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April 30, 2006

DeRosa Returns

Texas activated infielder MARK DEROSA from the 15-day Disabled List and optioned outfielder ADAM HYZDU to AAA Oklahoma.

50,000,000 DeRosa fans can't be wrong.

Posted by Lucas at 08:35 PM

April 28, 2006

Weekend Photo

Hollow Creek Ranch, near Fredericksburg, Texas, 16 July 2005

Posted by Lucas at 07:36 PM

April 25, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Patience Rewarded
After ten games, Kevin Mench had a sore toe, zero homers and zero runs batted in. Ten days later, Mench has a new pair of shoes, four homers and fourteen RBI. Unfortunately, more than one-half of his mixed-league owners had decided to cut bait just as he began to wallop the ball. Such is the price of compacting a player’s potential into two weeks of box scores. Certainly, each fantasy league’s winner will have made tough evaluations and bold moves in the early days of the season, but the keys are patience and thoughtfulness. If a player is struggling, his owner shouldn’t consider whether a potential replacement will outhit or outpitch him for the rest of the season, not just next week. That seems obvious, but watching your #7 pick offer yet another zero-for-four can test your resolve. Always take a couple of deep breaths before making a roster move with only modest upside.

Patience Revisited
Francisco Cordero partially absolved his previous sins by getting an easy, quiet save against Seattle one night after his low point as a reliever. Over the weekend, he promptly committed the mortal sin of blowing a three-run lead in the ninth against the Devil Rays. Cordero had never before entered a game up by three and lost the lead. Nevertheless, Cordero will get as much slack as possible to correct himself. He did have shoulder problems in the spring but his arm and velocity seem fine. I’d suggest Akinori Otsuka would be a 2:1 favorite to get some save opportunities if Cordero loses his job. Antonio Alfonseca is a 2:1 underdog.

Pitching
Kevin Millwood’s ownership percentage in mixed leagues sits at 66.7%, which feels just about right. Millwood doesn’t have much value in smaller leagues. He pulled his ERA down to 4.20 with a rough but fairly run-free performance, and for the second consecutive start the bullpen coughed up his lead. For fantasy purposes, he’s Kenny Rogers with more strikeouts. Kameron Loe allowed six flu-ridden runs against Tampa Bay Friday and sickened a portion of his owners in the process. Loe is a decent pitcher but shouldn’t do more than tread water in ERA and WHIP. Add his K rate of four per nine innings, and what does he really offer? Mostly wins; he has none at the moment although he’s pitched well enough to win twice. Wins are awfully fickle, so when a pitcher’s most valuable fantasy attribute is wins, his value is pretty dubious.

John Koronka: Mr. Popularity?
A Ranger pitcher – a rotation member – is the most added player in ESPN’s AL-only league. On the heels of his eight inning, eight strikeout performance on Sunday, Koronka dropped his ERA to 3.75 and his WHIP to 1.17. Nice story, but I think his new owners should exercise extreme caution. In 550 innings spread among AA and AAA, Koronka has an ERA of 4.39, a WHIP of 1.49, and 3.7 walks and 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Which is to say, he hasn’t exactly dominated the minors. He’ll start next against a Cleveland squad averaging six runs per game. I understand the land rush on any pitcher who shows a glimpse of usefulness, but don’t expect much from him.

The Rest
If you really want to test your patience, keep holding on to Brad Wilkerson. I still think he’ll contribute fantasy value in mixed leagues. --- As mentioned last week, Gerald Laird won’t start more than once per series in the short term, but owners in AL-only leagues should keep an eye on him in case Rod Barajas’s season-long slump doesn’t abate. Laird belted seventeen homers in 75 AAA games last year. – Newcomer Drew Meyer started two consecutive games at second in place of D’Angelo Jimenez. Jimenez should get most of the starts and provide a stopgap in AL-only leagues.

Posted by Lucas at 11:55 PM

April 23, 2006

Mahay Up, Rheinecker Down, Dickey Out

Texas added reliever RON MAHAY to the 40-man and active rosters, sent pitcher JOHN RHEINECKER to AAA Oklahoma, and designated pitcher R.A. DICKEY for assignment.

The Rangers outrighted Mahay last August, four months into a two-year contract. Now, Texas will allow Mahay to earn some of his guaranteed $1.1 million in Arlington instead of Oklahoma City. The tougher roster decision will occur when injured reliever Brian Shouse returns. Texas won’t keep four lefties in the bullpen, and among Mahay, Shouse, Fabio Castro and C.J. Wilson, only Wilson can be relegated to the minors without repercussions.

The mild surprise is the waiver of Dickey, when Texas could have placed Frank Francisco on the 60-day DL to open another roster spot. No team will claim him. The question is whether Dickey will elect to proffer his knucklebally goodness in the Ranger organization or sign elsewhere. His previous designation gives him the right to refuse his assignment. I think he’ll stay.

