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November 27, 2006

Ex-Rangers Strike Gold

Teams have already guaranteed almost $200 million to five Ranger free agents. The contracts of these five and the unsigned Vicente Padilla should approximate what Texas dropped on Alex Rodriguez before 2001. Numbers in italics are guesstimates on my part.

Player Team
Bonus
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
Total
Guaranteed
Cumulative
Incentives
/Options
R. Barajas TOR
-
3.000
3.000
-
-
-
-
6.000
-
M. DeRosa CHC
-
3.750
3.750
5.500
-
-
-
13.000
-
A. Eaton PHI
1.000
6.875
7.635
8.500
0.500
-
-
24.510
8.500
C. Lee HOU
3.000
11.000
12.000
18.500
18.500
18.500
18.500
100.000
-
G. Matthews LAA
-
10.000
10.000
10.000
10.000
10.000
-
50.000
-
ALL -
4.000
34.625
36.385
42.500
29.000
28.500
18.500
193.510
8.500

Even in light of the New Baseball Economy (Nov 2006 - ?), none of these contracts appeals to me.

Posted by Lucas at 06:52 PM

November 25, 2006

Summary of Ranger Hitters By Position in Batting Order

Here’s a summary of the information presented throughout the last month. For what it’s worth, I use a two-year park factor and apply two-thirds of the weight to the most recent season. The Ballpark hasn’t been as crazily hitter-friendly during 2005-2006 as it prior years. The factors are:

Average: 1.005
On-Base %: 1.005
Slugging: 1.020

The Ballpark has a Runs factor of 1.037.

That “L” in front of OPS+ and other stats means “lineup;” it calculates how Rangers perform relative to other players in the league at a particular spot in the batting order. Also, keep in mind that if you divide the team’s OPS by the league-average OPS, you will not derive OPS+. OPS+ is calculated by adding OBP+ and SLG+, then subtracting 100 (which is why, as you’ve probably noticed, some really terrible hitters have a negative OPS+).

Order
Park-Adjusted
League-Average
(AVG/OBP/SLG -- OPS)
Texas Rangers
(AVG/OBP/SLG -- OPS)
L-AVG+
AL Rank
L-OBP+
AL Rank
L-SLG+
AL Rank
L-OPS+
AL Rank
1
.285/.351/.431 -- .782
.304/.361/.489 -- .850
107
3
103
5
114
3
116
4
2
.288/.346/.431 -- .777
.310/.356/.442 -- .798
108
2
103
5
103
6
105
6
3
.283/.358/.482 -- .840
.283/.351/.481 -- .832
100
5
98
7
100
7
98
7
4
.288/.369/.510 -- .878
.273/.360/.477 -- .837
95
10
98
9
94
12
91
10
5
.287/.359/.490 -- .849
.292/.348/.442 -- .790
102
6
97
10
90
12
87
11
6
.267/.325/.446 -- .772
.259/.314/.423 -- .737
97
10
97
9
95
10
91
10
7
.270/.324/.438 -- .762
.260/.324/.432 -- .756
96
9
100
6
99
9
99
9
8
.260/.322/.400 -- .721
.242/.308/.375 -- .683
93
12
96
10
94
11
90
12
9
.252/.304/.376 -- .681
.261/.310/.439 -- .749
104
6
102
6
117
3
119
3
ALL
.276/.341/.446 -- .787
.278/.338/.446 -- .784
101
8
99
9
100
7
99
8

Posted by Lucas at 06:12 PM

November 22, 2006

Keltner Test: Juan Gonzalez

The Keltner Test is a Bill James creation designed to test whether a player merits selection into the Hall of Fame. I've never seen a test on Juan Gonzalez, so here goes:

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

I can’t find an example of anyone stating that Juan Gonzalez was ever the best player in baseball. Maybe, maybe, during July of 1998 when Gonzalez achieved 100 RBI by the All-Star break, someone gushed that he was the best player in the game. Otherwise, nope.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

I intend to answer these questions without using many derived statistics, but in this case the stats offer an interesting perspective. According to both WARP3 (Wins Above Replacement Player, a Baseball Prospectus stat) and Bill James’s Win Shares, Gonzalez was never clearly the best player on his team. Except for a first-place tie in Win Shares with Rafael Palmeiro in 1993, he never surpassed bridesmaid status. (Note that for obvious reasons I’ve excluded his tryouts of 1989 and 1990 and his post-2001 meltdown.)

