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May 31, 2006

Nevin Traded

Texas traded DH PHIL NEVIN to the Chicago Cubs for utility guy JERRY HAIRSTON JR..

Hairston earns $2.3 million annually this season to Nevin’s $10 million plus, and Texas has emptied a cash-filled dumptruck onto Wrigley Field to consummate the deal.

Nevin batted .204/.287/.382 as a Ranger. He could have continued to provide a useful lefty bat, but his public pouting upon being benched last year probably hastened his exit. It didn’t matter much last September with the Rangers virtually eliminated from postseason play, but now, with the team in first place and two-thirds of the season remaining, his disposition matters. “Marginally useful? plus “potentially troublesome? does not equal “helps team win division.?

Hairston presumably makes D’Angelo Jimenez superfluous. He can play second, short and any outfield spot. He’d offered respectable on-base skills until this season.

Finally, when Texas releases Hairston or declines to offer arbitration at season’s end, the Chan Ho Park saga will reach its merciful end.

Posted by Lucas at 05:09 PM

May 28, 2006

Gerry Fraley Makes Me Angry. Angry and Tired.

The Dallas Morning News’s Gerry Fraley had this to say Sunday morning:

In the Best Interest Of The Game

The rise of St. Louis' multi-talented Albert Pujols should make every organization reconsider the value of scouts.

The Cardinals found Pujols because a scout, Dave Karaff, pictured a power hitter where others saw only a pudgy junior-college catcher. Karaff fought to have Pujols taken in the 13th round of the 1999 draft and given enough of a bonus ($60,000) to sign.

St. Louis ownership forgot about that. It is obsessed with drafting collegiate players based on their statistics. The Cardinals' first 26 picks in the 2004 draft were collegiate players. In moving to this philosophy, the Cardinals let Karaff go in a purge of scouts.

Where to begin…

As Fraley notes, St. Louis selected 26 consecutive college players in the 2004 draft, though, like Pujols, three were from community or junior colleges. The Cardinals selected only four high schoolers in 47 picks and signed none.

What did the college-obsessed Cardinals do the 2005 draft? With their first pick, they selected high-school outfielder Colby Rasmus. In fact, they selected six high schoolers with their first ten picks and fifteen overall along with five JuCo/Community College players.

Why would Fraley ignore the St. Louis’s most recent draft? Perhaps because it makes his argument incredibly lame.

When St. Louis overhauled its scouting organization after the 2003 season, its farm system had ranked among the worst in baseball for several years. In 2001, Baseball America ranked the Cardinal farm system 23rd of 30 teams. In 2002 it fell to dead last, and in 2003 it rocketed to 28 th. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about them in February 2005:

Aside from Albert Pujols, St. Louis had few significant contributors to their pennant run who were produced by the farm system. Pujols and So Taguchi--a veteran player who was signed after playing several years in Japan--were the only everyday players originally signed by the organization. On the pitching staff, Dan Haren and Matt Morris were the only players with at least 45 innings who started their careers with the Cardinals.

Most anti-stathead rants like Fraley’s revolve around straw men and simplistic either-or arguments. What evidence suggests that St. Louis -- with the same ownership, general manager and manager in place since 1996 and six consecutive winning seasons – embraced the all-stats, no-scouts approach derided by Fraley? Practically none, unless the purpose is to find thin slivers of facts supporting a premeditated conclusion. Per Baseball America’s Will Lingo in late 2003:

In a nod to… the best-selling book “Moneyball,” the Cardinals restructured their scouting department this offseason to try to get more out of the draft. Scouting director Marty Maier was reassigned to special-assignment scout, and assistant general manager John Mozeliak took over the scouting department in addition to his duties as director of baseball operations. The Cardinals also hired Jeff Luhnow as an assistant vice president of baseball development to compile databases and try to improve the team’s efficiency with the draft. Mozeliak said his ultimate goal is to rely more on the decisions of individual scouts when drafting players, rather than giving more credence to crosschecking. “The restructuring we’re going through will ultimately empower our scouts,” he said. [emphasis added]

Well, the article did mention Moneyball. Perhaps Fraley stopped reading at that point.

Regarding the college-heavy 2004 draft, Lingo noted dissatisfaction with previous drafts and the thin farm system, further saying “the Cardinals didn't exclude high school players from their scouting, but rather wanted advanced players who could add immediate depth.” Lingo reiterated St. Louis’s new multidiscipline approach in late 2005, after the franchise reverted to its traditional draft-day mix of high schools and college players:

The Cardinals’ 2005 draft showed their willingness to look at all types of players. There were sleepers who were picked based on their college performance, such as outfielder Nick Stavinoha (seventh round). But there were also college players whose performance has never seemed to quite measure up to their tools, such as righthander Mark McCormick (supplemental first). There were toolsy high school players whose projection is based on the judgments of scouts much more than their statistics, such as outfielder Daryl Jones (third). St. Louis even spent a couple of early picks on Tyler Herron (supplemental first) and Josh Wilson (second), a pair of prep righthanders—considered the riskiest demographic in the draft.