Posted by Lucas at 08:09 PM

April 22, 2006

Rheinekcer Up, Shouse DL'ed.

Texas placed reliever BRIAN SHOUSE on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled pitcher JOHN RHEINECKER from AAA Oklahoma.

Texas wins the battle with Oakland over which traded pitcher would join the active roster first. Rheinecker has a bizarre line in AAA so far: ten Ks and only one walk in 15+ innings, but also 26 hits allowed and a 5.87 ERA. The hits aren’t necessarily just a function of luck. In 541 AA-AAA innings, Rheinecker’s opponents have batted a robust .325 on balls in play. He’ll start Saturday night against a salty Tampa Bay offense.

Shouse has a strained right calf and an opposing batters’ line of .316/.350/.632.

Posted by Lucas at 06:18 PM

Weekend Photo


Sunset at Muir Beach, California, 25 March 2006.

Posted by Lucas at 01:25 AM

April 21, 2006

Nix Optioned

Texas optioned outfielder LAYNCE NIX to AAA Oklahoma, added outfielder ADAM HYZDU to the 40-man and active rosters, and moved pitcher JOSH RUPE from the 15-day to the 60-day Disabled List.

Healthy, yes, but no more productive. After a late spring surge and Gary Matthews’s injury propelled Nix to a starting role, he opened the season with a line of .094/.118/.125, drew zero walks and struck out seventeen times in his 34 plate appearances. While just about anyone could hit that poorly in that short a span, Nix has a depressing affinity for these cold streaks. He now possesses a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.6 to 1 as a Major Leaguer.

Nix has walked a spiffy once per 9.8 plate appearances in the minors. Perhaps a long stretch in AAA will promote better pitch selection. He won’t turn 26 until the fall and had only 87 games of experience above A ball (all in AA) when Texas promoted him to Arlington.

Not that it’s anyone’s fault per se, but in three short weeks Texas mutated from a team with “too many outfielders” to having Adrian Brown and Adam Hyzdu on the active roster. Whee.

Posted by Lucas at 11:23 PM

April 20, 2006

Francisco Cordero, Supplier of Angst

Francisco Cordero hit bottom as a closer on Wednesday night when he entered the ninth with a 6-4 lead:

Plunked Ichiro! (0-1 count)
Allowed a ferocious double by Jose Lopez (1st pitch)
Allowed a Raul Ibanez sac fly to very deep right (1-0 count)
Allowed a Richie Sexson single to tie the game (2-1 count)
Allowed a Kenji Johjima single to put the winning run at second (1-1 count)

Perhaps for the first time ever, Buck Showalter pulled Cordero with the game still tied in the 9th. Against replacement reliever C.J. Wilson, Carl Everett hit a three-run blast that would have felled a dinosaur.

I don’t wish to downplay Cordero’s recent lack of success. Indeed, I didn’t have a margarita Wednesday night and cursed up a storm during the ninth inning (just ask my wife). However, I would suggest that many fans are calling for Cordero’s head not just because he failed, but because of how he failed. Both Wednesday night’s debacle and last week’s blown save and loss were walk-off losses. (Cordero wasn’t actually on the mound when Texas lost on Wednesday, but he’d might as well have been.)

Walk-off losses resonate. They can define seasons, at least in retrospect. Perhaps Cordero’s implosion will mean little if the Rangers win their next three or so, but if they follow with several more defeats, fans will remember April 19th. Being the pitiful fan that I am, I still remember a June 1997 game in which John Wetteland surrendered four runs to Colorado in 1997 and lost a game Texas led 8-2 in the seventh. The Rangers were 36-30 at the time and one game behind Seattle; the loss initiated a stretch of nine losses in ten games during which Seattle extended its lead to eight games.

As for Cordero himself, the local dailies have noted his lackluster save percentage and increased propensity to blow saves opportunities. Again, not to defend him, but I believe it’s worthwhile to note how infrequently he has served up a gut-wrenching walk-off loss.

Since becoming the full-time closer in August 2003 until this season, Cordero has converted 98 saves and blown 16. Eleven of the blown saves were of one-run leads, four were of two runs, and one was a four-run lead in which Cordero allowed both of Doug Brocail’s runners to score plus two of his own.

On how many of those occasions did Cordero enter the game with the lead, surrender the tying and winning runs, and walk off the field a loser during that inning? Exactly one. On September 13, 2004, Cordero entered the 10th inning at Oakland with a 6-5 lead. He permitted two runs on three walks and a hit and walked off with the goat horns.