Year
Team
WARP3
Team
Rank
Team
Best
Win
Shares
Team
Rank
Team
Best
1991
TEX
6.0
6
Palmeiro
19
4
Franco, Sierra
1992
TEX
7.9
3
K Brown
19
2
Palmeiro
1993
TEX
10.0
2
Palmeiro
31
T1
JG, Palmeiro
1994
TEX
6.3
T4
I Rodriguez
11
5
Clark
1995
TEX
3.7
10
Rogers
8
11
Rogers
1996
TEX
6.2
T5
K Hill
21
3
I Rodriguez
1997
TEX
5.6
4
I Rodriguez
19
3
I Rodriguez
1998
TEX
8.1
2
I Rodriguez
25
2
I Rodriguez
1999
TEX
7.4
3
I Rodriguez
24
3
Palmeiro
2000
DET
3.0
10
Higginson
9
11
Higginson
2001
CLE
8.6
2
R Alomar
23
3
R Alomar

Surprisingly, Gonzalez was rarely even the best hitter on his team. His predilection to swing at everything usually stranded him behind more patient hitters in terms of Equivalent Runs (another Baseball Prospectus creation):

Year
Team
Equivalent Runs
Team Rank
Team Best
1991
TEX
80
4
Palmeiro, 123
1992
TEX
91
2
Palmeiro, 92
1993
TEX
114
2
Palmeiro, 122
1994
TEX
64
3
Canseco, 90
1995
TEX
64
5
Tettleton, 91
1996
TEX
117
1
Gonzalez
1997
TEX
99
2
Greer, 119
1998
TEX
129
1
Gonzalez
1999
TEX
118
2
Palmeiro, 138
2000
DET
72
5
Higginson, 117
2001
CLE
110
3
Alomar, 130

Despite this evidence, I believe the answer to this question is more “yes” than “no.” During eleven years as an everyday player, he finished among the top three in WARP six times, in Win Shares seven times, and Equivalent Runs eight times. If I hear someone say that Gonzalez was the best player in Texas during the 1990s, I don’t agree (it’s Ivan Rodriguez), but I also don’t question that person’s faculties. It’s not an unreasonable belief.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?

No and no. Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero, Larry Walker, and Gary Sheffield come immediately to mind as superior corner outfielders during the 1990s. There are others.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?

Yes. In 1998, Texas trailed California by 3.5 games with only twenty remaining. Texas finished 13-7 with help from Gonzalez’s line of .364/.417/.688. During a critical three-game series in Anaheim in which the teams were tied entering the season’s final week, Gonzalez had a homer, two doubles, a single, and four walks(!). Texas swept the series and won the division.

Texas didn’t face much of a threat for the division title in 1999, but Gonzalez did bat .392/.433/.741 during September and October. He hit three homers and drove in seven during a series with Oakland that clinched the division.

In 2001, Cleveland won the AL Central by six games largely by taking fourteen of nineteen from chief rival Minnesota. Gonzalez batted .361/.397/.639 against the Twins.

Gonzalez played and lost in four divisional series. In 1996 he nearly won the series by himself, batting .438 with five homers and nine RBI in four games. In 1998 and 1999, he and his teammates left their bats in storage. In 2001, he again hit well for Cleveland (.348 with three doubles and two homers against the 116-46 Mariners).

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Surely you jest. Gonzalez has played in only 186 games since turning 32. He finished four consecutive seasons on the Disabled List and hasn’t played a Major League game in August or September since 2001. In 2006 he toiled for the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks.

6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

He’s not better than Bert Blyleven, so “no.” The Evanses (Darrell and Dwight) are more deserving, as is Ron Santo. There’s a quick four without including his contemporaries.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Only four of Gonzalez’s most similar batters (per Baseball Reference) are Hall-eligible. Of those four, Johnny Mize and Duke Snider are in, and the Defiant Ones, Albert Belle and Dick Allen, are not. Of the others – Carlos Delgado, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Moises Alou, Jose Canseco and Jim Edmonds – only Ramirez seems Hall-worthy at the moment. Those who continue to play and burnish their Hall credentials will become less comparable to Gonzalez, and other, lesser players will take their places.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

In some respects, yes, superficially. Throw Gonzalez in the Hall and he’d rank 21st in homers, 41st in extra-base hits, 44th in RBI and 9th in slugging percentage among the 137 HOF hitters with at least 4,000 at-bats. Impressive.

Unfortunately, Gonzalez suffers terribly in consideration of the hitter-friendly era in which he’s played. Though Gonzalez would rank 21st in homers among Hall members, he presently ranks only 36th all-time. Fourteen active or recently retired players have more homers (the distant retiree being Dave Kingman). Likewise, Gonzalez’s .561 slugging percentage bests all but eight Hall-of-Famers but ranks only 21st all-time. All of the other higher-slugging players are contemporaries.

Of Bill James’s four quick-and-easy statistical tests of Hall-of-Fame worthiness – Black Ink, Grey Ink, Hall of Fame Standards and Hall of Fame Monitor – Gonzalez falls short in three of them.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Gonzalez played mostly during an extremely hitter-friendly era and largely in favorable parks. Park effects have crept into the public consciousness to the extent that even some BBWAA members are aware of them. Voters will understand in general that the hitting climate bolstered his numbers.

Was Gonzalez a better defensive player than commonly perceived? He did spend most of his first four years in center field. My recollection is vague, but the evidence suggests he played center only because of a lack of decent-hitting alternatives. Gonzalez was the One-Eyed King amongst blind outfielders Ruben Sierra, Kevin Reimer, and Dean Palmer, and he could outhit centerfielder Gary Pettis one-handed. During 1991-1992, he started 204 games in center but was replaced or moved to a corner in 70 of those games. After two years in left, he occupied right field for the rest of his career.

