Feb 292012
 

If you missed our most recent Podcast, check it out here.  We had a good time talking about Josh Hamilton with our guests, Jennifer and Holly from RangersTalkers.com.

Wednesday Morning CurveballsJerry Crasnick (ESPN.com) asks the question Do the Rangers have an Ace in their stable?

  • As Crasnick puts it, the Rangers pitching staff is long on talent, but short on experience.  ”The Texas rotation, as currently constructed, is long on talent and relatively short on experience. Colby Lewis, the elder statesman of the group at 32, has 631 big league innings if you exclude his time in Japan. Lefties Derek Holland, 25, and Matt Harrison, 26, continue to grow and evolve. Neftali Feliz is transitioning from closer, and Alexi Ogando could land in the rotation or the bullpen. The Rangers also have Scott Feldman, who was a postseason savior as the team’s long man in October.  Which brings us, finally, to Yu Darvish, whose talent and stuff prompted the Rangers to shell out almost $112 million between the posting fee and the contract.”
  • Crasnick then asks the real question – does it matter if their is a true ace or not?  He goes on to name all of the teams in MLB that have a legitimate ace, and says “Despite the absence of Rangers from the list, two big league front-office people said Texas’ rotation is worthy of a pennant contender, particularly because it’s supported by such a formidable lineup.”
  • Crasnick makes some good points in the article and it’s definitely worth the read, but I’m really hoping that one of two things happen in 2012:
  1. One of the existing Rangers starters develops into an ace over the course of the year and can serve in that role during the playoffs – Darvish or Holland seem to make the most sense to me.
  2. If #1 doesn’t happen, the Rangers are in a position to trade for a true ace at the trade deadline.

The uncomfortably named Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the MLB Players Association, was at Rangers camp yesterday for the Rangers union meeting.  With both last year’s player rep and the back up, C.J. and O’Day respectively, no longer with the club, the team will need to identify replacements.

  • Weiner talked briefly about Ryan Braun’s recent “testing” debacle, saying ”Any strong program has to to deter use, has to have appropriate penalities and also has to have a fair appeals process.  This doesn’t take away from our process. Anybody that wants both a tough and fair program should be satisfied with this result.”
  • Weiner also talked about Josh Hamilton’s recent relapse, ”The union and the Commissioner’s Office jointly administer a program and Josh is a part of that.  Josh is working hard under that program and our first concern is for Josh’s well-being. Josh has the resources that he needs,” Weiner said.

Quick hits:

  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsRon Washington is impressed with Neftali Feliz’s attitude, ”He’s focused and he’s confident and he’s getting the opportunity to use all his pitches in batting practice.  He has been a leader in his group out there. So far, he seems very happy to be a starter. To me, that is 50 percent of it. The other 50 percent is going out and getting it done. He’s determined to do well. He’s going to win some game for us.”
  • Elvis Andrus (foot) didn’t participate in any running drills yesterday, but did hit in the cage and take grounders.  Should be back to full speed soon.
  • Mike Adams (hernia) will throw again today and plan’s to pitch in the intrasquad game on Friday.
  • Jeff Wilson (Star-Telegram) writes about David Murphy’s hope for more playing time in 2012.
  • Jon Daniels when asked if he’s optimistic about Josh Hamilton remaining with the Rangers beyond 2012 after his comments from last Friday and over the weekend, “The comments don’t play into it much. Maybe I’m an optimist but I’d like to think that at the appropriate time, we’ll sit down and be able to work something out. Bottom line is the club would like to keep Josh in Texas, and I think he’d like to be here. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship, without a doubt. Every situation is unique and requires some level of creativity. If that’s the mindset on both sides, we’ll be OK. For now though, we all think it’s best to let Josh’s family and sobriety be the priority, followed by getting ready for the season. We’ll handle the contract talks privately at some point.”
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Feb 282012
 

Jennifer & Holly join us from RangersTalkers.com to talk about their site and the recent Josh Hamilton news.