Late in 2003 Cordero allowed the tying run in the bottom of the 9th and the winning run in the 10th. He also walked off a loser after entering a tie game in Minnesota in 2003 and conceding a ninth-inning run. But the devastating, blood-roiling act of surrendering the lead and the game without giving teammates an opportunity to come back? Just once in two-plus years. It’s a debatable talent, but Cordero seemingly has a knack for allowing only the tying run. Remarkably, Texas has triumphed in seven of the 16 games in which Cordero blew the save.

This season, of course, Cordero has walked off the mound a loser in Anaheim and effective did so in Seattle. He’s looked no better in non-save situations against Detroit and Oakland.

Should Ranger fans form a posse and run him out of town? I think not, but in any case it’s worth recalling 2002, when Texas parceled the save opportunities to Hideki Irabu, John Rocker, Anthony Telford, and other pitchers of similarly dubious standing. Cordero has pitched very well for several years, and, assuming he’ s healthy, he deserves ample time to recover.

Posted by Lucas at 11:58 PM

April 19, 2006

Transactions

Texas placed infielder MARK DEROSA on the 15-day Disabled List, added infielder DREW MEYER to the 40-man and active rosters, and moved pitcher ADAM EATON from the 15-day to the 60-day Disabled List.

Grady Fuson’s first pick and most notorious draft pick makes his big-league debut. The tenth pick of 2002, Meyer didn’t merit a spot on the 40-man roster last fall or a selection in the Rule 5 draft last winter. His career AA-AAA line of .281/.339/.363 shows far too much reliance on batting average for offensive value; he walks once every thirteen plate appearances and has five homers in 843 at-bats. Meyer doesn’t turn 25 until August and can play practically anywhere but catcher, so he has more upside than, say, 27-year-old Marshall McDougall. Perhaps he’ll get what has eluded McDougall: the opportunity to mature into a genuinely useful utility player.

Texas moved Eaton to the 60-day DL to accommodate Meyer.

Posted by Lucas at 11:30 PM

Off-Day Blues?

Ranger radio broadcaster Victor Rojas said the following in his entertaining blog “The Spoils:”

Back to back series now the Rangers have lead off with a win...I don't exactly know what the numbers are, but as I recall over the last couple of years the Rangers never seemed to fare well in the first day back from an off-day...that's not the case so far.

Fortunately for Texas and unfortunately for Mr. Rojas, he’s wrong. During his tenure (2004-present) the Rangers have a record of 22-13 after a single day off:

11-5 in 2004
9-8 in 2005
2-0 in 2006

Texas did lose six of its last ten after a day off in 2005, so perhaps the recent past has colored his recollection.

UPDATE: Changed from 23-13 to 22-13 upon further review.

Posted by Lucas at 12:59 PM

April 17, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Ownership Society

A look at ownership percentages of Ranger hitters in ESPN’s mixed and AL-only leagues, plus a word on the closer situation:

BRAD WILKERSON (72% mixed / 99% AL)
Wilkerson has endured an atrocious start and a demotion to the seventh spot in the batting order. I’ve written about his surplus of 0-2 counts and struggles with his few good counts here. Though he’s at .185/.214/.315, I wouldn’t drop him in any league yet. At least wait for some improvement against the weak staffs of Seattle and Tampa Bay. The drop in the order will cost several runs but could help his RBI.

KEVIN MENCH (48% mixed / 100% AL)
Mench missed several games with a sore toe but returned on Sunday. He has one run and no RBI in nine games. Except in small mixed leagues, I expect most owners will regret dropping him. He might be available in yours. Give him a chance.

GARY MATTHEWS (1% mixed / 92% AL)
Buck Showalter has handed Matthews the center field and leadoff positions in favor of Laynce Nix and Wilkerson, respectively. Matthews is nothing special but will provide decent returns to any AL-only league. He might offer a spurt that gives the appearance of usefulness in mixed leagues, but remember that his career bests are a .276 average, 72 runs, 17 homers and 55 RBI.

LAYNCE NIX (0% mixed / 55% AL)
On April 2nd I suggested Nix was worth a flyer in AL-only leagues. Now, not. Drop him.

D’ANGELO JIMENEZ (0% mixed / 76% AL)
Jimenez was expected to be the wrong end of a temporary platoon with Mark Derosa while Ian Kinsler healed. Derosa’s own problems have forced Jimenez into an everyday role. He can provide modest short-term value in AL-only leagues. His shelf-life is short.

IAN KINSLER (43% mixed / 100% AL)
The ESPNers have this right. Despite his fantastic start, I don’t expect Kinsler to be a worthwhile fantasy player in most mixed leagues. Very few rookie hitters are. Still, AL-only owners should hold on. Kinsler is why you have an extra DL slot. If you also own Coco Crisp, tough it out.