Gonzalez didn’t have much range and certainly was disinclined to sacrifice his body to catch a ball. He had a very strong and pretty accurate arm. He started about one-fifth of his 1,689 games at DH, probably fewer than most people think. Also, he never descended to full-time DH and laughingstock like Jose Canseco and was never as hopeless as Manny Ramirez. Yes, that’s awfully faint praise, but I believe it’s worth noting that Gonzalez’s fielding was only garden-variety bad, not outright terrible.

That said, my perception of his defense does not nearly compensate for the era’s and parks’ effects on his offense.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Gonzalez isn’t eligible yet, so let’s consider him in terms of his corner-outfield contemporaries. The answer is clearly no. Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, and several others were/are better players.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

Gonzalez won two MVP awards. He deserved them about as much as 2006 winner Justin Morneau deserved his, which is to say, not at all. He wasn’t even the best hitter in the league, much less the best player, in 1996 or 1998. Nevertheless, the voters thought differently, so he gets full credit. He also finished fourth in 1993, arguably his best year in the Majors, ninth in 1997 and fifth in 2001.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Gonzalez played in only three All-Star games, an extraordinarily low number for a Hall-of-Famer. Among the ten most similar hitters according to Baseball Reference, Hall members or not, only 1B Carlos Delgado has played in fewer. Among the ten most similar hitters through his present age of 35, none has played in fewer. Gonzalez also had three or four additional seasons of All-Star quality.

However, having two MVPs and only three All-Star appearances is not without precedent. HOFer Robin Yount also only played in three All-Star games. Roger Maris played in four, Frank Thomas five.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?

In his prime, Gonzalez was better than anyone on the ’06 Tigers or ’05 White Sox. His prime tended to ebb and flow over the years, and he was almost always fighting some nagging injury. Still, the answer is yes.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?

No, no, not directly, and no. Regarding new equipment, Gonzalez did take a petulant stand against baggy pants during the 1999 Hall-of-Fame game. Three years later, the Collective Bargaining Agreement contained new regulations on uniform pants, one of which discourages bagginess. Coincidence? Alas, to this day, Gonzalez’s role in the creation of the “shame on baggy pants” rule remains unclear.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

I’ve avoided the subject of steroids to this point. Jose Canseco alleged that Gonzalez was a fellow user when they were teammates. In light of the lack of evidence, I’m assuming Gonzalez played clean (an assumption that automatically disqualifies me as a nationally syndicated journalist). Obviously, proof of PED-use will make this answer a resounding no.

That issue aside, while I think branding Gonzales “unsportsmanlike” or “of bad character” is overstating the case, he did have episodes of poor behavior. The baggy pants incident, publicly berating a scorekeeper for an unfavorable call, missing too many games with seemingly minor injuries, three divorces, and general moodiness have created an unfavorable, selfish image in the minds of most observers.

SUMMARY OF ANSWERS

Absolutely HOF-worthy – 4, 11, 13
Generally Worthy – 2, 12
Generally Unworthy – 7, 8, 9, 15
Absolutely Unorthy – 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 14

CONCLUSIONS

What might have been. Among all players through their Age 31 seasons, Gonzalez ranked eighth in homers (397) and seventh in runs batted in (1,282). His comparables included Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Duke Snider. Since then, he’s hit 37 homers and driven in 122, about a season’s worth of work.

As it currently stands, Gonzalez’s body of work leaves him short of the Hall of Fame. He was a brilliant player for several years, but he lacked the consistency and durability possessed by almost all Hall members. He’ll have to settle for being one of the best Rangers during their only extended period of success. No shame in that.

Posted by Lucas at 12:32 PM

November 20, 2006

Two added to Forty

Texas added pitchers A.J. MURRAY and ALEXI OGANDO to the 40-man roster.

Murray is a 19th-round pick from 2000 who spent most of the last three years in the trainer’s room. The Rangers have been very patient with him and must have liked what they saw during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. I’d guess that they start him in AA with a quick promotion to AAA upon quality performance. He’s yet to turn 25.

Texas nabbed Ogando in the 2005 minor-league Rule 5 draft. Like Omar Beltre, he hasn’t pitched in the US since 2004 because of visa problems.

Posted by Lucas at 08:49 PM

Little Cat Comes Home

Texas signed OF FRANK CATALANOTTO to a three-year contract for about $13 million with a fourth-year club option.

Catalanotto returns to Texas after four years in the Great White North. Little Cat has a career line of .297/.362/.454, and last year he drew a career-best 52 walks. Texas can place him atop the lineup if new manager Ron Washington can tolerate modest speed at leadoff. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit lefties, batting .221/.287/.331 against them during his four years in Toronto. He hits over .300 with mostly doubles power against righties.

