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August 30, 2006

Hyzdu Outrighted

Texas designated outfielder ADAM HYZDU for assignment and outrighted him to AAA Oklahoma.

Rotoworld expressed amazement that Hyzdu stayed on the roster for so long. Hyzdu didn’t survive on merit, rather on Texas’s lack of additional trades or need for another roster spot. Now, the Rangers need his spot, as they have traded 2004 fifth-rounder Mike Nickeas for New York Mets outfielder Victor Diaz. The Mets themselves designated Diaz last week, but Texas probably will add him to the roster and bring him to Arlington on September 1.

Diaz has cratered this year (.223/.275/.334 in AAA Norfolk) after showing promise in the Majors last year (.257/.329/.468). Still, he doesn’t turn 25 until December.

Posted by Lucas at 04:56 PM

August 28, 2006

The Mench Who Sat On The Bench

If Kevin Mench was frustrated by his never-quite-everyday status in Texas, imagine how he feels in Milwaukee. Did anyone notice that he went six games between starts and seven between full games?

August 19 – started in left field, played entire game
August 20 – did not play
August 21 – no game
August 22 – pinch-hit for Gabe Gross in 7th, played left field
August 23 – did not play
August 24 – did not play
August 25 – did not play
August 26 – started in left field , pulled as part of double-switch after five innings
August 27 – started in left field, played entire game

Plate Appearances by Milwaukee outfielders from the 20th through 26th:

Laynce Nix – 20 (.263/.300/.316 in 20 plate appearances as a Brewer)
Gabe Gross – 20
Corey Hart – 17
Geoff Jenkins – 10
Brady Clark – 8
Kevin Mench – 3 (.240/.263/.307 in 80 PAs as a Brewer)

Mench makes $2.8 million and will be arbitration-eligible this winter. I wonder if Milwaukee will offer him a contract.

Posted by Lucas at 01:38 AM

August 27, 2006

Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?

As the Rangers slide further into oblivion, you’ll read plenty about how pitching has doomed them yet again. Whenever the Rangers “underachieve,” to use the owner’s dry description, pitching is automatically blamed. It’s the equivalent of a reflex arc, a synaptic process that doesn’t involve the brain. You touch a hot stove, and you instantaneously pull away. You watch the Rangers lose again, and you (the writer, the fan, the casual observer) instantaneously yell “more pitching!”

To be sure, the Ranger pitching staff is a source of perpetual frustration. The DMN’s Evan Grant rightly focused on would-be savior Adam Eaton’s wearying performance in Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to Oakland and didn’t mention the hitting at all.

However, I think the offense should bear as much or even more blame than the pitching for the Rangers’ present status. It’s decidedly average, certainly not of a quality to carry a team to a division title.

Before the year started, I think most Ranger fans would have expressed something close to the following: “If the pitching can just be okay and the offense does its thing, Texas might win the division.” And in fact, the pitching has been okay. Texas has allowed 4.93 runs per game this season, slightly better than the park-adjusted league average of 5.07.

Unfortunately, the offense has also just been okay. Compared to a park-adjusted league average of 5.17 runs scored per game, the Rangers have scored exactly 5.17. They rank eighth in the American League in OBP+, eighth in SLG+, ninth in Equivalent Average, eighth in Marginal Lineup Value, and eighth in Value Over Replacement Player. Ho hum.

Relative to each other, the offense and pitching are nearly equal in quality. Relative to expectations, I suggest that the offense has been the greater disappointment.

With an average pitching staff, the Rangers needed an offensive effort akin to 1998, when surprising performances from Mike Simms, Roberto Kelly, Luis Alicea and others augmented the expected awesomeness of Pudge, Will Clark and Juan Gonzalez. This season, Texas got its surprises in the form of Gary Matthews, Mark DeRosa, and Ian Kinsler, but, sad to say, the core has underwhelmed. Both Mark Teixeira (despite his recent upsurge) and Michael Young are well off last year’s pace, and Hank Blalock has continued to produce his middling results. As for the others, the departed Kevin Mench appears to have topped out as an average-at-best corner outfielder. Brad Wilkerson played hurt. Phil Nevin and Rod Barajas are replacement-level hitters.

During the last ten games, the Rangers have scored only 33 runs, ten of which were unearned thanks to sloppy defense by their opponents. They’ve batted a pitiful .212/.259/.319. In its last 363 plate appearances, Texas has an OPS of .578. No Major League player with that many appearances has that low of an OPS. Since last Thursday, the entire Ranger offense has batted similarly to Vinny Castilla (.232/.260/.319) and a little worse than Neifi Perez (.247/.261/.328).

Meanwhile, the pitching has surrendered a tolerable 45 runs. Last Sunday’s thrilling comeback against Detroit notwithstanding, Texas has won four of those ten games because of its pitching, not in spite of it. If Jon Daniels upgrades the pitching this offseason, he’s only solved half the problem.

Say it with me now: “More hitting!”

