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June 30, 2006

Weekend Photo


Sunset at Canyonlands National Park, Needles section, 21 May 2001.

Posted by Lucas at 08:54 AM

June 29, 2006

Castro Traded for Haigwood

Texas traded reliever FABIO CASTRO to Philadelphia for pitcher DANIEL HAIGWOOD. Texas also activated pitcher JOSH RUPE from the 60-day Disabled List, optioned him to AAA, and released infielder MARSHALL MCDOUGALL.

A nice return for the DFA’ed Castro. Haigwood was one of the chips traded to Philly for Jim Thome. This season he has a 3.86 ERA, 3.54 ERA, 85 strikeouts and 42 walks in 84 innings for AA Reading. He turns 23 in November.

McDougall might have made a decent bench player, but we’ll probably never know now.

In other news, the Rangers lost again, and Sleater-Kinney have broken up.

It’s been better.

Posted by Lucas at 07:17 PM

June 26, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

The Ascension of Mark Derosa
Buck Showalter declared Mark Derosa a starter before last weekend, hardly earth-shattering news regarding a player who had already played twenty consecutive games. On the other hand, the announcement does provide some certainty for potential mixed-league owners. Derosa’s best quality is his .342 batting average, but as I wrote a few days ago, his .406 average on balls in play is historically aberrant and won’t hold up. Since he doesn’t hit many homers or run much, his fantasy value is limited even with the high average. Without it, he’s garden variety. Still, batting second or fifth for Texas makes almost anyone respectable, and many owners could benefit by trying to ride his hot streak. He’s available in 86% of ESPN’s mixed leagues.

Teixeira Heats Up
Mark Teixeira is heating up. Enjoy.

OF/DH Carousel
Jerry Hairston has seven starts in the last sixteen games, almost enough to make him a worthwhile player in AL-only leagues. The problem is, he’s not very good, so don’t bother playing him. Why you and I know this but the manager doesn’t is a mystery. Giving seven outfield-corner starts to a guy with a career line of .259/.331/.366 might make sense in some eldritch Lovecraftian universe, but not this one.

Meanwhile, Jason Botts has only four starts over those same sixteen games and won’t accrue more than a few pinch at-bats while in San Francisco. I really didn’t expect Texas to call him up just to let him watch other boys play, yet there he is. As I mentioned last week, he can’t expect many starts as long as Mark Derosa plays every day, because he then forces either Brad Wilkerson or Kevin Mench to the bench (a too common occurrence without Botts’s help). Those in larger AL-only leagues might wait for the upcoming homestand to see if he earns enough playing time to help a fantasy squad. Otherwise, it’s time to move on. I’d like to say that he’ll start more often if Texas falls out of contention, but I’m at a loss to explain the recent decision-making of the powers that be.

Brad Wilkerson spent three of his last four games chatting with Botts from the safety of the dugout. He rebounded well from his awful April but has again struggled in June, batting .200/.243/.431. When he’s played, he has at least offered decent counting stats despite his weak average. History suggests he’ll improve, so don’t cut him except in smaller mixed leagues.

Likewise, Kevin Mench is floundering his way through June (.206/.306/.302) and sitting about 25% of the time. Treat him as you would Wilkerson. He tends to hit better after the All-Star Break.

Kinsler Settles Down
Ian Kinsler is batting .259/.333/.493 in 25 games since returning from his thumb injury. I expected the so-so average and OBP; the power is a pleasant surprise. I’ll tediously reiterate my claim that true rookies rarely make for good fantasy players. Kinsler may slip to the fringes of worthiness in mixed leagues depending on their sizes, so keep an eye on him and potential replacements.

The Ballpark
Typically, The Ballpark achieves maximum hitter-friendliness during July and August. In fact, to date, the Rangers and their opponents have scored more runs per games on the road (10.54) than in Arlington (10.17). Something to keep in mind when predicting future performances of Ranger players.

Pitchers
Five consecutive quality starts have dropped Kevin Millwod’s ERA to 4.29. His strikeout rate has fallen in the process – a modest 5.7 per nine innings during that span. During the previous three years, he has a 4.11 ERA before the All-Star Break and .343 afterwards, so perhaps he stands to improve a little more. I think that if he finishes the season with his current ERA and 1.31 WHIP, owners should be satisfied.

