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December 31, 2005

Happy New Year from the Ranger Rundown


A Bar In Austin, 31 December 2001

Posted by Lucas at 07:17 PM

December 30, 2005

More on Millwood

Per the Startlegram’s Jim Reeves, Kevin Millwood’s contract:

2006: $6.0 million
2007: $7.5 million
2008: $8.5 million
2009: $11.0 million
2010: $12.0 million, which vests if Millwood pitched 540 innings during 2007-2009, or 360 innings during 2008-2009, or 180 innings in 2009. Texas has the option to keep him for $12.0 million even if he doesn’t reach those standards.

Millwood also receives a $15 million signing bonus paid over an “extended period.”

Cleveland did offer arbitration to Millwood, a "Type B" free agent, so Texas will forfeit a second-round draft pick next June. Texas won’t receive any extra picks since they declined to offer arbitration to their only rated free agent, Kenny Rogers.

Posted by Lucas at 08:01 AM

December 26, 2005

Rangers Ink Millwood

Texas signed free-agent pitcher KEVIN MILLWOOD to a four-year contract with a vesting fifth year.

Specific terms aren’t available at the moment. Millwood reportedly will receive $11-$12 million per season, and the fifth season vests upon pitching a certain number of innings. Thus, Texas will pay him somewhere between $44-$60 million depending on his health and performance. Millwood also reportedly received a partial no-trade clause.

Did the Rangers dive back into the free-agent pitcher pool or perform a belly flop? Certainly, Texas will enjoy the benefit of his services more than almost any other team, as his innings would have gone to replacement-level (or worse) pitchers. He easily assumes the mantle of #1 starter on this squad and propels it to contender status in a division with no overwhelming favorite. Millwood strikes out plenty of batters (7.39 per nine IP) and keeps the ball in the park despite a dubious 1.01 ground/fly ratio. Pitching on the road or in hitter-friendly environments doesn’t faze him. He has an ERA of 3.97 in 45 innings at Coors Field, 2.30 in 27 innings in Houston, 3.00 in one six-inning start in Arlington.

On the other hand, Millwood’s record is sometimes excellent but usually just barely above average. Over his eight full seasons, Millwood’s seasonal ERA+ from best to worst runs as follows: 162, 143 (last year), 127, 104, 103, 102, 100, 90. Also, Millwood has missed at least a few starts in three of the last five seasons. In 2001 he made only 21 starts because of an inflamed labrum. He started only 25 games in 2004 because of elbow tendonitis, and last year he missed three starts with a strained groin. I wouldn’t suggest that Millwood is only an average pitcher or is injury-prone, but he carries significant risks both in performance and health.

Here’s how Millwood’s last three years translate to Arlington using an identical number of batters faced and one-year park factors. The CERA in the table stands for Component ERA, a Bill James invention that predicts ERA based on peripheral stats (my formula varies slightly from his).

Team
Year
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
ERA
ERA+
WHIP
CERA
CERA+
PHI 2003 222 210 99 19 68 169 4.01 103 1.25 3.37 122
TEX 2003 217 227
98*
23 67 148
-
-
1.35 4.05 122
PHI 2004 141 155 76 14 51 125 4.85 90 1.46 4.62 94
TEX 2004 137 164
82*
14 54 118
-
-
1.59 5.39 94
CLE 2005 192 182 61 20 52 146 2.86 143 1.22 3.42 120
TEX 2005 190 188
81*
24 51 143
-
-
1.26 3.84 117
* Earned runs allowed for Texas based on CERA

Is he worth four-to-five years and up to $60 million? Probably no pitcher deserves a five-year deal. The risk of a career-ending or career-altering injury is just too high. However, given that the market has resumed mimicking the late 1990’s stock market after a two-year hiatus (Chan Ho Park = JDS Uniphase), I’m going to swallow hard and say that Texas made a good signing. Though Millwood’s contract is similar to Park’s, Millwood shows none of the emotional fragility or road-related performance troubles that cast doubt on the Park signing.

The Rangers aren’t the division favorite, but any conversation about the favorites should include them.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

December 24, 2005

Reviewing AL Lineups by Position

Note: "P-OPS+" and similar stats measure batters against their positional peers instead of the entire league.

Best AL Team Offense by Position

Pos Team OPS P-OPS+ BA OBP P-OBP+ SLG P-SLG+ R HR RBI BB SO Players
C Cleveland .815 135 .292 .365 117 .450 118 78 20 86 70 86 V Martinez, J Bard
1B NY Yankees .926 129 .275 .389 113 .537 116 95 42 118 96 122 T Martinez, J Giambi, A Phillips
2B Baltimore .861 136 .306 .379 116 .482 120 108 18 77 76 91 B Roberts, C Gomez, B Castro
3B NY Yankees 1.011 163 .317 .414 125 .597 138 122 47 129 88 140 A Rodriguez
SS Texas .891 133 .328 .380 113 .510 119 114 24 95 56 95 M Young
LF Boston .943 141 .286 .377 112 .566 129 122 46 153 86 134 M Ramirez, K Millar, J Payton
CF Cleveland .823 129 .287 .345 108 .478 121 115 23 83 54 139 G Sizemore, C Crisp
RF LA Angels .901 132 .297 .368 112 .534 120 110 35 122 64 60 V Guerrero, J Rivera, J Davanon, C Figgins
DH Boston .991 150 .295 .396 117 .595 133 114 44 146 102 123 D Ortiz