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Scored, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Scored
RS+
1
NY YANKEES
4.92
115
2
CLEVELAND
4.90
112
3
CHICAGO SOX
4.99
112
4
BOSTON
5.11
106
5
LA ANGELS
4.75
103
6
DETROIT
4.89
102
7
MINNESOTA
5.00
101
8
TEXAS
5.17
100
9
BALTIMORE
4.87
100
10
TORONTO
5.12
100
11
SEATTLE
4.90
93
12
OAKLAND
5.00
93
13
KANSAS CITY
5.20
88
14
TAMPA BAY
5.08
84

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Allowed, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Allowed
RA+
1
DETROIT
3.99
119
2
OAKLAND
4.38
111
3
MINNESOTA
4.41
111
4
TORONTO
4.88
102
5
TEXAS
4.93
102
6
CHICAGO SOX
4.83
101
7
NY YANKEES
4.77
100
8
SEATTLE
4.77
100
9
LA ANGELS
4.68
99
10
BOSTON
5.14
97
11
CLEVELAND
4.99
96
12
TAMPA BAY
5.25
94
13
BALTIMORE
5.50
87
14
KANSAS CITY
5.98
85

Posted by Lucas at 04:58 PM

August 26, 2006

Done

AL West on May 30:

TEX  32-26
OAK  28-31  -4.5
LAA  27-32  -5.5
SEA  28-33  -5.5

AL West since May 30:

OAK  45-24
LAA  40-29  -5.0
TEX  34-38  -12.5
SEA  31-36  -13.0

Here's the 2005 version.

Posted by Lucas at 12:29 AM

August 25, 2006

Eric Young Rejoins Rangers

Texas purchased the contract of utility guy ERIC YOUNG and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Texas optioned pitcher NICK MASSET to AAA.

It’s nice to have Young back, in theory. In practice, maybe not so much. Young does have the warm ‘n’ fuzzy memories of 2004 attached to his name, but he also has the exact same skill set and handedness as Jerry Hairston plus nine additional years of wear and tear. What, honestly, does he bring to a team with its playoff hopes hanging by a thread? I think the Eric Young Farewell Tour is a terrific idea. I just didn’t expect it to begin a week before rosters expanded.

Posted by Lucas at 05:28 PM

Fighting History

Over the next 33 games, the Texas Rangers must gain seven games on Oakland and 1.5 on Los Angeles to create a tie for the division title. The odds of doing so are exceedingly slim. Yes, the peripherals suggest Texas is better than its 66-63 record, and Oakland is winning despite a kittycat-tame offense. Maybe Texas “deserves” better, but advancing that argument involves the consumption of some awfully sour grapes.

To have any hope of winning the West the Rangers must play much, much better than they have thus far, plus Oakland and Anaheim must backslide. Does their history provide any guidance as to the likeliness of these events ? Have the Rangers ever finished the season on a tear that belied their previous 120+ games?

To answer this question, I used Baseball-Reference.com to find the Rangers winning percentage during the last 33 games of every season (except strike-shortened 1981 and 1994). I then compared them to the winning percentages during the rest of the season (the first 111 to 129 games depending on season).

During their last 33 games, the Rangers have rarely over- or under-performed relative to their existing record. Only six times in 32 years has their final-33 winning percentage strayed from their existing percentage by more than .100. Usually, they maintain the status quo.

Top Three Improvements Over Final 33 Games

Year   First Games   Final 33 Games   Win % Difference
1978   65-64 .504      22-11 .633          +.163
1979   62-67 .481      21-12 .636          +.155
1977   72-57 .558      22-11 .667          +.109

Bottom Three Improvements Over Final 33 Games

Year   First Games   Final 33 Games   Win % Difference
1972    48-73 .397      6-27 .182          -.215
2003    60-69 .465     11-22 .333          -.132
1988    59-69 .461     11-22 .333          -.128

The 1978 season is a fine analog for the present situation. After August 28, 1978, the top three teams in the AL West ranked as follows:

KAN  70-59  ----
CAL  70-62  -1.5
TEX  65-64  -5.0

Ah yes, a Ranger team hovering around .500 with two teams to catch in just over a month. Texas would win 22 of its final 33 games to finish 87-75. Unfortunately, Kansas City also finished the season 22-11, and Texas didn’t gain a single game on the division winner. In fact, Texas was never closer than five games from first. The Rangers floundered to 72-73 before winning fifteen of their last seventeen.

The 1979 Rangers gained four games on the division leader during the final 33 games, but they were nine games out at the time, and the strong finish only served to push them just over .500. The 1977 edition was the best in Ranger history until 1999. Its 22-11 finish resulted in four games lost in the standings to the Royals, which ended a white-hot 27-8.

The gloomy conclusions to this exercise: 1) After 129 games, we have a pretty firm idea of the quality of a team. Logically and empirically, Texas is most likely to continue playing at or near its current pace. 2) Winning isn’t enough. Texas needs an Athletic catastrophe that will haunt its fans for years to come.

The faint silver lining is that, based on history, the Rangers’ chances of collapsing are small. They have never ended a season below .500 when they had a winning record with 33 games to play, and they have never lost more than 18 of their last 33 in such a situation.