Adam Eaton could return within a month. Here’s my preseason prediction with the injury caveats deleted: “10 wins, 4.90 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 130 Ks, 170 innings. Eaton has a career ERA of 4.34 in the best pitching environment in the National League. You don’t need a computer or even an abacus to understand how his flyball tendencies should translate to the AL and Arlington. His wins and strikeouts can help AL-only owners, and he is pitching for his next contract.? So, I’m not very high on him. Depending on how John Rheinecker and John Koronka hold up, Eaton’s arrival could demote currently DL’ed Kameron Loe to the bullpen role at which he excelled in 2005. Loe has negligible fantasy value.

Vicente Padilla: acceptable in AL-only leagues. Rheinecker and Koronka: acceptable in larger AL-only leagues. Robinson Tejeda: unacceptable.

The Ballpark
Typically, The Ballpark achieves maximum hitter-friendliness during July and August. In fact, to date, the Rangers and their opponents have scored more runs per games on the road (10.54) than in Arlington (10.17). Something to keep in mind when predicting future performances of Ranger players.

Texas completes its run through NL parks on Thursday.

Posted by Lucas at 11:58 PM

Tejeda Up and Down, Masset Up, Castro Out

I'm running late...

On Saturday, Texas recalled pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA from AAA Oklahoma and designated relief pitcher FABIO CASTRO for assignment.

Odds are that Texas won’t regret losing Castro, the first pick of the offseason Rule 5 draft, but it’s an irritating move nonetheless because of the rationales offered.

One, Buck Showalter noted that “there are some things to like about [Castro]… but we’re also trying to win a division. It’s a tough call.?

In spending tens of millions for Kevin Millwood, trading for Adam Eaton and Brad Wilkerson and Aki Otsuka, trading away Alfonso Soriano and Chris Young, and so on, the Rangers quite obviously have been “trying to win a division? since last November. If holding on to a not-ready-for-prime-time Rule 5 pick contradicts that goal, why bother drafting him? Alternately, why not give Castro a legitimate chance to show whether he belonged and then cut bait in May if need be, rather than let him rot on the bench and remain an enigma in late June?

Two, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, reliever Bryan Corey’s “performance was one of the reasons why the Rangers were willing to let go of Rule 5 pitcher Fabio Castro.? Texas would have had to send Corey through waivers to get him back to Oklahoma. Showalter said, “With the state of pitching in baseball, we could have lost Bryan,? who would have been exposed to waivers had Texas tried to send him back to AAA.

Really? Bryan Corey? The 32-year-old with only four more big-league innings than the 21-year-old Castro? Now, I’m rooting for him; the Bryan Corey Story is an example of what makes baseball more interesting than any other sport. But will Texas keep him when Adam Eaton, Frankie Francisco, John Wasdin and perhaps Josh Rupe claim their places on the active roster?

On Sunday, Texas recalled pitcher NICK MASSET from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA to AAA.

Three cheers for Masset, who pitched himself off the 40-man roster in 2005 but revitalized his career this season.

Posted by Lucas at 09:49 PM

June 23, 2006

Is Mark DeRosa For Real?

Had you told me in March that Mark DeRosa would be playing every day and batting fifth, I would have stuck a NAMBLA sticker on your car and drop-kicked your dog into the neighbor’s yard. I’m just that kind of guy.

Yet here it is, mid-June, and not only is DeRosa playing every day and batting fifth, he deserves to. With a line of .341/.399/.514, he trails only Gary Matthews (?!) in OPS among regular and semi-regular Ranger batters. He says he imitates Michael Young’s hitting style. Probably all of us could benefit from imitating Young.

Unfortunately for his long-term success, DeRosa has also been very lucky. A typical players bats just over .300 counting only balls hit into the field of play (that is, minus walks, strikeouts, and homers). Prior to 2006, DeRosa’s average in this respect was .295. This season, it’s .406. That can’t last.

I’m not arguing a DIPS-based theory that batters can’t influence their hit rates on balls in play. Unlike almost all pitchers, many batters appear to have (or lack) the ability to hit balls in play for a consistently high average. Ichiro!, Todd Helton and Bobby Abreu are examples. Overall batting average correlates moderately well to average on balls in play, though there are notable exceptions (Brad Wilkerson, Craig Wilson). Also, a high average on balls in play does not necessarily indicate a great hitter (Alex Sanchez, Willy Tavares).

