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September 30, 2005

Transaction

Texas signed pitchers Derek Lee, Lou Pote, Matt Riley, and Cory Vance and infielder Jace Brewer to minor-league contracts for 2006.

The Rangers get a head start on filling out their minor-league rosters. Riley has the most upside, or perhaps “had;” he underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in June and shouldn’t contribute much to the organization in 2006. Former Colorado prospect Vance last made the news in June 2004, when Texas dropped the injured pitcher from the 40-man roster. Brewer is a handy utility guy who bounced around between AAA Oklahoma and AA Frisco.

Posted by Lucas at 11:56 AM

Weekend Photo


Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona. April 1996.

Posted by Lucas at 11:28 AM

September 28, 2005

ESPN Column

Advice For The Final Week
Texas finishes the season with three games in Seattle and three against Los Angeles in Texas. Seattle has a weak offense, and LA probably will have clinched the division and be resting its regulars to the extent possible, so Ranger pitchers gain a little value this week.

KAMERON LOE starts Tuesday and might start the final game of the season. Loe hasn’t struck out many batters as a starter but otherwise has performed well and seems no worse for wear after his beaning last week. He’s a definite start in AL-only leagues. CHRIS YOUNG gets one last start Wednesday. He returned from a two-week dead-arm layoff last Thursday and threw passably. I’d use him if I needed some help but not if I were protecting a lead. KENNY ROGERS takes the mound Thursday and can be started in just about any fantasy league.

R.A. DICKEY begins the final series with LA. Dickey is learning how to throw a knuckleball and is not the kind of guy you want on your team in September. JUAN DOMINGUEZ will start on Saturday. Dominguez has a 3.45 ERA and six Ks per nine innings as a starter, yet he’s owned in only 48% of AL-only leagues. Not only can he help AL-only squads, he might be worth a high-risk play in mixed leagues. The final start will probably go to Loe or JOSH RUPE. Rupe showed promise in his last start, but it’s also his only Major League start. Only the absolutely desperate should consider him.

DAVID DELLUCCI has missed several games with a strained calf but is expected back Tuesday night. He’ll continue to start against righties and sit against lefties, as will DH ADRIAN GONZALEZ. Keep an eye on Dellucci; if he misses another game you should consider a replacement. After sharing the backstop equally with GERALD LAIRD for a week or so, ROD BARAJAS has caught seven of the last ten games. I think he’ll start three or four of the last six, with Laird getting the rest. KEVIN MENCH missed Sunday’s game with a sore thumb but should start most of the remaining games. The four famous infielders should start most, if not all, of the final six games. Texas might let Marshall McDougall or Esteban German spell one of them for a day or two. No reason to bench any of them, though.

I’d Like To Thank The Academy
Thus concludes my fourth year of covering the Rangers. Thanks to ESPN’s Eric Karabell for drawing my name out of the hat in February 2002 and giving me an opportunity to write about Hideki Irabu and John Rocker (both Rangers at the time, unfortunately). Thanks also to Courtney Bissonnet, who, against all logic and common sense, decided to marry someone who writes about baseball in his spare time.

Posted by Lucas at 12:16 AM

September 27, 2005

Race To The Bottom

You might remember a few years ago when the Baltimore Orioles lost an unfathomable 32 of 36 games to close the season. They haven’t gotten much better. For four years running, the Orioles have found themselves at or near .500 in August, only to collapse down the stretch:

Year   Start   Finish
2005 60-60 10-26
2004 59-59 19-25
2003 57-59 14-32
2002 63-63 4-36

That’s an aggregate “finish” record of 47-119 (.283).

Posted by Lucas at 04:10 PM

September 21, 2005

Mathematically Eliminated

Anaheim has a Magic Number of two against Texas, and Oakland has a number of three. Neither team eliminates the Rangers by itself, but Anaheim and Oakland have four games against each other next week. When the teams ahead of Texas face off, the results always hurt. Texas can't win more than 86 games, and either Anaheim or Oakland will win no fewer than 87. Current Wild-Card leader Cleveland already has 88 wins.

This exercise in pointlessness sponsored by Tucks Medicated Pads.

Posted by Lucas at 01:08 AM

September 20, 2005

December 8, 1977

Just your everyday four-team, eleven-player trade. Both Brad Corbett and Ted Turner were involved.