As to their playoff hopes this season, frankly, I think the Rangers are meat on a stick, batter-dipped, deep-fried, chewed up, swallowed, and slowly digesting inside the stomach of a twelve-year-old at Tropicana Field. But that doesn’t mean I won’t watch, and hope.

Posted by Lucas at 03:01 PM

Weekend Photo


Holly Street Power Plant, Austin, Texas, 13 March 2006.

Posted by Lucas at 12:56 PM

A Preferable Alternate Reality, Courtesy of ESPN

Posted by Lucas at 12:32 PM

August 21, 2006

Transactions A Go Go!

On Saturday the 19th, Texas recalled pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA from AAA Oklahoma and optioned outfielder FREDDY GUZMAN to AAA.

On Sunday the 20th, Texas recalled pitcher JOHN KORONKA from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher SCOTT FELDMAN to AAA.

On Monday the 21st, Texas recalled pitcher NICK MASSET from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher JOHN KORONKA to AAA.

Nobody said maintaining a fourteen-man pitching staff would be easy. Of the two Redhawks called for duty last weekend, I would have expected more from Koronka. In contrast to his recent plate-nibbling that led to excessive free passes, his one AAA effort featured sharpness, efficiency, and a wicked changeup that fooled many a Round Rock Express batter (Expresser? Expression?). Tejeda, on the other hand, offered a superficially brilliant performance (two walks, ten Ks) that, in my opinion, relied too much on pure heat and papered over too many high-pitch at-bats (98 pitches in just five innings).

Sure enough, against the big boys Tejeda excelled while Koronka inexplicably reverted to nibbling. Watching him try, and try, and try to squeak a third strike by a batter has become a gloomy experience. As for Tejeda, simply being league-average would greatly assist the Rangers’ quest for a fourth division championship and provide a partial answer to the question of who joins Kevin Millwood in the 2007 rotation.

Posted by Lucas at 06:02 PM

August 20, 2006

Unknown Pleasures -- The Hitters, #3-#5

Fourth in a series on Rangers who provided unexpected help with their bats for a season. Hitters 16-20 are here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here.

5. Geno Petralli, catcher, 1987

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
Season OPS+
Season (9th) 232 .302 .388 .480
28
7
31
129
Career (13 yrs) 2131 .267 .344 .360
184
24
192
95

Toronto selected nineteen-year-old Geno Petralli in the third round of the 1978 draft. Beginning in 1982, he briefly appeared as a Blue Jay over three seasons but couldn’t supplant Ernie Whitt or even establish himself as a backup. Toronto sold his contract in 1984 to Cleveland , which dumped him altogether the next April. On May 17, 1985 , Petralli gulped hard, said a little prayer, and signed with the 9-24 Texas Rangers. He soon took over backup catcher duties, a role he would fill for almost all of his career.

Though Petralli now had a regular job, he continued to struggle at the plate. Through 1986, Petralli had a career line of .271/.312/.358, good for an OPS+ of 80. Noted for his patience in the minors, he had walked only once per eighteen plate appearances in the Majors. He entered 1987 as Don Slaught’s caddy for the third consecutive season.

Out of nowhere, Petralli hit. He received only 42 plate appearances in the season’s first six weeks walked nine times and dispensed a startling line of .364/.500/.545. By season’s end, Petralli easily set personal records in runs, RBI, doubles, homers, average, OBP and slugging. He pinch-hit 36 times and also spotted at first, second, third and outfield. Petralli slugged .480 despite never having surpassed .420 at any level in nine years of professional ball, and in subsequent years he never exceeded .408.

Though popular among Ranger fans at the time, he is remembered elsewhere mostly for his misadventures with the glove. As knuckleballer Charlie Hough’s personal catcher, Petralli set Major League records for passed balls allowed in a season with 35 and in a game with 6. He also tied the record of four allowed in one inning.

4. Tom Grieve, outfielder, 1973

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
Season OPS+
Season (3rd) 136 .309 .348 .528
22
7
21
149
Career (9 yrs) 2093 .249 .316 .442
209
65
254
100

Washington selected Grieve out of high school with the sixth pick of the 1966 draft, four choices after Reggie Jackson (and five after Steve Chilcott). By 1969, he reached AAA, and in 1970 he grew into a power spike of thirteen homers in only 182 at-bats, though perhaps the AAA affiliate’s move from Buffalo to Denver helped. On that basis, Washington recalled him midway into the 1970 season. Grieve grounded to short against New York’s Fritz Peterson in his big-league debut. The next day, batting second in front of Frank Howard, he singled off Cleveland’s Sam McDowell for his first hit. Later that series, he belted his first homer and finished the day at .316/.350/.526.

Grieve batted only .175/.286/.309 the rest of the way and couldn’t force himself into Washington’s plans for 1971. He spent the entire season in Denver (playing only 93 games, so perhaps he was injured) while similarly aged outfielder Elliott Maddox and younger Jeff Burroughs spent much of the season in Washington. Grieve again reached the Majors for Texas in 1972 and again he struggled, batting .204/.271/.296. In 1973, 25 years old and in his seventh professional season, Grieve was relegated to defensive replacement and pinch running duties. Through the season’s first two months he earned only sixteen plate appearances, getting two singles and eight strikeouts.