Worst AL Team Offense by Position

Pos Team OPS P-OPS+ BA OBP P-OBP+ SLG P-SLG+ R HR RBI BB SO Players
C Seattle .566 64 .216 .253 81 .313 82 54 10 46 24 123 M Olivo, P Borders, Y Torrealba, R Rivera, M Ojeda, D Wilson
1B LA Angels .703 79 .271 .324 95 .379 84 92 11 79 52 113 D Erstad, C Kotchmann
2B Kansas City .627 73 .235 .293 90 .334 83 66 9 55 44 100 R Gotay, T Graffanino, A Blanco, D Murphy, D Hocking, J McEwing
3B Cleveland .630 70 .229 .286 88 .344 83 63 15 64 40 116 A Boone, J Hernandez
SS Minnesota .608 66 .235 .283 86 .325 80 61 7 47 36 96 J Bartlett, J Castro, N Punto
LF Baltimore .671 75 .239 .289 86 .381 89 73 17 60 42 114 L Bigbie, E Byrnes, B Surhoff, D Newhan, E Marrero
CF NY Yankees .629 73 .243 .297 92 .333 81 68 7 60 50 99 B Williams, H Matsui, T Womack, B Crosby
RF Toronto .704 77 .261 .308 92 .397 85 91 12 76 35 133 A Rios, R Johnson, G Gross
DH Baltimore .639 65 .210 .277 82 .362 83 62 18 70 54 100 J Gibbons, S Sosa, J Lopez, R Pameiro, B Castro, B Surhoff, A Friere, C Gomez

Boston and Cleveland had a P-OPS+ of 110 or better at five positions. Chicago and Toronto had none.

Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle and Toronto had a P-OPS+ of 90 or worse at five positions. Boston had none.

New York's third basemen (i.e., Alex Rodriguez) were the best hitters in the American League relative to position, followed by Boston's and Cleveland's designated hitters (i.e., Travis Hafner), Boston's left fielders, and Cleveland's catchers. That revisionist history circa July 2004 about Ryan Drese justifying the Hafner trade? It needs further revision.

Seattle's catchers led the league in ineptitude at the plate, followed by Baltimore's designated hitters, Minnesota's shortstops, Cleveland's third basemen, and Baltimore's left fielders.

As bad as Minnesota's shortstops were, Christian Guzman was worse.

How in the world could a team's DHs hit .210/.277/.362 as Baltimore's did? No qualifying individual player in the AL finished with an OBP under .290 (whoops, Ivan Rodriguez!). They at least provided a valuable educational service to the nation's children by simulating the hitting environment on Neptune (poisonous atmosphere, gravitational pull 11x Earth's, temperature of -170C).

The group of best hitters combined for 692 walks and 990 strikeouts. The worst drew 315 fewer walks but only struck out four more times.

A team consisting of the best hitters by position would score about 1,075 runs (6.6 per game) in a season. The worst hitters would reach only about 560 runs (3.5 per game).

Posted by Lucas at 11:33 AM

Weekend Photo


Hollow Creek Ranch between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, Texas, July 2005

Posted by Lucas at 12:28 AM

December 21, 2005

Transaction

Texas non-tendered pitcher NICK REGILIO.

Regilio wasn’t within ten miles of arbitration-eligibility so I’m not sure why the verb is “non-tender” instead of “outright.” In any case, I suppose he has to pass through waivers (or already has). Wherever he ends up, he is expected to miss most of 2006 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The 40-man roster stands at 37 players.

UPDATE: Regilio signed a minor-league deal with Texas.

Posted by Lucas at 10:27 AM

The Rundown Runs Corrections

After reading about how Hideki Matsui would have become a free agent if New York hadn’t resigned him by November 15th, I thought that Japanese imports came to America as free agents with the same status as a Johnny Damon or A.J. Burnett. Wrong. They’re bound to their teams for six MLB season just like everyone else, even though they enter the U.S. market as free agents and have several years of experience. Matsui’s impending free agency was a function of his original contract, not the general system. Thus, Akinora Otsuka will only be arbitration-eligible after 2006 and not a free agent as I’d written yesterday.

Posted by Lucas at 10:12 AM

December 20, 2005

Arbitration for Everyone

Texas offered arbitration to pitchers JOAQUIN BENOIT and VICENTE PADILLA, catcher ROD BARAJAS, first baseman MARK TEIXEIRA, and outfielders GARY MATTHEWS JR., KEVIN MENCH and BRAD WILKERSON.

No surprises. Benoit, Teixeira and Mench are eligible for the first time. Adam Eaton will also go through the arbitration process.

Posted by Lucas at 11:53 PM

Ugh.

Texas traded pitcher CHRIS YOUNG, first baseman ADRIAN GONZALEZ, and outfielder TERRMEL SLEDGE for pitcher ADAM EATON, reliever AKINORI OTSUKA and catcher BILLY KILLIAN.

At best a lateral move in the short run, possibly a terrible move in the long run. Both Eaton and Otsuka are free agents after 2006, Eaton will earn in excess of $4 million, and he almost certainly won’t resign with Texas. Meanwhile, Young, Gonzalez and Sledge are company property and inexpensive for the next several years.

