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April 24, 2010

Weekend Photo


Moose guards the garden, 13 April 2010

Posted by Lucas at 11:45 AM

April 23, 2010

Smoak Replaces Davis

Texas will purchase the contract of 1B JUSTIN SMOAK and option 1B CHRIS DAVIS to AAA.

MiLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo asked me about a Smoak/Davis swap after I’d tweeted this on Monday:

In 12 games, #texasrangers Justin Smoak has 13 hits, 14 walks, 5 strikeouts, and a .509 OBP. Locked in.

On Wednesday I replied:

My gut feeling is Texas is going to try to give Davis a chance to stick. The one thing in his favor is a decent walk rate and not as many strikeouts as last year. His pitches/appearance ratio is lousy, but at least he's making some contact.

Also, Smoak really didn't have a great spring, so his hot start is out of the blue. I bet Texas would like a some sustained success before they call him up.

Or maybe they panic as the season slips away. I guess, if Davis and Smoak continue at their current paces, we could see a move in as little as two or three weeks. But assuming Davis improves a little and Smoak cools off a touch, not before June. There's the season to worry about, but also Davis's future. If they send him to AAA again, he's pretty much done in Texas, I think.

So much for that. To be honest, I’d first written “as little as one to two weeks” but felt it slightly rash. Also, statistically, Smoak had a better spring than I remembered (.250/.333/.563 in 18 appearances) but certainly didn’t compel management to select him over Davis for the active roster.

Now, despite having used “panic” and “rash,” I don’t see this move as panic[ky] or rash. I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger this soon, but sometimes I’m afflicted with Ent-like deliberateness. This transaction furthers the notion that Texas is playing to win right now. A previous example is the decision to keep its five most effective Spring Training starters (okay, four plus Rich Harden) and option both the well-compensated Brandon McCarthy and the potentially electrifying Derek Holland.

Davis isn’t the hopeless batter from early 2009. He’s been drawing more walks and making better contact in the strike zone. On Thursday during what was apparently a lame-duck performance, he saw a highly impressive 26 pitches in four plate appearances. Unfortunately, he also went hitless with two strikeouts, and his marginally improved discipline has translated to a dismal line of .188/.264/.292 with zero homers.

Smoak is batting .300/.470/.560 in 15 AAA games. Is he ready for Major league pitching? Probably not quite yet, but to an extent, it’s irrelevant. He’ll help the team contingent on hurdling the depressingly low bar set by Davis. Adequate defense and a replacement-level bat are sufficient, equivalent to an imitation of Mark Teixeira, who hit .241/.330/.379 in his first 100 MLB plate appearances. Per GM Jon Daniels: “We're not looking at Justin Smoak to ride in on a white horse and save the day.”

So don't expect this on Friday:

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Posted by Lucas at 02:19 AM

April 15, 2010

Always Be Closing

The Rangers have entered the 8th inning with the lead in six consecutive games.

Their record? 3-3.

Posted by Lucas at 01:28 PM

April 09, 2010

Weekend Photo

Bridge on pre-1947 alignment of Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winona, Arizona (Google StreepMap)

Posted by Lucas at 06:40 PM

April 06, 2010

The Question That Answers Itself

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followed by

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Posted by Lucas at 06:06 PM

April 05, 2010

Organization Depth Chart

Revised.

Posted by Lucas at 02:29 AM

April 04, 2010

Transaction Roundup

After a week in Arizona, I’ve been swamped at work and/or sick ever since. So, belatedly, some thoughts on transactions:

4/02: Texas traded pitcher LUIS MENDOZA to Kansas City for cash.

Unlike Joaquin Arias, at no point during the winter or spring did the optionless Luis Mendoza enter the discussion regarding the 25-man roster. During the previous decade, virtually any warm body with a half-decent two-seamer was seen as part of the solution. How times have changed in Texas.

Statistically, Mendoza is a mess excepting a strong 2007 in Frisco that bought him a long look in Arlington. Sure he generates grounders, but too many reach the outfield. Mendoza has a career 5.28 Run Average and 12% strikeout rate… in the minors.