Fortunately for Grieve, Texas sold outfielder Rico Carty to the Cubs, and only Burroughs was hitting well among the other outfielders. Given three consecutive starts in center in mid-July, he went 5-for-11 with two walks. Soon, Grieve earned semi-regular play and batted an astonishing .336/.390/.589 over the season’s final ten weeks. He hit seven homers in 107 at-bats during that span, by itself good for sixth-best on the team. For the 4,000 or so fans who attended a typical late-season game, Grieve offered a reason to cheer.

Grieve spent only one full season as an everyday player, hitting twenty homers and driving in 81 in 1976, and in 1977 he was part of an infamous four-team, twelve-player trade. By 1979 his on-field career had ended as a Cardinal. He rejoined the Rangers in 1981 in the front office, and within four years he became the general manager, a role he would hold for ten years. He then became an announcer for televised games and fulfills that role today. Thus, Grieve has worked for the Rangers and preceding Senators for 38 of the last 41 years.

3. Mike Simms, outfielder / first base / pinch hitter, 1998

Span
Plate Apps.
Average
On-Base
Slugging
Runs
Homers
RBI
Season OPS+
Season (8th) 215 .296 .381 .613
36
16
46
150
Career (9 yrs) 744 .247 .323 .464
92
36
121
108

Mike Simms began his career as a Houston Astro, a 6th-round pick in 1985. After two lackluster years in Rookie ball, Simms exploded for 39 homers at low-A Asheville. He would hit only a combined 36 during the subsequent two years in high-A and AA, but he did established himself as a decent prospect with above-average power and excellent patience. In 1990 he received a September call-up and struck out against Craig Lefferts in his MLB debut. Though he didn’t reach the plate again for a full week, he managed to single in the winning run in extra innings.

Simms couldn’t crack the lineup in 1991 and spent the first half of the season back in AAA. Given a month’s worth of starts in Houston later that year, he showed little beyond an ability to draw plenty of walks (.203/.301/.317). In 1992 he again resided in AAA for most of the season, and in 1993 he never left the minors. After transient assignments in San Diego , Pittsburgh and Cleveland , he returned to the Astros and spent the next three years frequent-flying between Houston and AAA Tucson. Only in 1995 (.256/.341/.512 in 138 plate appearances) did the results match his potential. Simms signed with Texas after 1996 when the Astros waived goodbye. In 1997, he subbed at several positions and, as usual, didn’t offer much at the plate beyond adequate power.

Entering 1998, age 31, Mike Simms had a career line of .227/.298/.405. While he made the Opening Day roster, Texas couldn’t have expected much. Simms quickly set the tone for his season by homering in his first game, a 20-4 rout of the White Sox. On May 19 th, Simms hit a three-run bomb off an allegedly invincible Randy Johnson to power a 10-4 rout. Though he endured a zero-for-29 stretch in late August, he delivered when needed most. Against division rivals, Simms batted a Bondsian .340/.419/.811 -- five singles, seven doubles, six homers, and six walks. Texas entered the final twelve games of the season one game behind Anaheim . Simms played in eight games and hit .333/.497/.722 with five runs scored and seven batted in. The Rangers finished 8-4, three games ahead of the Angels.

Along with fellow Unknown Pleasures Roberto Kelly (#14) Bill Haselman (#12) and Luis Alicea (#11), Simms helped to keep the Rangers in contention until reinforcements arrived to push them over the top. At the July 31st trading Deadline, Texas had a record of 57-51 and had outscored its opposition by only fourteen runs. On that day, GM Doug Melvin boldly released everyday shortstop Kevin Elster and traded for Todd Zeile, Royce Clayton and Todd Stottlemyre. Texas went 31-23 during the final two months to win the West and the right to play the 114-game-winning Yankees.

Sad to say, Simms could not parlay his terrific season into long-term success. 1998 was the first and only year in which Simms spent the entire season on a Major League roster. The following spring, a torn Achilles tendon forced him to the Disabled List for four months and he would spent more time on rehab assignment in Oklahoma than on the active roster. With Rafael Palmeiro serving as DH because of injury and Roberto Kelly serving very well as fourth outfielder, Texas had no room for Simms. He received only two late-season pinch-hit appearances in 1999, the last of his career, and did not make the postseason roster. In 2000, a degenerative hip forced him out of baseball at age 33.

Posted by Lucas at 10:27 PM

August 18, 2006

Weekend Photo


My own embryonic Infinite Cat Project: Jack, 2 August 2006, underneath a picture of Jack, 15 July 2005.

Posted by Lucas at 02:59 PM

August 17, 2006

Wilkerson DL'ed, Out For Season

Yesterday, Texas placed outfielder BRAD WILKERSON on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled outfielder FREDDY GUZMAN from AAA Oklahoma.

Well it wasn’t supposed to work out that way. The keystone of the Alfonso Soriano trade batted a meager .222/.306/.422 and gave up on his sore shoulder with six weeks remaining. I loved the trade at the time. There are worse ways to embarrass myself, I suppose.