Irrespective of the extent to which a batter can affect his average on balls in play, DeRosa’s .406 is not tenable. During 2003-2005, 476 batters attained the 501 plate appearances needed to qualify for the batting title. Here’s how they batted on balls in play:

Batters' Average on Balls in Play,
2003-2005
Best .401
Top 2% .363
Top 5% .352
Top 10% .342
Top 25% .327
Median .309
Worst .230

Ichiro! leads the pack with an average on balls in play of .401, achieved during 2004 when he batted .372 overall. Admirable though his improvement is, DeRosa’s no Ichiro. Even a 54-point drop in average on balls in play would place him among the top 5%.

Let’s say that DeRosa will bat .327 on balls in play for the rest of the season, equivalent to the top 25% among qualifying hitters. Also assume that his homer rate, walk rate, and rate of doubles per hit won’t change. How will he bat the rest of the season, assuming he plays in 80 of the team’s 89 remaining games at his current pace of 4.04 plate appearances per game?

Category
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AB
H
2B
3B
HR
BB
SO
Predicted remainder of season .279 .338 .430 .768 292 82 29 0 5 26 54
Actual games to date
.341
.399
.514
.913
179
61
22
0
3
16
33
TOTAL .303 .360 .462 .822 471 143 51 0 8 42 87

Under these assumptions, DeRosa would bat .279/.338/.430, well below his current pace but still far better than his pre-2006 career line of .263/.319/.380. However, a .768 OPS makes him a poor #5 hitter and a no longer an automatic play over Kevin Mench or Brad Wilkerson. The possibility exists that DeRosa will be permitted a lengthy occupation of the five-spot (or higher) while sliding into his usual lukewarm batting performance.

Posted by Lucas at 05:47 PM

Weekend Photo


On the lookout for snakes in Colorado Bend State Park, October 2001.

Posted by Lucas at 03:55 PM

June 22, 2006

What's In A Name?

Does Rod Barajas deserve the nickname “Popup?? Per Baseball Prospectus, leaders in percentage of batted balls resulting in a popup (minimum 1.5 plate appearances per game, 302 players qualify)

1. Shane Victorino – 19.6%
2. Marcus Thames – 17.8%
3. Mark Ellis – 16.2%
4. Toby Hall – 16.2%
5. Jerry Hairston – 16.1%
6. Jose Valentin – 15.3%
7. Clint Barmes – 15.2%
8. Rod Barajas – 15.2%

To his credit, Barajas has hit better of late. One decent night will push his OBP over .300 and his slugging percentage over .400, elevating him to Not Bad For A Catcher status. Texas also has 26-year-old backup catcher slugging .568, but that is an apparent irrelevancy.

Posted by Lucas at 09:36 AM

June 20, 2006

Loe DL'ed, Guzman Recalled

Texas placed pitcher KAMERON LOE on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled outfielder FREDDY GUZMAN from AAA Oklahoma.

Loe doesn’t strike anyone out, so he lives and dies on the basis of homers allowed (over which he has substantial control) and his hit rate on balls in play (over which he has little). Last year, Loe allowed one homer per 56 batters faced and had a quite lucky .271 average on balls in play. This year, one homer per 36 batters and an unlucky .328 average when the ball stayed in the park. Somewhere in the middle is a pitcher with a borderline-acceptable ERA of 5.00.

Guzman came to Texas from San Diego in exchange for minor-leaguers John Hudgins and Vince Sinisi and was batting .278/.378/.346 in Oklahoma. Guzman should be limited to pinch-running duties but might get an at-bat or two during Texas’s upcoming jaunt through NL parks. He can dream of more without undue illegitimacy; after all, ostensible 25th man and non-hitter Jerry Hairston has inexplicably started five of the last ten games, two more than Jason Botts.

Posted by Lucas at 01:07 PM

June 17, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Teixeira’s Extended Vacation
Mark Teixeira’s homer-free stretch reached 17 games last night, leaving him on pace for a miserly 16 on the season. As mentioned in the Dallas Morning News this week, Teixeira claims to have found a flaw in his swing that reduces homers to doubles. His.280 average and .370 OBP are solid. He’s not hurt and is actually hitting much better in road games than at home. What I can’t fathom is how he’s batting only .230 with no homers and two RBI in 68 first-inning at-bats. He should recover. Be patient.

