trip. Texas stood several games behind several teams for both the West Division and the wild card, and they traveled to face Boston, New York, Cleveland, and a suddenly tenacious Devil Ray club. I envisioned a hard-fought 5-8 or 6-7 swing. Early on, Texas set an MLB record by losing six consecutive games in which they scored at least five runs. By the end of the trip, even the Ranger offense had assimilated the morgue-like atmosphere of Tropicana Field.

A summary of the 1-12 road trip:

Runs Scored 54 (4.2 per game)
Runs Allowed 96 (7.4 per game)
Batting Line .255 / .310 / .412 (.722 OPS)
Team OPS+ 90
Double Plays by Offense 13
Pitchers Used 16
Innings Per Game Pitched By Starters 4.85
ERA by all pitchers / starters / relievers 7.14 / 7.29 / 6.95
ERA+ by all pitchers 60 (60!)
WHIP by all pitchers / starters / relievers 1.74 / 1.67 / 1.83

Incidentally, the key lyric from that song is “He tried to do his best, but he could not.”

Posted by Lucas at 11:13 PM

ESPN Column

Prospects Not On The Way
With the Rangers firmly ensconced in Loserville, fantasy owners might be looking for fresh blood to infuse life into their teams. Alas, at this time, Texas does not offer much in the way of promising pitchers and hitters. Other than Adrian Gonzalez (see below), no prospective hitters are expected to make their way to Arlington before September, and their arrival might be further delayed by AAA Oklahoma’s potential playoff run. OF JASON BOTTS and catcher GERALD LAIRD are the most likely arrivals. I fear that neither will play often enough to have much use even in AL-only leagues. Botts probably will supplant MARK DEROSA in right field (yes, DeRosa’s been playing RF – quality roster management, gentlemen) against lefties and DH on occasion.

Laird will join the catching rotation but probably won’t start more than half the time at best. 2B IAN KINSLER is firmly blocked by ALFONSO “Give Me Second Base Or Give Me Death” SORIANO, who apparently did not entice enough in return to consummate a trade. Texas has several promising pitchers in the minors (really) and might recall one or two for some September hi-jinks, but they’re just plain old promising, not “King Felix” promising.

Gonzalez Up Again, Nevin Semi-Demoted
Texas recalled ADRIAN GONZALEZ for what must be the seventeenth time this season, the difference now being that they actually plan to play him. Gonzalez should start against righties, while ironically titled “designated hitter” PHIL NEVIN is reduced to a lefty-only role. Active AL-only owners should take a flyer on Gonzalez with the understanding that daily roster management will be necessary. As for Nevin, moving from Petco Park to a hitter-friendly park in the American League has accomplished nothing. He has as many double plays as RBI. Nevin is an easy drop in mixed leagues, and, like Gonzalez, he’ll require daily roster management in AL-only leagues. If Texas sticks to its guns (a dubious proposition, I know), Gonzalez will start about twice as often as Nevin.

Stay The Course

Nobody among MARK TEIXEIRA, HANK BLALOCK or KEVIN MENCH is having much of a second half. Mench in particular has tailed off. Just keep playing them. I’d stick with Blalock even though he has a history of weak second halves. Blalock is batting a tepid .248-22-7-17 since the break, but those 22 homers rank fourth among third basemen, the seven homers are tied for eighth best in MLB and the 17 RBI rank twelfth. You won’t find a replacement for that on the waiver wire.

Rotation
CHRIS YOUNG awoke from a two-month nap last week and pitched eight innings of shutout ball against Cleveland. I wouldn’t lie to you by suggesting he’s turned a corner or that his slump is in its last throes. However, Young does face a light-hitting Seattle squad, and those willing to take a risk ought to consider him. Opponents have battered KENNY ROGERS in three starts since his truncated suspension, and you might say he deserves it. Whether he does or not (he does), the matter at hand is his ability to help a fantasy team. Rogers will next face Minnesota and Chicago, two good teams with unimpressive offenses (relative to their home parks, both are worse than Seattle). As with Young, I grudgingly recommend him to owners needing to make a move and willing to risk abject failure.