MARK DEROSA (0% mixed / 14% AL)
Derosa’s persistent ankle troubles have prevented him from starting in place of Kinsler or getting outfield at-bats against lefties, against whom he hits quite well. Texas might have to DL him. He’ll have very modest value in AL-only leagues upon his return, probably as a starter against many lefties.

GERALD LAIRD (0% mixed / 14% AL)
Laird has caught three of the last seven games after watching the first six. It’s possible that if he continues to hit well and Rod Barajas continues to falter, Laird could usurp the majority position. For the short and medium term, however, don’t expect Laird to catch more than one game each series. If you’re grumbling about your current catcher, keep one eye on Laird.

CLOSERING
Francisco Cordero hasn’t pitched well, blowing one save and terrifying teammates and fans in two other appearances. The concern is whether a sore shoulder that truncated his spring is legitimately affecting his pitching. I don’t know, but I think it’s unlikely. He’s still lighting up the radar gun, and he also missed much of last spring to minimal effect. More likely is that just slumping. Cordero has always struggled with control, steadily walking about four per nine innings during the last three years. Times of exceptionally bad control lead to bad results, thus, his current situation. If in fact the worst comes true, Akinori Otsuka should get the save opportunities, though Antonio Alfonseca has an outside shot.

Posted by Lucas at 11:25 PM

April 15, 2006

Brad Wilkerson's Bogus Journey

If you haven’t seen Brad Wilkerson swing a bat this season, you’ve missed quite a spectacle. At times, he looks no better than a random guy pulled out of the stands. He has one walk and 19 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances, and on many of those third strikes he definitely is not swinging for the fences. Rather, he is desperately attempting to make contact, literally flailing at the ball.

The good folks on the television have suggested that Wilkerson is seeing an abnormally high proportion of 0-2 counts. Is this true? In fact, it is painfully true. The following table compares 2002-2005 to 2006 in terms of how often Wilkerson faces a particular count as a percentage of his total plate appearances:

Count or Event
'02-'05
'06
2-0 18% 10%
1-1 45% 51%
0-2 18% 31%
In play after 2 pitches 18% 10%

Relative to his previous four years, this season Wilkerson has faced six more 0-2 counts and four fewer 2-0 counts than normal. For him, like for most hitters, the difference between a 2-0 and an 0-2 count is the entire world:

'02-'05
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
SO%
After 2-0 Count 0.336 0.599 0.646 40% 13%
After 0-2 Count 0.183 0.216 0.305 3% 50%

Or, the difference was the entire world. Unfortunately, so far in 2006 Wilkerson has failed to capitalize on his less frequent positive counts:

Excluding "After 0-2" Counts
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
SO%
'06 0.182 0.206 0.212 3% 35%
'02-'05 0.279 0.405 0.499 17% 19%

Despite his miserable debut as a Ranger, I expect Wilkerson to hit well and for this episode to be largely forgotten by season’s end. For now, Wilkerson personifies the Rangers' 4-7 start.

Posted by Lucas at 02:51 AM

Transaction

Texas activated pitcher C.J. WILSON from the Disabled List and optioned pitcher SCOTT FELDMAN to AAA Oklahoma.

The Rangers already had two lefties in the pen, but Brian Shouse is a LOOGY poster boy while Fabio Castro hasn’t merited use in anything approaching a high leverage situation. Wilson potentially gives Texas a lefty who can chew a whole inning or two in the middle of a close game. Potentially.

Among the logical candidates for demotion, only Feldman had options. Indeed, this option is just his first, so it’s not as if Texas is burning one needlessly. Feldman hasn’t even acquired 100 innings in professional baseball. He'll cope.

Posted by Lucas at 12:55 AM

April 14, 2006

Weekend Photo

Downtown Austin from the Zilker Park Clubhouse, 11 March 2006

Posted by Lucas at 02:13 PM

"P A N I C !" Revisited

How often and do what extent does Texas recover from a bad start?

I’ve arbitrarily defined a bad start as being at least four games under .500 at any point during April. The team could sweep its next three-game series and still be under water.

The Rangers have found themselves in this position in thirteen of their 34 seasons. On how many occasions did Texas finish with a winning record?

Two. Just… two.

In 1978 the Rangers dropped to 2-9 after losing the front end of a double header against Detroit. They won the second game for a split, but another loss dumped them back to seven games under .500. Texas immediately won seven straight to climb to 10-10, then hovered within seven games of .500 for the next four months. At 69-71 on Septemebr 10th, Texas roared to a 19-4 finish and ended twelve games above .500 and five behind Kansas City in the West.

The 1991 edition started with four consecutive losses. Texas quickly erased that deficit by winning five of six, and soon afterward they began their memorable, franchise-record fourteen-game winning streak. Almost as memorably, they lost eleven of their next twelve (including a 4-3, 18-inning loss to Kansas City that I still remember). Texas never surpassed eleven games over .500 but also never relinquished their winning record.