The Cardinals have shown a willingness to blend all these approaches, which could pay quick dividends for the farm system. [emphasis added]

The Cardinals are attempting to augment their scouting department, not replace it. They have no obsession with college players, and they have not abandoned their scouts as a group. Fraley is making unsupported arguments to criticize something that does not exist.

Finally, what did the fired scout in question have to say in retrospect about Pujols? Nothing but effusive praise, yes? No:

I felt he was going to be successful, but I didn't know how successful. I don't think there's any way we could have seen all these things. My one fear was whether he was going to hit, if you can believe that. If we all felt he could hit consistently, he would have been a first rounder and got his $3 million bonus. He still does some of the things that I feared, but he has the ability to make adjustments, and that's something I never saw.

Dave Karaff saw more in Pujols than his peers, and for that he deserves immense credit. However, nobody on the planet (except perhaps Pujols himself and maybe his mother) foresaw him arriving fully developed as a once-in-a-generation player. Somehow, Gerry Fraley has turned this anecdote into an indictment of statistical analysis. I suppose you go where your imagination takes you.

Posted by Lucas at 09:19 PM

May 26, 2006

Weekend Photo / History Lesson

July 25, 1986

Texas 7, Cleveland 5

The Lineup:
Oddibe McDowell (cf)
Scott Fletcher (ss)
Pete O’Brien (1b)
Pete Incaviglia (rf)
Larry Parrish (dh)
Ruben Sierra (lf)
Don Slaught (c )
Steve Buechele (3b)
Curtis Wilkerson (2b)
Jose Guzman (p)

The seats were in the section built atop the press box in the old Stadium. My friend John Lawson, who served ably as Best Man at my wedding some eighteen years later, caught a foul ball from Incaviglia.

How slow was Incaviglia? The 22-year-old singled in the seventh and was replaced at first with 32-year-old pinch runner Gary Ward.

Posted by Lucas at 09:30 AM

May 25, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Kinsler Returns
Second Baseman Ian Kinsler rejoined the Rangers Thursday night after spending six weeks on the DL with a dislocated thumb. Kinsler will start most of the time. He hit ridiculously well before his injury (.476/.577/.714) and AL-only owners were smart to keep him, but don’t be surprised if he returns a little slowly. First, nobody hits .476 consistently, and second, a dislocated thumb doesn’t promote strong hitting. His owners in mixed leagues, particularly smaller ones, ought to keep him benched for a little while. I’ve said it for years: true rookie hitters almost never make for worthwhile fantasy players (in mixed leagues).

The displaced Mark DeRosa will spot for Kinsler and also sub for others on occasion, thus keeping his bat in the lineup and his value in AL-only leagues mostly intact. Derosa subbed for Brad Wilkerson Thursday. Derosa hits lefties particularly well and should continue to start against most of them.

Nevin’s Slump Halted
DH Phil Nevin didn’t make a single out on Tuesday or Wednesday. Nor did he play. Texas recalled DH Jason Botts from AAA and started him on consecutive days. Botts batted .318/.373/.615 for Oklahoma and began his MLB 2006 two-for-six with a double and two walks. For the short term, he should start most games against righties and sit against lefties. He’s a must-own in AL-only leagues. Since he won’t play every game and has minimal Major League experience, his value in mixed league is light. Botts can also play outfield, though it’s not a pretty sight. Botts has batted eighth, with Hank Blalock, Kevin Mench, Brad Wilkerson and Mark Derosa shifting up one slot.

His long term depends on his performance and that of Phil Nevin, whose line against righties has plummeted to .202/.303/.363. Nevin does have 22 RBI against righties, but so would any other Ranger hitter given the opportunity to bat cleanup every night. Nevin will continue to hit lefties, where his line of .314/.400/.571 will continue to help in AL-only leagues if his owners check the schedule and bench him against righties.

Michael Young Is Terrible
Shortstop Michael Young has only two homers this season. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you keep him. Young isn’t hitting the ball quite as far as normal but is batting .332 and on pace for over 90 runs, over 100 RBI, and about ten steals.

Closering
Francisco Cordero’s loss against the Angels Tuesday killed whatever miniscule chance he had of reclaiming the closer role in the near future. I’ve retained him in a 20-team mixed league; I still expect quality middle relief and an occasional vultured win, if not any more saves. Those in small mixed leagues should have Cordero ready to drop in case another team coronates a new closer who’s in the free-agent pool. Having said that, dropping Cordero for someone like Elmer Dessens makes me pretty queasy. Your mileage may vary.

Pitchers
John Rheinecker has replaced Robinson Tejeda in the rotation at least temporarily and will start on Sunday against Oakland. He’s pitched respectably in AAA – 3.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, seven strikeouts per nine innings – but doesn’t come recommended except in larger AL-only leagues.

Kevin Millwood’s ownership percentage in mixed leagues has been gyrating wildly depending on the results of his most recent start. Thursday night he was lit up, and doubtlessly he’ll hit a bunch of waiver wires again. Potential owners shouldn’t bother trying to time the market. He’ll win plenty of games, strike out a pleasant number of batters, and provide an average WHIP and substandard ERA. If that helps your team, grab him. If not, don’t. He’s useful in mixed leagues of twelve or more teams, borderline in ten-team leagues, and inferior elsewhere.