The Dreaded Job-Sharing Arrangement
Mark Derosa’s hot bat, Jason Botts’ recall from AAA and Ian Kinsler’s activation from the DL have made a mess of the starting lineup. In the 22 games since Kinsler’s return, those three, Kevin Mench and Brad Wilkerson have started the following number of games:

Derosa – 20 (benched 2)
Kinsler – 19 (benched 3)
Mench – 16 (benched 6)
Wilkerson – 16 (benched 6)
Botts – 8 (benched 14, more on him below)

Why does Derosa top the list? He’s batting .338/.395/.525, making a mockery of his career line of .263/.319/.380 coming into the season. Derosa certainly will cool down but seems to have made genuine progress at the plate, so owners in mixed leagues can play him in the near term without too much fear of multiple zeros on the stat line.

Derosa has, in fact, pushed Mench into a utility role, flipping him among left, right and DH depending on the handedness of the pitcher and Showalter’s mood. Mench had a magnificent two-week stretch from late April into early May but has done little since. He has one homer and nine RBI during the last five weeks and a .200 average during June. In the short term, expect him to continue to play against all lefties and 70% of the time overall.

Likewise, Wilkerson has occupied the dugout with irritating frequency. Though on pace to set career bests in runs, homers and RBI, he isn’t walking much and has a mediocre .331 on-base percentage. Also, even though strikeouts are rarely more harmful than an ordinary batted out, his 82 in just 60 games can’t please the guy who writes the lineup. He should continue to produce, if in unattractive fashion.

As to how this shakes out, I’m sometimes skeptical of Showalter’s lineup construction, but in this case I think the players themselves (primarily Derosa) will make his decisions for him. None among Wilkerson, Mench and Deorsa has enough defensive wizardry to play through an extended slump. The hot bats will play.

Fool Me Once...
Throughout much of 2005 and into this season, Texas declined to promote DH Jason Botts because management wanted him to get regular at-bats. No point in bringing him to Arlington just to sit in a 100-degree dugout while wearing long pants. Much to my chagrin, Texas has done just that, starting him only seven of the last 21 games. Perhaps Texas intended to play him more often, but with Derosa’s hot bat in the lineup every day, a start by Botts forces either Mench or Wilkerson to the bench. Botts has a .258 average, one homer, seven runs and four RBI in nine starts. AL-only owners (except perhaps those in eight-team leagues) should hold him for a while longer. He has the bat to reward your patience. If your league does not allow game-time decisions on starts, understand that Botts has yet to start against a lefty and has started against righties just over 50% of the time.

Fool Me Twice...
When Gerald Laird caught consecutive games June 4th and 6th (with a day off in between) and received approbation from Buck Showalter, he seemingly had achieved a permanent increase in playing time. I should know better. Laird has started three of ten games since then and appears to be trapped in the same once-start-per-series limbo as before. Also, Rod Barajas has warmed up in June (.324, six runs, one homer, five RBI), which confirms the current arrangement.

Interleague!
Texas begins interleague play with six home games, so its lineup won’t suffer the indignity of pitchers attempting to hit until the 23rd. Start or bench your Texas players as you normally would.

Posted by Lucas at 03:42 PM

June 16, 2006

Wasdin Out, Castro In

Texas placed pitcher JOHN WASDIN on the 15-day Disabled List and activated reliever FABIO CASTRO from the Disabled List.

Wasdin bruised his hand fielding a comebacker. Texas stashed Rule 5 selection Castro on the DL with a minutely strained groin six weeks ago and has been trying to avoid having to place him on waivers ever since. With twelve other pitchers on the roster, Texas can hide him more easily while he accrues the mandatory service time.

Posted by Lucas at 07:20 PM

Weekend Photo


Jack is unimpressed with the Rangers and my lack of content lately. More to follow.

Posted by Lucas at 06:07 PM

June 10, 2006

Mark Teixeira's Power Outage

Mark Teixeira has a grand total of six homers in sixty games played. 110 Major Leaguers have more. Even traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez has seven, albeit with much worse figures in other categories.

Often reduced power is a symptom of bad hitting overall, but not in Teixeira’s case. He’s hitting a robust .290, walking more often and striking out less than at any time in his career, and is on pace to hit a career-best 51 doubles, which very slightly ameliorates the lack of homers. His ground/fly ratio hasn’t changed. He does have only one HBP, on pace for three, after getting no fewer than ten in any prior season. Is he standing farther from the plate? I don’t know. Teixeira appears just fine except for that stunning 65% drop in his homer rate.