JUAN DOMINGUEZ should start for Texas the rest of the way. Statistically, Dominguez is the condensed version of Chris Young. Young alternates between dominating and atrocious performances, while Dominguez usually displays both within the space of a few innings. At this stage, Dominguez offers more potential than actual production. He might strike out ten batters and permit twelve baserunners. Only the least risk-averse of AL-only owners need apply. Healthy or not, RICARDO RODRIGUEZ may not join rejoin the rotation until September, and the local dailies indicate he may have fallen out of favor with management. Don’t bother with JOAQUIN BENOIT or anyone Texas might recall from the minors next month.

Schedule Fair and Balanced

In their last 39 games, Texas plays fourteen against basement dwellers (Seattle and Kansas City) and sixteen against playoff-bound teams (Chicago, LA and Oakland), with the rest versus Minnesota and Baltimore. They also have 23 home games and sixteen on the road.

Posted by Lucas at 12:56 AM

August 20, 2005

A Quick Look at the 2006 Financials

Signed for 2006:
Phil Nevin: $10.00 million
Alex Rodriguez: $6.00 (not on team)
Francisco Cordero: $4.00
Hank Blalock: $3.00
Michael Young: $3.00
Ron Mahay: $1.10 (not on 40-man roster)
David Dellucci: $0.90
Chris Young: $0.50
TOTAL: $28.50 million

Arbitration Eligible (2005 salary):
Alfonso Soriano: $7.50 million
Mark Teixeira: $2.50
Rod Barajas: $1.80
Carlos Almanzar: $1.10
Gary Matthews: $1.10
Kevin Gryboski: $0.88
Mark DeRosa *: $0.50
Brian Shouse: $0.40
Kevin Mench: $0.35
Joaquin Benoit: $0.32
Justin Thompson *: $0.32
Total 2005 salaries: $15.67 million

* I think they’re eligible, but unsure.

Indentured Servants:
Ryan Bukvich
R.A. Dickey
Juan Dominguez
Scott Feldman
Frank Francisco
Kameron Loe
Erasmo Ramirez
Nick Regilio
Ricardo Rodriguez
Josh Rupe
Michael Tejera
C.J. Wilson
Gerald Laird
Adrian Gonzalez
Marshall McDougall
Jason Botts
Laynce Nix

Free Agents (2005 salary):
Richard Hidalgo: $4.50 million
Kenny Rogers: $3.50
Doug Brocail: $1.00
Greg Colbrunn: $0.65
Sandy Alomar: $0.55
Steve Karsay: $0.32
John Wasdin: $0.32
Total 2005 salaries: $10.84 million

Posted by Lucas at 01:35 PM

August 19, 2005

Weekend Photo


Maha’ulepu Beach, Kauai, 6 Dec 2004.

Posted by Lucas at 11:33 AM

August 18, 2005

Transaction

Texas optioned reliever SCOTT FELDMAN to AA Frisco and recalled 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ from AAA Oklahoma.

Assuming Texas retrieved Gonzalez to play, Phil Nevin will have plenty of time on his hands. Texas can prevent Feldman from having an option burned if they recall him within twenty days (the Juan Dominguez gambit). Otherwise, Feldman will lose an option just for spending two games in the Majors, and pitching in none, for a team with no hope for 2005. Frisco’s regular season ends in seventeen days.

Posted by Lucas at 02:52 PM

August 16, 2005

Transaction

Texas had added relievers JUSTIN THOMPSON and SCOTT FELDMAN to the 40-man roster and recalled them from AAA and AA, respectively. Texas also optioned reliever KEVIN GRYBOSKI to AAA and designated swingman JAMES BALDWIN for assignment.