Posted by Lucas at 11:39 PM

Kinsler Returns, Brown Out

Texas activated 2B IAN KINSLER from the 15-day Disabled List and designated OF ADRIAN BROWN for assignment.

Kinsler returns from an involuntary six-week vacation stemming from a thumb-first slide into second base. The question is what to do with Mark Derosa’s nifty Michael Young impersonation (.338/.407/.600). Yes, Derosa can sub at any other infield spot, but Blalock, Young and Teixeira would rather fight than sit. Likewise, he doesn’t make a quality substitute for Kevin Mench since both specialize in bashing lefties.

Brown’s departure leaves Texas without a top notch backup in center or speedy pinch-runner. If or when the Rangers decide to promote new outfielder Freddy Guzman, candidates for dismissal include D’Angelo Jimenez and recently semi-demoted Phil Nevin.

Posted by Lucas at 06:30 PM

May 23, 2006

Botts Up, Meyer Down, Nevin...?

Texas recalled 1B/OF JASON BOTTS from AAA Oklahoma and sent IF DREW MEYER to AAA.

Botts batted .318/.373/.615 in his second tour of duty in AAA. The ten homers in forty games speak to his potential, as does striking out once per 3.4 at-bats. Botts turns 26 in a couple of months and needs to exploit this opportunity lest he receive the Adrian Gonzalez treatment. As you may recall, Gonzalez hit lights-out during Spring Training in 2005 and earned a roster spot, only to play sparingly and hit poorly in a two-week trial, whereupon he was dumped back into the minors. Botts’ situation isn’t a perfect analogy, but there is the fear that Texas could settle too soon for the dull certainty of Nevin’s underachievement rather than ride out a slow start by Botts.

Since the start of 2005, Nevin has 596 plate appearances and a line of .234/.299/.388, roughly comparable to the immortal Neifi Perez. This season, Nevin has all but twelve of the team’s cleanup plate appearances and all but five from the DH slot. To what end?

Phil Nevin, 2006
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Relative to the AL
96
92
88
Relative to other DHs
95
85
80
Relative to other cleanup hitters
88
78
66

Texas has received better cleanup production than only two teams (Kansas City and Seattle) and better DH production than three (KC, Los Angeles, and Minnesota). Nevin’s 2006 performance thus far should strike a familiar chord for Ranger fans:

Player
Line
Phil Nevin (2006)
.226/.324/.409
Brad Fullmer (2004)
.233/.310/.442
Andres Galaragga (2001)
.235/.310/.424
Ken Caminiti (2001)
.232/.318/.432

Only the 40-year-old Galaragga had any gas left in the tank after leaving Texas, lasting another three reasonably productive years.

Posted by Lucas at 06:23 PM

May 19, 2006

Tejeda Up, Alfonseca Hurt

Texas placed reliever ANTONIO ALFONSECA on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA from AAA Oklahoma.

El Pulpo has a sore tentacle.

Posted by Lucas at 06:51 PM

Weekend Photo


Route 66 west of Needles, California, April 1995.

Posted by Lucas at 10:34 AM

May 18, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

No Change At Closer
On Tuesday, Akinori Otsuka blew the first of his six save opportunities since taking over for Francisco Cordero. Otsuka has pitched well since the promotion: 8.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3 strikeouts. Despite Tuesday’s heartbreaker against the Yankees, Texas has no intention of reverting him to setup duty in the near term. In eight innings since his demotion, Cordero has a 3.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and eight strikeouts. I’d retain him in any league format, though owners in smaller mixed leagues should consider dropping him when someone interesting hits the waiver wire. He may yet regain his closer status, and if not, he’ll still provide some value.

What’s On Second?
2B Ian Kinsler is making contact in his AAA rehab assignment (three strikeouts in nineteen appearances) but isn’t doing anything with it (.118/.211/.176). He may rejoin the active roster as soon as Saturday, whereupon he’ll share time with white-hot Mark DeRosa. DeRosa is batting .418 with eleven runs, two homers and seven RBI in May as Kinsler’s replacement. Since he normally doesn’t hit righties well, he should cool off and eventually cede at-bats to Kinsler. However, if the Rangers maintain their division run and Kinsler struggles, they may stick with DeRosa’s veteran presence, gritty play and all-around derring-do. In other words, the situation is fluid. Kinsler might help in larger mixed leagues but not as a part-timer.

Rotation and Matchups
Ranger rotation members have performed to mixed reviews during this ten-game road trip through Boston, New York and Houston. As you may recall, I advised benching the entire rotation in mixed leagues and considering it in AL-only formats. Kevin Millwood atoned for his disastrous nine runs allowed against the Twins by holding New York to two runs and striking out six. He takes the mound Saturday game against Houston and is the only pitcher worth starting through the weekend. Don’t bother with flyball-prone Robinson Tejeda, who draws Minute Maid Park and Roy Oswalt on Friday. Likewise, most owners should bench John Koronka on Sunday. The Juicebox makes life unpleasant for left-handed pitchers. After this weekend, Texas encounters the light offensive squads of Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle, Start everyone as you normally would.