Though considered a utility player, Cat honestly doesn’t have much utility in the field. The Dallas Morning News suggested he could fill in at second, but he hasn’t played there since 2002. From 2004-2006 he played 253 games in left field and one in right. That’s it. He’s not replacing Mark DeRosa.

Texas surrenders its first-round pick in 2007 by signing Type-A free agent Catalanotto. That’s a heavy price, but the Rangers aren’t done with the free-agent market and almost assuredly will sign another, similarly ranked player. With the many holes they needed to fill this offseason, losing that pick was a foregone conclusion.

Posted by Lucas at 08:41 AM

November 17, 2006

Weekend Photo


Oklahoma's Joaquin Arias batting, Round Rock's Hector Gimenez catching, 3 May 2006.

Posted by Lucas at 08:30 PM

Ojeda Signs

Texas signed catcher MIGUEL OJEDA to a one-year contract for $430,000, $300,000 of which is guaranteed.

Last winter, Texas threw some guaranteed money at John Wasdin and waived him anyway. Ojeda might receive the same fate. I agree with Rod Barajas’s departure, but that’s not to say that Ojeda inspires confidence even as a backup.

Ojeda signed with the Pirates in 1993 but spent all but a smidgen of 1995-2002 in Mexico. He’s a career .240/.308/.380 minor-league hitter and not considered better than adequate defensively. Should Gerald Laird falter, the Rangers cannot abide 80+ games of Ojeda’s bat. I hope they sign another catcher, and by that I don’t mean Ken Huckaby.

Posted by Lucas at 01:23 AM

November 14, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #8 and #9 Hitters

Good #8 and #9 hitters rarely exist for any length of time. Good hitters move to a higher spot in the order, bad ones stay there because the team has no worthy replacement. Catchers, rookies, subs and occasionally pitchers dominate the last two spots in the order. The average AL #8 hitter batted .259/.320/.392; #9s batted .250/.303/.369.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #8 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
R Barajas
23%
.529
47
.243
76
.286
72
15
3
15
8
21
0
I Kinsler
20%
.789
119
.358
111
.431
108
20
2
15
13
11
-3
G Laird
17%
.786
116
.330
103
.455
114
19
3
6
6
27
-2
B Wilkerson
13%
.520
46
.256
80
.264
66
4
1
9
9
27
0
M DeRosa
8%
1.159
219
.472
147
.688
172
11
1
10
4
9
1
J Botts
8%
.727
102
.327
102
.400
100
7
1
5
7
15
0
The Rest
12%
.466
31
.245
76
.221
55
6
0
8
6
15
0
TEAM
-
.682
90
.308
96
.375
94
82
11
68
53
125
-4
AL Average*
-
.721
-
.322
-
.400
-
74
13
71
48
111
0
Team Rank in AL
-
-
12
-
10
-
11
2
7
10
4
10
11

Texas #9 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
R Barajas
27%
.827
141
.333
109
.494
131
28
6
21
7
23
0
N Cruz
18%
.732
113
.296
97
.436
116
13
5
19
6
22
1
G Laird
13%
.859
149
.325
107
.534
142
15
3
9
4
13
1
I Kinsler
11%
.999
191
.408
134
.590
157
11
4
10
7
9
0
J Hairston
8%
.619
84
.308
101
.311
83
9
0
5
6
11
-1
D Jimenez
6%
.526
54
.235
77
.290
77
2
1
6
3
4
0
Pitchers
2%
.067
-78
.067
22
.000
0
0
0
0
0
7
0
The Rest
15%
.616
81
.267
88
.349
93
11
1
9
2
25
-2
TEAM
-
.750
119
.310
102
.439
117
89
20
79
35
114
-1
AL Average*
-
.681
-
.304
-
.376
-
70
11
62
39
112
1
Team Rank in AL
-
-
3
-
6
-
3
1
2
2
10
9
9

Largely because of Rod Barajas, Texas had lousy #8 hitting and fantastic #9 hitting. Barajas batted .188/.243/.286 in eighth and .295/.333/.494 in ninth. Imagine what he’d accomplish batting tenth, or twelfth. Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird hit very well from both spots. Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz held their ground strictly in terms of where they batted (and ignoring their fielding positions). Ranger pitchers proved the mathematical possibility of a sub-zero OPS+.

American League #8 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Toronto
.837
132
.382
119
.455
113
78
11
64
Detroit
.809
127
.332
104
.476
124
81
25
84
Baltimore
.793
124
.374
117
.419
107
79
11
88
LA Angels
.765
117
.327
102
.439
114
86
18
77
Chicago Sox
.739
103
.301
93
.438
109
71
21
81
Oakland
.710
102
.330
104
.379
98
69
11
79
Boston
.704
98
.321
100
.383
98
76
13
76
Minnesota
.685
97
.325
103
.360
93
74
8
51
NY Yankees
.691
94
.305
96
.386
98
82
16
70
Seattle
.671
93
.309
97
.362
95
66
9
53
Cleveland
.670
91
.297
94
.374
98
75
12
76
Texas
.682
90
.308
96
.375
94
82
11
68
Kansas City
.616
71
.289
88
.327
82
51
10
79
Tampa Bay
.593
68
.283
88
.311
79
61
11
47

Best #8 Hitting: Toronto. Aaron Hill started an unusual 93 games in the #8 spot and batted .314/.383/.422. Eric Hinske, Jason Phillips, Alex Rios, Gregg Zaun, and household names like John Hattig and Adam Lind hit extraordinarily well in cameos.