In his first twenty games, Wilkerson struck out in an ungodly 40% of his plate appearances (34 of 85) and often seemed utterly helpless at the plate. No, strikeouts don’t normally hurt more than any other type of out, but Wilkerson certainly didn’t endear himself to fans with his frequent whiffing despite leading the team in homers for much of the season. Only in May (.293/.414/.598) did he avoid dragging down the offense.

Texas management now faces the uncomfortable decision of whether to offer Wilkerson arbitration. He earned $3.9 million this season. My guess is that the Rangers cut bait.

Posted by Lucas at 05:35 PM

August 15, 2006

Oklahoma Redhawks Scouting Report

I share a Round Rock Express season ticket package with eight others, giving each of us eight games. I had tickets to Friday’s contest against Oklahoma going into the season, and thanks to Round Rock’s incredibly liberal exchange policy, I easily swapped for two more of the four-game series. Unfortunately, John Danks started the one game I didn’t see, so if you’re interested in my opinion of him, well, I’ve got nothing.

I’m not a scout and don’t pretend to carry that skill set. However, last October I briefly conversed with an Austin-based Ranger scout who was also my wife’s history teacher in high school. That discussion imparts a light sheen of reliability on my musings, which are as follows:

Robinson Tejeda had the best stuff of anyone I saw this weekend. Despite his dire results in Arlington this season, Texas clearly had good reason to trade for him. Tejeda’s fastball usually ran between 91-93 and hit 95 on occasion. He struck out ten in five innings. And yet, I was a little underwhelmed. He pitched several hitters “backwards,? using his curve to set up the fastball, but on the whole threw few breaking pitches. He often resembled a high-school pitcher with a one-pitch repertoire, simply daring batters to make contact. That approach suffices against Round Rock’s random assortment of 4A-types but not the Red Sox. Also, the two walks allowed belie his control problems; despite allowing only five baserunners, he threw 98 pitches in five innings. Having said all that, I sincerely hope Texas gives him time to improve. With some refinement, he could dominate Major League hitters.

Fresh off his demotion to AAA, John Koronka stuck out twelve in seven innings. He relied on his changeup much more heavily than usual and to great effect. Koronka allowed two runs, both courtesy of an Eric Bruntlett homer. Bruntlett fouled off several pitches before swatting a pretty good, low-in-the-zone fastball about two inches over the left-center fence.

R.A. Dickey mixed in plenty of fastballs with a knuckleball that remains a work in progress. The knuckler didn’t always flutter, but when it did the Express batters looked foolish. I’d guess that he needs greater variance in speed between the two: his knuckler usually reached 78-79 on the gun while his fastball hit 85-86. As always, Dickey pitched with determination and fielded his position well. Round Rock generously surrendered four outs on the bases during his seven innings.

Kameron Loe
surrendered two runs in each of two one-inning stints. On Friday, he allowed three bad-luck singles, all seeing-eye grounders splitting first and second. One run scored on his own wild pickoff move, the other on a sac-fly off of a high fastball that J.R. House narrowly missed hitting to Texarkana. On Sunday, the Express hammered his fastball. Late in the inning Loe relied more on an effective curve. He also threw two wild pitches, though one should have be covered by catcher Jamie Burke. Neither performance will hasten his return to Arlington.

On Friday, shortstop Joaquin Arias made three terrific plays to his right that had the crowd gasping. Arias batted .277 with no extra-base hits or walks during the series. This season, Arias (.271/.302/.372) has done an uncomfortably accurate impersonation of Ramon Nivar’s 2004 (.264/.290/.374). Fortunately, he’s almost four years younger and has time to grow. I mean physically grow: right now he looks like a kid wearing his dad’s jersey.

Drew Meyer started only one game during the series. Is he hurt? If not, the 10th-overall pick of the 2002 draft has apparently fallen behind undrafted 25-year-old Adam Morrissey on the depth chart. In terms of defense, Meyer plays on a different field than his AAA peers. In terms of hitting… not so much. Meyer himself turns 25 at the end of the month.

Posted by Lucas at 07:43 PM

Wells DL'ed, Feldman Recalled

Texas placed pitcher KIP WELLS on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled reliever SCOTT FELDMAN from AAA.

Sprained ankle. Wells may not achieve even the modest goal of bettering the performance of John Rheinecker.