In the other eleven seasons, Texas finished an average of 22 games below .500. Those seasons include three of the four Dark Age years of 1982-1985 and three of the four almost-as-dark years of 2000-2003. Interestingly, in seven of those eleven seasons the Rangers recovered to .500 or better at some point during the season. The 2000 squad (which initiated what I call the Post-Winning Era) stumbled to 8-15 but won 21 of 32 to climb to 30-26. Unfortunately, they played .387 ball (41-65) thereafter.

A History of Bad Starts and Season Finishes (sorted by final Win%):

YEAR
Most Games Under .500 in April
Most Games Over .500 for Season
Most Games Recovered
Season Wins
Season Losses
Season Pct%
1978
-7 12 19 87 75 .537
1991
-4 11 15 85 77 .525
1975
-4 6 10 79 83 .488
1987
-9 0 9 75 87 .463
1994
-6 2 8 52 62 .456
2002
-9 -1 8 72 90 .444
2000
-7 4 11 71 91 .438
2003
-4 -1 3 71 91 .438
1988
-5 3 8 70 91 .435
1984
-6 0 6 69 92 .429
1982
-5 1 6 64 98 .395
1985
-7 -2 5 62 99 .385
1973
-6 -3 3 57 105 .352

Posted by Lucas at 01:34 PM

April 13, 2006

Transactions

Texas placed 2B IAN KINSLER on the 15-day Disabled List.

Ugh. Kinsler’s ill-fated slide will cost him three weeks. He suffered “only” a dislocated thumb and ligament strain; a torn ligament would have given him a three-month vacation. Buck Showalter will give most of the starts to Mark DeRosa over D’Angelo Jimenez even though DeRosa doesn’t hit righties.

Texas activated OF GARY MATTHEWS JR. from the 15-day Disabled List.

Matthews takes Kinsler’s place on the roster and Brad Wilkerson’s at the top of the lineup. Per Showalter:

Comparatively speaking, he’s as good a candidate as we have. He’s a guy you could potentially put there and leave alone.

I couldn’t agree more. After all, Matthews did go one-for-five last night, and the leadoff spot is the ideal location for someone with a career OBP of .327. Likewise, Wilkerson’s career OBP of .365 in 2,700 plate appearances is utterly nullified by his awful week-and-a-half as a Ranger.

Incidentally, I went three-for-three for my softball team last week. Comparatively speaking, I think there’s a pretty good chance I will never make another out. Ever.

Texas activated infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL from the 15-day Disabled List and optioned him to AAA Oklahoma.

Even with Kinsler’s injury, Texas doesn’t need poor McDougall.

Posted by Lucas at 11:33 AM

April 12, 2006

Baseball To Drink To

My father asked for my margarita recipe over the weekend, but after tonight’s debacle and 2-7 start I believe that every Ranger fan could use an alcoholic beverage. This recipe makes a healthy sized drink and provides an antidote to the too-sweet margaritas of most restaurants.

One part orange liqueur

I strongly discourage you from using Triple Sec, which just isn’t of sufficient quality. I often use Cointreau, though Grand Marnier works just as well. If in Texas and no farther west than Abilene, try Paula’s Texas Orange. While most orange liqueurs taste like candy, Paula’s has a pronounced citrus flavor that gives the drink some pop. It’s also cheaper than Cointreau.

Two parts tequila

The tequila in most restaurant “house” margaritas has a faintly oily tang similar to bad coffee. Buy better tequila, drink it in moderation, and live a richer life. El Jimador Silver works for me most of the time. When splurging, use El Jimador Anejo or something like Centennario Reposado. Incidentally, anejo tequila is aged longer, but the only difference between gold and silver tequila is food coloring. Silver tequila creates a prettier drink.

Four parts lime juice

I use Minute Maid frozen concentrate mixed double strength to impart a proper sweet-and-sour flavor. That is, instead of using 4 1/3 cans of water, use only 2 1/6. In my experience, grocery store brands are inferior, as are Bacardi-type mixers, which are too sweet. A fresh-squeezed lime wedge seals the deal.

A little olive juice

Make your margarita “dirty.” I usually pour the equivalent of a teaspoon or two straight out of the olive jar. I also put a few olives in the bottom of the glass before making the drink. They’re the prize in the Cracker jack box.

Consumed in advance of a Ranger ninth-inning collapse, this margarita will reduce your post-game rage by 50%. Enjoy.

Posted by Lucas at 01:49 AM

April 11, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

The Texas offense hasn't played well thus far, scoring only 29 runs in eight games. The killer has been the Rangers' .194 on-base percentage leading off an inning. They have zero leadoff walks.