4/02: Texas signed pitcher SCOTT FELDMAN to a new contract and extension: @2.425 million in 2010, $4.4 million in 2011, and $6.5 million in 2012, plus a team option for $9.25 million with a $600,000 buyout in 2013.

The deal covers Feldman’s arbitration years, the option (if exercised) his first year of free agency. So, Texas has guaranteed Feldman no less than $11.5 million beyond this season.

This isn’t a bad deal, but I like it more for Feldman than for Texas. While the Rangers have locked in cost certainty, they’ve also banked on Feldman performing reasonably close to his 2009 level for three more seasons. The 2011-2012 salaries are fair substitutes for what he’d get in arbitration after an adequate performance.

Yes, Feldman has the magical cutter. Yes, the deeper statistics indicate he pitched pretty well despite the low strikeout rate and “lucky” BABIP. Still, I worry that he’ll be figured out by opposing hitters, and their contact will do more damage. There’s a meaningful chance (less than 50%, but certainly more than zero) that he’s an inferior starting pitcher by 2012, or even sooner.

As for 2013, team options are always winners. That said, I have a very hard time seeing Feldman as a $9 million pitcher. True, he posted a 3.3 WAR in 2009, worth over $14 million on the open market. But… I don’t know. I just don’t see it. Maybe everyone’s on the same page but me. I would’ve continued to take my chances in arbitration.

4/01: Texas claimed 1B RYAN GARKO off waivers from Seattle.

The Rangers wanted a right-handed bat to spot Chris Davis and pinch-hit, and into their lap dropped an inexpensive man with a line of .313/.392/.495 versus lefties. I suppose the ancient and oft-injured Mike Sweeney playing well for Seattle this season would be a warm-and-fuzzy story, but rooting for the M’s is well outside my purview. Texas fans can, however, thank Mr. Sweeney for making Garko expendable. Also, Garko isn’t totally helpless against righties (.266/.335/.420). If Davis falters or gets hurt before Justin Smoak is ready for world domination, a daily dose of Garko for a month or so isn’t the end of the world. A+.

4/01: Texas passed reliever BEN SNYDER through waivers, acquired him for pitcher EDWIN ESCOBAR, and outrighted Snyder to AA Frisco.

The Rangers traded someone who might help the Giants in 2014 for someone who might help them this season or next. Escobar has some upside – just ignore that 5.00 ERA – but he’s well down Texas’s list of pitching prospects. It stings a little to lose one of the four intriguing Latin starters from rookie ball, but really, 50% of their purpose is development as bait. It’s a fair trade, not a steal for either side.

3/27: Texas acquired infielder ANDRES BLANCO from the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later or cash. 3/24: Texas acquired infielder GREGORIO PETIT from Oakland for EDWAR RAMIREZ.

Having already run Ray Olmedo, Esteban German, and Hernan Iribarren through Major League camp, then grabbing two more middle infielders in the span of three days, the only logical follow-up for Texas is to dispense “We Hate Arias” shirts among the front office, coaching staff and grounds crew. Okay, that’s unfair. The backup infield position was his to take. He refused, so Texas had to try Plans B, C, D, E and F.

Let’s review: Arias’s competition for fifth infielder consisted of his Oakland doppelganger, albeit a slower one (Petit), a 28-year-old without an MLB at-bat since 2007 (Olmedo), an OBP machine with no business at shortstop (German), a former prospect with no shortstop experience whatsoever (Iribarren), and a guy who can play short but can’t hit (Blanco). Arias actually did make the roster as Blanco’s backup and ostensible pinch-runner, but he’s first in line for waivers when Ian Kinsler returns.

3/22: Texas acquired catcher MATT TREANOR from Milwaukee for infielder RAY OLMEDO.

Bringing in Treanor while questions lingered about Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a wise move. Alas, the combined acquisitions of Treanor and Garko speak ill of Max Ramirez. Now 25, Ramirez simply must hit well in AAA, immediately, to preserve any chance of eking out a Major League career.

Posted by Lucas at 01:58 PM

April 03, 2010

Weekend Photo


US 380 near Carrizozo, New Mexico

Posted by Lucas at 11:33 PM