Posted by Lucas at 07:20 PM

August 12, 2006

Some Pitching Stats

Opponents' batting line for ERA Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Vicente Padilla .252 .324 .387 .710 97 89 86
Kevin Millwood .291 .337 .435 .772 101 100 101
John Koronka .287 .348 .456 .803 105 104 109

Non-Qualifiers with over 100 batters faced

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Aki Otsuka .227 .261 .297 .558 78 68 46
Joaquin Benoit .216 .315 .319 .634 95 73 68
Rick Bauer .269 .340 .356 .696 102 81 84
C.J. Wilson .215 .328 .374 .702 98 86 84
Ron Mahay .255 .333 .382 .715 100 87 87
Francisco Cordero .265 .325 .395 .720 98 90 88
Scott Feldman .270 .333 .405 .738 100 93 93
John Wasdin .266 .355 .468 .822 107 107 114
Kameron Loe .317 .359 .486 .845 108 111 119
John Rheinecker .362 .399 .496 .895 120 114 133

Non-Qualifiers with under 100 batters faced

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Wes Littleton .155 .269 .207 .476 81 47 28
Fabio Castro .200 .351 .233 .585 105 53 59
Bryan Corey .231 .311 .338 .649 93 77 71
Adam Eaton .196 .328 .393 .721 98 90 88
Edinson Volquez .250 .318 .450 .768 95 103 98
A. Alfonseca .348 .405 .545 .951 122 125 146
Brian Shouse .316 .350 .632 .982 105 145 150
Robinson Tejeda .316 .440 .544 .984 132 124 157
Josh Rupe .385 .415 .590 1.004 125 135 160
Kip Wells .405 .450 .568 1.018 135 130 165

A league-average Ranger pitcher has an opponents’ OBP of .333 and a slugging percentage of .437. The American League line is .333/.426.

Posted by Lucas at 01:53 PM

Some Hitting Stats

Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Mark DeRosa .332 .386 .530 .916 113 118 132
Mark Teixeira .285 .383 .488 .871 112 109 121
Gary Matthews .317 .368 .499 .867 108 111 119
Michael Young .304 .347 .452 .799 102 101 103
Hank Blalock .290 .347 .432 .779 102 96 98
Brad Wilkerson .222 .306 .422 .728 90 94 84

Non-Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Gerald Laird .333 .364 .549 .912 107 123 129
Carlos Lee .339 .382 .484 .866 112 108 120
Ian Kinsler .303 .366 .464 .830 107 104 111
Matt Stairs .296 .367 .444 .811 108 99 107
Kevin Mench .284 .338 .459 .797 99 102 102
Phil Nevin .216 .307 .415 .721 90 93 83
Rod Barajas .255 .292 .418 .710 86 93 79
Jason Botts .220 .317 .360 .677 93 80 73
D'Angelo Jimenez .211 .328 .316 .644 96 71 67
Jerry Hairston .215 .301 .292 .594 88 65 53
Nelson Cruz .167 .211 .333 .544 62 74 36
Adrian Brown .194 .231 .222 .453 68 50 17
Drew Meyer .214 .214 .214 .429 63 48 11
Laynce Nix .094 .118 .125 .243 35 28 -37
Pitchers .000 .067 .000 .067 20 0 -80

Based on a two-year park factor, a league-average Ranger hitter has an OBP of .341 and a slugging percentage of .448. The American League line is .340/.438.

Posted by Lucas at 01:33 PM

August 11, 2006

EY rejoins Rangers

Texas signed outfielder ERIC YOUNG to a minor-league contract.

Eh, why not. On the field, Young offers scant value beyond his ability to play numerous positions, a skill that both Mark DeRosa and Jerry Hairston provide with superior quality. At this stage of his career, Young doesn’t hit lefties especially well and is beyond hope against righties.

Still, his Ranger teammates loved him back in the salad days of ’04, and perhaps come September’s roster expansion he can dispense some advice, encouragement and peaceful vibes to a clubhouse in need of them. That’s worth a little something and costs essentially nothing. Texas has an open spot on the 40, and it’s not as if Young would be preventing Adam Hyzdu from achieving his destiny. If Texas’s faint playoff hopes evaporate, the Rangers can give him a few starts as a pleasant coda to a nice career.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

Weekend Photo


The Ballpark in Arlington, 29 July 2006.

Posted by Lucas at 06:31 PM

August 10, 2006

Draft History Revised and Updated

I've created an updated draft history that includes peak levels and win shares through 2005. Over time I'll be adding years previous to 1999. The link is at upper right.

Posted by Lucas at 05:31 PM

August 07, 2006

Volquez Recalled

Texas recalled pitcher EDINSON VOLQUEZ from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher JOHN KORONKA to AAA.

Here we go! The 22-year-old takes over for ailing Kip Wells in the most important game of the season (to date). Here’s why Volquez will mow down the A’s.

9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in AAA.
One homer allowed per 13 innings.
.208 opponents’ batting average (86 hits in 120.2 innings)

Here’s why he’ll get slaughtered:

5.4 walks allowed per nine innings.
5.7 walks per nine in July.
Ordinary .242/.367/.426 line against righties.

Posted by Lucas at 08:59 PM

August 06, 2006

ESPN Fantasy Column

Laird
Buck Showalter has promoted Gerald Laird from Catcher 2 to Catcher 1(A). Early this season, Laird started only once every four games or so. He then graduated to designated lefty-starter and Kevin Millwood personal assistant. Now, he has retained his full-time status against lefties plus 50/50 status against righties. If this arrangement holds, Laird can expect between 55%-65% of the playing time versus Rod Barajas. As such, Laird is the preferable choice in AL-only leagues, though his average should decline some. Laird still has only minimal value in typical mixed leagues.