Tex and Nevin
Mark Teixeira will be fine. His slow start insures he won’t approach last year’s numbers, but what matters is not his recent past but the rate at which he produces henceforth. I expect glad tidings from him. Phil Nevin’s .242-with-homers will suffice in fantasy ball, if not the real world. Texas will keep Nevin in the lineup and cleanup spot long past his sell-by date, but if they do eventually reduce his role, they’ll call up Jason Botts, not Erubiel Durazo, who could and did request his release from AAA Oklahoma. Rod Barajas and his dreary .225/.282/.333 aren’t going anywhere.

Posted by Lucas at 10:21 AM

May 17, 2006

Residua Of A Fierce Kick To The Groin

Does losing a nine-run lead matter more than any other lead? Certainly, it causes acute nausea and rage (recipe for cure here), but what of the long run? Does the previous night’s agony herald a slump, a dreary summer, a lost season?

As noted by the DMN’s Evan Grant, the previous Ranger record for largest lead surrendered was seven, set on four occasions. How did Texas play the next game, the next ten games, and the rest of the season?

Date
Blown 7-Run
Lead
Next Game
Next Ten Games
Rest of Season
4/24/96
Lost 11-9
to Boston
Lost 8-3
to Boston
6-4
77-65,
won AL West
5/17/96
Lost 12-10
to Cleveland
Won 6-3
at Cleveland
6-4
64-57,
won AL West
7/3/99
Lost 13-12
to Seattle
Lost 6-0
to Seattle
4-6
49-33,
won AL West
9/1/01
Lost 8-7
to KC
Won 12-6
at KC
6-4
12-14,
last in AL West

The historical anecdotes suggest that wasting a huge lead means absolutely nothing to Texas. In essence, they’ve lumbered on as before. The good Ranger clubs continued to win, the lousy ‘01 squad limped to the finish.

Last night’s debacle will resonate if the Rangers enter an extended slump, but the schedule-maker will deserve most of the blame. Texas plays 46 games before the All-Star break; right now, only twelve are against sub-.500 teams.

Posted by Lucas at 10:45 AM

May 16, 2006

I Feel Sick

Prior to tonight, the Rangers had a record of 108-1 when scoring thirteen or more runs.

Guess who beat them?

The Rangers do have a perfect record of winning division titles during seasons when they lose despite scoring thirteen runs. So, good news!

Posted by Lucas at 10:17 PM

May 13, 2006

Shouse Traded

Texas traded reliever BRIAN SHOUSE to Milwaukee for infielder ENRIQUE CRUZ and a player to be named.

The Rangers had designated Shouse a few days ago. He provided two excellent seasons during 2003-2004, then faded. Homers signaled his downfall: he allowed only four in 105 innings during ’03-’04, eight in 57 innings since.

Cruz was a Rule 5 selection in 2003 as a 21-year-old. He survived the full season, sort of, getting all of 76 plate appearances and batting .085/.145/.099 with 30 strikeouts. Playing in AAA for the first time, he was batting .261/.320/.377. He’s shown slightly increased power and decreased patience while slowly moving up the ladder. Doesn’t appear to be more than a 25th man at the Major League level.

Posted by Lucas at 03:50 PM

May 12, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend
On Friday evening, Texas embarks on a ten-game road trip through Boston, New York and Houston. That spells trouble for Ranger starting pitchers and anyone owning them. In all but the largest of mixed leagues, any Ranger starter is marginal. Consider benching them during the next week-and-a-half. Even in AL-only leagues they’re high-risk plays right now.

Kevin Millwood had a career-worst start against Minnesota that by itself will account for 0.40 of ERA by season’s end. A one-inning, nine-run outing is a soul destroyer but doesn’t change his outlook. I’m holding to my preseason prediction of a 4.55 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 145 strikeouts. He’ll get his share of wins. If statistics like that are an asset in your mixed league, enjoy.

Vicente Padilla is pitching to expectations except for an improved strikeout rate. On several occasions he’s started superbly, only to self-immolate in one of the middle innings. Until he improves his control, he could benefit from a quicker hook from Buck Showalter.

Like Millwood, Kameron Loe alternates between brilliance and inaptness. Unfortunately, he won’t offer the strikeouts that can somewhat mitigate and otherwise rough performance. Loe has yet to whiff over three in a start.

John Koronka motors away. He struggled against Cleveland near the end of April as I expected, but since then he had dominated Baltimore and pitched respectably against Minnesota. Obviously, he demands ownership in AL-only leagues, though my caution about the road trip applies. In mixed leagues, he might merit a spot start against the next weak offense he faces. I can’t countenance him maintaining a sub-4.00 ERA.

Texas optioned would-be fifth starter Robinson Tejeda and probably will alternate between him and John Rheinecker in that role as the need arises. Don’t be tempted by either on this road trip.