  • Baseball Do Episode 9   Ranger(s)Talkers Visit & Josh Hamilton TalkThe story behind the sTalkers…
  • Thoughts on Hamilton’s comments from last Friday – “I don’t owe the Rangers anything.”
  • Will Hamilton be a Ranger beyond 2012?
  • Will Jennifer have to rename Hambone (her dog) if Hamilton isn’t a Ranger next season?
  • All this and more…
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Feb 282012
 

We recorded he podcast last night with Jennifer Cobb and Holly Ballantine from www.RangersTalkers.com.  We’ll have it posted up here on the site later this morning be sure to check it out to hear how the sTalkers got started and all of our thoughts on the recent Josh Hamilton news.  Disclaimer: Jennifer’s dog is named “Hambone”.

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers announced Yu Darvish will  make his first Spring Training start on March 7th at 2 p.m. against San Diego in Peoria.  The game will be broadcast on texasrangers.com.  Darvish threw 36 pitches yesterday and seemed to be happy with the outing.
  • Here is the full rotation for the first five Spring Training games:
    March 4: Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman
    March 5: Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando
    March 6: Matt Harrison
    March 7: Darvish
    March 8: Neftali Feliz
  • Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) provides an overview of the center field battle.

Ron Washington has said he’s going to allow Elvis Andrus to start taking responsibility for his own play, rather than watching over the young shortstop as closely and proactively addressing his play.  Andrus,while still only 23 years old, has been a full-timer at the major league level for the Rangers for the last three seasons.

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersWashington on Andrus, “He’s established himself now to the point where he knows what he has to do.  We’re going to give him some leeway. His teammates will make sure he does what he needs to do. I think we’ll see less of him zoning out than we have in the past.”
  • Andrus on the new found freedom, ”I am learning how to handle my body and my mind better.  Last year, he wasn’t on me quite as much. I appreciate the help and I needed it, but at the same time, as you grow as a player and a person, you want that responsibility to do it yourself. I don’t expect him to be behind me like he was earlier. I know when I make a mistake. I know he’ll be there to help me when I need it too.”
  • Andrus on wanting to improve his power stroke, ”I want to add some power.  I don’t mean home runs. Those happen with good swings. But I want to drive the ball more to the gaps.”

The starting rotation has been much of the talk so far this Spring Training, with potentially 7 viable options, not counting the always looming presence of free-agent veteran Roy Oswalt, and only 5 spots.

  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) writes that Yu Darvish and Neftali Feliz are both making solid impressions early in camp here.
  • Sullivan on Feliz, “It is still early in camp but Washington likes what he sees from both pitchers, especially Feliz. Washington said he sees a pitcher who came to camp determined to be a starter.”
  • Scott Miller (CBSSports) writes that Oswalt still wants the Rangers.
  • For our take on the rotation, be sure to check out the Spring Training podcast special we recorded last week.
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Feb 272012
 