Lee, Cruz and Stairs
Carlos Lee has done little in a Texas uniform (.259/.286/.359, 7 runs, 0 homers, 3 RBI in ten games). He's healthy, if that's crossed your mind. He should be fine.

Nelson Cruz has batted .300 and hit his first MLB homer since joining Texas. He'll start strictly against lefties for now, so he has little value even in AL-only leagues. As he's fairly young and not a rent-a-player like Stairs, he could gain additional playing time if Texas falls out of the division race. Keep him in mind should that happen. He supplied average, power and speed in AAA.

Matt Stairs has started three of seven games as a Ranger. With Brad Wilkerson hurting and struggling, Stairs stands to pick up a more at-bats. However, if Texas falters, the aforementioned Cruz may add some start against righties at Stairs's expense. In sum, his situation is fluid. He has modest value in AL-only leagues, a bit less than when he toiled for Kansas City. His owners must carefully monitor his situation and always bench him against lefties.

Wilkerson
Yeesh. Brad Wilkerson may have decided to forego surgery until the "season is decided," but his owners need to consider excising him now. Over the All Star break he received another cortisone shot which may have cured his pain but sure didn't cure mine. Wilkerson has batted .167 with five runs, two homers and 11 RBI since the break and has started only four of the last eight games. At the moment, he's sitting against lefties and sharing time with Stairs against righties. He's not worth the bother in most mixed leagues, and even in small AL-only leagues he's dubious. Those in larger AL-only leagues should continue their prayer vigils. Yes, I did think he'd have a great season. Yes, I am paying dearly for that opinion.

Blalock
I wrote about him at my blog on Saturday. Blalock has batted well in August -- .304 with two triples(?) -- but has a history of extreme second-half fades and persistent struggles against lefties and on the road. Showalter has benched him in two of the last three games against a lefty starter. I kid you not: over the coming weeks he could actually hurt owners in mixed leagues. His owners must practice active roster management to protect themselves.

Eaton, Wells and Volquez
Management cautiousness, erratic control and erratic umpiring have limited Adam Eaton to ten innings in three starts, making his future difficult to gauge. I wasn't fond of him before the season and haven't changed my outlook. He posted an ERA of 4.34 prior to 2006, seemingly adequate but earned in the decidedly pitcher-friendly realm of Petco Park. I definitely wouldn't bother with him in mixed leagues. In AL-only leagues he'll help owners in need of strikeouts and perhaps wins, but he could give up ground in ERA and WHIP.

I'm even less enamored of Kip Wells. Perhaps you'd read that he rebounded from his shaky return after surgery. He allowed only four runs in his last three starts. Unfortunately, he also allowed 30 baserunners in those starts (1.52 WHIP) and nine more in five innings against Minnesota. Eventually, those baserunners will become runs. Wells does provide an upgrade on John Rheinecker but hasn't pitched well consistently since 2003, and his strikeout rate has fallen off a cliff. Furthermore, he'll miss Monday's start because of a sore shoulder. Avoid him unless you have little to lose. It's hard to envision his presence on a winning fantasy roster.

Wells's absence opens the door for Edinson Volquez to start against Oakland on Monday. One of the Rangers' top pitching prospects, Volquez has an eyepopping 130 strikeouts and just 89 hits allowed in 120 Triple-A innings. He also has, gulp, 72 walks. Volquez struggled mightily in a few MLB starts in 2005 and is probably still too raw to offer much value. Still, his upside is substantial. Make a note to check his performance Monday night.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

August 05, 2006

Who Is Hank Blalock?

Should we abandon the idea of Hank Blalock becoming a great player?

I keep reminding myself that Blalock doesn’t turn 26 until November. We can still use words like “upside” and “potential” around him without fear of reprisal. Sadly, however, the cold facts demonstrate that Blalock has declined steadily since his stellar 2003, to the point of mediocrity and beyond.

Everyone knows his second-half troubles. The DMN’s Gerry Fraley mentioned Blalock’s improved diet and workout regimen in a column last month, but to date they haven’t helped. His 2006 post-All Star break line is .266/.298/.316.

Unfortunately, Blalock’s problems have extended to the season’s early months. His pre-break numbers have declined from 2004’s stellar OPS of .941 to 2005’s adequate .825 to 2006’s vanilla .795. Ignoring his abortive 2002, cutting his career in halves produces the following:

Span
Plate Apps.
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
2B+3B
HR
BB
3/30/03 to 9/15/04 1252
.287
.352
.514
.866
73
59
111
9/16/04 to present 1238
.272
.329
.427
.755
58
39
96
Difference
-
(.015)
(.023)
(.087)
(.111)
-21%
-33%
-13%

Comparing the first half of his career to his second, Blalock’s batting average has fallen by fifteen points, his rate of doubles and triples by 21%, his homer rate by 33%, and his walk rate by 13%.

Worst of all: During the last calendar year, Hank Blalock has batted .265/.318/.391.