Hitters
Phil Nevin is batting .129/.227/.154 in May after his torrid April. Though in no imminent danger of losing his job or even his valuable cleanup spot in the order, he has to be concerning his owners. Nevin’s problem isn’t his recent slump as much as his five-year-long inability to hit right-handed pitchers. Thus, he must kill lefties in order to maintain overall usefulness. Active owners should consider benching him against tough righties to maximize his value. Should Texas have to call in a replacement, alternatives include Erubiel Durazo (soon to return from a minor leg injury) and Jason Botts.

Likewise, Rod Barajas and his .207 batting average aren’t disappearing from the box scores any time soon. He’ll continue to start two of every three games. If he can’t resume hitting his normal .250 with decent power, Gerald Laird will see more playing time… but not until at least June.

2B Ian Kinsler began a rehab assignment and could join the active roster during the next week. He won’t return to an everyday role yet, instead sharing time with recently hot Mark DeRosa. That’s understandable given the severity of Kinsler’s injury, but the nagging worry is Buck Showalter’s deep and abiding love of DeRosa, a fine bench player who just doesn’t deserve daily play. Kinsler owners can't count on him as an automatic starter for the indefinite future.

Ephemera
Texas recently acquired outfielder Freddy Guzman from San Diego for a couple of minor leaguers. The Rangers will send him to AAA initially but may ask him to replace backup outfielder Adrian Brown before long. Guzman has decent on-base skills, zero power, and ferocious speed: 166 steals versus 30 caught in 249 minor-league games. Guzman might provide a little help in AL-only leagues if a Ranger starting outfielder suffers an injury. Keep his name if the back of your head. A true center fielder by trade, Guzman’s arrival would appear to dump water on the smoking embers of Laynce Nix’s fantasy value.

Posted by Lucas at 07:31 PM

May 09, 2006

Same As It Ever Was

The 2005 Rangers featured the worst cleanup hitters in the American League. Ranger #4 hitters -- mostly Hank Blalock with a tablespoon of Mark Teixeira and dashes of Alfonso Soriano and Phil Nevin-- ranked 11th in slugging and dead-freaking-last in on-base percentage after adjusting for home park. Though Texas sported a respectable offense overall, Buck Showalter needed to find an upgrade at cleanup.

He found Phil Nevin. Nevin started at DH and in the cleanup spot during intrasquad scrimmages in February, and by mid-March, whatever competition existed for the role had ended. While not an ideal solution, having Nevin at cleanup was defensible for several reasons:

Nevin admitted he sulked his way to a line of .182/.250/.323 after his ’05 trade to Texas. He entered Spring Training emotionally refreshed. Fair enough. (That doesn’t explain away his .237/.287/.379 showing in San Diego during last season, but bear with me.)
In 2004, he batted .289/.368/.492, excellent production for an extremely hitter-unfriendly environment of Petco Park.
No likely batting order would place Nevin lower than sixth. Certainly, Laynce Nix, Rod Barajas, and true rookie Ian Kinsler belonged at the back of the lineup. In addition, Blalock had struggled badly batting cleanup last season and Kevin Mench had backslid to a .469 slugging percentage.
The concept of sunk cost notwithstanding, Texas wanted some return on its $10 million investment.

In retrospect (or facile 20-20 hindsight, if you prefer), Nevin’s establishment as cleanup hitter almost seems preordained. He only needed to avoid flopping during the spring, and he didn’t. Several early homers caught the attention of management and skeptical fans, and despite a late slump he finished at .241/.338/.534. The patience and power had returned, if not the average.

Now, one-fifth into the regular season, Texas is no better off at the cleanup spot than in 2005. 100% of the plate appearances by #4 hitters have accrued to Phil Nevin, who has a line of .242/.333/.455. The cleanup hitters on the other thirteen AL clubs are batting .283/.360/.508. Thus, Nevin is only echoing last year’s frustration:

Ranger Cleanup Hitters
OBP
L-OBP+
SLUG
L-SLUG+
OPS
L-OPS+
2005 (mostly H. Blalock)
.317
90
.445
91
.762
81
2006 (all P. Nevin)
.333
91
.455
87
.788
78
Note: AL run production is up about 3.5% this season.

After a fine start (.278/.369/.557 in April, .295 and 23 RBI with runners on) Nevin has five hits in his last 35 at-bats including one double and no homers. Well, hitters do slump, and condemning one after just 34 games is absurd, so perhaps I should cut him some slack. Unfortunately, the real problem isn’t his slump, it’s his half-decade-long inability to hit right-handers:

YEAR
AVG / OBP / SLUG -- OPS
2002
.268 / .322 / .373 -- .695
2003
.252 / .317 / .356 -- .672
2004
.273 / .337 / .451 -- .787
2005
.253 / .285 / .387 -- .673
2006
.219 / .318 / .417 -- .735
'02-'06
.260 / .319 / .402 -- .721

His frailty against righties wouldn’t cause much dismay except that, ahem, he faces a righty 70% of the time and bats fourth. Nevin hammers lefties (.299/.387/.549 since 2002) but against righties Texas could replace him with Gary Matthews and suffer no ill.

Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball has beat this drum for a while, and he’s right. Texas needs another lefty bat to bolster the offense. Phil Nevin deserves credit for regaining a sizable fraction of his past superiority, but he shouldn’t play every day.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

May 08, 2006

Feldman Up, Tejeda Down, Shouse Out

Texas recalled reliever SCOTT FELDMAN from AAA Oklahoma, optioned starting pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA to AAA, and designated reliever BRIAN SHOUSE for assignment.

Feldman had pitched well enough in his prior stints on the active roster, but the optionless status of many other Ranger relievers made him the default choice to demote. Rather than keep him in AAA, Texas opted for the more difficult decision of waiving the rehabilitating Brian Shouse. Shouse is a pure LOOGY who nonetheless had faced righties half the time and wasn’t retiring lefties at the necessary rate (.400/.400/.600 in ten plate appearances). Statistically, one can’t infer anything from such a small sample, but Texas seemingly has decided that Feldman (or, more likely, fellow lefty C.J. Wilson) is better suited to terminate Major League hitters.

Posted by Lucas at 11:29 PM

May 07, 2006

A Brief, Bitter, Regular Season History of Texas Versus New York

Texas has fared poorly in the postseason. Very, very, very poorly. However, I have no desire to unearth those fetid memories right now. Instead, why not dredge up some new ones by examining the regular-season history of the Rangers and Yankees?

1972-1986

During June 6-8, 1972, Texas played New York for the first time since leaving Washington and won two of three. That represents the high-water mark of the rivalry from Texas’s perspective. Texas played .370 ball against New York and was outscored by 152 runs in 173 games. Remarkably, the Rangers never won a season series over the Yankees during their first fifteen seasons in Arlington.

Wait, there’s more. Texas won fewer than one-third of its games against the New York during the 1970s (30-62). From August 19, 1972 through July 17, 1976, the Rangers lost 19 of 25 at home. They never won four consecutive games against the Yankees but had thirteen losing streaks of at least four games. Good times.

Era
Games
Season Series
H/R
Wins
Losses
Pct
Won
Lost
Tied
'72-'86
All
64
109
.370
0
14
1
Home
37
48
.435
Road
27
61
.307

1987-1993

Texas’s one span of success coincided with the decline and fall of the Yankee dynasty. From 1989-1992, the Yankees had four consecutive losing seasons for the first (and only other) time since 1912-1915. New York gave the nation Stump Merrill, Alvaro Espinoza, Hensley Meulens, Pat Kelly, and Andy Hawkins, and the nation smirked.

In sharp contrast to the prior era, Texas never lost a season series to the Yankees during this period. The Rangers won 32 of 42 at home including an amazing fifteen consecutively from July 1989 to September 1991.

Era
Games
Season Series
H/R
Wins
Losses
Pct
Won
Lost
Tied
'87-'93
All
51
32
.614
6
0
1
Home
32
10
.762
Road
19
22
.463

1994-Present

Despite producing the best teams in franchise history during the latter half of the 90s, Texas has largely abandoned any pretense of a rivalry since 1993. Texas won 14 and lost 21 to New York during its three division-winning seasons. Resuming its “location is nothing? premise, Texas has lost 21 of its last 31 at home during the 2000s. The Rangers currently sport an eight-game losing streak against New York, the longest in their history. In a week, they get a chance to halt that streak in the Bronx.

Era
Games
Season Series
H/R
Wins
Losses
Pct
Won
Lost
Tied
'94-'06
All
45
75
.375
2
9
1
Home
26
35
.426
Road
19
40
.322

Overall

Era
Games
Season Series
H/R
Wins
Losses
Pct
Won
Lost
Tied
All Time
All
160
216
.426
8
23
3
Home
95
93
.505
Road
65
123
.346

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

May 04, 2006

Oklahoma Redhawks Pictures

Pictures from the Oklahoma – Round Rock game on May 3rd. Round Rock won 1-0 on a Royce Huffman homer off Derek Lee in the bottom of the ninth. Each pic links to many more and larger pictures of each player. Click on the Rundown banner to come back.

Joaquin Arias

Rheinecker and Feldman

Vince Sinisi

Jason Botts

Rashad Eldridge

Jason Hirsh (Round Rock)
The Ire of Ireland

Other Pix

Posted by Lucas at 11:29 PM

May 03, 2006

Oklahoma Game Report

The Rangers’ Triple A affiliate Oklahoma Redhawks played the Round Rock Express on Tuesday night, and yours truly witnessed the games from Section 121, Row 4, Seat 1. A few observations from memory:

I hope I caught John Hudgins on a bad night. Hudgins allowed seven hits, including two homers, and two walks in three innings, and he just didn’t look like someone who could retire a Major League hitter. Against an undisciplined Express lineup (last in the Pacific Coast League in walks and next-to-last in strikeouts), Hudgins tried to keep everything down and succeeded to injurious extent. Far too many pitches crossed the plate ankle-high. The “experienced” Round Rock offense (“batting second: Joe McEwing!”) ignored the low stuff and pounded what Hudgins left in the zone. I don’t recall the radar gun exceeding 88 MPH.