TEAM SENT RECEIVED
TEXAS Bert Blyleven (SP)
Tommy Boggs (SP)
Adrian Devine (RP)
Tom Grieve (OF)
Ken Henderson (OF)
Eddie Miller (OF)
Jon Matlack (SP)
Nelson Norman (SS)
Al Oliver (OF)
ATLANTA Willie Montanez (1B) Tommy Boggs (SP)
Adrian Devine (RP)
Eddie Miller (OF)
PITTSBURGH Nelson Norman (SS)
Al Oliver (OF)
Bert Blyleven (SP)
John Milner (1B)
NY METS Jon Matlack (SP)
John MIlner (1B)
Tom Grieve (OF)
Ken Henderson (OF)
Willie Montanez (1B)

Posted by Lucas at 11:12 PM

September 17, 2005

Weekend Photo


Wood bridge on Route 66, about five miles west of Glenrio and the Texas-NM border. April 1995.

Posted by Lucas at 03:17 AM

September 15, 2005

How Weather Affects The Ballpark

Yesterday’s Baseball Prospectus scooped me:

The Rangers can mash, but unless owner Tom Hicks relocates the franchise to Alaska, Texas is going to have to deal with its unique greenhouse effect in developing pitchers--according to research by James Click, the unforgiving summer in Arlington inflates offense in a bell-curve fashion, as runs/game and slugging jump at Ameriquest in the season's middle months.
I was mildly disappointed to read this. About a month ago, I was playing around with the Ranger game results from 2002-2005 and found that The Ballpark’s inflation of offense was pretty mild in the season’s first and last months. Instead of writing an entry immediately, I intended to wait until the season ended so that I’d have more data. Here I was, thinking I’d unearthed a potentially useful bit of information all on my own. Silly me.

Anyway, yes, the Ballpark does tend to inflate offense when the temperature peaks. In April and September, the Ballpark plays as a garden-variety hitter-friendly park. From May through August, it becomes the stadium we know and love (or loathe):

“Raw” Park Factor indicates the simple division of runs at home by runs on the road. Interestingly, the park factors do not correlate especially strongly with the average daily high temperature:

September is slightly warmer than May and much warmer than April but has the lowest park factor. May is the second coolest month but plays as offense-friendly as July and August. I don’t know why. Using only four years of data probably creates some statistical noise, and the monthly composition of Texas opponents and road parks may also play a role in skewing the data.

Posted by Lucas at 02:05 PM

September 13, 2005

ESPN Column

Seven’s A Crowd
After Wednesday, Texas finishes the season inside the AL West with seven games against Seattle, six against LA and three against Oakland. None of these teams has an above-average offense (relative to their home parks) and none plays in a hitter-friendly stadium (The Ballpark is very hitter-friendly, of course). So, the matter at hand is who the heck is in the rotation. CHRIS YOUNG left his last start after just one inning in which he topped out at about 85 mph. He’s not injured as far as anyone knows, but Texas didn’t want to risk disaster, and they may shut him down for the duration. Certainly, he no longer belongs in an ESPN mixed league, and those in AL-only leagues need to find help where they can.

KENNY ROGERS will continue to start and ought to provide adequate if uninspiring support in AL-only leagues and larger mixed leagues. KAMERON LOE finally took a beating after three excellent starts. Loe’s performance as a starter is oddly reminiscent of the departed Ryan Drese: very few strikeouts and an exceptionally low (lucky?) hit rate on balls in play. JUAN DOMINGUEZ likewise faltered after three consecutive strong outings. He does have the stuff to get more strikeouts, though the results haven’t shown it lately. Both Loe and Dominguez are risky but potentially worthwhile selections for AL-only owners in need of pitching. The rest – young EDISON VOLQUEZ, R.A. DICKEY, and potentially JOSH RUPE – won’t help anybody.

September Call-Ups Have Little Impact
Texas has recalled catcher GERALD LAIRD, outfielder JASON BOTTS and infielders MARSHALL MCDOUGALL and ESTEBAN GERMAN since September 1st. Only Laird has played, starting five of twelve games this month while ROD BARAJAS has started six and SANDY ALOMAR just one. Laird and Barajas have alternated starts during the last eight games. I expect this arrangement to continue, although Laird might nab a little more time toward the very end. Job-sharing is the bane of the fantasy owner, so check those free-agent pools. At this stage of the season, with the eliminated teams doling out at-bats among so many players, you might just have to stick with Barajas.

Botts may supplant MARK DEROSA in right field or PHIL NEVIN at DH against lefties. Or, Texas might just let him draw the Major-League minimum as an observer. Texas faces a lefty on Wednesday, so take a gander at who starts. McDougall and German couldn’t gets fewer at-bats if they were dead, so don’t bother.

So The Rich Get Richer
The relative stasis is good news to owners of most Ranger position players. Texas didn’t recall prospect Ian Kinsler, so ALFONSO SORIANO won’t miss more than a game or two the rest of the way. The same applies to MARK TEIXEIRA, MICHAEL YOUNG and HANK BLALOCK. Blalock’s post-All-Star swoon continues unabated, but until the last week or so his fantasy stats were at least palatable. Lately, not so much. Blalock did hit his first homer in over a month Tuesday night. Keep him in your lineup and hope for the best. Outfielders KEVIN MENCH and GARY MATTHEWS will play every day, while DAVID DELLUCCI and ADRIAN GONZALEZ will start only against righties. Dellucci is useful in larger ESPN mixed leagues, while Gonzalez doesn’t quite make the cut.

Posted by Lucas at 11:55 PM

September 12, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled pitchers R.A. DICKEY and JOSH RUPE and outfielder JASON BOTTS from AAA Oklahoma. Texas also added infielder ESTEBAN GERMAN to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA and moved pitcher NICK REGILIO from the 15-day Disabled List to the 60-Day DL.

Oklahoma’s season ended yesterday with a first-round playoff loss to Nashville. Dickey will start on Tuesday and Rupe might also get a start or two. Botts reportedly doesn’t have the tools to play anywhere on the field, but I hope that Texas will at least let him take the place of Mark DeRosa or Phil Nevin against lefthanders.

I suppose German’s recall is reward for being a good organizational soldier. He certainly has nowhere to play, what with the infield cast in stone and DeRosa and Marshall McDougall already hanging around. German did have a fine season and might receive consideration for a bench spot in 2006, but that won’t translate into at-bats during 2005.

Texas has punted the issue of whether Ian Kinsler is ready for Major League ball. Check back in ’06.

Posted by Lucas at 11:23 PM

September 09, 2005

Weekend Photo

Posted by Lucas at 07:58 PM

September 05, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled reliever C.J. WILSON and infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL from AA Frisco.

Both have been recalled and optioned several times this season. Wilson will pitch in long relief, McDougall will sit at the end of the bench.

Posted by Lucas at 08:59 AM

September 02, 2005

The 1999 Rangers: Where Are They Now?

In 1999, the Rangers set a franchise record with 95 wins and won their third division title in four years. Eighteen position players and twenty pitchers took the field for Texas that season. Half of them still play baseball, but not necessarily in the Majors. A look at where everyone ended up:

Retired or no action after 1999:

Jon Shave (IF) – Failed to make the club in 2000, no record of him playing anywhere after 1999.
Mike Simms (OF) – Injured most of season, no record of play after 1999.

Retired or no action after 2000:

Mark Clark (SP) – Expensive and profound free-agent flop, cut with extreme prejudice in 2000. Ripped management, claimed several teams had interest in him. Only 32 but never pitched again, anywhere.
Scarborough Green (OF) – Spent 2000 with Texas, then disappeared.
Eric Gunderson (RP) – Pitched for Toronto and in minors for San Francisco in 2000.
Roberto Kelly (OF) – Played one more year for the Yankees.
Mike Munoz (RP) – Pitched briefly with Texas in 2000, signed again after season but did not pitch.
John Wetteland (RP) – Pitched one more year for Texas then retired at age 34 with back troubles.

Retired after 2001:

Nobody!

Retired or no action after 2002:

Luis Alicea (IF) – Replaced Mark McLemore in 2000 at 2B, then spent two years in Kansas City.
Mike Morgan (SP) – Pitched for Arizona 2000-2002, got a ring in 2001.

Retired or no action after 2003:

John Burkett (SP) – Pitched for Atlanta 2000-2001 and Boston 2002-2003. Last action was in 2003 ALCS against the Yankees.
Jonathan Johnson (P) – Texas finally gave up on him during 2001. Briefly appeared for Arizona in 2002 and Houston in 2003.
Lee Stevens (1B) – Spent 2000-2001 with Montreal, 2002 with Montreal and Cleveland, and a portion of 2003 with Milwaukee’s AAA club.

Retired or no action after 2004:

Kelly Dransfeldt (SS) – Had cups of coffee with Texas in 2000-2001, spent all of 2002 in AAA. Played for Boston and Cincinnati’s AAA squads in 2003, hit .333 (with no extra-base hits or walks) in fifteen games with the White Sox in 2004.
Tom Goodwin (OF) – Let go after 1999. Played for Colorado, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Cubs.
Rusty Greer (OF) – Under contract to Texas during 2000-2004, played a total of 218 games because of countless injuries. A terrific player when healthy.
Mark McLemore (2B) – Seattle super-utility man during 2000-2003, then finished with Oakland in 2004. Part of Seattle’s 116-win effort in 2001. Unfortunately, continued his trend of very poor postseason hitting.
Scott Sheldon (IF) – Spent two more years as a utility man for Texas, then played two years in Japan. Spent 2004 in Pittsburgh and Milwaukee minor leagues.
Todd Zeile (3B) – Switched to the Mets after memorably reneging on an oral agreement with Texas. Also played for the Yankees, Rockies and Expos. Played in the World Series for the Mets in 2000.

Active, in Majors:

Royce Clayton (SS) – Arizona’s regular shortstop. Played one more year for Texas, then hopped to the White Sox, Milwaukee, Colorado and Arizona.
Doug Davis (SP) – Successful starting pitcher with Milwaukee. Average pitcher with Texas in 2001 as a 25-year-old, then banished to AAA in 2002 after a mediocre start of the season, then waived after making his first start in 2003. Struggled with Toronto but found his groove with the Brewers and former Ranger GM Doug Melvin. Still a source of controversy in pitching-poor Texas.
Jeff Fassero (RP) – Reliever with San Francisco. Ineffective late-season acquisition for Texas in 1999, has pitched for six different teams in the following six years.
Juan Gonzalez (OF) – “Active” in the loosest sense of the term. Traded to Detroit after 1999, spent one sulky season in hitter-unfriendly Comerica Park and turned down a seven-year, $140 million contract. Rebounded in Cleveland, then spent two lackluster and injury-filled seasons back in Texas plus another in Kansas City. Signed with Cleveland in 2005, missed first half of season with hamstring pull, reinjured it in first and only at-bat of the season. Future in doubt. Presently courting wife number four(?) in Puerto Rico.
Rick Helling (P) – Reliever with Milwaukee. Famously non-tendered by Texas after 2001, pitched with Arizona, Florida and Baltimore in 2002-2003. Signed by Minnesota in 2004 but suffered a broken leg, later pitched briefly with Texas AAA club. Retired after 2004, then returned.
Danny Kolb (RP) – Reliever with Atlanta. Intermittently effective with Texas, cut before 2003 then had two strong seasons in Milwaukee. Traded to Atlanta for Jose Capellan.
Esteban Loaiza (SP) – Starter with Washington. Traded by Texas for Michael Young during 2000, had a breakout season in 2003 with the White Sox followed by a poor 2004 that included an 8.50 ERA with the Yankees during a pennant drive. Pitching well again.
Rafael Palmeiro (1B) – Currently on Baltimore’s bench and a national pariah after angrily denying steroid use to Congress, then testing positive for them. Had four more excellent seasons for Texas, then, as in 1993, acrimoniously left Texas and signed with Baltimore. Power declined precipitously during 2004-2005.
Ivan Rodriguez (C) – Detroit’s regular catcher. Became a free agent after 2002. Played for the World Series-winning Marlins in 2003.
Gregg Zaun (C) – Toronto’s regular catcher. Spent three years in Kansas City after 1999, then two in Houston. Became a regular for the first time at the age of 33.

Active elsewhere:

Tim Crabtree (RP) – With Texas in AA. Named closer for 2001 season, lost job within a couple of weeks, allowed more than two baserunners per inning during season. Retired in 2003 after two unsuccessful efforts in the minors. Unretired in 2005.
Ryan Glynn (SP) – With Oakland’s AAA club, has pitched with the A’s this year. Cut loose by Texas after 2001, has since played for Milwaukee, Florida, Atlanta, Toronto and Oakland.
Corey Lee (SP) – Apparently in Japan. Traded to Chicago for Herbert Perry after 2001. Spent 2002-2005 in minor leagues with White Sox, Yankees and Angels. Pitched well for AAA Salt Lake but ask for his release to hop overseas. Still has just one Major League appearance.
Ruben Mateo (OF) – In Korea. Traded to Cincinnati (with Edwin Encarnacion) for Rob Bell during 2001, accomplished little with them, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Flew to Korea in 2005. Still only 27.
Danny Patterson (RP) – Traded to Detroit with Juan Gonzalez after 1999, pitched well when healthy. Released after 2004, currently pitching for the Padres’ rookie-level squad.
Matt Perisho (RP) – With Boston in AAA. Traded to Detroit after 2000, released in 2002, signed and released by Arizona, Tampa Bay and Colorado during 2002-2003, pitched for Florida during 2004-2005. Released by Florida during this summer.
Aaron Sele (SP) – Probably done. Pitched with Seattle during 2000-2001 and Anaheim the last three years until being cut. Texas signed him to a minor-league deal but he pitched poorly and requested his release.
Mike Venafro (RP) – With Los Angeles in AAA. Part of the Carlos Pena trade in 2002, played one season in Oakland, one in Tampa Bay and one in LA. Has spent entire 2005 season in minors.
Jeff Zimmerman (RP) – Still with Texas but hasn’t pitched since 2001 except for a couple of minor-league appearances. Signed a three-year extension with Texas after 2001 and has fought an arm injury ever since.

Posted by Lucas at 09:58 AM

September 01, 2005

Transaction

Texas recalled catcher GERALD LAIRD from AAA Oklahoma.

The Rangers lifted Laird despite Oklahoma fighting for a division title. For now, I'll guess Rod Barajas and Laird will play equally often with Alomar starting much less frequently.

Posted by Lucas at 06:16 PM

ESPN Column

September 1st Brings Little Change
Texas made only one roster move on the first day of roster expansion, recalling catcher GERALD LAIRD from AAA Oklahoma. For the next few days and probably through the PCL playoffs if Oklahoma retains its hold on first place, outfielder JASON BOTTS and second baseman IAN KINSLER will stay on the farm. Texas hasn’t indicated how often Laird will start. I’d guess not as often as ROD BARAJAS, swell for his owners but a disappointment for those who’d like to see the ostensible “catcher of the future” start some games in the present. Barajas will see a cut in his playing time, but not enough to cut immediately into his value too much. Laird might start more often as the season enter the final two weeks or so.

Ranger Hurlers Dominate!
After setting the game of baseball back 100 years during a 1-12 road trip, Texas finished its homestand 7-3 via six quality starts and two additional strong five-inning efforts. All for the sole purpose of frustrating my vain efforts to advise fantasy owners. With Texas playing the hopeless Royals (“Batting fourth, outfielder Terrence Long.”) over the weekend in pitcher-friendly Kaufmann Stadium, any Ranger starter merits consideration. CHRIS YOUNG starts Friday and is obviously the best choice. He suffered through a terrible six weeks in which his home run rate approach infinity, but since then he’s allowed one run in three starts. JUAN DOMINGUEZ pitches Saturday. He’s gifted, but who knows what he’ll do. Maybe six scoreless innings. Maybe six runs allowed in three innings.

Those needing help in AL-only leagues should give him a try. He might even have some value in mixed leagues for this particular start, but only to owners with desperate pitching situations. Don’t bother with JOAQUIN BENOIT, who belongs in relief. EDISON VOLQUEZ made a shaky but promising debut on Tuesday. The 22-year-old has split the season between high-A and AA, and though he struck out a million batters he also had a four-plus ERA. Don’t mess with him this year. KAMERON LOE has made two excellent starts in the past week, albeit against rather weak Twin and White Sock batters. He’ll face Minnesota on the road next. As with Dominguez, he could help an AL-only owner, but I can’t recommend him outright. He has yet to start on the road and doesn’t have much stamina.

Line Up
DAVID DELLUCCI and ADRIAN GONZALEZ play only against righties, while PHIL NEVIN and MARK DEROSA face lefties. The other non-catchers start every game. Dellucci is batting only .247 in August but otherwise has strong numbers (18 runs, 5 homers, 13 RBI). Remember to platoon him with another outfielder to maximize his value. Gonzalez hasn’t hit well of late but still should assist AL-only owners. Nevin is still owned in 49% of mixed leagues. He belongs in 0%.
With the Rangers facing several lefties lately, RF MARK DEROSA (yes, right fielder) has started more frequently and is hitting fairly well for once (.289 with two homers in August). He might offer a smidgen of help in larger AL-only leagues for a week or so, but he should (he’d better) hit the bench once Botts and friends arrive.

Cordero Okay
FRANCISCO CORDERO missed a couple of games with a stiff forearm and back, but since then he’s pitched and recorded saves in two of the last three games. He saved only three games in August, but that’s (mostly) not his fault. Owners needn’t worry about him.

Posted by Lucas at 01:56 AM