  • Monday Morning FastballsOver the weekend, Josh Hamilton addressed his comments from Friday’s press conference saying, “If it does go to free agency, the first place I’m coming is here.  If I owe anything, it’s that. My loyalty is here. This is where I’ve been. This is where my family’s been, so obviously I’d love to stay here more than anywhere else. So first of all, they get a chance to do what they need to do to keep me here.”
  • Hamilton further clarified his “I don’t owe the Rangers anything” comments saying, ”What I owe is 100 percent on the field.  My employee-employer relationship is to give 100 percent in the clubhouse, to the fans, everything I’ve done while I’ve been here. That’s what I owe to the Rangers. I’ve done those things and I’m going to continue to do those things. That’s what I mean by it.”
  • Again, I know it’s a business, but you just hate to hear a star player have to use the “employee-employer relationship” line.  If you missed our take on his statement from Friday, check it out here.
  • Josh went on to comment on the potential of negotiations during the season, saying ”If it’s during the season, I’m not going to know about them because I’ve asked not to know about them.  I trust my agent. He’s not just my agent, but a close friend and mentor of mine, somebody I go to for advice and I really trust. I leave that up to him. I just say call me when there is something worth talking about.  I’m just going to leave it up to him. If they approach him and he feels like it is something to go forward with, I’ll leave it up to him. It’s not going to be something I’m focusing on, concentrating on.”
  • Monday Morning FastballsJoe Nathan addressed the team during a team meeting yesterday which was intended to be a chance for the team, coaches and staff to air all of their feelings about how the World Series ended.  The veteran newcomer said “I talked about what it looks like from the outside looking in.  For me, watching that, they were the better team. What happened is baseball. Stuff happens in this game is sometimes unexplainable, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t the better team and I’m excited to be here and that they had nothing to be ashamed about.”
  • Nathan went on to talk about the current state of the team, saying ”I don’t think anybody is hanging their heads about last year.  I don’t think there’s a reason to hang your heads about last year. They’ve got a lot of things to be proud of about what they did last year. Even though it’s tough and you want to win and had a chance to win, you’ve still got to be excited about where this team is and where this team has been and 28 other teams wanted to be in their spot even though it was a tough way to go down.”
  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) covers the team meeting in more detail here.
  • Monday Morning FastballsElvis Andrus is listed as day-to-day after having a Plantar’s wart removed from his heel.  Shouldn’t have any long-term impact on the young shortstop.
  • Evan Grant (SportsDay DFW) shared his thoughts on the Rangers batting order: “I’d move Michael Youngto second and Elvis down to the lower third, but only if Young could be more of a situational hitter. His track record suggests he’s been prone to too many double play balls. I’d rather have Elvis hitting eighth or ninth with speed around him there, than to dropMitch Morelandto the 8th spot. Think the Rangers could do some manufacturing from bottom third of order that way.”
  • Evan isn’t alone in his thoughts above.  Elvis makes more sense hitting 2nd in terms of small-ball, while Young brings better numbers all-around.  It’ll be interesting to see if this changes in 2012.  If I had to guess, I’d say that it won’t change, only because I think Elvis will take another step forward in his offensive development in 2012, and you can tell that Ron loves having him in the 2 hole.
  • Grant also discussed the pitching staff, saying “I’m a little concerned. There is a lot of talent, but little track record. Both Holland and Harrison have only one half season each of real success. Lewis gave up 35 homers last year and I don’t expect that number is going to go down markedly. While Feliz and Darvish have limitless potential, neither has started a major league game. If everything goes right, it’s a dominant rotation, maybe the best and youngest in the league. But how often do things fall just right?”
    ROTATION: Lewis, Holland, Darvish, Harrison, Oswalt.
    BULLPEN: Feliz or Nathan (closer), Feliz or Nathan (setup), Ogando (setup), Mike Adams (middle/setup),Scott Feldman (long), a lefty TBA and one spot open for a Tateyama or someone of that level.
  • Jasen and I provided our thoughts on the pitching staff in last Monday’s podcast.  While it would be shocking to see Feliz not have a spot in the rotation after the signing of Nathan and the way things ended in 2011, I understand Grant’s position in that Oswalt brings more of a track record.  With the improvements that the Angels made, this is not a season where the Rangers will be able to risk losses due to experimentation – Feliz needs to prove he can be in this rotation during Spring Training.
  • As far as the “lefty TBA” mentioned above, watch out for phenom prospect Martin Perez.  Both minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark and manager Ron Washington have talked about his limited performance so far this Spring and have been impressed.
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Feb 242012
 

Josh may not owe the Rangers, but...“I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I’m not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”

If you’re reading this, you’re more than than  likely a Rangers fan.  If you’re not, you can still relate – imagine your favorite team’s biggest star saying these words.  How does that statement make you feel?

Josh Hamilton sat down with media earlier today and issued the statement above (video below).  To level set here, this wasn’t all Josh said, nor was it the only topic that he discussed…rather just a snippet, but one that many fans and media members clung to.  Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) details the full press conference here if interested.