Outfielder-in-training Jason Botts made a genuinely impressive sliding catch near the left-field stands with two out and runners on second and third. The Round Rock pitchers pounded him inside and forced him to hit everything off his wrists. He didn’t strike out but also didn’t reach base.

Vince Sinisi looks smaller than I expected. He roped a fastball to the opposite field, much to the delight of the Rice fans sitting near me, and generally appeared comfortable against AAA opposition.

21-year-old Joaquin Arias weighs 108 pounds and disappears when viewed from the side. Just as advertised: smooth and athletic in the field, very raw at the plate. A February note from the Dallas Morning News speculated as to whether Arias could fill in at shortstop for Texas should Michael Young suffer an injury. I can’t imagine Texas recalling Arias right now.

Justin Hatcher provided the game’s best moment as a ninth-inning pinch hitter when he plastered his first pitch over the left-field fence. Outfielder Luke Scott took one half-hearted step toward the fence and abruptly stopped.

The Redhawks have youth and several decent prospects, while the Express are old and nearly bereft of potential MLB talent. Round Rock’s starting lineup averaged 29 years of age with not a single player under 26. In fact, of the twenty starters in Tuesday’s game (nine hitters and the starting pitcher for each team), the youngest seven play for Oklahoma:

Team Name
Age
DOB
OKL Joaquin Arias
21
Sep-84
OKL Vince Sinisi
24
Nov-81
OKL Rashad Eldridge
24
Oct-81
OKL John Hudgins
24
Aug-81
OKL Nick Trzesniak
25
Nov-80
OKL Laynce Nix
25
Oct-80
OKL Jason Botts
25
Jul-80
RRE Brooks Conrad
26
Jan-80
RRE Charlton Jimerson
26
Sep-79
RRE Humberto Quintero
26
Aug-79
OKL Jace Brewer
26
Jun-79
RRE Philip Barzilla
27
Jan-79
RRE Brian Gordon
27
Aug-78
RRE Luke Scott
27
Jun-78
RRE Royce Huffman
29
Jan-77
OKL Erubiel Durazo
31
Jan-75
RRE Jesse Garcia
32
Sep-73
RRE Joe McEwing
33
Oct-72
OKL Jamie Burke
34
Sep-71
RRE Alan Zinter
37
May-68

Posted by Lucas at 12:30 AM

May 02, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

A Change At The End
Not since 2002 have the Rangers demoted their closer. Back then I held the grim task of advising whether fantasy owners should acquire John Rocker or Hideki Irabu. Today, the issues are the firmness of Akinori Otsuka’s grip on the closer role and whether Francisco Cordero can or will reacquire it.

Is Cordero injured? Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus thinks so. I honestly don’t know. I see a guy still lighting up the radar gun and regularly throwing breaking pitches (too regularly, in fact). Of course, if an injury is eliminating some slider-bite or a quarter-inch of late movement on his fastball, that’s just as damaging as any loss in velocity. To my untrained eyes, Cordero’s problems seem more of pitch location and confidence.

In theory, Otsuka has the job only temporarily while Cordero regains his confidence or whatever else he’s lost. On the other hand, it’s hard to envision Buck Showalter reinstating Cordero before Otsuka blows a save or two. I do expect Cordero to regain closer status during the season, but not in the immediate future.

Owners in AL-only leagues clearly must retain Cordero. Though it’s depressing for his owners to contemplate, Cordero can still provide value as a middle reliever. Owners in mixed leagues should also hold firm. Cordero has a reasonable chance to recover his dominance and status. Keeping him on the bench or as a plain vanilla reliever won’t hurt in the short run unless a there’s 24-carat gold on the waiver wire.

Rotation
Robinson Tejeda will make his AL debut Tuesday night. As I mentioned a month ago when Texas acquired him, Tejeda did not pitch nearly as well as his 2005 ERA of 3.57 would indicate. He walked 5.3 per nine innings and permitted only five homers despite a worrisome ground-fly ratio of 0.81. Not to say that he absolutely won’t offer support to AL-only owners, but pretend he posted a 4.57 ERA and set expectations from there. Worse still, after the Rays he’ll face the Yankees in Arlington followed by Boston and the Yankees again on the road.

At Second
Mark Derosa returned from the DL and will get the majority of starts at second base while Ian Kinsler heals his bum thumb. Derosa has modest, short-term value in AL-only leagues. Former fill-in D’Angelo Jimenez has minimal value even in large AL-only leagues, while recent call-up Drew Meyer has none. Kinsler won’t return before the middle of the month. Keep him DL’ed in AL-only leagues. In mixed leagues, if he’s occupying your DL spot and your bench is healthy, there’s no harm in keeping him. If, however, you also have a worthwhile but injured player clogging a bench spot, you certainly should drop Kinsler. Even the healthiest of rookies rarely make for quality fantasy players, much less those coming off severe hand injuries.