Two weeks ago with rumours bounding, Eaton expressed mixed feelings about pitching in Arlington: “It's not conducive to my style of pitching; I'm a fly-ball pitcher. If I was to stay there, it'd have to be for crazy money. Granted, that is an offense that's going to put up some runs. You could take a Coors Field approach to the game." Texas isn’t Coors Field, but the well-spoken Eaton nailed the disconnection between his pitching style and The Ballpark. Petco Park and its predecessor kill fly balls, whereas The Ballpark propels them into the ionosphere.

Eaton has a career ERA of 4.56 and a WHIP of 1.40 outside San Diego, so what would he look like in Ranger blue? I’ve translated his last three seasons based on one-year park factors and assuming he’d face the same number of batters. The CERA in the table stands for Component ERA, a Bill James invention that predicts ERA based on peripheral stats (my formula varies slightly from his). The stats with San Diego are Eaton's actual numbers, the stats with Texas are translations:

Team
Year
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
ERA
ERA+
CERA
CERA+
WHIP
SDG 2003
183
173
83
20
68
146
4.08
97
3.83
103
1.32
TEX 2003
178
187
94
25
69
134
---
---
4.77
104
1.43
SDG 2004
199
204
102
28
52
153
4.61
87
3.99
101
1.28
TEX 2004
193
220
106
35
54
144
---
---
4.95
102
1.42
SDG 2005
129
140
61
14
44
100
4.27
90
4.53
85
1.43
TEX 2005
126
150
75
19
41
86
---
---
5.34
84
1.51

As a Ranger, Eaton might have posted ERAs between 4.77 and 5.34 during the last three years. Moving from Petco to The Ballpark adds about 0.90 to his ERA. He would have allowed 40 additional baserunners including 17 additional home runs in Texas. During the last five years Eaton never finished with an above-average ERA+ in a park tailored to his skill set, so why would he do so in The Ballpark? After the Park fiasco, I’m assuming Ranger management isn’t so daft as to ignore park factors. So, what gives? Does management believe Eaton’s present performance level justifies the trade, or do they believe that in Ranger hands he’ll progress to the status of a #1 or #2 starter? Either supposition makes me queasy.

San Diego led off the NLDS against St. Louis with Jake Peavy, Pedro Astacio and Woody Williams. Eaton would have pitched Game Four had the Pads not been swept, but what does it say when rampant mediocrities like Astacio and Williams rank higher than him on the pecking order?

As for the starting pitcher moving the other way, Chris Young is a year younger than Eaton and signed for $1.1 million over the next two years followed by three years of arbitration-eligibility. Young struggled as summer waxed but still finished his rookie season with a WARP of 4.8, better than Eaton’s career-high of 4.6. As to how Young’s 2004-2005 translate to Petco Park:

Team
Year
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
ERA
ERA+
CERA
CERA+
WHIP
TEX 2004
36
36
19
7
10
27
4.71
107
3.80
133
1.27
SDG 2004
37
33
12
6
10
29
---
---
2.96
135
1.14
TEX 2005
165
162
78
19
45
137
4.26
105
3.66
123
1.26
SDG 2005
168
150
57
14
48
159
---
---
3.05
126
1.18

Yes, the extreme difference in parks makes direct comparisons troublesome, but, come next July, if Eaton has a 4.75 ERA and Young’s hovers in the low threes, Ranger fans will howl. And they should.

Adrian Gonzalez has yet to display his talents to full advantage in the Majors, but his Age-23 season in pitcher-friendly Oklahoma (.338/.399/.561) indicates he warrants a full-time job. Gonzalez arrived in 2003 with Ryan Snare and Will Smith in exchange for Ugueth Urbina. Texas surprisingly gave him a part-time DH role to start the season but seemed to sour on him within just two weeks, and he spent most of the next four months in AAA. He didn’t hit well upon his return, though he remained the top hitting prospect in the system going into the offseason. With plenty of 1B/DH types around, his departure was virtually guaranteed. It’s a shame Texas didn’t get more for him.

Otsuka keeps the ball on the ground and won’t suffer as much damage moving to Arlington. He struggled with his control last year and allowed a frightful 6.92 ERA on the road. For whatever reason, most of the damage came in a few games at Bank One Ballpark (six appearances, four losses, 1.1 innings pitched, 11 runs allowed). He had a 2.02 ERA everywhere else. Otsuka represents a substantial addition to the bullpen at a considerable discount ($1.75 million) from the crazy-money teams are throwing at middle relievers. I’m pretty sure he’s a free agent after next year.

I know squat about Billy Killian beyond his strong Irish heritage. San Diego drafted him out of high school 72nd overall in 2004, and Baseball America rated him the Pads’ #14 prospect. He spent most of 2005 in extended Spring Training. I suppose Texas will stick him in short-season Spokane or low-A Clinton.

Terrmel Sledge, we hardly knew ye. Sledge is a pot sweetener, perhaps not good enough for everyday play but definitely a solid fourth outfielder. I’d hoped to see what he could do in Texas, but no matter. His departure pales in comparison to his teammates.

Posted by Lucas at 08:20 PM

December 19, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup by Fielding Position

In ten prior entries, I detailed how the Rangers hit relative to the rest of the American League in terms of batting order. The tripartite time-suckers of work, holidays and closing on a house will limit my discussion of batting by fielding position to a couple of entries.