Still, most of the guys expected to deliver fantasy production have done so. Michael Young is batting .294 with four runs and six RBI. Mark Teixeira has yet to homer but is hitting .385 with four runs and four RBI. Hank Blalock has a homer and a .300 average. You expect as much from them. Now to the men who've exceeded or trailed expectations.

OF Brad Wilkerson is 6-for-36 with one walk and sixteen strikeouts, and the stats don’t fib. He looks lost at the plate right now, taking belt-high pitches for strike two, then flailing at a 59-foot breaking pitch and trudging to the dugout. He does have five runs, three RBI, a homer and a steal, so he's really only punishing his owners in one category right now. Buck Showalter has expressed patience and no intention to drop him from the leadoff spot. Wilkerson owners should likewise be patient.

OF Laynce Nix longs for Wilkerson's line. Nix is zero-for-18 with no walks and seven strikeouts to start the season. Unlike Wilkerson, Nix risks far more than a drop in the order if he sputters. Already a benchwarmer against lefties, he might find himself in Oklahoma when Gary Matthews comes of the Disabled List, though the original plan calls for him and Matthews to share center field duties. This is pure speculation on my part; I've witnessed no rumors in the local media. Be prepared to grab Matthews in AL-only leagues if you need an outfielder. Matthews won't win your league title but can be a useful role player.

Showalter looks to start Rod Barajas more often than I expected, but Barajas has responded with a .160 average, three runs, a homer, and two RBI. Again, not terrible except for the average. Poor Gerald Laird has one start in eight games and won't help anyone in any league for now.

Kevin Mench left his bat in Arizona: .258 with one run, no dingers and no runs batted in. Also, no reason to drop him unless you’re in an eight-team mixed league with a heavily stocked free-agent pool.

On the flip side, DH Phil Nevin has allayed worries that he was cooked. His two homers and eight RBI lead the team. He won't win the MVP, but he's worth grabbing in the handful of mixed leagues where he’s available. True rookie Ian Kinsler is off to a righteous start: .450/.560/.700, four runs, a homer and two RBI. He's not a swing-at-everything poseur either, as his four walks and only two strikeouts attest. I'll reiterate that most rookies make for lousy fantasy players, but if you're hurting for middle-infield production in a mixed league you can try to ride his hot streak.

Kevin Millwood has pitched better than his 7.36 ERA would indicate, though it's faint consolation to his owners. In each of his two starts, one bad inning and a few bad pitches have ruined him. This isn't "Chan Ho, The Sequel." Still, I never thought much of him in smaller mixed leagues. Larger mixed-league owners (that's larger leagues, not larger owners) should hold steady, and AL-only owners would be foolish to drop him.

I still wouldn't bother with Vicente Padilla or Kameron Loe in all but the largest of mixed leagues. Padilla didn't impress despite getting the win in Sunday’s effort, and Loe is probably the kind of pitcher who'll help Texas more than your fantasy team. You probably don't know the back end of the Ranger rotation. In this case, ignorance really is bliss.

Posted by Lucas at 12:38 AM

April 10, 2006

P A N I C !

At what point does likelihood become inevitability? After how many games does a losing record guarantee a losing season?

You probably have read about the importance of avoiding a bad start. Teams that visit the postseason rarely begin the season by losing nine of twelve. Yes, both Oakland and Houston made the playoffs after dropping to fifteen games below .500, but most teams that start bad finish bad.

Does this maxim apply to the Rangers (2-5 after Sunday), and if so, at what point in the season? I compared the Rangers’ eventual finish to their record after every odd number of games played early in the year (an odd number insures a winning or losing record – no 5-5 or 7-7 standings to garble the analysis). I excluded strike-shortened 1981 and 1994 but accepted the 144-game ’95 season.

Does the first game forecast the season? Not in Texas. Prior to 2006, Texas had triumphed in seventeen openers and finished above .500 in eight seasons, just 47% of the time. Conversely, the Rangers have six winning seasons in the fifteen in which they’ve lost their first game (40%). The difference signifies nothing.

After three games, the crystal ball isn’t much less foggier except when the team really starts well or terribly. In the six years in which Texas has begun the season 3-0, they have four winning seasons and have averaged seven games above .500. On the other hand, they have only winning season (1991, 85-77) in five years when opening with three defeats; each losing team finished with no fewer than 90 losses.

The Rangers stood at 2-5 going into Monday’s contest against Los Angeles, but a review of previous seven-game starts doesn’t reveal much. Texas has had a record of 4-3 or better on fifteen occasions but finished above water only eight times (53%). They finished below .500 65% of the time (11 of 17) when they started 3-4 or worse. In six prior years, Texas began with a 2-5 record. In 1978 they managed to win 87 games. In strike-shortened 1995 they finished 74-70. On the other four occasions, they never lost fewer than 91 games.