Posted by Lucas at 05:47 PM

May 01, 2006

P A N I C ! Re-Revisitied (For The Last Time)

Allow me to repeat myself yet again:

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.
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.

13-12 after 25 games, plus another win on Monday night. Go Rangers.

Posted by Lucas at 08:38 PM

The AL West In April

That the Rangers lead the West after one month is not surprising in and of itself. Most of the Baseball Punditry credited Texas with a competitive team and a dark-horse candidacy for the division title. The surprise emanates from leading despite a 2-7 start, the preseason loss of notional #2 starter Adam Eaton, the (hopefully temporary) self-immolation of closer Francisco Cordero, the failure of notional #4 starter Robinson Tejeda to succeed in AAA, much less the Majors, Brad Wilkerson’s statue-like performance as a leadoff hitter, etc. That list suggests a 10-15 record.

While the Ranger lead stems in part from the lack of any division opponent to catch fire, this team is no fluke. They’ve been slightly lucky, scoring about nine runs over what their peripherals suggest, but they also lead the West in park-adjusted runs scored and allowed.

About the statistics: You're probably familiar with Baseball Reference's statistics OPS+ and ERA+. The "+" denotes conversion of the statistic to an index that is adjusted for each team's league and park. A score of 100 equates to an average performance in the particular statistic. For example, Texas plays in a hitter-friendly park and must score 5.2 runs per game to “break even.” Los Angeles, in a very pitcher-friendly park, has a break-even rate of about 4.8 runs per game. One can, if one is a nerd, use this indexing for any statistic: runs scored (RS+), runs allowed (RA+), on-base percentage, triples, and so on.

OFFENSE
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Games
25
25
24
26
Runs Scored
136
112
110
114
Runs Scored/game
5.44
4.48
4.58
4.38
Park-Adj. League RS/Game
5.20
4.78
5.20
4.93
RS+
105
94
88
89
 
AVG
.282
.259
.232
.249
OBP
.348
.302
.316
.315
OBP+
102
91
94
93
SLUG+
.459
.404
.408
.389
SLUG+
100
96
94
93
Team OPS
.807
.706
.724
.704
Team OPS+
102
87
88
87
 
HR Rate
3.3%
2.5%
3.8%
2.0%
BB Rate
9%
5%
10%
7%
SO Rate
19%
14%
17%
16%
Steals / Caught
6 / 7
21 / 6
3 / 5
23 / 7

PITCHING
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Allowed
123
117
119
126
Runs Allowed/Game
4.92
4.68
4.96
4.85
Park-Adj. League RA/Game
5.20
4.78
5.20
4.93
RA+
106
102
105
102
 
ERA
4.71
4.09
4.74
4.58
Park-Adj. League ERA/Game
4.95
4.55
4.95
4.70
ERA+
105
111
104
103
Unearned Runs Allowed
7
17
7
8
 
Opp. AVG
.280
.246
.266
.270
Opp. OBP
.337
.318
.345
.348
Opp. OBP+
99
96
102
103
Opp. SLUG
.463
.399
.425
.444
Opp. SLUG+
101
94
98
107
Opp. OPS
.800
.717
.770
.792
Oppo. OPS+
100
90
100
110
 
HR Rate
3.3%
3.1%
2.7%
3.3%
BB Rate
7%
9%
9%
9%
SO Rate
17%
19%
17%
18%
Opp. Steals / Caught
9 / 8
12 / 6
10 / 12
14 / 4

ROTATION / BULLPEN
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Rotation IP/G
5.7
5.7
5.9
5.9
Rotation ERA
4.54
4.88
5.60
4.28
Park-Adj. League Rotation ERA
5.14
4.72
5.14
4.87
Rotation ERA+
113
97
92
114
 
Bullpen ERA
5.01
2.65
3.03
5.17
Park-Adj. League Bullpen ERA
4.60
4.23
4.61
4.37
Bullpen ERA+
92
160
152
84

PERIPHERALS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs per game
5.44
4.48
4.58
4.38
Expected RS/game
5.36
4.16
4.37
4.26
"Luck" per game
0.08
0.32
0.22
0.13
"Lucky" runs scored
2
8
5
3
 
Runs/G
4.92
4.68
4.96
4.85
Projected Runs / G
5.22
4.34
4.93
5.36
Luck per game
(0.30)
0.34
0.03
(0.51)
"Lucky" runs prevented
7
(8)
(1)
13
 
Total Luck
9
(0)
4
17

STANDINGS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Actual Wins
13
12
12
11
Actual Losses
12
13
12
15
Actual Win%
.520
.480
.500
.423
 
Pythag Wins
13.8
12.0
11.1
11.7
Pythag Losses
11.2
13.0
12.9
14.3
Pythag Win%
.550
.478
.461
.450
 
Periph Wins
12.8
12.0
10.6
10.1
Periph Losses
12.2
13.0
13.4
15.9
Periph Win%
.514
.478
.440
.387

PARKS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Park Factor (OPS)
1.05
0.95
0.99
0.95
Park Factor (Runs)
1.02
0.94
1.02
0.97

Posted by Lucas at 06:29 PM