Worst: Tampa Bay, which also had the worst #7 batters and next-to-worst #9 batters. Josh Paul was serviceable, the rest putrid (Tomas Perez, B.J. Upton, Damon Hollins and others).

American League #9 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Detroit
.772
130
.317
105
.456
126
84
19
75
Cleveland
.764
130
.326
109
.438
122
73
16
86
Texas
.750
119
.310
102
.439
117
89
20
79
Minnesota
.685
109
.330
111
.355
98
64
3
51
LA Angels
.688
108
.319
106
.369
102
61
7
68
Boston
.688
105
.312
103
.377
102
73
10
68
Seattle
.665
102
.288
96
.377
106
70
9
53
Chicago Sox
.683
99
.292
96
.391
104
72
21
63
Oakland
.648
95
.303
101
.345
95
60
10
54
Kansas City
.655
93
.309
100
.346
93
70
6
56
Baltimore
.646
93
.307
101
.339
92
63
8
60
NY Yankees
.642
93
.305
101
.337
91
75
8
57
Tampa Bay
.579
73
.267
88
.313
85
63
8
45
Toronto
.538
59
.255
84
.283
74
61
6
59

Best #9 Hitting: Detroit and Cleveland. Brandon Inge spent half the season batting ninth and produced a line of .278/.329/.509. Aaron Boone (.297/.348/.492) and Casey Blake (.356/.433/.533) seemed comfortable waiting for eight teammates to hit first.

Worst: Toronto. The NL’s Padres, Marlins and Reds had better #9 hitters than Toronto. John McDonald, Russ Adams, and Aaron Hill (in sharp contrast to his job at #8) were the primary culprits.

Posted by Lucas at 01:42 AM

November 12, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #7 Hitters

AL #7 hitters dropped off very little from #6s this season: .001 in on-base percentage and .008 in slugging. The difference is that teams rarely have “regular” #7 hitters. Only one team had a player with more than a half-season’s worth of starts batting seventh (Seattle with Kenji Johjima). Teams have enough trouble finding six quality hitters; Number 7 is usually the best of what’s left.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #7 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
B Wilkerson
25%
.817
115
.356
110
.460
105
29
6
13
18
49
-4
I Kinsler
19%
.875
129
.357
110
.518
118
18
5
19
9
19
6
M Stairs
13%
.637
67
.268
83
.368
84
6
3
11
5
20
0
K Mench
9%
.939
146
.393
121
.545
125
8
2
9
5
5
0
G Laird
8%
.637
69
.291
90
.346
79
8
0
5
1
12
2
M DeRosa
8%
.771
102
.327
101
.444
101
6
2
8
5
10
-2
R Barajas
7%
.936
144
.378
117
.558
127
5
2
4
2
6
0
The Rest
10%
.328
-11
.178
55
.150
34
5
0
1
4
19
0
TEAM
-
.755
99
.324
100
.432
99
85
20
70
49
140
2
AL Average*
-
.762
-
.324
-
.438
-
77
20
74
45
111
2
Team Rank in AL
-
-
8
-
6
-
9
2
7
8
6
13
6

Seven Rangers hit from the #7 spot in at least ten games. After a disastrous week-plus leading off, Brad Wilkerson spent most of the next month batting seventh and hit pretty well. Ian Kinsler also hit well, batting seventh sparingly during the summer and more frequently in September. In briefer appearances, Kevin Mench and Rod Barajas performed well above average, and Mark DeRosa held the position.

On the downside, Matt Stairs occupied the seventh position almost exclusively during his brief stay in Texas and did little. Laird also didn’t hit much here, and “The Rest” – Adrian Brown, Laynce Nix, Hank Blalock, and several others – hit .117 in 60 at-bats.

American League #7 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Oakland
.868
133
.368
115
.500
118
91
27
89
NY Yankees
.858
129
.368
115
.489
114
83
22
99
Toronto
.830
117
.352
109
.478
108
83
24
69
Boston
.804
114
.346
107
.458
107
83
19
75
Baltimore
.768
103
.310
96
.457
107
82
24
65
Seattle
.738
101
.323
101
.415
100
72
17
69
Detroit
.750
100
.300
93
.450
107
85
30
94
Texas
.755
99
.324
100
.432
99
85
20
70
Minnesota
.736
99
.312
99
.424
100
73
20
84
Cleveland
.699
90
.313
98
.386
92
73
14
83
LA Angels
.685
85
.304
94
.381
91
71
14
58
Chicago Sox
.695
82
.291
90
.404
92
75
21
77
Kansas City
.687
81
.312
95
.375
86
69
9
63
Tampa Bay
.650
74
.291
90
.359
84
55
16
46

Best #7 hitting: Oakland should bat its whole team seventh. Nick Swisher (.333/.437/.686) and Dan Johnson (.295/.375/.538) compensated for the team’s terrible hitting in most of the order’s higher spots.