The transactional equivalent of the fifth stage of grief. The Rangers could have made these moves weeks ago with no appreciable effect on their situation, but grabbing a former All-Star off waivers and trading a demi-prospect for a reliever denotes bold activity, while calling up mildly effective relievers from your own farm system conveys weakness and torpor. Now, Texas has commenced with learning who might contribute to the team in 2006.

Nabbing Baldwin off waivers from Baltimore had some merit. Texas needed someone who could chew several innings in relief and start in an emergency. He didn’t pitch any worse than Doug Brocail or Steve Karsay.

The Kevin Gryboski era seemingly concludes with a thud. Gryboski doesn’t provide much but at least should have been an upgrade on C.J. Wilson, whom he replaced. In fact, Wilson rejoined the team ten days later and Gryboski has pitched worse, a difficult and dubious achievement. Management must now glumly hope that Atlanta can’t make a pitcher out of Matt Lorenzo.

Texas acquired then-26-year-old Justin Thompson in 1999 as part of the Juan Gonzalez deal. A variety of arm troubles has prevented him from pitching in the Majors since August of 1999. To their credit, Texas has shown incredible patience with him. To his credit, he’s continued to sign minor-league contracts with Texas. Thompson counteracts an average strikeout rate with excellent control and an ability to keep the ball in the yard. Whatever happens on the mound, he deserves all the credit in the world for his perseverance. I hope he succeeds.

Feldman becomes the first Ranger draft pick from 2003 to join the 40 and the active roster. He has a pretty 2.54 ERA in 57 innings at AA Frisco, but the peripherals are not all sunshine and lollipops. Feldman has allowed only one homer per nineteen innings pitched. He also has a rather bland 23 BB / 37 SO ratio, and much of his success derives from a .227 average on balls in play, a trend he can’t hope to continue in Arlington.

Posted by Lucas at 04:12 PM

August 13, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled starter JUAN DOMINGUEZ from AAA and probably optioned pitcher C.J. WILSON to AA.

Dominguez is in New York to start Staurday's game. Haven't heard who Texas sent down, but I can't imagine anyone other than Wilson.

Update: My imagination has run away with me. Erasmo Ramirez makes the lonely drive back to Oklahoma and Wilson stays.

So... the bullpen is a wreck. Ramirez has an ERA of 5.40 and hasn't pitched in two days. Wilson threw 62 pitches last night and has an ERA of just under 9.00 (though he threw well last night). Wilson probably can't pitch for at least two days. Regardless, Texas kept Wilson and dumped Ramirez.

This must be one of those Zen riddles I'm not meant to understand.

Update 2: Wilson will start next Thursday in Cleveland. I wish him the best.

Posted by Lucas at 12:30 PM

ESPN Column

What Is Gary Matthews Eating?
GARY MATTHEWS is easily the hottest Ranger right now, batting .342/.425/.631 with seven homers since the All-Star Break. I haven’t touted him because his career line is a far more modest .253/.330/.402, and I expected him to slide back toward those numbers sooner rather than later. Yet, not only is Matthews staying hot, he’s batting .400 and slugging .700 in August. His ownership in mixed league has reached what must be a lifetime high of 36%. He is the only legitimate center fielder on the team and is virtually guaranteed to play every game. Advice? Sure. I still wouldn’t bother with him in eight-team mixed leagues and probably not ten. Recall that he batted .250/.285/.415 in about 200 pre-ASB plate appearances and was barely worth owning even in AL-only leagues.

Acquiring him in mixed leagues won’t hurt you, but you’ll need to keep him on a short leash and scan the waiver wire for a potential upgrade. I just don’t think Matthews is someone who’ll stay hot over the last six weeks and give you a ride to a championship. As for his field mates: RICHARD HIDALGO is progressing slowly from his strained wrist tendon. Even if he suddenly heals, Texas would be wise to delay his return until rosters expand in September. Expect very little from him the rest of the way. DALID DELLUCCI’s starting status hasn’t changed (all righties, no lefties), but now he plays left field instead of DH. KEVIN MENCH has moved to right. He’s hit poorly since the break, but you have no reason to remove him from your lineup.