I did find one bizarre and fascinating statistic. Unlike previous seasons, Teixeira has batted very poorly the first time he faces a pitcher:

1st appearance against pitcher
% of Total PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
2004-2005 56% .294 .375 .578 .953
2006 53% .213 .308 .315 .623

As the team’s #3 hitter, Teixeira always bats in the first inning, and, of course, is facing the starting pitcher for the first time. Late in games he’s almost always facing a reliever. Thus, his newfound problem has resulted in middle-inning brilliance bookended by misery:

2006
% of Total PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
1st appearance against Starting Pitcher 22% .241 .317 .278 .595
2nd-4th appearances against Starting Pitcher 47% .378 .461 .613 1.074
Appearances against relievers 31% .191 .306 .342 .648

In sixty first-inning plate appearances, Teixeira has eleven singles, two doubles, no triples or homers, six walks, and exactly two runs batted in. Two! He batted in the #3 slot most of last season, so there’s no issue with acclimation.

As with Wilkerson’s early-season woes, I suspect Teixeira will rebound. In the meantime, his first-inning at-bats deserve careful scrutiny.

Posted by Lucas at 07:15 PM

June 09, 2006

Corey Purchased, Alfonseca Booted

Texas purchased the contract of reliever BRYAN COREY and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Texas also designated reliever ANTONIO ALFONSECA for assignment.

What? Texas discarded El Pulpo just two days after activating from the DL, in favor of a 32-year-old with five MLB innings to his credit. Corey has pitched extraordinarily well between Frisco and Oklahoma: a 1.39 ERA, eight walks and 35 strikeouts in 32 innings. His career ERA in AAA going into this season was 4.48 with generally shrug-worthy peripherals. He credits a slight mechanical change for his sudden improvement.

Alfonseca was allowing baserunners at an alarming rate, but Corey’s odds of a better performance are pretty thin. On the other hand, hey, why not? A disaster would result in perhaps five innings of terrible pitching followed by his own designation and the return of Wes Littleton or the rehabbing Frankie Francisco. It’s a weird transaction but ultimately of minimal risk.

Posted by Lucas at 05:46 PM

2006 Draft

Ranger 2006 draft choices are listed here. To learn about these players, visit Jamey Newberg here.

Posted by Lucas at 11:38 AM

Weekend Photo


In honor of last night's 16-12 loss to Kansas City, a picture of Alcatraz shot from Golden Gate Park, 27 March 2006.

Posted by Lucas at 11:32 AM

June 07, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Nevin Departs
Texas blessedly traded the permaslumping DH Phil Nevin to the Cubs last week. Since then, Buck Showalter has apportioned the DH at-bats to several players. Recently recalled Jason Botts has started six of thirteen games since joining the Rangers, and that trend should continue. Botts has 98% ownership in ESPN’s AL-only leagues and 4% in mixed leagues. ESPN owners have it right: he probably won’t play quite enough or hit well enough to help most mixed-leaguers. Despite the .318 average he offered in AAA, I expect a mediocre average coupled with respectable power. Botts has yet to start against a lefty.

Laird Ascends
On Tuesday night, catcher Gerald Laird makes his second consecutive start for the first time this season. Laird smacked two homers and two doubles against the White Sox Sunday and finally appears to have Showalter’s attention. He won’t receive more than half the starts in the near term, probably a little less, but AL-only owners in need of catching help should consider him. Laird is currently batting .367 with four homers in only 60 at-bats. He can’t persist at that pace, but .280 with decent power is attainable. If Laird continues to hit well and Rod Barajas remains below .250 with one walk per week, he will graduate to two-thirds of the team’s starts during the season’s second half.

Kinsler Regresses
Ownership of Ian Kinsler has fallen from 90% to 66% in the past week because… well, I suppose because his former owners are disgusted that he won’t bat .440 all season. Kinsler has a tepid line of .214/.266/.433 since returning from a long DL stint for a dislocated thumb. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly to fantasy players, my wife, my cats, and passers by, true rookies very rarely make worthwhile fantasy performers in mixed leagues. Don’t drop him for newly acquired Jerry Hairston or someone of similar (lack of) standing, but most leagues of ten or fewer teams should have someone better or safer in the free-agent pool. Kinsler merits ownership in AL-only leagues.

Matthews Amazes
Gary Matthews has quietly raised his line to .321/.384/.556 with five homers, 27 runs and 26 RBI in only 45 games. Matthews ranks fourth in baseball with 21 doubles, which does fantasy owners no good directly but indicates his recent prowess. He’s approaching 44% ownership in mixed leagues. Matthews can help any fantasy team but might not have a long shelf life. He has a far more modest career line of .254/.331/.410, and though he’s batted better while with Texas, he’s not known for his magic bat and has a history of extreme streakiness. He’s not the “grab him and forget about him? type.

