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February 24, 2007

Wanting More

Here’s where I pick on Victor Rojas even though I like his work on the radio. From an interview with John Vittas:

Q: Do you see Sammy Sosa batting 5th and making meaningful contributions for this ball club in 2007?

Rojas: Well, I’m rooting for him both from the standpoint of a player trying to get his career back on track and for the Rangers because they need a guy to hit in the middle of the lineup. They don’t think that they need a 35-40 homerun type of guy to protect Mark Teixeira. They need someone who’s going to hit 15-20 and drive in 80 or 90 runs to help the team.

If true, Texas had the very thing they “needed” last year. It’s name was Hank Blalock, and he hit 16 homers with 89 RBI, mostly while batting fifth and trailing Teixeira in the lineup.

Blalock had 646 plate appearances last year, not all batting fifth, but let’s use that as a basis for comparison. Per 646 PAs, the average American League #5 hitter had 24 homers and 96 RBI. Only one team had fewer than 17 homers and 82 RBI (amazingly, the Boston Red Sox.) A team should demand more from the #5 spot. Any vaguely competent hitter (or group of hitters) should collect 80 or more RBI simply because of the opportunity-rich environment.

You go back to two years ago when this team hit all those homeruns but didn’t win a lot of games. Now, you’ve got Ian Kinsler who’s capable of getting on base, Michael Young can do it, and Kenny Lofton to name a few.

I get all tingly when baseball people tout on-base percentage, but dreadful pitching is the reason Texas “hit all those homeruns but didn’t win a lot of games” in 2005. Remember those 300 innings from Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese and Ricardo Rodriguez? Good times.
Incidentally, greedy fan that I am, I want on-base specialists and “all those home runs” in the same season.
It’s just a matter of how many runs the 4, 5, and 6 guys in the lineup can produce, especially with two outs in an inning. I’m not a big numbers guy but it’s easy to look back and tell that two out hits just haven’t been there for the Rangers…
With runners in scoring position and two out, Texas ranked third in the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Where the Rangers failed is in creating those opportunities: they ranked 11th in RISP/2out appearances. If Lofton and company can get on base and Blalock can find himself circa 2004-2005, Blalock might drive in 110 runs. And there will be much rejoicing.

Posted by Lucas at February 24, 2007 06:53 PM