A quick explanation of a few derived statistics. You probably already know OPS and OPS+. If not, OPS is the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while OPS+ converts that number to an index based on the league average and player’s home park. 100 is always average, higher is better. OPS can mislead since it considers players with a .300 OBP and .500 SLG and those with a .400 OBP and .400 SLG to be equals. They aren't, as an extra point of OBP creates more runs than an extra point of slugging percentage. Therefore, I also like to display OBP+ and SLG+, the same type of indices as OPS+ but measuring separately a player’s effectiveness in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

The operative comparison for fielding position is not to the league as a whole but rather other players at the same position. For example, the average AL ballplayer batted .268/.330/.424 in 2005, but an average catcher batted only .256/.313/.392. An average catcher for Texas had to hit .267/.317/.408 because The Ballpark greatly assists hitters.

I use the term “P-OBP+,” P-SLG+” and “P-OPS+” to describe a player’s performance in terms of his fielding position instead of the entire league (P = position). If a Ranger catcher has a slugging percentage of .425, he’d have a plain vanilla SLG+ of 96 but a higher P-SLG+ of 104.

Ranger Offense by Fielding Position

Pos
OPS
BA
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
C .725 .256 .303 .423 69 21 76 33 88 0 0%
1B .936 .297 .378 .558 109 41 136 74 126 4 100%
2B .830 .270 .314 .515 107 38 107 37 127 31 94%
3B .745 .261 .317 .429 82 25 92 51 140 1 100%
SS .891 .328 .380 .510 114 24 95 56 95 5 71%
LF .850 .268 .336 .514 95 34 89 61 109 5 71%
CF .698 .241 .298 .400 85 17 73 53 121 11 85%
RF .737 .235 .305 .433 93 31 88 56 124 5 56%
DH .756 .244 .330 .427 97 26 69 71 151 4 57%
TEAM .798 .267 .329 .468 865 260 834 495 1112 67 82%

Rankings vs American League

Pos
OPS+
AVG+
OBP+
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
C
7
10
11
6
9
4
6
9
6
9
9
1B
3
3
2
2
1
2
1
4
10
4
1
2B
2
9
12
1
1
1
1
9
12
1
1
3B
8
13
9
9
6
4
3
8
12
13
1
SS
3
2
2
3
2
3
2
7
9
11
9
LF
4
12
9
3
5
2
4
3
11
9
7
CF
12
14
14
11
6
5
6
6
12
10
2
RF
13
14
14
12
4
4
8
6
10
9
11
DH
10
13
9
9
3
6
12
4
14
5
8
TEAM
4
13
10
3
3
1
3
5
14
9
1

Texas first basemen and shortstops ranked second in the American League in P-OBP+. At no other position did they rate better than ninth out of the league's fourteen teams, and they were dead last in CF and RF. As I'd mentioned in prior entries discussing the batting order, the team's seemingly low walk total of 495 actually ranked fifth in the league. Texas batters showed adequate patience in 2005; no position was exceptionally good or bad at drawing walks relative its peers. Where they struggled was getting the bat on the ball. Texas hit .267 in a hitter's park in a league that hit .268. They held off Toronto for the league's worst AVG+ by .0009.

Texas led the league in homers. No position finished worse than sixth. Only their catchers ranked worse than sixth in runs scored, and only the right fielders and designated hitters ranked lower than sixth in RBI. Ranger up-the-middle players (C, 2B, SS, CF) belted exactly 100 homers, fifteen more than runner-up Cleveland. Excluding Texas, the league average was 57.

The Rangers led the league with the most strikeouts. Only their catchers ranked among the top half relative to positional peers.