Rheinecker Destroys
John Rheinecker has pitched brilliantly in the two starts since I recommended him only for larger AL-only leagues. I saw at a pitcher with a 1.38 WHIP and 6.3 K/9 in the high minors and shrugged. Meanwhile, Rheinecker contemptuously glared down hitters Bob Gibson-style and chopped them into a fine mulch. So, what of the future? Rheinecker will stay in the rotation at the expense of Robinson Tejeda. He next faces Boston in Fenway and Chicago in Arlington, neither of which is conducive to success. On the other hand, he handled Chicago on the road. Start him in AL-only leagues, don’t take the bait yet in mixed leagues. I doubt he’ll offer more than adequacy in terms of ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, but considering that he effectively didn’t exist a few weeks ago, that’s enormous progress.

Millwood Confounds
Last week, Kevin Millwood defied his year-long run of all-or-nothing performances with a workmanlike six-inning, three-run, four-strikeout evening against Seattle. Tuesday night, he dominated Kansas City, as well he should. For those considering acquiring him in mixed leagues, he current stats reflect his long-term status. He should provide ample wins and strikeouts and a mediocre WHIP and ERA. He went seven days between starts because of a sore back and struggled briefly against KC, but he recovered and seems good to go.

Hairston Arrives
Texas acquired utility guy Jerry Hairston Jr. for Nevin. Hairston ranks behind Mark DeRosa in utility guy-ness and certainly won’t displace a regular. No value except in gigantic AL-only leagues. As for DeRosa, he has maintained his near-everyday status and ridiculous hitting through the arrival of Botts and Hairston and departure of Nevin. Ride him while he's hot, drop him when he cools.

Posted by Lucas at 01:22 AM

Alfonseca Returns, Jimenez Departs

Texas activated reliever ANTONIO ALFONSECA from the Disabled List and designated infielder D’ANGELO JIMENEZ for assignment.

In 2010, Texas will routinely carry sixteen pitchers and the minimum nine hitters.

I’m no fan of an eight-man bullpen because having one means apportioning innings to the twelfth and thirteenth best pitchers on the team in the interest of keeping everyone fresh. On the other hand, Texas rarely platoons, pinch-hits or pinch-runs, so being the last man on the Ranger bench means a nice per-diem and endless hours of boredom.

Anyway, the Rangers didn’t need Jimenez once Hairston arrives, and should the need arise later, they’ll call for Drew Meyer.

Posted by Lucas at 12:36 AM

June 06, 2006

Texas Rangers 1st Round Draft Picks Still Playing Baseball

PLAYER (Overall pick, school, position)

2005
JOHN MAYBERRY
(19, College, OF) –Batting .230/.320/.443 for low-A Clinton. 22 years old.

2004
TOM DIAMOND
(10, College, SP) – Starting for AA Frisco in the Texas system, 11 starts, 3.88 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 6.1 BB/9, 11.3 SO/9.

ERIC HURLEY (30, High School, SP) – Starting for high-A Bakersfield in the Texas system, 11 starts, 2.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 9.1 SO/9.

2003
JOHN DANKS
(9, High School, SP) – Starting for AA Frisco in the Texas system, 10 starts, 4.73 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 11.7 SO/9.

2002
DREW MEYER
(10, College, SS) – Made MLB debut for Texas in 2006, played sparingly. Batting .276/.308/.398 as utility man in AAA Oklahoma in the Texas system.

2001
MARK TEIXEIRA
(5, College, 3B) – Debuted with Texas in 2003. Career MLB line of .284/.365/.533, 113 homers, 370 runs batted in. 26 years old.

2000
TYRELL GODWIN
(35, College, OF) – Did not sign with Texas. Drafted in third round by Toronto, made MLB debut with Washington in 2005 as a Rule 5 draft selection. Only had three plate appearances. Currently in AAA New Orleans batting .237/.268/.392.

1999
COLBY LEWIS
(38, Junior College, SP) – Pitched for Texas 2002-2004. Claimed on waivers by Detroit in 2005, now pitching for AAA Toledo.

1998
CARLOS PENA
(10, College, 1B) – Debuted with Texas in 2001, traded to Oakland the following offseason, then to Detroit. Dumped by Detroit, signed with the Yankees. Batting .253/.387/.427 for AAA Columbus.