Here’s another exercise that illustrates who he was and who he’s become. I compared his batting line (AVG/OBP/SLG) to all MLB regulars during 2003-2006. Summing the squares of the differences between his and his peers’ average, OBP and slugging percentage reveals his closest comparisons. In an effort to keep things simple, I haven’t adjusted for park factors. As a third baseman, Blalock’s batting peers should mostly players on the corners (first and third base, left and right field, plus designated hitter) with fewer up-the-middle types (catcher, second, short, center field). From 2003 to the present, that is the case:

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2003-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.279
.340
.471
3B
1
Mike Lowell
.273
.339
.471
3B
2
Aaron Rowand
.282
.337
.463
CF
3
Chad Tracy
.289
.345
.470
1B/3B
4
Ben Broussard
.270
.335
.475
1B/DH
5
Raul Ibanez
.288
.349
.465
COF
6
Mike Piazza
.272
.353
.470
C
7
Adrian Beltre
.274
.328
.477
3B
8
Mike Barrett
.282
.343
.486
C
9
Kevin Mench
.277
.336
.487
COF
10
Juan Rivera
.288
.337
.485
COF

Seven of the top ten comparisons are corner players, but none is a star. The best comparisons are probably Tracy and Rowand, who like Blalock have lived in hitter-friendly parks. Lowell spent much of the last four years in Florida.

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2004-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.272
.337
.454
3B
1
Mike Lowell
.272
.335
.451
3B
2
Aubrey Huff
.277
.342
.456
3B/COF
3
Torii Hunter
.271
.338
.461
CF
4
Eric Byrnes
.267
.331
.452
CF
5
Ramon Hernandez
.276
.329
.460
C
6
Craig Biggio
.273
.331
.463
2B
7
Mike Cuddyer
.264
.340
.447
3B/COF
8
Jhonny Peralta
.275
.349
.458
SS
9
Aaron Rowand
.282
.339
.464
CF
10
Geoff Jenkins
.271
.344
.467
COF

From 2004 to present, only four of Blalock’s closest comparisons play the corners. Lowell makes another appearance along with several other players in decline like Aubrey Huff, Craig Biggio and Geoff Jenkins, all of whom are several years older than Blalock.

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2005-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.271
.327
.427
3B
1
Orlando Hudson
.274
.327
.429
2B
2
Aaron Rowand
.267
.327
.422
CF
3
Aubrey Huff
.264
.329
.431
3B/COF
4
Damian Miller
.270
.336
.419
C
5
AJ Pierzynski
.284
.331
.429
C
6
Jose Castillo
.268
.315
.418
2B
7
Javy Lopez
.273
.319
.439
C
8
Jose Reyes
.280
.320
.417
SS
9
Ron Belliard
.285
.327
.435
2B
10
Ben Molina
.288
.328
.430
C

Since 2005, just one of Blalock’s ten most similar hitters plays on a corner. Blalock compares most favorably to Orlando Hudson, who supplies most of his value with his glove. During 2006 alone, Blalock’s best comparison is Kansas City’s Emil Brown.

I don’t mean to pile on. I just think that many Ranger fans, me included, have viewed him primarily in terms of his potential rather than what he’s actually done. We keep waiting for the “real” Hank Blalock of 2003 to return, but he continues to drift away. Every week provides more evidence that he can’t hit lefties, can’t hit on the road, and can’t hit after mid-July. His five-year, $15.25 million contract looked like a bargain in 2004. No longer. Texas owes him $10.7 million in 2007-2008.

If he can reverse this trend, starting tomorrow, Texas has a great chance of playing October baseball. If not, management has to consider a change, as it did last offseason.

Posted by Lucas at 09:06 PM

August 04, 2006

Weekend Photo


The Ballpark In Arlington, 30 July 2006

Posted by Lucas at 09:06 AM

Loe Optioned

Texas activated pitcher KAMERON LOE from the 15-day Disabled List and optioned him to AAA Oklahoma. Pitcher JOHN WASDIN refused assignment to AAA and has been released.

Loe isn’t getting his rotation job back with Adam Eaton and Kip Wells on the roster, so the Rangers have dropped him off in Oklahoma to get acclimated to the bullpen. Wasdin lasted nearly three years in Texas and occasionally pitched well. He’ll have another job within the week.

Amazingly, Texas hasn’t a single player on the Major League disabled list. Frankie Francisco, Edinson Volquez and Jason Botts reside on minor-league DLs at the moment.

Posted by Lucas at 08:56 AM

August 03, 2006

40-Man Roster and Organization Depth Chart Updated

The depth chart now includes the low-A Clinton LumberKings. Links are at upper right. Prevous 40-man rosters and draft lists are still old and stale. I hope to revise them this weekend.

Posted by Lucas at 01:38 PM

August 02, 2006

Feldman Up and Down, Wells In, Rheinecker Out

On Tuesday, Texas recalled reliever SCOTT FELDMAN from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher JOHN RHEINECKER to AAA. On Wednesday, Texas activated pitcher KIP WELLS and optioned FELDMAN.

I hope Texas lets the players keep their frequent flyer miles.

Posted by Lucas at 11:18 PM

August 01, 2006

Currently in Last Place

Your Texas Rangers.

Posted by Lucas at 01:02 AM