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April 27, 2007

Scoring From Third

The DMN’s Evan Grant wrote at length about the Rangers’ ghastly performance with runners on third in Thursday’s 9-4 loss to Cleveland. He noted their inefficiency at getting runners home from third with less than two outs and Texas’s attempts to wean themselves off the homer heavy “all or nothing” approach. Per manager Ron Washington, "These guys have been so used to banging that it's hard for them to take that shorter stroke. It's not going to be easy to get it out of their system. But we will."

I watched that game, and, this being a family blog and all, I can’t tell you what I was yelling at the tv. What I can tell you is that hitting with runners on third is not the biggest problem afflicting the Rangers.

I don’t have the stats with less than two outs, but I’ve compared the Rangers to the American League in all man-on-third situations to see how effective they are at bringing runners home. The second and third columns in the table below are Others Batted In per Plate Apperance. Thus, if the hitter homers, his run doesn’t count. I’ve also deducted intentional walks from the plate appearances for the purpose of this exercise. Multiplying the difference in Texas’s and the AL’s OBI/PA by Texas’s number of appearances in each situation results in the Rangers’ run deficit or surplus relative to the league as a whole.

Base Situation (1/2/3)
Texas OBI/PA
AL
OBI/PA
Difference
Texas PAs
Texas Run Deficit
- - 3
26%
30%
-4%
27
(1.2)
1 - 3
58%
49%
9%
31
2.9
- 2 3
27%
50%
-23%
11
(2.5)
1 2 3
68%
74%
-6%
22
(1.3)

TOTAL RUN DEFICIT: -2.1

Texas’s inability to hit with runners on third has cost the team about 0.1 runs per game. I’m not suggesting that 0.1 runs is nothing. Over the course of a season, that extra 0.1 is worth almost two wins. However, Texas’s hitting in these situations is not close to being a catastrophe.

Posted by Lucas at 08:31 PM

Weekend Photo


El Paso, 19 April 2007



USS Abraham Lincoln, 1 May 2003 (Associated Press)

Posted by Lucas at 01:08 PM

April 23, 2007

Notes On Laird

Finally the unquestioned #1 catcher in his fifth season, Gerald Laird has posted a hideous line of .104/.185/.146 in 15 games. After all this time, Laird still has only 574 MLB plate appearances, so trendspotting is a risky endeavor, but what the heck:

1. Does Laird have a career history of poor performance as the regular catcher?

To test this theory, I compared games in which he started on the previous day (that’s day, not just the previous game) to those in which he had at least one day of rest. I eliminated games in which he appeared as a late-inning sub or pinch hitter.

I expected to see a letdown as an everyday player, but it doesn’t exist:

Laird after playing the previous day:
.253/.314/.333 in 194 plate appearances

Laird after at least one day of rest:
.241/.287/.391 in 371 appearances

Laird has hit for more power with rest but also for a slightly lower average and with a higher strikeout rate (23% vs 17%).

2. Is Laird seeing/swinging at pitches differently this season?

Yes. Laird’s awful start has coincided with increased patience. From 2003-2006, he averaged 3.7 pitches per appearance. In 2007, he’s improved to 4.2.

Through 2006, 28% of the strikes delivered to Laird were of the looking variety. In 2007, it’s increased to 34%. That extra 6% equates to 14 additional watched strikes this season in 54 appearances.

Laird swung at 32% of first pitches during his first four seasons. That number has decreased to 20% in 2007.

The operative word is “coincided.” I’m not about to suggest Laird’s scuffling is a function of increased patience. That said, the trend is worth watching. And again, Laird doesn’t have a lengthy history, so don’t take this analysis as holy writ.

3. Does Laird have more serious problems than how often he rests or whether he swings at the first pitch?

He sure does. One: Laird already had a poor track record against righties (.224/.282/.345 through ‘06) and has done nothing to improve it. Two: Laird had always pounded lefties (.355/.384/.520) but is 0-11 against them this season.

Posted by Lucas at 06:09 PM

Francisco Up, Gagne Disabled

Texas recalled reliever FRANK FRANCISCO from AAA Oklahoma and placed reliever ERIC GAGNE on the 15-day Disabled List.

In case you’re not on the Newberg report mailing list, here’s what I said about Francisco after his Friday night appearance against Round Rock:

Frank Francisco pitched the last two innings for Oklahoma. Quite simply, he exists on a much higher level than any of the game’s other pitchers. Tonight, he used a fastball that ran between 92-95, an upper-eighties splitter, and a slow curve. Francisco’s first pitch of the game was a 94 MPH fastball that rose beyond Quiroz’s glove and hit the screen. He flashed a big smile as he received another ball. Then, he struck out the side in order.

In the ninth, Francisco very nearly blew the game. He had Josh Anderson down 0-2 but buried his fourth consecutive splitter in Anderson’s posterior. Anderson stole second entirely off Francisco, who then walked Eric Bruntlett and Hunter Pence to load the bases with none out. Brooks Conrad generously popped out on a 1-0 pitch. Eric Munson worked his count to 3-2, but Francisco crushed him with a low, hard fastball. Francisco completed the dramatic win by striking out Danny Klassen on three consecutive fastballs.

Francisco has faced 23 batters in AAA. 14 have struck out. Four made other outs. Three walked. One was hit by a pitch, and I think one reached on an error. Which is to say, opponents are hitting .000/.130/.000 against him. Control may be an issue, but he’s cooking with serious gas again.

Posted by Lucas at 06:08 PM

April 22, 2007

Adventures In Headline Writing

Look. They’re letting a girl throw out the first pitch! A girl!

Actually, the story’s about an eight-year-old who will be receiving an open-heart operation next week. She’s throwing out the first pitch at the Round Rock - Oklahoma game on Sunday.

Posted by Lucas at 12:07 PM

Chen Gone

Texas added reliever WILLIE EYRE to the 40-man roster and purchased his contract from AAA Oklahoma. Texas also designated reliever BRUCE CHEN for assignment.

Eyre has 7.1 scoreless innings and eight strikeouts in AAA. His 2006 MLB debut season was unimpressive.

Posted by Lucas at 12:01 PM

April 21, 2007

A Deservedly Brief Recent History Of Fantastic #9 Batters

Rangers’ manager Ron Washington appears to have foregone the experiment of Ian Kinsler batting ninth. Kinsler hasn’t batted lower than seventh since April 14th.

I was never particularly distraught about Kinsler batting ninth in the short term. A few weeks or so of it won’t do much harm. However, what did distress me was the post-hoc explanations of how batting him ninth was not only defensible, but clever. Some examples:

From the Startlegram:

Despite his recent hitting prowess, Kinsler has batted ninth in the order in seven of his 11 games this season. Washington prefers to have Kinsler hit second against lefties, but said he wants to do everything possible to help the 24-year-old succeed in his second season.

"Sometimes when you're hitting in the ninth spot, people forget who's there and he gets to see better pitches," Washington said.

"Since you get through the lineup one time, it doesn't matter where you are in the lineup now.... We're only in the first month of the season, and I'm going to let him be where he's most comfortable."

And MLB.com:

Manager Ron Washington cited Kinsler's production from the No. 9 spot the Rangers lineup as particularly helpful. In a lineup that seems never to run short of firepower, Kinsler's presence adds more punch.

Washington doesn't intend to move Kinsler from the No. 9 spot anytime soon.

And why should Washington move him? How many Major League teams have a No. 9 hitter with Kinsler's numbers?

At this point, it seems to be just Washington's Rangers.

At least Washington’s “comfort” argument is supportable. Kinsler hit much better from the nine spot than anywhere else last year. That he did so is only a coincidence; he started the season batting ninth on a hot streak, then mostly batted elsewhere and hit worse after returning from a broken thumb. Still, I’ll give Washington the benefit of the doubt. A tangible record exists of Kinsler’s prowess at the bottom of the order.

Washington’s other argument doesn’t hold up. Does he honestly believe that opposing pitchers will forget about Kinsler, or anyone else? In a DH league, and in a high-offense era in which middle infielders are expected to provide more than gloves, no spot in the order is safe for a pitcher. Everyone knows this -- saying so has descended to a cliché.

The second excerpt is downright painful to read. The argument collapses on the flimsiest of rebuttals: if having a top-notch #9 hitter is so wonderful, why not bat David Ortiz there? Or David Wright? Or Albert Pujols?

Why not? Because it would be stupid. Batting lower in the order reduces a players plate appearances, and a manager should maximize (or, more accurately, optimize) the appearances of his best hitters. This is not some arcane statistical theory.

Over a full season, a particular spot in the batting order receives about 18 fewer appearances than the spot directly above it. The exact number depends of the batters and the results of their at-bats, but 18 is good for discussion purposes. At the extremes, a team’s #1 hitters may have over 140 more appearances than its #9 hitters during the season.

In Kinsler’s case, assume he starts 120 games against a righthander in 2007 (he’s already batting 2nd against lefties, so we can ignore those games). The difference between batting ninth and batting sixth is about 40 appearances ( [ 18 x 3 ] * [ 120 / 162 ] ). 40 may not seems like much, but it’s equivalent to about nine full games. 40 appearances take on added importance when the batters ahead of him include one (Sosa) who couldn’t achieve gainful employment in 2006 and two (Cruz and Laird) who have yet to establish a track record of solid hitting as everyday players.

Has a team ever consciously persisted with a better-than-average hitter in the nine hole? Since 2000, four AL teams have had their #9 hitters finish with a higher OPS than their team as a whole: Detroit in 2002, and Cleveland, Oakland, Toronto in 2005.

Detroit, 2002:
Team Batting: .248/.300/.379 (86 OPS+)
#9 Batters: .261/.307/.391

Player
GP
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
B Inge 40 .211 .268 .320 .588
C Truby 28 .225 .255 .337 .592
R Santiago 24 .286 .349 .403 .751
J Macias 19 .233 .292 .267 .559
M Walbeck 14 .289 .298 .311 .609
D Jackson 10 .450 .520 .700 1.220
Others 56 .300 .336 .555 .891
Team 161 .261 .307 .391 .698

Jose Macias began the year as the primary #9 hitter and played himself out of a job by May. Brandon Inge spent a plurality of the season’s remainder at the bottom of the order and was no better. Two factors contributed to Detroit’s “excellence” from the nine spot: 1) Damian Jackson and “Others” hit absurdly well at #9, but only at #9, 2) The Tigers had a terrible offense, with other spots in the lineup occupied by the likes of Shane Halter and Wendell Magee.

Cleveland, 2005:
Team Batting: .271/.334/.453 (114 OPS+)
#9 Batters: .282/.338/.483

Player
GP
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
C Blake 54 .264 .328 .511 .839
J Peralta 50 .305 .348 .527 .875
A Boone 16 .412 .434 .529 .963
J Dubois 11 .265 .359 .441 .800
R Belliard 12 .333 .355 .500 .855
Others 73 .204 .281 .350 .630
Team 162 .282 .338 .483 .821

Cleveland is the only team on the list with a good offense, and the fantastic #9 hitting was a group effort. Jhonny Peralta hadn’t hit at all as a Major Leaguer and was understandably slotted at the bottom of the order to begin the season. His startling performance earned a promotion by early July and he spent most of the second half batting third.

Aaron Boone, batting .193/.250/.340 in early July, took Peralta’s place. He promptly began hitting the cover off the ball and was moved to the #6-#8 region. Casey Blake, himself hitting under .200, replaced Boone and also performed miraculously well through the end of the season. He never moved back up, even though Boone had reverted to his typical putrescence.

Oakland, 2005:
Team Batting: .262/.330/.407 (93 OPS+)
#9 Batters: .269/.334/.420

Player
GP
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
M Scutaro 81 .249 .309 .383 .692
M Ellis 34 .291 .350 .455 .805
A Melhuse 18 .304 .350 .500 .850
N Swisher 17 .255 .368 .468 .837
Others 54 .292 .354 .417 .771
Team 162 .269 .334 .420 .754

Marco Scutaro is a rare case of a player spending half of a season or longer batting ninth. It’s almost by definition a transitory position – good hitters move up, bad hitters move to the bench or the minors. Oakland’s #9 hitters surpassed their counterparts despite Scutaro, who hit .249/.309/.383. A mediocre hitter enjoying a career year (Ellis), a backup catcher on a hot streak (Melhuse) and a promising rookie (Swisher) provided the heft.

Toronto, 2005:
Team Batting: .265/.331/.407 (95 OPS+)
#9 Batters: .281/.330/.419

Player
GP
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
O Hudson 48 .323 .345 .472 .817
R Adams 42 .274 .324 .532 .856
K Huckaby 25 .219 .269 .274 .543
J McDonald 26 .328 .369 .362 .731
A Hill 11 .387 .412 .452 .863
F Menechino 14 .280 .419 .480 .899
Others 57 .198 .263 .297 .559
Team 162 .281 .330 .419 .749

Russ Adams spent about 60% of the season’s first 70 games batting ninth and slugged .532. Elsewhere, he was terrible. On June 22, he became the Blue Jays’ primary leadoff hitter despite an overall line of .241/.291/.434. Three players who’d spent time batting first before him – Frank Catalanotto, Orlando Hudson, and Reed Johnson – all had superior on-base percentages. Beats the heck out of me.

Orlando Hudson occupied the bottom spot during much of the second half and recovered nicely from a rough start that included a dire .236/.262/.341 line batting second. Some occasional greatness from Aaron Hill and Frank Menechino bolstered the position.

In no case was superior performance by the #9 hitters a result of design. Mostly, players simply entered a hot streak that coincided with their tenure at the bottom of the order. Arguably, only in the instance of Casey Blake did a manager maintain a lineup with an extraordinarily successful hitter batting last, and it did not take place at the beginning of the season.

On a team level, some fluky performances can result in the #9 hitters surpassing the rest of the team at the plate. At the player level, however, the “good #9 hitter” does not exist, nor should he. The best hitters deserve the most plate appearances. The argument that a good hitter should remain at the bottom of the order because he’s a good hitter is preposterous, and a manager who persistently writes a good hitter’s name at the bottom of the order deserves scorn. Washington’s not there yet, but if Kinsler’s still batting ninth and raking in mid-May, we’ll have a problem.

Posted by Lucas at 04:48 PM

April 20, 2007

Weekend Photo


Austin, 18 Feb 2007

No, the blog's not dead. Just been incredibly busy lately.

Posted by Lucas at 08:10 PM

April 18, 2007

Wilkerson, Again

After both recent posts in which I spoke ill of Brad Wilkerson, he immediately followed with a terrific game.

Therefore, tomorrow I will launch a 149-part series entitled, "Brad Wilkerson, Dog Kicker."

Posted by Lucas at 01:31 AM

April 16, 2007

More On Wilkerson

As I mentioned last week, Brad Wilkerson’s problem in 2006 wasn’t staring at strike three, it was inability to make contact throughout the count. Pitch data available from BaseballReference.com confirms this:

Year
2001-2005
2006
Plate Appearances
2,690
365
Pitches / Appearances
4.28
4.19
Strikes as % of pitches 59% 62%
-- % Looking 34% 29%
-- % Swinging and missed 16% 23%
-- % Swinging and fouled 26% 26%
-- % Swinging and hit into play 24% 22%
% of strikes swung at 66% 71%
% of all pitches swung at 39% 44%
% of pitches made contact with when swinging 75% 67%
% of appearances swinging at first pitch 16% 19%

From 2001-2005, 59% of the pitches thrown to Wilkerson were strikes, and he swung and missed 16% of those strikes. In 2006, the strike percentage increased to 62%, and the percentage of those he whiffed rocketed to 23%. Wilkerson saw 1,529 pitches in his abbreviated 2006 season, meaning that he swung and missed an additional 97 pitches compared to previous years. He only played in 95 games, so that’s an extra missed pitch every game.

In 2006, Wilkerson also swung at all pitches more frequently (44% vs. 39% during 2001-2005) but made contact less often (67% vs. 75%). As noted in last week’s post, Wilkerson put the first pitch into play less often than any of 37 batters I surveyed. Yet he actually swung at the first pitch 3% more frequently than during 2001-2005.

Is there hope? Actually, yes. Wilkerson’s line of .222/.313/.370 isn’t much different than what he offered in 2006, but his strike/contact statistics have generally reverted to earlier years:

Year
2001-2005
2007
Plate Appearances
2,690
32
Pitches / Appearances
4.28
4.50
Strikes as % of pitches 59% 57%
-- % Looking 34% 35%
-- % Swinging and missed 16% 17%
-- % Swinging and fouled 26% 24%
-- % Swinging and hit into play 24% 23%
% of strikes swung at 66% 65%
% of all pitches swung at 39% 37%
% of pitches made contact with when swinging 75% 74%
% of appearances swinging at first pitch 16% 19%

Posted by Lucas at 06:57 PM

April 13, 2007

Weekend Photo


Austin, 18 Feb 2007.

Posted by Lucas at 11:40 AM

April 10, 2007

Wright Up, Wood Down, Haigwood Out

Texas added pitcher JAMEY WRIGHT to the 40-man roster and purchased his contract from AA Frisco. Texas also optioned reliever MIKE WOOD to AAA Oklahoma and designated pitcher DANIEL HAIGWOOD for assignment.

Bleah.

Haigwood probably won’t ever become a useful MLB pitcher, but he at least has potential, whereas Wood is the very definition of a spare arm. Put another way, losing Haigwood on waivers would hurt just a little, while losing Wood would not even register.

Wood only made the Opening Day roster because Texas didn’t need a fifth starter for a week and Gagne needed a longer warmup, yet Texas is keeping the 27-year-old on the 40 in favor of the 23-year-old Haigwood.

Posted by Lucas at 06:20 PM

Is Wilkerson Toast?

Brad Wilkerson’s game-ending at-bat against Jon Papelbon Sunday night was about as sad a display as you’ll ever see. Certainly, Papelbon has a habit of making hitters look stupid, but Wilkerson wouldn’t have made contact even if he’d been allowed ten strikes. Honestly, he looks like a pitcher sometimes.

It’s nothing new. Wilkerson struggled with a sore shoulder immediately upon joining the Rangers, and his tenure as leadoff hitter ended after just eight games. The salt in the wound was Alfonso Soriano’s rejuvenation as a Senator after two lackluster years in Texas. It doesn’t help that Soriano looks like an athlete and Wilkerson looks… well, doughy. Not that Wilkerson isn’t athletic. I’m just sayin’.

Presumably, in 2007 Wilkerson’s renewed health would pay dividends. Alas, the early returns are not promising. Wilkerson is known for taking the count deep, resulting in plenty of walks and strikeouts. Before joining Texas, his strikeouts weren’t a serious problem. Despite ranking among the top five in strikeouts in the NL from 2002-2005, Wilkerson consistently reached based at about a .370 rate and supplied plenty of doubles and a decent number of home runs. As a Ranger, his OBP hovers around .300 and he strikes out more than ever.

Using 2006 stats, I reviewed his and others’ performances in four categories:

1. Percentage of plate appearances ending on the first pitch.

2. Percentage of PAs with a two-strike count.

3. Percentage of PAs with an 0-2 count.

4. Percentage of PAs in which the batter struck out without ever taking ball one.

The first two stats don’t indicate much on their own. Although hitters tend to do very well when putting the ball in play on the first pitch, a high percentage by itself does not indicate does not indicate a good hitter. Recognizing and taking advantage of a fat first pitch is the hallmark of a great hitter, but swinging at too many first pitches indicates lack of discretion. Likewise, having a high number of two-strike counts isn’t bad in and of itself.

Conversely, too many 0-2 counts are cause for concern. Hitters are at a huge disadvantage on an 0-2 count. Even very patient hitters who walk often tend to avoid them. Finally, striking out without ever seeing a ball outside the zone is an obvious failure.

For purposes of comparing hitters to Wilkerson, I couldn’t find a database of breakdowns of batter performance by ball-strike count, so I built an abbreviated one using four cohorts:

BB Kings (clever, no?): Ten batting-title qualifiers with the best walk rates in 2006. Wilkerson has walked over 13% of his career plate appearances, an excellent rate.

The group includes David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner, Manny Ramirez, Nick Johnson, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell.

K Kings: Ten batters with the highest strikeouts ratios in 2006. Wilkerson would have joined this group had he achieved enough appearances.

This group consists of Thome, Dunn and Burrell (also BB Kings), Curtis Granderson, Richie Sexson, Jhonny Peralta, Bill Hall, Ryan Howard, Andy LaRoche, and Geoff Jenkins.

Hackers: Ten batters with the worst walk-to-strikeout ratios in 2006. Wilkerson is definitely not a hacker, at least as I’ve defined the term here. I’m attempting to pick a group of hitters ostensibly inferior to Wilkerson to see how he measures up.

The Hackers are Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Francoeur, Preston Wilson, Shea Hillenbrand, Craig Monroe, Pedro Feliz, Jacque Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, AJ Pierzynski, and Clint Barmes. (Three Tigers in this group.)

Rangers: The top eight Rangers in plate appearances in 2006. All the other group consist of outliers; the Rangers should represent a broader mix of talents.

The Rangers are Barajas. Teixeira, Kinsler, Young, Blalock, DeRosa, Matthews and Mench.

With overlap, the comparison groups consist of 35 players. For each stat, I’ll list Wilkerson, the players with the highest and lowest percentages, and the averages of each cohort. Again, these are 2006 statistics.

1. Percentage of plate appearances ending on the first pitch

Category
1st-pitch action
J Francoeur
21%
Average of Hackers
15%
Average of Rangers
12%
Average of K Kings
10%
Average of BB Kings
9%
B Abreu
5.2%
B Wilkerson
4.9%

2. Percentage of plate appearances with two strikes

Player
2-Strike Counts
P Feliz
39%
Average of Hackers
44%
Average of Rangers
45%
Average of BB Kings
51%
Average of K Kings
53%
B Hall
58%
B Wilkerson
59%

3. Percentage of plate appearances with an 0-2 count

Category
0-2 Counts
P Feliz
7%
Average of BB Kings
15%
Average of Rangers
17%
Average of Hackers
17%
Average of K Kings
18%
B Hall
21%
Wilkerson
25%

4. Percentage of plate appearances in which the batter struck out and never took a pitch for a ball.

Category
Ball-free strikeouts
B Abreu
1.5%
Average of BB Kings
2.5%
Average of Rangers
3.1%
Average of K Kings
4.1%
Average of Hackers
4.2%
R Cedeno
6.5%
B Wilkerson
6.6%

Wilkerson ranks last in every category. Compared to 35 other hitters, he was least likely to hit the first pitch into play, most likely to have a two-strike count, most likely to have an 0-2 count, and most likely to strike out without seeing ball one. As I mentioned previously, ranking last in the first two categories isn't problematic by itself. Bobby Abreu almost never puts the ball in play on the first pitch, and he's a stud.

No, the problem is the combination of all four stats. Wilkerson starts in a hole far too often without recovering. That’s not a result of too much patience. It’s inability to make contact. No hitter can survive without making good contact a reasonable percentage of the time, and Wilkerson has failed in that regard. That Wilkerson lapped the field in 0-2 counts is worst of all, because a batter with an 0-2 count is a dead man walking.

But that’s 2006, right? Old news. What about this year and Wilkerson’s healthy shoulder?

As I said, the early returns are not promising:

Brad Wilkerson 2006 2007
First-pitch action (% of PAs) 4.9% 5.0%
2-Strike Counts 59% 65%
0-2 Counts 25% 30%
Ball-free strikeouts 6.6% 15.0%

Wilkerson has declined in every category. I know it’s early, but he looks lost. I’ve previously predicted that the Rangers would (belatedly) replace Sammy Sosa’s attenuated bat by mid-May or June. At this rate, Wilkerson might not outlast Sosa.

Posted by Lucas at 05:43 PM

April 06, 2007

A History Of 0-3 Starts

Texas has begun a season with three consecutive losses four times. What happened next?

Year
Start
Rest of April
Final Record
1973
0-3
6-7
57-105
1985
0-3
7-9
62-99
1991
0-3
8-5
85-77
2002
0-3
10-12
72-90

Only the ’91 team finished with a winning record. That was the crazy year in which Texas won 14 straight, then lost 11 of 12, then won seven straight.

The other teams were terrible, of course. However, it’s worth noting that those teams were also lousy the previous year. The ’72 team lost 100 games, the ’84 club lost 92, and the ’01 edition had lost 89. The 2007 Rangers aren’t nearly as bad as any of those teams.

Incidentally, I’m glad I’m not a paid opinion columnist who has to write about the Rangers’ opening games on a daily basis. Being just the occasional blogger, I can lay low for a few days while others offer sub-headlines like “Fans running out of reasons to believe” on the 6th of April.

That said, if the season really does fall off a cliff, a weekly cat picture may not suffice. I’ll have to turn the Rundown into Cute Overload, only with more drink recipes.

Posted by Lucas at 12:44 PM

Weekend Photo


An 0-3 record does not faze Jack.

Posted by Lucas at 12:34 PM

April 05, 2007

Don't Say I Never Did Anything For You, Part Two

At least Fraley's not around anymore.

Posted by Lucas at 02:02 AM

April 04, 2007

Don't Say I Never Did Anything For You

Here's an Aqua Velva commercial from 1976 featuring Pete Rose and Vic Tayback (click the pic):

You weren't expecting me to write about the Rangers right now, were you?

Posted by Lucas at 11:29 AM

April 02, 2007

Yea!

Posted by Lucas at 09:00 PM

Predictions

AL West:
Los Angeles 87-75
Oakland 84-78
Texas 81-81
Seattle 77-85

That said, I see much more upside than downside. This team can win the division.

AL Central: Cleveland. While I was in Vegas last month, I put $20 on Texas (the university) to cover the spread against Kansas. They did, so I put $20 on Cleveland at 12-1 to win the pennant. Go Tribe!

AL East: New York.

AL Wild Card: Boston

NL West: San Diego

NL Central: Umm… I guess someone has to win. Chicago. Maybe St. Louis.

NL East: Philadelphia.

NL Wild Card: Mets. If not, the Dodgers. The NL is ridiculously tight this year. I’m not especially fond of any of these picks.

Postseason: New York over LA. Cleveland over Boston. New York over Cleveland. (There goes my bet.) -- San Diego over New York. Philadelphia over Chicago. San Diego over Philly. – Yankees win the Series.

Other predictions: Washington will not lose 100 games. I’m going to go against the popular sleeper and say Milwaukee doesn’t win 81 games. Detroit will drop to 83-85 wins. Tampa Bay will not avoid another 90-loss season. I don’t predict anyone to win 100 games, but if anyone does, it’ll be the Yankees.

Let’s find out how stupid I am in seven months.

Posted by Lucas at 08:56 PM

April 01, 2007

2007 Ranger Minor League Schedules

Added to the "Rundown" links at upper-right.

Posted by Lucas at 11:56 AM

Transactions For Opening Day

Texas designated for assignment pitcher EZEQUIEL ASTACIO, catcher GUILLERMO QUIROZ, and outfielder MARLON BYRD.

Astacio had the thinnest of opportunities to make the roster and pitched poorly. Quiroz was out of options but probably would have been waived anyway, as four catchers are an awfully tight fit on a 40-man roster. The surprise, in terms of incoming expectations, is Byrd, who only needed to beat out NRI Matt Kata for a roster spot and could not. Byrd would have made a fine fifth outfielder and 25th man.

Texas has placed reliever ERIC GAGNE on the 15-day Disabled List.

Ostensibly this move is precautionary, simply to insure Gagne gets enough innings prior to pitching in a real game. Frankly, I’m a little worried. Maybe needlessly, but there it is.

Texas has purchased the contracts of relievers BRUCE CHEN and MIKE WOOD, super-duper utility guy JERRY HAIRSTON JR., utility guy MATT KATA, and outfielder SAMMY SOSA. All are new additions to the 40-man roster.

With Gagne disabled and fifth starter Jamey Wright not needed for a little while, both Chen and Wood get to fly to Anaheim. If Chen pitched well, I wonder if management might give him or Kam Loe the back end of the rotation and sheepishly tell Wright, “Ummm, I know we promised you a roster spot and everything, but… well… no.”

As for Kata, his spring was inspirational and all that, but what exactly does he bring to the table? Is there anything he does better than Hairston, which is to say, is he not completely superfluous? Okay, he does hit for a little more power, but he and his .392 career slugging percentage aren’t going to be pinch hitting for anyone. Why not keep Jason Botts instead? Botts is one-dimensional, but that dimension would be awfully handy whenever the opposition inserts a lefty reliever to face Kenny Lofton or Frank Catalanotto (or, dare I say it, Hank Blalock). Use Botts as a designated pinch-hitter, then use Hairston, Cruz or Wilkerson (or whoever’s on the bench that night) as a defensive replacement.

Posted by Lucas at 01:23 AM