1997
JASON ROMANO
(39, High School, 3B) – Debuted with Texas in 2002, traded to Colorado that season. Has also played for the Dodgers, Reds and Devil Rays in a utility role. Signed with Milwaukee in the offseason but has not appeared in a game in 2006.

1996
R.A. DICKEY
(18, College, SP) – Pitched for Texas in 2001 and 2003-2006. Outrighted to AAA in 2006, has a 7.02 ERA in 42 innings while trying to refine his knuckleball.

COREY LEE (32, College, SP) – Pitched one inning for Texas in 1999. Bounced through Chicago (AL), Anaheim and LA (NL) systems during 2002-2005. Now pitches for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

1992
RICK HELLING
(22, College, SP) – Debuted with Texas in 1994, pitched with Rangers from 1994-2001. Traded to Florida during 1996, traded back during 1997. Has also pitched for Arizona, Baltimore, Minnesota (in the minors) and Milwaukee. Has retired at least once. Currently pitches for Milwaukee, has been on Disabled List most of the season.

1991
BENJI GIL
(19, High School, SS) – Debuted with Texas in 1993, played with Rangers 1993-1997. Also played for Anaheim in the Majors (2000-2003) and in the minors for Chicago (AL and NL), Florida, Cleveland, Detroit and New York (NL). Batting .383/.438/.605 for the Sultans de Monterrey in the Mexican League.

Posted by Lucas at 11:55 AM

June 03, 2006

The AL West Through May (Well, Through June 2)

The Rangers lead the division as they did after April. Recent issues with run scoring (4.25 runs per game over the last twelve) have pulled them down to seventh in the AL in runs scored, below average once accounting for park. Texas does have an OPS+ of 103, so they've scored fewer runs than their line of .278/.348/.457 would suggest. Observe Seattle's hacktastic walk rate of 6%; the Mariners trail even the pitiful Royals in bases on balls.

Texas has an ERA+ of 106. As in 2004, the Rangers are winning more with pitching and defense than hitting. The key is a remarkably stingy 51 homers allowed, nine fewer than any West opponent and third fewest in the league. Texas trails only the Yankees in park-adjusted slugging percentage allowed. The rotation has held strong while the bullpen has regained respectability after a rough start.

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
54
54
55
56
Runs Scored
275
242
246
256
Runs Scored/game
5.09
4.48
4.47
4.57
Park-Adj. League RS/Game
5.14
4.74
5.05
4.81
RS+
99
95
89
95
 
AVG
.278
.252
.243
.264
OBP
.348
.310
.324
.318
OBP+
102
93
96
95
SLUG+
.457
.391
.404
.395
SLUG+
101
94
95
96
Team OPS
.805
.701
.728
.713
Team OPS+
103
87
91
91
 
HR Rate
3.2%
2.4%
3.3%
2.1%
BB Rate
9%
7%
10%
6%
SO Rate
17%
16%
15%
15%
Steals / Caught
11 / 9
51 / 15
13 / 7
41 / 18

PITCHING
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Allowed
265
273
251
275
Runs Allowed/Game
4.91
5.06
4.56
4.91
Park-Adj. League RA/Game
5.18
4.77
5.09
4.84
RA+
106
94
111
99
 
ERA
4.65
4.58
4.37
4.65
Park-Adj. League ERA/Game
4.91
4.53
4.82
4.59
ERA+
106
99
110
99
Unearned Runs Allowed
18
29
15
18
 
Opp. AVG
.271
.263
.266
.260
Opp. OBP
.336
.323
.341
.331
Opp. OBP+
98
97
101
99
Opp. SLUG
.412
.424
.424
.426
Opp. SLUG+
91
102
100
103
Opp. OPS
.748
.747
.765
.757
Oppo. OPS+
90
98
101
102
 
HR Rate
2.5%
3.1%
2.9%
3.2%
BB Rate
8%
7%
9%
9%
SO Rate
16%
18%
15%
17%
Opp. Steals / Caught
19 / 14
26 / 13
25 / 19
30 / 12

ROTATION / BULLPEN
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Rotation IP/G
5.5
5.8
6.0
6.0
Rotation ERA
4.84
4.78
4.55
4.75
Park-Adj. League Rotation ERA
5.13
4.73
5.03
4.79
Rotation ERA+
106
99
111
101
 
Bullpen ERA
4.33
4.28
4.07
4.71
Park-Adj. League Bullpen ERA
4.57
4.21
4.49
4.27
Bullpen ERA+
106
98
110
91