Ranger Batters By Fielding Position

CATCHER
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
R. Barajas 72% .771 111 .254 .306 97 .466 114 53 21 60 26 70 0 0
S. Alomar 22% .644 80 .278 .311 98 .333 82 11 0 14 5 11 0 0
G. Laird 7% .500 40 .205 .244 77 .256 63 5 0 2 2 7 0 0
1ST BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
M. Teixeira 95% .955 130 .302 .383 110 .572 120 107 40 133 71 121 4 0
A. Gonzalez 4% .612 51 .214 .290 84 .321 67 2 1 3 3 4 0 0
Others 1% .400 0 .200 .200 58 .200 42 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2ND BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
A. Soriano 95% .822 114 .269 .311 95 .511 119 101 35 101 33 124 30 2
M. DeRosa 4% .967 152 .240 .367 112 .600 140 5 3 6 4 2 0 0
Others 0% 1.333 259 .667 .667 203 .667 156 1 0 0 0 1 1 0
3RD BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
H. Blalock 97% .751 93 .263 .318 95 .432 97 79 25 90 51 130 1 0
Others 3% .545 40 .227 .227 68 .318 72 3 0 2 0 10 0 0
SHORTSTOP
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
M. Young 96% .905 137 .332 .385 115 .520 122 111 24 91 55 87 5 2
M. DeRosa 4% .585 55 .250 .273 81 .313 73 3 0 4 1 8 0 0
LEFT FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
K. Mench 66% .848 112 .279 .338 100 .511 112 52 21 57 34 56 3 1
D. Dellucci 28% .870 116 .231 .332 98 .538 118 37 12 27 25 41 2 1
G. Matthews 3% 1.031 156 .400 .381 113 .650 143 4 1 3 0 4 0 0
J. Botts 3% .551 45 .235 .316 93 .235 52 2 0 2 2 8 0 0
CENTER FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
G. Matthews 60% .729 95 .247 .317 97 .412 98 53 11 40 39 70 7 2
L. Nix 35% .667 77 .241 .268 82 .399 94 28 6 32 9 45 2 0
Others 5% .521 44 .154 .290 89 .231 55 4 0 1 5 6 2 0
RIGHT FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
R. Hidalgo 49% .730 81 .229 .298 89 .432 92 43 16 43 25 67 1 2
K. Mench 22% .660 67 .227 .308 92 .352 75 19 4 16 15 11 1 2
G. Matthews 13% .824 102 .247 .318 95 .506 108 13 5 11 8 16 2 0
M. DeRosa 12% .783 94 .250 .325 97 .458 97 14 4 8 8 18 1 0
Others 4% .815 95 .259 .259 77 .556 118 4 2 10 0 12 0 0
DH
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
D. Dellucci 43% .877 120 .266 .392 115 .485 105 53 14 27 45 67 2 2
A. Gonzalez 19% .706 73 .231 .270 79 .436 94 14 5 14 7 31 0 0
P. Nevin 15% .580 45 .176 .250 73 .330 71 15 3 8 8 27 2 0
C. Allen 7% .675 70 .286 .318 93 .357 77 4 0 4 2 8 0 1
M. Teixeira 5% .932 126 .294 .314 92 .618 134 5 3 11 1 3 0 0
M. Young 3% .659 72 .278 .381 111 .278 60 3 0 0 3 4 0 0
Others 8% .558 43 .205 .286 84 .273 59 3 1 5 5 11 0 0

Rod Barajas performed admirably on offense and defense, easily earning the $1.8 million that John Hart granted him (because Hart would rather swallow a live beetle than go to arbitration). His 2004 was a mirage: six amazing weeks followed by the usual .230/.270/.360 slop. In 2005 he hit pretty well all season long; not great, but good enough. He hit better on the road (.838 OPS) and after the All-Star break, both highly atypical for a Ranger. I sure didn't see that coming.

Mark Teixeira's 2005 in Ranger single-season history: tenth in slugging percentage, fourth in total bases, tenth in doubles, third in RBI, second in extra-base hits, seventh in times on base.

Alfonso Soriano's OBP of .309 would rate below average even if he were a catcher, the weakest offensive position in the league. Conversely, his .512 slugging percentage would rate well above average even ar first base, the strongest position. In the AL, left fielders bested second basemen by .009 in OBP and .025 in slugging, so Soriano would effectively lose that much value with his bat if he moves to left in 2006. If he can provide merely mediocre defense there as opposed to his usual horror show at second, it's a wash.

The casual fan might judge Blalock on his .263 average with 25 homers and 92 RBI; solid, right? Well, no, he finished ninth in both OBP and slugging relative to his position, so clearly he didn't bat terribly well. But, 92 RBI! Third in the league! Quite so, but on the other hand he also lost .013 of batting average, four doubles, seven homers and 26 walks from his 2004 campaign. Also, relative to other cleanup hitters, he performed exceptionally poorly. But, but, 25 homers by a third baseman! And so forth. Try to avoid these arguments with drunks in bars. (Incidentally, I don't mean to deride casual fans of baseball. I enjoy watching football but instantly nod off when announcers expound upon the intracacies of "Cover 2." As with any pastime or hobby, fans enjoy baseball with varying levels of intensity. Because my enjoyment is intense and my nerdliness* profound, I usually express my love of baseball in spreadsheet form.)

Infielders not named Teixeira, Soriano, Blalock or Young garnered a grand total of 123 plate appearances, of which Mark Derosa had 75.

Pity poor Marshall McDougall, the ostensible backup infielder who batted all of eight times while making two appearances at second base, one at short and five at third.

Gary Matthews didn't quite hit or field well enough to score positively in Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA) or its counterpart in fielding (FRAA) according to Baseball Prospectus. The last Ranger center fielder to do both? Not Tom Goodwin. Not Daryl Hamilton, who really wasn't great as a Ranger, just an improvement on his predecessors. Not, ahem, Juan Gonzalez, who actually came pretty close in 1991-1992. Not Gary Pettis. The answer is Oddibe McDowell, who had a BRAA of +1 and an FRAA of +6 in 1987, while yours truly was surviving the golden years of being old enough to vote but not enough to drink. An unfortunate combination, for having to choose between George the Elder and Michael Dukakis compels alcohol consumption.

Just under one-half of the right-field plate appearances went to Richard Hidalgo, who batted .229/.298/.432 (P-OPS+ of 81) and lost his job (technically he got hurt, but why quibble). His replacements hit a depressingly similar .240/.314/.434 (P-OPS+ of 86).

Designated hitters other than David Dellucci made 375 plate appearances and batted a dire .228/.286/.387 (68 P-OPS+). Yes, DH is where Phil Nevin applied his craft, but Adrian Gonzalez and Chad Allen also floundered when assigned hitting-only duties.

* The extent to which one is a nerd. Can be estimated with calipers, but exact measurement requires a piezometer.

Posted by Lucas at 11:07 PM

Transaction

Texas sent pitcher RICARDO RODRIGUEZ to Philadelphia to complete the trade for Vicente Padilla.