In fact, the Rangers have no early tipping point at which time panic is “appropriate;” their starts doesn’t correlate strongly to their finishes until the 25-game mark. By then, the team has broadcasted its strength and weaknesses, if not its eventual record. Texas has been 13-12 or better after 25 games in nineteen season and finished with a winning record in thirteen (68%). Rather unimpressive, actually. Viewed differently, Texas has never finished worse than ten games below .500 after starting 13-12 or better. Thus, a respectable start at least foretells a not-terrible season. Satisfaction is where you find it, Ranger fans.

On the other hand, in the thirteen seasons in which Texas has a losing record after 25 games, they’ve ended with a winning record exactly once. In 1991, Texas began 11-14 and promptly won their next fourteen games. They proceeded to lose eleven of their next twelve but held on for an 85-77 finish. Their second best effort after a losing 25-game start was last year’s 79-83 mark. The other eleven times, Texas never finished better than 75-87.

Unfortunately for Texas, regardless of the number of games played, an early losing record indicates future losing much more than an early winning record predicts success. After 41 games (basically ¼ of the season), Texas has 21 winning records and only eleven losing records. Yet Texas has only fourteen winning seasons. The Rangers frequently start strong then falter during the summer. Their collapses aren’t myth or a product of selective memory. A table for emphasis:

Texas Rangers History
Above .500
Below .500
Record after 41 games 21 11
Record at end of season 14 18

On April 30th, Texas completes a three-game stand at Cleveland and will have played 25 games, weather permitting. Restrain expressions of hopelessness until then.

Posted by Lucas at 11:25 PM

April 07, 2006

Predictions

Forgot to post my predictions. I made them before the season started. Scout’s honor.

OAK   91-71
LAA   84-78
TEX   83-79
SEA   76-86

AL Central: Cleveland
AL East: Boston
AL Wild Card: New York
Worst Record: Kansas City

NL West: Los Angeles
NL Central: St. Louis
NL East: Atlanta
NL Wild Card: Philadelphia
Worst Record: Colorado

World Series: Oakland over Los Angeles

Posted by Lucas at 06:35 PM

Transaction

Texas optioned pitcher R.A. DICKEY to AAA Oklahoma, purchased the contract of pitcher RICK BAUER and added him to the active roster.

The Rangers have an organizational policy imposing a demotion for any pitcher who allows in excess of 2,000 linear feet of home runs in one game. Bauer epitomizes mediocrity but ought to provide modest improvement on Dickey’s opponent slugging percentage of 1.500. Bauer’s promotion pushes the 40-man roster to its limit. Both Dickey and Bauer have an unusual physical attribute: Dickey, as you probably know, lacks a forearm ligament, while Bauer possesses neither jaw nor chin.

Texas also re-signed DH Erubiel Durazo.

Posted by Lucas at 06:06 PM

Weekend Photo

Posted by Lucas at 05:40 PM

April 04, 2006

"The Rundown" Is Updated

Current and historical 40-man rosters, depth charts for the Rangers down to high-A Bakersfield, and the current status of draft picks back to 1999.

Posted by Lucas at 12:52 PM

April 02, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Texas made three trades over the last three days. Their impact on the Rangers’ fantasy prospects is described below:

DAVID DELLUCCI
Dellucci’s trade to Philadelphia makes him an unperson in AL-only leagues. He also loses his value in mixed leagues because Philly doesn’t need a DH and Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu don’t need a substitute. He’s a back-ender in larger NL-only leagues.

PHIL NEVIN
Nevin lost his only two competitors to the DH at-bats in the last week. As I mentioned a few days ago, I don’t expect greatness, but he could bat .260 with 20-plus homers and 80-plus RBI as the cleanup hitter. Worth a shot in all but the smallest of mixed leagues. If Nevin collapses, keep an eye out for Jason Botts, who will begin 2006 in AAA.

BRAD WILKERSON
His owners can breathe easier. Wilkerson rebounded well from last week’s shoulder malady, and a move from center to left could help his stamina. A must-own in any 5x5 league.

LAYNCE NIX / GARY MATTHEWS
Only last week, Nix seemed bound for AAA and fifth on the outfield depth chart. With Dellucci’s departure and Matthews’s placement on the Disabled List, Nix will start Monday in center field. Nix has a dubious resume but has struggled with shoulder problems during the last two years. Now fully healed, he might show improvement. He’s worth a flyer in AL-only leagues. Matthews will start against lefties and sub for the corner outfielders upon his return. He doesn’t provide much value right now, but if someone suffers an injury or Nix falters, he’ll become a tolerable AL-only outfielder.