Worst: Tampa Bay. First baseman Travis Lee batted .220/.308/.322 in 133 appearances. Damon Hollins, B.J. Upton, Josh Paul, Dionner Navarro and Greg Norton were worse. Only Toby Hall and Russ Branyan kept the spot becoming a black hole.

Posted by Lucas at 07:05 PM

November 10, 2006

Weekend Photo


Colby, Moose, and Cheyenne, 10 November 2006

Posted by Lucas at 06:06 PM

Ballpark News

You may have already seen this linked by Lone Star Ball, but if not, Joe Siegler has the rundown on parking costs, game-time changes, and "variable pricing" at The Ballpark next season.

Posted by Lucas at 08:12 AM

November 09, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #6 Hitters

The quality of American League lineups drops off sharply after the fifth hitter. #6 hitters lose 34 points of OBP and 43 of slugging to their #5 counterparts. On the whole, they have lackluster on-base skills and respectable power.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #5 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
K Mench
35%
.781
102
.319
98
.462
104
24
10
39
13
27
1
M DeRosa
29%
.723
89
.320
98
.403
90
31
5
26
14
44
-4
I Kinsler
11%
.610
61
.286
88
.324
73
8
1
4
4
10
-1
B Wilkerson
11%
.928
136
.338
104
.590
132
16
6
16
9
22
2
H Blalock
7%
.442
17
.220
68
.222
50
4
1
5
3
15
0
The Rest
6%
.826
117
.382
117
.444
100
9
1
5
6
6
0
TEAM
-
.737
91
.314
97
.423
95
92
24
95
49
124
-2
AL Average*
-
.772
-
.325
-
.446
-
83
24
85
50
116
-2
Team Rank in AL
-
-
10
-
9
-
10
3
7
4
7
10
6

Kevin Mench embodied the perfectly average #6 hitter, batting .276/.319/.462. 2006 represented his final chance to step forward and make himself a permanent fixture in Texas, and in that respect he failed. The power came in one astonishing burst, seven homers in consecutive games during late April. In those games he batted .414/.414/.931, in his other 80 in Texas he hit only .271/.331/.364 with five homers. Still, purely in terms of other #6 hitters, he performed adequately overall.

Mark DeRosa spent much of the season’s second half and a plurality of his overall time batting sixth. DeRosa cooled off after the All-Star break, walking and homering with more frequency but losing 70 points of batting average and almost half of his rate of doubles. Despite the decline, his post-break line of .265/.333/.423 bettered his pre-2006 career of .262/.324/.380. Some team, not likely Texas, will pay him commensurately to his 2006 performance alone, not the prior years.

Ian Kinsler started twenty games in the #6 hole, mostly late in the season but never more than two games consecutively. For no particular reason, he hit much worse there than in the lineup’s final three spots. His overall line of .286/.347/.454 makes him a solid #2 and tolerable leadoff hitter. Brad Wilkerson shared the six spot with Kevin Mench from mid-May until mid-June and batted well. Hank Blalock often hit sixth against lefties during the second half. “Hank Blalock,” “lefties” and “second half” created a familiar toxic brew.

Texas failed to achieve league-average OBP or slugging from any of the #4, #5 or #6 spots.

American League #6 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Cleveland
.880
134
.365
114
.515
121
98
29
110
Baltimore
.830
119
.358
110
.472
108
89
25
72
NY Yankees
.819
115
.342
106
.477
109
101
27
103
Minnesota
.806
114
.325
102
.482
112
91
35
111
Detroit
.792
109
.319
98
.474
110
87
30
95
Kansas City
.775
101
.338
102
.437
99
79
16
86
Boston
.758
101
.343
106
.415
95
86
18
81
LA Angels
.731
94
.306
95
.425
99
80
24
80
Tampa Bay
.740
93
.297
92
.442
101
64
27
77
Texas
.737
91
.314
97
.423
95
92
24
95
Oakland
.711
90
.315
98
.396
92
88
19
64
Chicago Sox
.721
86
.305
94
.416
93
76
22
86
Seattle
.671
81
.298
93
.373
88
69
20
69
Toronto
.686
79
.308
95
.378
84
64
13
61

Best #6 hitting: Cleveland. Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez, Ron Beilliard, Casey Blake and several others combined for 29 homers and 110 RBI. Only Jhonny Peralta (.286/.348/.389) failed to supply the requisite power.

Worst: Toronto. The Jays had no choice but to dump the overly honest Shea Hillenbrand, but they did miss his bat. Hilly hit .297/.341/.431 in one-third of the team’s appearances from the #6 spot, while his teammates (Molina, Rios, Zaun, Hill, etc.) provided a lifeless .246/.295/.352 in 450 appearances.

Posted by Lucas at 07:28 PM

November 07, 2006

Texas Retains Mahay

Texas picked up the team option on reliever RON MAHAY.

Mahay’s had an odd tenure in Texas. After a couple of nice seasons, the Rangers signed him to a two-year contract with a team option for a third. Nine months later, they designated him for assignment and dumped him to AAA. The following April they re-instituted him on the 40 and active rosters, whereupon he pitched successfully, if not as well as during 2003-2004.

Mahay will earn $1.2 million next season and becomes a free agent afterwards. Already 35 and never more than a middle reliever, he won’t have suitors dumping wheelbarrows of cash at his feet next November, but he stands a good chance of earning very respectable money for another couple of years. More power to him.

Posted by Lucas at 12:57 AM

November 06, 2006

Texas Has A Manager

Texas hired Ron Washington as manager.

This managerial appointment was bound to be uncontroversial. Given the set of personality characteristics that distinguished Buck Showalter’s dismissal, the replacement was destined to be less authoritarian, more affable, more communicative, more a “player’s manager.” Ron’s not just your boss, he’s your pal, but he’s also no pushover. Who wouldn’t want to play for him?

I exaggerate, but you understand. After several years of machinations (never proven but always suspected) and increasingly bad vibes in the Ranger clubhouse and front office, Washington is a deep gulp of fresh air.

Can he manage? Beats me. Assessing experienced managers is tough enough, much less new hires. Informed fans can evaluate players reasonably well with numerical data and GMs with analyses of trades, free-agent signings, etc. Conversely, a fan’s assessment of a manager usually has to be personality-driven because managerial performance doesn’t translate to an easy number like ERA. Sure, managers can show their ineptness with ludicrous batting orders and pitching changes, but few are truly incompetent in those respects. At the moment, we have very little on which to base our opinions.

That said, Athletics players hold him in extremely high regard, their fans seem disappointed in his departure, and I would very much like for Texas to win a World Series at some point during my corporeal residence on Earth. So count me on board.

Posted by Lucas at 11:55 PM

November 04, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #5 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #5 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
H Blalock
63%
.789
87
.345
96
.445
91
52
13
67
33
70
0
M DeRosa
26%
.834
99
.380
106
.454
93
18
3
23
15
28
1
K Mench
6%
.735
78
.370
103
.366
75
4
0
2
4
9
0
The Rest
5%
.628
42
.190
53
.438
89
4
2
6
0
8
0
TEAM
-
.789
87
.348
97
.442
90
78
18
98
52
115
1
AL Average*
-
.849
-
.359
-
.490
-
88
26
102
66
109
-1
Team Rank in AL
-
-
11
-
10
-
12
9
12
5
14
10
6

I could write all day about Hank Blalock and probably will soon. I’ll save most of it for the discussion of batters by defensive position. As with Michael Young, let’s review Blalock’s overall season line of .266/.325/.401 as if he’d spent the entire year in the same spot in the order:

Bat Pos.
L-OPS+
L-obp+
L-slg+
1
86
93
93
2
87
94
93
3
74
91
83
4
67
88
79
5
72
91
82
6
90
100
90
7
92
100
92
8
101
101
100
9
113
107
107

Hammerin’ Hank’s 2006 would have been a liability everywhere outside the bottom two spots in the order. Considering that he spent over 90% of the season batting fourth or fifth, the actual liability was pretty severe. He did perform best in the #5 spot, batting .290/.345/.445.

The one adequate Ranger in this slot was the unlikely Mark DeRosa, who batted fifth during much of June and usually only against lefties thereafter. Like Blalock he didn’t offer much power, but his terrific OBP (fueled by a .319 batting average) amply compensated. After Phil Nevin’s disposal, Kevin Mench spent a few games at fifth as a singles-and-walks machine. “The Rest” (mostly Nevin, one game each from Barajas, Laird and Kinsler) largely did not distinguish themselves.

American League #5 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Chicago Sox
1.002
133
.391
109
.610
124
103
45
140
NY Yankees
.934
124
.402
113
.532
110
98
33
141
Minnesota
.920
122
.375
107
.545
115
104
32
127
Detroit
.869
110
.382
107
.487
103
105
18
86
Toronto
.886
107
.354
99
.532
107
92
32
118
LA Angels
.849
105
.372
104
.476
101
88
27
92
Kansas City
.862
102
.365
100
.498
102
94
23
89
Cleveland
.806
96
.350
99
.456
97
93
20
98
Seattle
.801
95
.335
95
.466
100
76
30
94
Oakland
.782
90
.353
100
.430
91
78
22
88
Texas
.789
87
.348
97
.442
90
78
18
98
Tampa Bay
.780
85
.322
90
.458
95
69
28
87
Baltimore
.758
82
.330
92
.428
89
77
21
98
Boston
.683
65
.321
90
.362
76
76
14
75

Texas's closest neighbors in #5 batting were Oakland, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Once again, bad company.

Best #5 Hitting: The White Sox. Jermaine Dye batted .315/.380/.628 in just under 400 appearances, Paul Konerko helped, and A.J. Pierzynski (.365/.419/.552) and Joe Crede (.429/.448/.730!) were crazy-good in limited action.

Worst: Boston, easily and surprisingly. Trot Nixon (.278/.388/.400) got on base while accruing about 45% of the plate appearances. Everyone else – Varitek, Lowell, Youkilis, Pena, Hinske, Kapler – was staggeringly awful, combining to hit .195/.266/.324.

Posted by Lucas at 02:10 PM

November 01, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #4 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #4 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
M Teixeira
35%
.966
119
.396
107
.570
112
37
15
40
37
44
2
P Nevin
25%
.737
69
.326
88
.411
81
24
7
27
21
34
0
H Blalock
20%
.658
53
.317
86
.341
67
19
2
17
15
11
1
C Lee
18%
.929
111
.382
104
.547
107
18
6
20
12
14
4
The Rest
1%
.750
75
.375
102
.375
74
2
0
0
0
1
0
TEAM
-
.837
91
.360
98
.477
94
100
30
104
85
104
7
AL Average*
-
.879
-
.369
-
.510
-
100
32
117
78
124
0
Team Rank in AL
-
-
10
-
9
-
12
7
8
12
6
4
1

As I wrote back in May, Phil Nevin didn’t earn his cleanup at-bats so much as back into them: Texas wanted some return on its $10 million investment, he hit just well enough in Spring Training to get a chance to play regularly, and, if not him, it’s Blalock or Mench in the #4 spot. Five games after I noted that Texas’s OPS+ at cleanup had actually deteriorated from 2005’s league-worst performance, the Rangers replaced Nevin with Blalock.

Blalock was worse. On June 22nd, he and Nevin had combined to hit .232/.319/.380, good for a lineup-adjusted OPS+ of 62. Sixty-Two! Texas cleanup hitters were on pace for 20 homers and 97 RBI. That may not seem so terrible, but both figures would have ranked dead last in the AL had they held up.

Buck Showalter then moved Michael Young to third and Mark Teixeira to fourth, and Teixeira and Carlos Lee occupied the cleanup spot for the rest of the season. Both hit very well, combining for a .391 OBP, 21 homers and 60 RBI. Lee won’t play in Arlington next year but did his job with the bat and would make an ideal DH.

On the whole, Texas cleanup batters ranked between Baltimore and Tampa Bay in OPS+, not company they would willingly keep.

American League #4 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Boston
.984
127
.416
113
.567
114
105
39
123
Cleveland
.956
125
.411
113
.545
112
112
34
131
Chicago Sox
.971
120
.398
108
.573
112
117
40
130
LA Angels
.902
110
.373
102
.528
108
89
30
123
NY Yankees
.890
107
.389
107
.501
100
121
35
124
Oakland
.878
105
.372
102
.506
102
98
41
136
Toronto
.896
103
.368
100
.528
102
114
41
112
Seattle
.841
97
.344
95
.497
103
99
34
122
Baltimore
.832
93
.364
99
.468
94
79
22
98
Texas
.837
91
.360
98
.477
94
100
30
104
Tampa Bay
.824
90
.344
94
.480
96
88
29
100
Detroit
.805
87
.341
93
.464
95
85
26
113
Minnesota
.764
81
.337
94
.428
87
101
20
107
Kansas City
.755
71
.319
85
.436
86
94
24
113

Best #4 Hitting: Let Manny be Manny. Even with fourteen of his teammates combining to hit a lackluster .267/.337/.412 in 36 games, Boston’s cleanup hitters led the field. Cleveland (Hafner, Martinez, and some Garko) and Chicago (mostly Konerko, a little Thome and Dye) also excelled.

Worst: Royals in a landslide. Emil Brown, Mike Sweeney and Mark Teahen combined for just over one-half of Kansas City’s cleanup appearances and hit roughly equivalent to Texas (.283/.344/.495). The rest (Reggie Sanders, Matt Stairs, assorted flavors) hit .218/.290/.369. Keep in mind that Kaufmann Stadium played very generously to hitters this season.

Posted by Lucas at 06:11 PM

Prelude To Upcoming Reviews

For the second time in three years, Texas succeeded more in preventing runs than scoring them. This isn’t my opinion or statistical trickery. It is fact.

Not coincidentally, Texas had the second-worst collection of 4-5-6 hitters in the American League in 2006:

Rank
Team
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
12
Kansas City
.775
91
.341
95
.457
95
13
Texas
.737
90
.341
97
.447
93
14
Tampa Bay
.740
89
.321
92
.460
97

In recent years, the popular opinion of the Rangers as an offensive force has become embalmed, mummified, petrified and encased in amber. Just as some catchers ironically earn solid defensive reputations because they can’t hit, Ranger hitters are behemoths because of a lousy rotation.

It simply isn’t true. The Rangers need a bat just as badly as a #2 starter.

Posted by Lucas at 12:56 AM