The Rangers acquired Rodriguez along with Shane Spencer from Cleveland in 2003 for outfielder Ryan Ludwick. For a week in July 2004, Rodriguez made the trade look pretty one-sided with a three-hit, two-walk shutout (of the Tribe, no less) followed by a scored six-and-one-third versus Toronto. During a less impressive start against Anaheim, he took a line shot off his elbow and missed the last two months of the season. Rodriguez pitched himself back to AAA the next spring, and though he rejoined the Rangers as Ryan Drese’s replacement, he didn’t pitch well and wound up disabled again by August. He departs Texas with five wins, fourteen starts and three relief appearances, a 4.41 ERA in 84 innings, 29 walks and 39 strikeouts.

The 40-man roster has one opening.

Posted by Lucas at 05:28 PM

December 16, 2005

Transaction

Texas signed infielder D’ANGELO JIMENEZ to a minor-league contract.

Interesting. Cincinnati stunningly jettisoned Jimenez last May after 35 dreadful games (.229/.319/.295) although he was only 27 and also had an arbitration-induced salary of $2.8 million. Jimenez proceeded to hit .278/.401/.422 for AA (yes, AA) Chattanooga.

Jimenez is three years younger than Mark DeRosa and has a superior OBP+ (105 vs. 95) and SLG+ (90 vs. 88). They rate similarly with the glove. What Jimenez currently lacks is a 40-man roster spot and a guaranteed contract, but that situation ought to change between now and April. At this point, I think Ian Kinsler will have to destroy Spring Training pitchers to make the squad because Texas probably won’t have room for him, Kinsler and Jimenez. Texas could do worse than to have Jimenez manning second base for a while, assuming his 2005 was an anomaly, and let Kinsler get some seasoning in Oklahoma. In 2004, Jimenez had a better WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) than Alfonso Soriano. No kidding.

Posted by Lucas at 10:57 PM

Weekend Photo



In the La Sal Mountains east of Moab, Utah, May 2001.

Posted by Lucas at 11:56 AM

December 14, 2005

Transaction: Shouse and DeRosa Sign

Texas signed reliever BRIAN SHOUSE to a one-year contract for $725,000 and utility guy MARK DEROSA to a one-year deal for $675,000.

Shouse is 37 and earned his first arbitration-induced raise. His ERA leapt from 2.23 in 2004 to 5.23 last year, though his performance wasn’t that much worse. He did allow seven homers compared to three the previous year and didn’t induce as many grounders. Shouse breezes against lefties, while righties chew him up:

OPS of Lefties vs Shouse, 2003-2005: .501, .555, .628
OPS of Righties vs Shouse, 2003-2005: .916, .807, .924

DeRosa provides excellent depth, able to play anywhere but catcher and center field. For the moment, he and Ian Kinsler enter next spring as competitors for the second base job. Kinsler had a solid first season in pitcher-friendly Oklahoma --.274/.348/.464 – but not one that screams “ready to face Roy Halladay.” If DeRosa wins the starting role, his presence negates much of gain from trading Soriano for Wilkerson. (That assumes Wilkerson is a better player than Soriano. I am willing to make that assumption.) Put another way, a team constructed such that Mark DeRosa keeps someone else on the bench is not a team destined for postseason play. In a perfect world, DeRosa provides value by spelling Hank Blalock and David Dellucci against tough lefties.

Posted by Lucas at 02:54 PM

December 12, 2005

Transaction

Texas acquired pitcher VICENTE PADILLA for a played to be named.

Padilla entered baseball as a reliever for Buck Showalter’s Diamondbacks in 1999. In 2000, he was shipped with three others to Philadelphia for Curt Schilling. The Phils converted him to starter in 2001, and during the next two years he tossed 415 innings with an ERA+ of 115. In October 2003, Pasilla survived a car crash that killed his driver. He pitched a less effective 262 innings during 2004-2005 due to tendonitis of the triceps and biceps. Padilla offers respectable peripherals across the board and a solid (though declining) ground/fly ratio. The arbitration-eligible Padilla earned $3.2 million in 2005 and didn’t pitch terribly, so Texas will dispense $4-5 million for his services. He ought to break camp as part of the rotation.

Obviously, the quality of this deal hinges on who the Rangers surrendered. Because of his rather large impending payday for 2006 and free agency afterwards, I don’t expect that Texas lost too much.

Posted by Lucas at 06:57 PM

December 09, 2005

Weekend Photo



Ripper the Dog, April 2005, Hill Country Recreation Area.

Posted by Lucas at 11:24 PM

Transaction

Texas signed pitcher JAYSON DUROCHER and JOSE SILVA to minor-league contracts.

Durocher has wandered around Organized Baseball for twelve years and has 55 Major-League innings to his credit. Montreal selected him in the ninth round of the 1993 draft. The White Sox swiped him in the 1996 Rule 5 draft but returned him just before the 1997 season began. He spent 2000 with San Diego (AA, AAA) , 2001 with Texas (AA, AAA), and in 2002 posted some fine numbers as a rookie with Milwaukee: 1.88 ERA, 48 baserunners and 44 strikeouts in 48 innings. Various injuries ruined his 2003, and he didn’t pitch at all in 2004-2005 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Durocher is 31.