When you get right down to it, this is a business, and Josh is right – he doesn’t owe the Rangers anything.  They have a contract that both parties agreed to.  Josh is being paid to play baseball.  The Rangers are paying for his services.  In the same vein, you could say that the Rangers don’t owe Josh anything.

So, while the statement isn’t false, it’s not easy to hear for Rangers fans.  Clearly this statement was Josh’s counter to the opinion that he should give the Rangers a “friendly discount” for standing by his side during his relapses, which has been written and talked about often by local media and fans.

It’s just not the right thing to say.

Josh is under a ton of pressure right now, and should be thankful for Yu Darvish’s presence in Spring Training, as it’s diverting some of the media attention.  If there were no Yu, the media at Spring Training would certainly be following Josh’s every move and clamoring to get anything and everything out of him regarding his recent relapse and personal life.

All we know about the night of his relapse is what he has shared with us – the rest is just word of mouth or rumors.  I say this to point out that we don’t really know about the stress which the events of that night truly put on his life and the relationships in his life.  Josh is probably feeling like he is under attack to some degree right now, which could explain this defensive statement.

In addition, as he has pointed out in the past, Josh doesn’t script his press conferences or interviews, which can lead to off-the-cuff statements like this one.  I’m sure it seemed harmless at the time.  I’m sure as Josh thought about the statement for that brief second before he actually uttered the words, he saw nothing wrong with it.  I don’t mind that Josh is thinking that statement.  The realist in me understands that it’s a business, but I don’t want to hear it come out of his mouth.

Does this statement have any impact on the Rangers’ front office and their potential contract offer to Josh, whenever that may occur?  No.  While I think Jon Daniels would strongly agree that this was a poor choice of words and a potentially damning statement, he’ll separate the statement from the players ability to contribute to the team.

But, what about the court of public opinion?  In my opinion, this statement makes it a little easier for the Rangers to allow Josh Hamilton to leave in free agency after 2012.  This is a statement that could linger.

So am I defending Josh or slamming Josh?  Neither really.  At first, the statement upset me and to be completely honest, pissed me off a little.  I understand that Josh doesn’t owe the Rangers, but what about fans?  The fans the are the ones that are impacted by a statement like this.  For the Rangers and the players, it’s a business, but for the fans, it’s much more.

It’s acceptable to dislike what you heard Josh say today, and I’m not trying to sway you one way or another.  More than anything, I’m interested to hear what you think about Josh’s statement.  Leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter (@baseballdo) or Facebook (Baseball Do Fanpage) and let us know.

———————————————————————————————————

Here is the video (from the Star-Telegram’s Foul Territory Rangers Blog).  If  you haven’t seen it yet,  let’s do a little exercise.

Step 1 – Watch the video, be sure to have your speakers or headphones on.

Step 2 – Play the video again, but this time instead of watching it, just listen to it and look at the picture below.

Josh may not owe the Rangers, but...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3 – Ask yourself, would you have felt differently if C.J. Wilson would have made this same statement last year in Spring Training, heading into the final year of his contract?

 

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Feb 242012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsYu Darvish threw the most publicized 19 pitches of Spring Training yesterday in front of over 100 media members.  Napoli caught the session, and minor league infielders Ryan Strausborger and Jurickson Profar stood in as hitters.

  • Profar was impressed with Yu’s command, ”He had good command of all of his pitches … sinker, four-seam fastball, slider and cutter.”
  • Napoli downplayed the session, ”Just another BP.  He had good command and threw all of his pitches. He was only going 80 percent. It was not like game speed but the ball was coming out of his hand pretty good.”
  • Darvish will throw BP everyday until March 2nd, when he will pitch against his teammates in a intrasquad game.
  • Colby Lewis talked about one of the keys to Darvish’s success in 2012, ”The key for him will be not to do too much but just to play baseball.  That’s what he’s done for the last seven years in Japan. He just needs to go out, have fun and not put too much pressure on himself. He has been great over there and I don’t expect any less here. I don’t see him doing anything different: take the ball 30-35 times and have fun doing it.”
  • While focus has never been mentioned as a concern, this quote from Darvish just made me feel good inside, ”Wearing that uniform makes me feel a part of the team.  Now, I have a responsibility to take care of.”