ADAM EATON
Eaton will miss at least two months because of impending surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand. He had no value in mixed leagues anyway, and his marginal value in AL-only leagues just cratered. Stash him on your DL if no absolutely have no other options.

ROBINSON TEJEDA
Tejeda posted a 3.57 ERA as a rookie in Philly but got away with 5.3 walks per nine innings and a .260 average on batters in play. His fly-prone tendencies translate badly to Arlington. Tejeda just turned 24 and may yet develop into a solid MLB pitcher, but I doubt he’ll offer much to fantasy owners in 2006. I project a 4.75 ERA and 1.50 WHIP as a Ranger. His upside is in wins and strikeouts. I wouldn’t bother with him except in very large AL-only leagues.

JOHN KORONKA
Koronka, not Tejeda, will start the Rangers’ fifth game of the season. His minor-league stats do not impress, and I wouldn’t expect any more of him than of John Wasdin. No value anywhere.

JUAN DOMINGUEZ
Currently, Oakland needs Dominguez for its rotation like a mule needs a spinning wheel. Dominguez might appear in relief later in the season. No value anywhere right now.

ANTONIO ALFONSECA
You might remember him as a closer, but those days are over. He’ll attempt to provide league-average middle relief in Arlington and is no higher than third in line to get any saves. Don’t bother.

Posted by Lucas at 04:13 PM

Transactions

Texas placed pitcher ADAM EATON and outfielder GARY MATTHEWS JR. on the 15-day Disabled List.

Eaton will undergo surgery on his injured middle finger in a few days. Surgery or no, he is looking at three months on the shelf. Matthews never played in Spring Training because of sore ribs but should begin a rehab assignment next week. Upon his return to Arlington, he'll man center field against lefties and spot Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench on the corners.

Posted by Lucas at 03:19 AM

Transactions

Texas purchased the contracts of reliever ANTONIO ALFONSECA, infielder D’ANGELO JIMENEZ, and outfielder ADRIAN BROWN.

Texas designated reliever ERASMO RAMIREZ for assignement.

And the Rangers fill out the back end of their roster. Alfonseca will attempt to provide league-average middle relief. The 28-year-old Jimenez probably will rot on the bench in an attempt to resurrect his career. He falls behind Kinsler and DeRosa on the depth chart at second base, and Blalock and Young rest about once every three months. Brown, likewise, should play very infrequently even though he comes to Arlington as the fourth outfielder. Texas needs him for the time being because of the trade of Dellucci and injury to Gary Matthews.

The decision to DFA Ramirez is interesting but not unexpected. Ramirez had no more options, and his slow/slower/slowest repertoire didn’t inspire much confidence despite his left-handedness and an opposing batter line of .256/.297/.382. Ramirez also has a pronounced reverse split: .622 OPS versus righties and .761 against lefties. I’d bet someone claims him.

By my count, Texas currently has 41 players on the 40-man roster. They had 38 going into Thursday, lost Dominguez but gained Koronka and Rheinecker to gain one, then added the three noted above and designated Ramirez. Assuming I’m correct, the Rangers probably have bumped one of their disabled to the 60-day list.

UPDATE: Forgot that Texas outrighted reliever Jon Leicester. 40 on the roster.

Posted by Lucas at 02:21 AM

April 01, 2006

Trade

Texas traded outfielder DAVID DELLUCCI for Philadelphia for pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA and outfielder JAKE BLALOCK.

Apparently the Ranger braintrust looked askance at throwing newly acquired John Koronka onto the mound for the fifth game of the season. Despite concerns about Brad Wilkerson’s shoulder, Laynce Nix’s ability to hit MLB pitching, and Gary Matthews’s hamstring, Texas decided to cash in on Dellucci’s fine 2005 and affordability ($900,000 salary) to upgrade the pitching. Since Philly has Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu as outfield corners and no need for a DH, Dellucci will recede to the status of seldom-used fourth outfielder.

Tejeda turned 24 a few days ago. As a rookie last season, Tejeda lucked into his 3.57 ERA. He walked or hit 16% of the batters he faced and allowed only a .260 average on balls in play. On the other hand, he struck out just under 20% of his opponents and permitted only five homers and a meager .329 slugging percentage. In 2004, as a 22-year-old in AA, he offered promising peripherals (3.5 walks and 8.0 Ks per nine innings) except for Wasdin-esque homer per five innings. With his arrival, John Koronka’s tenure as the fifth starter lasts all of two days. I peg Tejeda for an ERA of 4.80 and a WHIP of 1.50 in Texas.

Blalock is Hank’s kid brother. He batted .279/.359/.388 as a 21-year-old for high-A Clearwater last year. He may begin ’06 in AA Frisco.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM