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July 27, 2007


Austin, 13 March 2006

Posted by Lucas at 06:50 PM

Lofton Traded

Texas has traded outfielder KENNY LOFTON to Cleveland for catcher MAX RAMIREZ. Texas also recalled outfielder NELSON CRUZ from AAA Oklahoma.

A nice return for two months of a 40-year-old outfielder. Lofton fulfilled his role perfectly, which was to produce at a respectable rate for a good team or serve as worthy trade bait for a bad one.

Ramirez has a career minor-league line of .306/.407/.494, though he’s never been young at any level. He’s currently hitting .303/.418/.505 in the high-A Carolina League, which is significantly less hitter-friendly than the Cal League he’ll join. Good contact, great eye, decent power… and dubious defensive skills. There’s question of whether he can get by as a catcher, and he’d make an awfully short first baseman (5-11).

He’s not on the 40-man roster now but must be added this winter or face the Rule 5 draft. He’ll be added.

To my mild surprise, Cruz gets another shot. He destroyed Triple-A pitching, as is his wont, but only a few days ago his manager noted that he still chases too many bad pitches. I’m skeptical.

Posted by Lucas at 06:38 PM

July 21, 2007

Brad Wilkerson, MVP

One of the more preposterous ideas polluting the newspapers and airwaves recently was of the team “showing it could win without Mark Teixeira.” See, here, here and here for examples. Within that statement resides the implication that Teixeira might not be so important to the team or that Texas is better off without him. After all, the Rangers went 16-12 while Teixeira nursed his sore quad but only 21-39 with him.

I don’t believe I need to tell you this, gentle reader, but just in case: For a statistic to have meaning and value, it must have uniform applicability. For example, one can calculate batting averages for all hitters, compare them, and learn something meaningful about the players.

Thus, for the difference in the Rangers’ record with and without Teixeira to have meaning, the difference must also apply logically to other players. Here’s a table of “with vs. without” records for all Ranger hitters who’ve started and missed at least 15 games:

Player
Team Record When in Starting Lineup
Team Record When Out of Starting Lineup
Difference
Wilkerson
28-29 (.491)
13-26 (.333)
.158
Vazquez
20-20 (.500)
21-35 (.375)
.125
Metcalf
11-10 (.524)
30-45 (.400)
.124
Byrd
22-23 (.489)
19-32 (.373)
.116
Hairston
17-17 (.500)
24-38 (.387)
.113
Kata
7-8 (.467)
34-47 (.420)
.047
Stewart
5-6 (.455)
36-49 (.424)
.031
Catalanotto
22-28 (.440)
19-27 (.413)
.027
Lofton
32-43 (.427)
9-12 (.429)
-.002
Diaz
10-14 (.417)
31-41 (.431)
-.014
Blalock
15-24 (.385)
26-31 (.456)
-.072
Sosa
31-46 (.403)
10-9 (.526)
-.124
Cruz
13-25 (.342)
28-30 (.483)
-.141
Kinsler
29-45 (.392)
12-10 (.545)
-.154
Laird
30-46 (.395)
11-9 (.550)
-.155
Teixeira
25-44 (.362)
16-11 (.593)
-.230

If you honestly believe in a correlation between Teixeira’s absence and the team’s improved record, you’d better be willing to accept Brad Wilkerson as the team MVP.

Yes, Teixeira has acted like he wants the next flight out to another franchise. Yes, yet another glacial start on his behalf contributed to the early-season struggles. Neither offsets the fact that he’s a very good player who helps his team to win.

Texas allowed 5.9 runs per game before Teixeira got hurt and 4.4 per game during his absence. We have causation!

Posted by Lucas at 02:35 PM

Weekend Photo


Cats, 18 July 2007

Posted by Lucas at 01:56 PM

July 14, 2007

.199/.245/.393

Sammy Sosa's batting line when runners are not in scoring position. That's in 208 appearances.

Posted by Lucas at 02:59 PM

Teixeira Back, Diaz Down

Texas activated 1B MARK TEIXEIRA from the 15-day Disabled List and optioned outfielder VICTOR DIAZ to AAA Oklahoma.

See below.

Posted by Lucas at 10:39 AM

July 13, 2007

Swing, Batter!

There’s no such thing as an empty .538 slugging percentage, but Victor Diaz sure gave it a try with his .259 OBP. Diaz walked once in 104 plate appearances and holds the following honors:

-- First on team in percentage of all pitches swung at (57%, next is Blalock at 52%)

-- First in percentage of strikes swung at (82%, tied with Blalock)

-- First in percentage of first pitches swung at (40%, tied with Blalock, no one else above 32%)

-- First in percentage of strikeouts swinging (91%, next closest are Young and Hairston at 83%)

-- Last in percentage of swings making contact (68%, tied with Sosa, no one else below 74%)

-- Last in percentage of counts reaching 3-0 (2%, next are several at 3%)

-- Last in percentage of counts reaching 3-1 (1%, next is Blalock at 6%)

Posted by Lucas at 06:41 PM

Weekend Photo


Grant Schiller at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Newberg Night, 6 July 2007.

Posted by Lucas at 12:02 PM

July 12, 2007

Draft Update: Rounds 1-5

1. Blake Beavan (RHP, high school)

Unsigned. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explained the Beavan issue in detail yesterday. The operative phrase for 2007 and the future is “slot money.? Major League Baseball has recommended signing bonuses for several years, but more recently the league office has increased its oversight.

First, a team must “consult? with the commissioner’s office when it wants to sign a player for an above-slot bonus. The consultation involves Bud Selig doing a really terrible Vito Corleone impersonation, so teams avoid it if at all possible and are toeing the line thus far.

Second, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has shortened the negotiation period for draft picks and improved compensation for unsigned picks. The changes were effected to give teams more leverage, and so far they have. Bonuses for signed first rounders are down 10% or more from 2006.

Understandably, some players and their representatives are peeved at the new math. As noted by Grant, Beavan is asking for a bit over $1.5 million from a slot valued at $1.4 million. He’s been deemed a middle first-rounder since February, so there’s no issue of deserving top ten money.

The signing deadline is five weeks from today, and only 13 of the top 30 have signed. I won’t worry about Beavan until we’re into August.

1. Michael Main (RHP, high school)

Signed and batting .217/.269/.261 for rookie-league Arizona. He’s expected to take the mound within a couple of weeks.

1a. Julio Borbon (OF, college junior)

Unsigned. No news, no rumors, no nothing. Borbon can return to Tennessee for his senior year, but everything I’ve read about him suggests he’s ready to turn pro. He’s a Scott Boras client.

1a. Neil Ramirez (RHP, high school)

Unsigned. Ramirez entered the season considered a potential first rounder and was ranked 25th on Baseball America’s prospect list. A minor back injury and inconsistent performance dropped him to 44th on draft day. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus claimed Ramirez is asking for above-slot money. I don’t know what Ramirez is seeking, but the difference between his position and the bottom of the first round is $300,000-$400,000. He’s committed to Georgia Tech.

1a. Tommy Hunter
(RHP, college sophomore)

Unsigned. According to the Indianapolis Star, Hunter has avoided the college summer league but has been throwing to stay in shape. On the record, he is utterly noncommittal about his destination. "It's a waiting process to see when everything gets done but I'm pretty sure it will work out. I'm waiting to see what everybody says, take all the advice in that I can and, after that, I'm going to make a decision."

Alabama coach Jim Wells recently retired, but Hunter says that won’t impact his decision.

UPDATE: Wells changed his mind and returned to Alabama.

2. Matt West (SS/3B, high school)

Signed and batting .345/.457/.483 in eight games for Arizona.

3. Evan Reed (RHP, college junior)

Signed last week and appearing on Spokane’s roster as of today.

4. Garrett Nash
(SS, high school)

Unsigned. According to the Portland (OR) Tribune, Nash will enroll at Oregon State. Nash: “I just told [Texas], ‘I’m not going to sign. I’m going to go to school.’ After talking to my dad and thinking about what’s best for my future, I decided going to Oregon State would be the best thing for me. I’ll get better coaching than I would in Rookie League ball, and it’s a great program, something I want to be a part of. I want to start my college education and develop as a player.?

5. John Gast (LHP, high school)

Unsigned. Baseball America considered Gast no worse than a third rounder until he underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Florida State coach Mike Martin, who already has lost Michael Main to Texas, expects Gast to enter college. “I would be very surprised if he signs [with Texas]. With the potential he has, he would be leaving millions of dollars on the table.? Slot money is about $135,000, compared to $250,000-$300,000 for a third rounder.

Posted by Lucas at 08:45 AM

July 10, 2007

Koronka Gone

Cleveland claimed pitcher JOHN KORONKA off waivers.

I saw Koronka pitch in Round Rock last August. Aside from a Jason Hirsh start, his performance was the most impressive I saw that year at the Dell Diamond. In seven innings he allowed two runs, walked one, and struck out twelve. He exhibited confidence, pinpoint control, and a revelatory changeup. The Express hitters guessed wrong most of the night and swung at air repeatedly. Texas called him up again, whereupon he reverted to his nibbling worst.

Cub Town’s Derek Smart nailed it back in 2005:

Congratulations to John Koronka on his first Major League victory, although in the interest of full disclosure, I found his outing less than inspiring. His early success looked to have more to do with the Dodgers' lack of familiarity than with any great show of competence on Koronka's part, and it showed the second time through the order as the Dodgers started to get after him more consistently.

His fastball was sans giddyap, and his breaking pitches didn't have the sharp bite of effectiveness. The change-up was his most effective pitch, although it wasn't the sort of ball that gives hitters fits. It was a solid turn, good enough to keep the team in the game, which is the most anyone could hope for, but it wasn't the type of work that would give me confidence enough to request a return visit.

Koronka's is the sort of stuff that is destined to be overmatched with prolonged Major League exposure, and barring abject need, it's a game that he and the Cubs should refrain from questioning, put in their pocket, and walk away from post-haste.

Posted by Lucas at 10:05 AM

July 08, 2007

Tejeda Down, Littleton Up

Texas optioned pitcher ROBINSON TEJEDA to AAA Oklahoma and recalled reliever WES LITTLETON from AAA.

A temporary move until Texas needs Tejeda to start again. He's been awful all season.

Posted by Lucas at 06:58 PM

July 06, 2007

Weekend Photo


Donkeys. Fredericksburg, TX, 24 Nov 2006

Posted by Lucas at 09:22 AM

July 02, 2007

Is Ty Wigginton an All-Star?

The Startlegram’s Gil LeBreton argued for Sammy Sosa’s inclusion in the All-Star game and lobbed a grenade at stat-oriented analysis in the process:

If the fans are voting, why not give them some names worth arguing over? Sheffield should have been on the final list, as well as the Rangers' Sammy Sosa.

That's right, Sammy Sosa.

Baseball's history of All-Star Game box scores is lined with the names of superstars who passed through in the twilight of their careers. Sosa's batting average, granted, is only .255, but he has 14 home runs and 63 runs batted in, seventh-most in major league baseball.

The geeks that are trying to measure this season's Sosa by Win Shares, VORP and Runs Created Per 27 need to get a life.

We're trying to fill an All-Star roster, not a Bill James spreadsheet.

What harm would it have done to let baseball fans decide whether Sosa or Sheffield deserved to be the AL final All-Star?

That was the gravest injustice. I'm willing to excuse the fans' choice of Ivan Rodriguez as American League catcher, when a better case easily could be made for the Yankees' Jorge Posada or the Indians' Victor Martinez. The fans understandably want to see Pudge.

Like LeBreton, I have no issue with the fans voting for favorites in decline. Ivan Rodriguez will appear this year, and players like Reggie Jackson and Cal Ripken played in the Midsummer Classic at the tail of their careers. However, players like Pudge and Ripken were voted in. LeBreton argued that Sosa should be included on the supplemental ballot so that the fans can have their say, but they already have. Sosa ranked thirteenth among outfielders in the popular vote. Thirteenth, between Coco Crisp and Craig Monroe. LeBreton appears to accept the voters’ nostalgia-infused desire for Pudge but not their rejection of Sosa.

Except for one player, managers and the players themselves chose the rest of the roster. LeBreton doesn’t address their selections, but they clearly disagree with his yearning for the “superstar in twilight.” Sosa didn’t rank among the top six outfielders in the player voting. Manager Jim Leyland, a 62-year-old graduate of the old school, chose Michael Young over Sosa. Leyland had to insure that each team was represented, but otherwise, he and the players chose purely on merit.

I don’t know why the supplemental vote includes only pitchers. It didn’t in previous years. LeBreton has a point in this regard. I wouldn’t have minded Sosa’s name on the ballot.

Alas, he throws himself under the bus with his derision of “geeks” needing a life. The AL manager, the league’s players and millions of fans have deemed Sammy Sosa unworthy of a spot on the All-Star team. Yet, for some reason, the relative handful of fans who know about Win Shares deserves his special derision. Did a cabal of stat geeks keep Sosa off the supplemental ballot? Can LeBreton speak to the pros and cons of any of the statistics mentioned, or does he feel his blanket condemnation is sufficient?

Everyone, EVERYONE, who has spent his or her free time learning about advanced baseball metrics is by definition a wildly passionate baseball fan. They attend games, purchase caps and shirts, shell out cash for cable and online video, write blogs (for free!), and even buy newspapers. What in the world did they ever do to poor Gil LeBreton?

Nevertheless, let’s take LeBreton’s criticism on its face and assume Sosa is reasonably worthy of All-Star status. (I do agree that the idea is worth exploration.) I hypothesize that if Sosa is worthy, other players with similar statistics are also worthy. Seems reasonable, yes?

So: who is most similar to Sosa using ordinary stats found at any major website? Here are the general criteria that fit Sosa’s season to date:

  • Low batting average and OBP
  • Pretty good slugging percentage
  • Very high in RBI, low-to-average in runs
  • Respectable number of doubles
  • Above average in homers
  • No better than an average walk rate, preferably worse
  • Few steals

I derived the list mathematically, but you could probably imitate it via the eyeball method.

Player Team
AVG / OBP / SLG
R
2B
HR
RBI
BB
SB
S. Sosa TEX
.255/.308/.476
34 17 14 63 21 1
T. Wigginton TAM
.273/.318/.455
36 17 13 41 21 1
E. Chavez OAK
.246/.306/.445
35 20 12 42 28 4
J. Bay PIT
.262/.338/.446
41 16 12 50 34 1
A. Gonzalez CIN
.253/.301/.456
38 17 13 39 14 0
C. Delgado NYM
.232/.296/.424
39 19 13 45 25 2
X. Nady PIT
.278/.330/.480
36 12 13 46 15 2
R. Zimmerman WAS
.245/.294/.420
42 18 12 42 22 3
K. Greene SDG
.241/.274/.469
45 21 13 45 14 1
G. Atkins COL
.247/.323/.424
37 19 11 45 34 3

Sosa actually compares favorably to guys like Jason Bay, Eric Chavez, Carlos Delgado, and Ryan Zimmerman. Unfortunately, each is having a lousy year by his previous standards. Ty Wigginton and Xavier Nady are probably the most apt comparisons to the present-day Sosa. Not bad players, but nobody’s idea of an All-Star.

What sticks out is the lower RBI totals for each of Sosa’s comparables. As you know, Sosa has thrived with runners on base, resulting in a very high number of runners plated despite a mediocre batting line. There’s no one in baseball quite like him.

And that is the essence of his All-Star case. That and nostalgia, which I debunked previously. Does Sosa deserve credit for his 63 RBI? Unquestionably. He ranks among the most fortunate in RBI opportunities and among the best at taking advantage of them. That’s a terrific combination, and it compensates greatly for his lame on-base percentage. (His ability to continue hitting in the clutch is a separate issue.)

But again, that’s the entirety of his case. He doesn’t hit for average, or walk much, or run, or play defense often or well. He doesn’t even play for a good team.

So: Ty Wigginton, anyone?

Posted by Lucas at 11:37 PM

McCarthy Up, Kinsler Out

Texas activated pitcher BRANDON MCCARTHY from the Disabled List and placed 2B IAN KINSLER on the 15-day Disabled List.

Someday soon the Rangers lineup may include Jamey Wright, Ramon Vazquez and Desi Relaford. And I will weep quietly.

Posted by Lucas at 10:42 PM

July 01, 2007

Desimania!

Texas added infielder DESI RELAFORD to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Texas optioned reliever SCOTT FELDMAN to AAA. The Rangers also designated pitcher JOHN KORONKA for assignment.

With ten nominal outfielders on the roster, I expected Freddy Guzman to get the boot. However, a dealing Mike Wood and healthy John Rheinecker have supplanted Koronka in terms of filling the emergency starter role.

The active roster now contains Relaford, Ramon Vazquez, and Jerry Hairston. Good times. Relaford can play everywhere but can’t hit anywhere.

Posted by Lucas at 12:49 PM