Silva hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2002 and spent 2005 in Mexico. He has a career ERA of 5.41 (83 ERA+) split among 53 starts and 101 relief appearances. He sports adequate control and strikeouts and a lousy hit rate. Silva turns 32 in a few days.

Posted by Lucas at 06:40 PM

Oh, What A Difference A Park Makes

Some plain vanilla translations based on 2005 park factors. No adjustments for relative quality of team offense, batting order position, etc.

Alfonso Soriano's 2005 Translated To Washington

Category
As a Ranger
As a National
Difference
AVG.268.251
-.017
OBP.309.297
-.012
SLUG.512.458
-.053
OPS.821.755
-.066
AB637633
-4
R10795
-12
H171159
-12
2B4343
0
3B22
0
HR3628
-8
RBI10492
-12
BB3337
+4
SO125133
+8
SB3031
+1

Brad Wilkerson's 2005 Translated To Texas

Category
As a National
As a Ranger
Difference
AVG.248.263
+.015
OBP.351.355
+.004
SLUG.405.440
+.035
OPS.756.795
+.039
AB565573
+8
R7686
+10
H140151
+11
2B4242
0
3B79
+2
HR1114
+3
RBI5764
+7
BB8476
-8
SO147138
-9
SB88
0

Posted by Lucas at 11:25 AM

December 08, 2005

Transaction

Texas traded IF Esteban German to Kansas City for reliever Fabio Castro, who was selected from Chicago (AL) with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft.

Texas continues its quest to acquire every prospect in the White Sox system. Castro doesn’t turn 21 until next month and has never pitched above high-A, but Texas must add him to the 40-man roster and keep him on the active roster all season or run him through waivers. The lefty has struck out over a batter per inning in his career and has terrific hit and homer rates that compensate for his mediocre control. Texas has plenty of backup-infielder types, so no loss there.

The Texas 40-man roster is full.

UPDATE: No, it isn't. German was on the 40. The roster has 39 players.

Posted by Lucas at 11:50 AM

December 07, 2005

Transaction: Soriano Traded

Texas has traded 2B ALFONSO SORIANO to the Washington Nationals for OF BRAD WILKERSON, OF TEREMEL SLEDGE, and pitcher ARMANDO GALARRAGA.

Hello, Jon Daniels!

Montreal picked Wilkerson 33rd overall in the 1998 and he debuted in 2001. He is two years younger than Soriano and has a career line of .256/.365/.452, an OBP+ of 107 and an SLG+ of 104. Wilkerson hit only eleven homers in 2005 after popping a career-high 32 the year before. He didn’t miss many games in ’05 but did suffer from a variety of minor ailments that may have sapped his power. Wilkerson plays the corner outfield positions well and can hold down center field. He enters his second year of arbitration eligibility and made a hair over $3 million in 2005.

Sledge is two months older than Wilkerson but has played only one full, healthy season in the Majors. He batted .269/.336/.462 for Montreal in 2004, then missed most of last year with hamstring and shoulder injuries. Arguably, Sledge has the talent to start, but where he fits among Wilkerson, Mench, Dellucci, Matthews, Nix and Boots remains to be seen. Both he and David Dellucci bat lefthanded, so they don’t make a conventional platoon.

Baseball America rated the soon-to-be 24-year-old Galarraga Washington’s #5 prospect one month ago. Galarraga dominated the high-A Carolina League for half a season, then posted a 5.19 ERA with adequate peripherals for AA Harrisburg. Washington just placed him on their 40-man roster in October, so Texas has ample time to groom him.

So, what will Texas do with its suddenly crowded outfield? They now have seven outfielders with ML experience. Are they prepared to enter 2006 with Ian Kinsler at second? Will they need to clear room on a 40-man roster that now has 39 players? Daniels probably has more deals to make. The Soriano trade gives him about $5 million extra spending money.

The departed Soriano finds himself without a position for the moment, as Washington already employs Jose Vidro, though Vidro does have lingering knee problems. Frank Robinson might have to sweet-talk Fonzie into an outfield spot.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

Transactions: No Arbitration For Anyone

Texas declined to offer arbitration to pitchers Kenny Rogers, Doug Brocail and Steve Karsay, catcher Sandy Alomar, 1B Greg Colbrunn, and OF Richard Hidalgo.

No surprises except for perhaps Rogers. Apparently, his contract prohibited an arbitration offer, raising the question of why it was ever speculated.

Posted by Lucas at 07:41 PM

Transaction: Wasdin Stays

Texas signed pitcher JOHN WASDIN to a one-year contract for $600,000.

Wasdin enjoyed a career renaissance in 2005, pitching very well in relief and improving his peripherals across the board. This contract recalls the $1 million bestowed upon Doug Brocail last year and the two years given to Herbert Perry after 2001; it’s really more a reward for a previous season’s unexpected adequacy. The free-agent pool will be filled to overflowing with pitchers of Wasdin-like ability after tonight’s arbitration deadline, but Texas evidently wanted the sure thing.

There’s no denying Wasdin’s improvement in 2005. As for 2006, well, cross your fingers. Wasdin didn’t do anything in pitcher-friendly Oklahoma to earn last year’s promotion other than wear his veteran’s badge and draw breath. He remains a flyball pitcher in a stadium that propels them to Grand Prairie, and his low .276 average on balls in play carries the strong scent of good luck, not skill.

If Texas intends to use Wasdin as a longman and team mop, fine. Nothing terribly wrong with having him on a team that will almost certainly carry twelve pitchers. He might allow Texas to save the bullpen and convert some early-inning 5-2 deficits into 8-7 victories. However, if Texas expects him to start or set up capably, they’re bound for disappointment, as are all of us.

Posted by Lucas at 05:36 PM

December 03, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Wrap-Up

Ranger Offense by Position in Batting Order

Pos
OPS
BA
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
1.785.243.321.4641223782761711179%
2.906.326.385.520118278865102467%
3.940.302.380.56111240146741214100%
4.762.266.317.445842792471425100%
5.829.265.321.50810836111471202593%
6.697.234.291.4067924754798457%
7.704.240.303.40276197251138583%
8.801.268.328.47488278950108556%
9.728.256.307.421782379381124100%
TEAM.798.267.329.46886526083449511126782%

Rankings vs American League

Pos
OPS+
BA+
OBP+
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
1
8
14
14
4
3
1
2
1
14
9
3
2
1
1
1
1
2
1
2
2
4
14
11
3
2
1
3
2
3
2
2
3
10
10
1
4
14
10
14
11
12
7
8
14
12
8
1
5
4
9
12
4
2
2
2
9
10
1
1
6
13
13
13
11
7
4
8
10
3
10
7
7
12
10
10
11
7
3
9
6
13
9
2
8
2
3
5
1
1
1
1
6
10
8
9
9
8
7
10
6
3
2
2
9
10
12
1
TEAM
4
8
10
3
3
1
3
5
14
9
1




Lessons Learned

The Rangers' 10th-ranked OBP+ overstates their apparent ineffectiveness at reaching base. OBP doesn't vary among teams as much as slugging; Only Boston (105) and Seattle (96) had an OBP+ more than three points removed from the median. Texas had an OBP+ of 99. In essence, Texas batted for average and reached based just slightly worse than the average team.

Having said that, Texas achieved a lineup-adjusted OBP+ of 100 or better from only three spots: #2 (mostly Michael Young), #3 (mostly Mark Teixeira) and #8 (Matthews, Hidalgo [really], Barajas, DeRosa and others). In all of the otherspots, Texas ranked among the bottom five in the league.

Texas ranked among the league's best in hitting for power even after compensating for their friendly home park.

Ranger #1 hitters led the league in walks yet had the worst OBP+ because of a .243 batting average. Hitters not named David Dellucci garnered 44% of the plate appearances and hit .241/.293/.427. Only Seattle's cleanup hitters struck out more than the Rangers' #1 hitters.

Michael Young and Mark Teixeira are forces of nature, and we should respect them.

It pains me to say this, but the absolute worst Ranger hitter based on expectations and batting position was Hank Blalock, who spent most of the season generating outs from the cleanup spot.Against lefties in 2005: .196/.228/.356, seven walks, 53 strikeouts. On the road in 2005: .231/.276/.335, 21 walks, 70 strikeouts, only five of his 25 homers.

Texas drew 495 walks, which sounds low but actually ranked fifth in the league. In 2005, AL teams drew 3.02 walks per nine innings, the lowestsince 1919. I kid you not.

Stump your friends: Which team led the AL in stolen base efficiency and fewest sacrifice flies? The Texas Rangers.

Other Teams

Best L-OPS+ Best L-OBP+ Best L-SLG+
New York #5 (143) New York #5 (117) Cleveland #9 (130)
Cleveland #9 (140) Texas #2 (115) New York #5 (126)
Texas #2 (139) New York #6 (114) Texas #2 (123)
Boston #3 (137) Boston #3 (114) Boston #3 (123)
New York #6 (130) Boston #8 (114) Boston #4 (120)
Worst L-OPS+ Worst L-OBP+ Worst L-SLG+
Chicago #7 (67) Chicago #3 (85) Chicago #1 (77)
Seattle #8 (68) Chicago #7 (86) Seattle #8 (80)
Chicago #3 (71) Seattle #8 (88) Chicago #7 (81)
Oakland #3 (73) Seattle #9 (89) Oakland #3 (81)
Oakland #6 (73) Oakland #6 (89) Minnesota #2 (82)

Boston's entire lineup had an L-OBP+ of 102 or better. Their L-OPS+ by spot in the order: 110, 110, 137, 128, 103, 109, 110, 120, 92.

Chicago's #1, #3 and #7 hitters were among the worst in the league.

Detroit's lineup had an L-OBP+under 100 from every spot except #1 (101).

Kansas City's offense resembled the '82-'85 Rangers:really bad, but not quite bad enough to be historical or even interesting.

L-OPS+ for Minnesota's first four spots in the order: 86, 76, 86, 80. The next four spots: 101, 106, 104, 109.

L-OPS+ for New York for all spots: 113, 93 (Tony Womack!), 116, 107, 143, 130, 103, 117, 82.

Oakland's #3 hitters batted .253/.317/.382.Good luck scoring runs with that.

Seattle had Ichiro!, Sexson, and not much else. The Mariners didn't achieve an L-OPS+ above 90 for any other spot in the lineup. Their #8 and #9 hitters combined to "hit" .222/.273/.309.

L-OPS+ for Toronto's first six spots in the order: 90, 90, 76, 85, 91, 90.

Posted by Lucas at 01:10 PM