What Phil Nevin Can Do For You
So far, not much. The new everyday DH has batted .220 with one homer and four RBI in twelve games as a Ranger, and his OPS trails what he posted in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Those in AL-only leagues have no choice but to keep him and hope for improvement, but mixed-leaguers have a decision to make. Those in smaller mixed leagues ought to cut bait. In twelve-team leagues, give him another week, then reassess, but if you see someone decent in the free-agent pool, make a move now. I predicted “middling” production from him two weeks ago, and that’s what he ought to provide. Nevin has a sub-.300 OBP and sub-.400 slugging percentage in 85 games. He’s highly unlikely to revert to his 2001 form.

Rogers Returns
KENNY ROGERS returned from his all-too-brief suspension and promptly allowed five runs in five innings to a formidable Boston lineup. Rogers took a comebacker off of his already broken glove hand in the first inning but remained in the game. He won’t miss any time and should start Tuesday at Cleveland followed by Sunday at Tampa Bay. RICARDO RODRIGUEZ hit the DL with a contusion in his arm caused by yet another comebacker. He shouldn’t miss over the minimum, though he isn’t fantasy-worthy in anything but a large AL-only league.

What’s Wrong With Cordero?
FRANCISCO CORDERO hasn’t saved a game since July 30th. Texas is 3-11 since then, and the smallest margin in any of them has been six runs. Cordero is fine. Don’t trade him for Tanyon Sturtze or someone silly like that.

September Morn
Though I approve of the Park-for-Nevin trade, Nevin’s presence combined with the Rangers’ post-Break collapse creates some unfavorable roster issues in September. Texas ought to be creating room for both 1B ADRIAN GONZALEZ and OF JASON BOTTS , but where to play them? Assuming Nevin will start most of the time, Gonzalez is blocked by him and Teixeira at first. Botts likewise can’t DH and would have to supplant Mench or Dellucci in the outfield (he can’t play center). For that matter, the retention of ALFONSO SORIANO blocks prospect IAN KINSLER. Unless Texas finds a post-waiver trading partner for Nevin (who is doing nothing to create interest), they may find themselves in a position of needing to build for 2006 yet having nowhere to fit the youngsters.

Posted by Lucas at 12:31 AM

August 12, 2005

Rules of Advancement

(The Rangers’ four-game swan dive has rendered this piece moot as far as Texas is concerned, but in the words of Blake, "I'm going anyway. Let's talk about something important.")

Eliminating a deficit against one team presents a basic problem. When the leading team wins, the laggard can’t gain any ground. When a team sits in third place, its ability to gain ground is further challenged. The question is, how much?

Let’s assume two scenarios: in one, Los Angeles resides in first with a winning percentage of .575, and Texas is in 2 nd at .500. In the other, LA and Oakland are tied at .575 and Texas looks up from third place with a .500 record. Assume that a team’s winning percentage indicates its probability of winning any particular game (except when LA and Oakland square off, then assume each has a 50% chance of winning).

With only LA in front, Texas gains a game in the standings when they win and LA loses. Simple enough. With LA and Oakland ahead, Texas gains on the division lead only if they win and <I>both</I> LA and Oakland lose. Conversely, they lose a game in the standings if they lose and <I>either</I> LA or Oakland wins. Thus, with two teams in front, Texas is more likely to lose a game in the standings than win.

Change in Standings
One team ahead
Two teams ahead
Gain a game
21.0%
9.0%
Stay even
50.0%
50.0%
Lose a game
29.0%
41.0%

Texas has another problem. When LA and Oakland are tied and playing each other, as occurred recently, Texas cannot gain a game in the standings. If Texas wins, they merely stay even. If they lose, by definition they must also lose a game in the standings.

Change in Standings
Two teams ahead
Two teams ahead, playing each other
Gain a game
9.0%
0.0%
Stay even
50.0%
50.0%
Lose a game
41.0%
50.0%

When two leading teams are tied and play a three-game series, the third-place team can do no better than regain one game in the standings during those three games. To do so, Texas must sweep and hope that the LA-Oakland series ends without a sweep. Any other outcome results in stasis or further decline.

Change in Standings during three-game series
Two teams ahead, playing each other
Gain a game
9.4%
Stay even
31.3%
Lose a game
37.5%
Lose two games
18.8%
Lose three games
3.1%

Of course, Texas won’t make up ground on anybody if they continue to hover around the .500 mark. Let’s assume that the one-eyed Norse god Odin grants the Rangers supernatural baseball prowess, raising their winning probability to .750. The probability of gaining ground on two teams in one day increases surprisingly little, from 9% to just over 13%, because of the unlikelihood of both LA and Oakland losing. When LA and Oakland square off, Texas has about a 32% chance of gaining one game in the standings over the course of the series.

Change in Standings, .750 chance of winning
One team ahead
Two teams ahead
Gain a game
31.9%
13.5%
Stay even
53.8%
53.8%
Lose a game
14.4%
32.7%

Change in Standings during three-game series when two teams are ahead and playing each other
Gain a game
31.6%
Stay even
42.2%
Lose a game
21.1%
Lose two games
4.7%
Lose three games
0.4%

Posted by Lucas at 07:14 PM

Flight of Icarus

AL West on June 1:

TEX 30-20
LAA 30-22 -1.0
SEA 21-30 -9.5
OAK 19-32 -11.5

AL West since June 1:

OAK 47-16
ANA 35-27 -11.5
SEA 28-34 -18.5
TEX 26-38 -21.5

Posted by Lucas at 08:36 AM

August 10, 2005

Transaction

An arbitrator has reinstated starter KENNY ROGERS and converted his $50,000 fine to a charitable contribution.

At issue was procedure and precendent. Normally, MLB veep Bob Watson metes out punishment and someone one hears appeals. In this case, Bud Selig himself determined the punishement and ruled on the appeal.

I thought Rogers deserved thirty days, and nothing has occurred to change my mind. I understand the reasoning behind the reduction, but the arbitrator's addtional ruling is galling: Rogers can file a grievance against MLB if he fails to reach some of his performance incentives because of the suspension.

Posted by Lucas at 07:22 AM

August 09, 2005

Transaction

Texas placed starter RICARDO RODRIGUEZ on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled reliever ERASMO RAMIREZ from AAA.

Rodriguez has an arm contusion from a comebacker in his last start.

I will be joining the Ranger rotation and expect to pitch on Saturday.

Posted by Lucas at 11:20 PM

August 07, 2005

Transaction

Texas placed outfielder RICHARD HIDALGO on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL from AAA. Texas also signed formerly pretty good starter AARON SELE to a minor-league deal and assigned him to AAA.

Not that I don’t mind McDougall getting some Major-League per diem, but his arrival in place of Hidalgo leaves Texas with only three true outfielders, one of whom (Delucci) is less than 100%. Mark DeRosa had all of 57 career outfield innings to his credit before he started in right field on Friday, and Phil Nevin has 29 games of outfield experience during this decade. Against lefties, one among DeRosa, Nevin or the lefty-challenged Dellucci must man the outfield. Additionally, another will DH against lefties unless Texas actually will permit McDougall to swing a bat on occasion.

Dare I say it, recalling Chad Allen might have made some sense. Texas, however, released Allen (for disciplinary reasons?!)when they signed Aaron Sele. I mentioned in my recent C.J. Wilson screed that acquiring even a replacement-level starter would improve the Ranger rotation at this point. Enter Sele, who almost can’t help but pitch better than Wilson.

Posted by Lucas at 02:13 AM

August 06, 2005

What Is Managament Thinking? The C.J. Wilson Saga

I come to praise C.J. Wilson, not to bury him.

At least I mean him no harm, and I don’t blame him (much) for his 10.23 ERA. The question is not “Why has Wilson pitched so badly,” but “What is management thinking?”

Wilson came to Texas in the 5th round of 2001 after one season at Loyola Marymount and two JuCo seasons. Effectively, he was the Rangers’ second pick, as they had no 2nd or 3rd round choices, and their 4th-round pick didn’t sign. (Incidentally, the only other player from that draft still in the organization is top pick Mark Teixeira.)

That year, Wilson pitched well in rookie ball and at low-A Savannah. In 2002, he made fifteen starts and eleven relief appearance at high-A Charlotte (Florida), posting at 3.06 ERA, allowing 3.5 walks per nine innings and striking out 6.5. Notably, he allowed only four homers in 106 innings. He pitched even better during five starts at AA (1.80 ERA, no homers allowed in 30 innings).

Going into 2003, Baseball America rated Wilson the Rangers’ #8 prospect. Wilson pitched inconsistently but slightly better than his 5.05 ERA would indicate (0.8 homers, 2.8 walks, and 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings). In August, Wilson underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2004. Wilson began 2005 in high-A Bakersfield, then moved back to AA after four starts. By early June, he had a grim 6.99 ERA.

I recap his history to show that he looked more like a project than a prospect as of June 2005. Nevertheless, on June 11 Texas added him to the 40-man roster and the big-league bullpen. Wilson made three acceptable relief appearances (three innings, five baserunners, one run) in five days, and on June 19 he made his first of five starts as a Major Leaguer:

Date Opp.
IP
H
R
ER
2B
3B
HR
BB
SO
HB
ERA
WHIP
6/19 WAS
3.67
9
3
3
0
0
0
0
2
1
7.36
2.73
6/27 LAA
4.67
8
7
5
3
0
0
2
0
0
9.64
2.14
7/2 sea
2.00
4
4
4
1
0
1
3
2
0
18.00
3.50
7/31 tor
6.00
8
4
4
0
0
1
0
6
1
6.00
1.50
8/5 BAL
2.67
9
8
8
3
0
2
2
0
0
27.00
4.12

Only one of his starts has approached respectability, a six-inning, four-run effort in Toronto. Opposing batters are hitting .432/.475/.670 against him as a starter. On balls hit into the field of play, opponents are hitting .436. Ordinarily, an average that high indicates incredibly bad luck. A typical Ranger pitcher should allow an average of about .310 on balls in play. In this case, I don’t think Wilson is unlucky, just unprepared for Major-League hitters. No pitcher allows a consistently higher-than-average hit rate on balls in play, because such a pitcher doesn’t stay in baseball long enough to have a career. This level is where Wilson resides right now; he can’t even approach a John Wasdin-like semi-effectiveness.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wrote the following this morning: “Young pitchers often learn by failing, as Atlanta's talented trio of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery did in the late 1980s.” I understand Grant is comparing situations, not talent, but I think it’s instructive to study both. Certainly, clubs and scouts regarded Atlanta’s young trio more highly than Wilson. Avery was the third-overall pick of the 1988 draft. Glavine was a second round (47th overall) pick in 1984. Smoltz, while only a 22nd-round pick for Detroit in 1985, had developed enough that the Tigers surrendered him for Doyle Alexander during August of 1987. Indeed, all three “failed” during their rookie seasons, but none to the extent of Wilson:

Rookie Season
IP
ERA
ERA+
Tom Glavine
50
5.54
79
John Smoltz
64
5.48
67
Steve Avery
99
5.64
71
C.J. Wilson
22
10.23
47

Furthermore, the situations aren't comparable. The Braves of this period were a national joke, perennially at risk of losing 100 games and far worse than the Ranger of 2000-2003. Smoltz, Glavine and Avery debuted for moribund clubs playing for the future. Ostensibly, C.J. Wilson debuted for a contender fighting for the division lead:

Pitcher
Debut
Team Record
Tom Glavine
8/17/1987
50-67
John Smoltz
7/23/1988
32-61
Steve Avery
6/12/1990
22-33
C.J. Wilson
6/18/2005
37-29

Last night, Wilson offered his worst performance yet, allowing eight runs in only 2.2 innings. His ERA as a starter has ballooned to 11.37 (an ERA+ of 42). Nevertheless, manager Buck Showalter suggests Wilson will probably stay in the rotation at least as long as Kenny Rogers is suspended. At this point, Wilson may as well remain, because Texas is toast. The question is: Did no other club have a replacement-level starter toiling in AAA that Texas could have acquired cheaply? Even another John Wasdin would have provided a small boost to the rotation.

Again, I don’t blame Wilson. To summarize his minor-league history:

2001: Solid in rookie and low-A
2002: Solid in high-A and AA
2003: Struggled in AA, then surgery
2004: Did not pitch
2005: Struggled badly in AA

What is management thinking?

How did they expect Wilson to perform?

Did they genuinely expect to maintain their postseason hopes with him on the roster?

Posted by Lucas at 02:47 PM

AL West Stat Roundup

I was out of town most of the week, so here's the statistical roundup for the West through August 5th.

OFFENSE
TEXAS
L.A.
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Scored
589
504
524
476
Average
.270
.267
.265
.259
OBA
.333
.321
.334
.317
SLUG
.474
.404
.404
.396
Steals
39
102
23
68
Caught Stealing
12
37
14
30
 
RS+
105
99
98
98
Team OPS+
104
92
94
93

As has been the case all season, Texas is the only team in the West with a solid offense. Remember that the "+" sysmbol indicates the statistic has been adjusted for the home park.

PITCHING
TEXAS
L.A.
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Opp. Runs Scored
563
434
463
500
Average
.279
.252
.242
.269
Opp. OBA
.343
.314
.311
.338
Opp. SLUG
.433
.396
.386
.422
Opp. Steals
36
42
76
56
Opp. Caught
20
27
18
26
Unearned Runs
42
36
53
33
Oppo. OPS+
101
91
85
108
 
RA
5.26
4.02
4.29
4.67
Adj. League RA
5.13
4.59
4.84
4.44
RA+
97
114
113
95
 
ERA
4.91
3.67
3.83
4.48
Adj. League ERA
4.77
4.27
4.50
4.13
ERA+
97
116
118
92
 
ROTATION / BP
Rotation IP/G
5.64
6.28
6.19
5.86
Rotation ERA
5.08
3.82
3.96
5.14
Rotation ERA+
94
112
114
80
Bullpen ERA
4.62
3.34
3.53
3.15
Bullpen ERA+
103
128
128
131

Sure, the Texas rotation has collapsed, but check out Seattle, which has a higher ERA even ignoring park effects. Lost in the tatters of the Ranger rotation is a bullpen that has quietly approached respectability. Even so, they're well behind their division rivals and a faint whisper of their 2004 performance.

PERIPHERALS
TEXAS
L.A.
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs per game
5.50
4.67
4.85
4.45
Expected R/g
5.34
4.42
4.59
4.24
Luck per game
0.17
0.25
0.26
0.21
"Lucky" runs scored
18
27
29
23
 
Runs/G
5.21
4.02
4.29
4.67
Projected Runs / G
5.03
4.16
4.13
4.86
Luck per game
0.19
(0.14)
0.16
(0.19)
"Lucky" runs allowed
(20)
15
(17)
20
 
TOTAL LUCK
(2)
42
12
43

Everyone in the West is scoring more than expected according to my magic formulae. Of course, I could be wrong, but my estimate of total runs scored and allowed for the league is very close to even.

STANDINGS
TEXAS
L.A.
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Actual Wins
54
63
62
47
Actual Losses
54
46
47
61
Actual Win%
0.500
0.578
0.569
0.435
 
Pythag Wins
55.9
62.0
60.6
50.9
Pythag Losses
51.1
46.0
47.4
56.1
Pythag Win%
0.523
0.574
0.562
0.475
 
Periph Wins
56.7
57.3
59.6
46.2
Periph Losses
50.3
50.7
48.4
60.8
Periph Win%
0.530
0.530
0.552
0.432

Texas continues to play nearly at the level of Oakland and LA, though you wouldn't know it from watching the product on the field lately.

PARKS
TEXAS
L.A.
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Park Factor (OPS)
1.07
0.99
1.01
0.95
Park Factor (Runs)
1.09
0.98
1.03
0.94

I decided that one-year park factors were too volatile (the Texas factor was actually pitcher-friendly until June, when the temperature shot up). These are factors from 2004 to present.

Posted by Lucas at 12:25 PM

August 05, 2005

Weekend Photo

Miller Power Plant, Birmingham, Alabama. It's coal, not nuclear.

Posted by Lucas at 08:31 AM

Transaction

Texas designated reliever RON MAHAY for assignment, added reliever STEVE KARSAY to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AA Frisco.

Texas grabbed Mahay off a scrap heap in 2004 and got two excellent years and one month from him. Mahay lost his prowess in May and has yet to recover it, allowing 23 earned runs in 24 innings during the last four months. He missed a couple of weeks with a sore groin, and he might have some other ailment(s) causing him trouble. Since Texas owes him $1 million in 2006 (the local dailies say $1.1), I doubt anyone will claim him. Perhaps he can recapture his magic in AAA and push for a roster spot next spring.

Karsay has thrown well in AA after a rough June. With the team’s postseason changes approaching life-support status, Texas might as well find out if he has anything to offer to a big-league club.

Posted by Lucas at 08:11 AM

August 04, 2005

ESPN Column

Trade Winds Blow Softly
After weeks of speculation and intrigue, the Rangers retained the services of ALFONSO SORIANO but traded the seemingly untradeable CHAN HO PARK. Texas technically can still trade Soriano or anyone else, but players must now pass through waivers. Since none of the bottom-ranked teams would dare claim Soriano and his $7.5 million salary, the Rangers might yet work out a deal with a mid-level team. Odds are he'll finish the season in Arlington, and AL-only owners can rest a little more easily.

Nevin Arrives
Texas traded Park to San Diego for Phil Nevin. Nevin's role is undefined for the long term, but so far he's watched from the bench once and then batted cleanup against a lefty and a righty. He doesn't deserve such placement against anyone, yet there he is. Texas may be showcasing him for another trade. Clearly he merits pickup in AL-only leagues, although he shouldn’t provide more than middling production. Nevin has batted a loathsome .256/.301/.399 this season in hitter-hating Petco Park. In mixed leagues, avoid him for now if your league has ten or fewer teams. Incidentally, Park joined the Rangers the same season I "joined" ESPN, and I'm relieved I don't have to write about him anymore.

Seems Like Old Times
The Rangers have quickly reverted to their m.o. of not offering any worthwhile starting pitchers in mixed leagues. That's not entirely true, as KENNY ROGERS should provide help once his suspension ends. As for the rest... CHRIS YOUNG has run off the rails in his last nine starts, his ERA jumping from 2.78 to 4.94. Oddly, most of his peripherals haven't changed dramatically, and in fact his strikeout rate has increased. The killer is his home run rate. Young allowed four homers in his first thirteen starts and twelve in his last nine. Since he'd mostly stayed the course except for that one (admittedly important) statistic, I'd suggested to some emailers that he deserved another chance against Tampa Bay Monday night. Let's just say that didn't work out.

Now, with Young presumably facing a solid Orioles offense in Arlington followed by the Yankees on the road, mixed leaguers should cut bait. Likewise, mixed leaguers should look skeptically upon JOAQUIN BENOIT and his 1.94 ERA. Benoit has a checkered history as a starter and will face Baltimore and Boston in his next attempts.

Posted by Lucas at 12:29 AM