PERIPHERALS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs per game
5.09
4.48
4.47
4.57
Expected RS/game
5.36
4.16
4.47
4.25
"Luck" per game
(0.27)
0.33
(0.00)
0.33
"Lucky" runs scored
(14)
18
(0)
18
 
Runs/G
4.91
5.06
4.56
4.91
Projected Runs / G
4.68
4.62
4.89
4.82
Luck per game
0.23
0.43
(0.32)
0.09
"Lucky" runs prevented
(13)
(23)
18
(5)
 
Total Luck
(27)
(6)
18
13

STANDINGS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Actual Wins
29
24
25
24
Actual Losses
25
30
30
32
Actual Win%
.537
.444
.455
.429
 
Pythag Wins
28.0
23.8
26.9
26.0
Pythag Losses
26.0
30.2
28.1
30.0
Pythag Win%
.519
.440
.490
.464
 
Periph Wins
30.7
24.1
25.1
24.5
Periph Losses
23.3
29.9
29.9
31.5
Periph Win%
.568
.447
.456
.437

PARKS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Park Factor (OPS)
1.05
0.95
0.98
0.94
Park Factor (Runs)
1.03
0.95
1.01
0.96

Posted by Lucas at 11:29 AM

June 02, 2006

The Real Season Begins

Life is good. Despite Wednesday's blowout loss, Texas leads the division by 3.5 games and is the only AL West club playing winning baseball. Baseball Prospectus offers a wonderful, daily Monte Carlo simulation of the rest of the season, projecting records and each team’s probability of winning a division or wildcard. Depending on methodology used, BP predicts Texas has between a 67% and 73% chance of winning the division.

I wish I could believe it.

Now, I’m not a pessimist by nature (really) or some flake who derives happiness from failure. I do believe Texas has a respectable chance to win the West, but I wouldn’t concede a probability over 50%. Two reasons:

  • Oakland has a history of starting poorly and roaring to the finish.
  • Texas has a history of the opposite. Do they ever.

The Rangers’ annual summer swoon is no myth, no mordant function of selective memory. I wrote about several memorable post-All Star break collapses two years ago. That article only presented anecdotes, but deeper analysis confirms Texas’s history of collapse.

Longtime Ranger fans assuredly know that the franchise has a losing record over its 34-plus years in Arlington. What they may not know is that the team has a winning record through May 31st. The following chart shows the Rangers’ cumulative over/under as of every particular date of the season. For example, the Rangers have an all-time record of 114-100 on games played from the start of the season through April 15th, thus an over of 14 games. Through May 31st, Texas has an all-time record of 806-804 (+2). Afterwards, they’re skiing a blue slope:

Period
Record
Win %
3/30 - 5/31
806 - 804
.501
6/01 - 10/07
1790 - 1970
.476

The first two years in Arlington, when the team posted 100-loss seasons, tend to skew the data. Removing 1972 and 1973 gives Texas a winning record as late as July 14th. It also reveals a seven-week period of decay that has ruined many a season:

Period
Record
Win %
3/30 - 7/09
1336 - 1312
.505
7/10 - 8 / 31
793 - 911
.465
9/01 - 10/07
356 - 346
.507

The Rangers allegedly unburdened fans of those painful memories during the late 1990s, but 2004 (leading the division at the All Star Break, finished third) and 2005 (30-20 through May, 49-63 to finish) reopened old wounds. In 2006, Texas has the talent to win the division and a collection of young players who don’t know or care about history. Here’s hoping they aren’t doomed to repeat it.

Posted by Lucas at 06:32 PM

Weekend Photo


The Na Pali coast, Kauai, 7 December 2004

Posted by Lucas at 05:20 PM

June 01, 2006

Mark Teixeira Interview

Baseball America's Alan Schwarz has a very interesting interview with Mark Teixeira about the personal aspects of the draft and dealing with scouts. Check it out.

Posted by Lucas at 08:01 PM

Wasdin!

Texas purchased the contract of pitcher JOHN WASDIN from AAA Oklahoma and optioned reliever C.J. WILSON to AAA.

The Rangers signed Wasdin to a Major League deal in the offseason, only to dump him a few days before the start of the season. Wasdin has pitched very well in AAA (2.17 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and dominated righthanded batters (.177/.238/.269). Last year’s pleasantly surprising middle relief was borne largely from a low .277 average on balls in play; he remains an extreme flyball pitcher who will give up the titanic blast. Still, he’s not a bad guy to have around for chewing up the middle innings.

Posted by Lucas at 07:02 PM