Friday Morning KnuckleballsIn our Spring Training Special podcast, Jasen and I covered the key questions facing the Rangers in Spring Training.  One that we discussed extensively prior to the podcast was the situation at catcher.  Will Napoli be the full-time catcher, with Torrealba providing relief when needed and filling in as a right-handed pinch hitter, or would it look more like it did in 2011?  A lot would depend on Moreland’s performance and the health of all mentioned players and Michael Young.

  • Manager Ron Washington has essentially called the catcher role an open competition and intends to get the most out of both players, saying ”I’m not going by the playoffs.  Both will get playing time. I’m going to do my best to utilize both of my catchers.”
    Wash went on to say, “We’re fortunate to have two quality catchers.  I’m going to make sure I get the most out of them. I plan on using Napoli the same as last year. He may get more time behind the plate, but he will also play first base and also DH.”
  • Torrealba sounds like he’s ready to give way, ”Obviously, it’s the first day and I haven’t talked to the skipper.  I guess Napoli will play more than last year. He deserves it. I haven’t talked to the skipper so I don’t know my situation. I guess Napoli will be the starting catcher and hopefully I will get enough starts and enough at-bats.”
    Torrealba added “It worked out really good last year.  We both had good years. Well, I had a good year and he had an unbelievable year.”

Quick hits:

  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsRoy Oswalt, who was expected to announce a decision on where he would pitch in 2012 yesterday, has decided to wait it out.  Oswalt is even fine with waiting until after the season starts if that will get him into a situation which he prefers.  This is HUGE for the Rangers, as it’s well known that Oswalt prefers the Rangers and his waiting essentially provides insurance against injury to any of the existing rotation pitchers.
  • Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) wrote a good column on the confidence that Yu’s father has in his son.
  • Lyle Spencer (MLB.com) wrote the column “Thanks to Yu, Rich Rangers have gotten Richer”, and writes “Back to first impressions. With sound mechanics, electric stuff and a star-driven support staff any young Texas pitcher should feel blessed to have, Darvish figures to fulfill the six years on his $60 million contract in a highly satisfying manner for everyone concerned.”
  • Josh Hamilton arrived at camp and worked out yesterday, taking BP and then taking some time to sign autographs for fans.
  • Defense at the pitcher position is going to be a big focus in Spring this year.  Manager Ron Washing says ”There is going to be a lot of attention on PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice) and I want it done right.  That was the message. If we do it right, we won’t be on the field long. If we don’t do it right, we’ll be out there a long time.”
  • Newcomber Brad Hawpe will be work at first base this Spring says Washington, ”If he’s healthy enough to play the outfield, he has that on his resume.  But we’re going to work him at first base in Spring Training. If we get the Brad Hawpe that everybody remembers, we’ll find somewhere to put him.”
  • Napoli was happy with how his ankle felt yesterday with full gear on and catching BP, saying ”It felt good. I didn’t know how it would feel in spikes and squatting down. But I was able to get down and move from side to side.”
  • Derek Holland wants to make sure that the media doesn’t forget about the other talented players on this Rangers squad (besides Yu), saying ”It seems like people forget about rest of the team.  We’ve got a lot of other guys talented enough out there to be talking about as well. Yu is a good pitcher. Don’t take that away from him, but don’t forget about the rest of the guys we got on this squad.”

Have a good weekend!  If you aren’t already, follow us on Twitter (@baseballdo) and “like” us on Facebook (Baseball Do Facebook page).  Stay tuned for next week’s podcast – hoping to bring on a guest host to provide another view.

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Feb 232012
 

We took a closer look at likely Opening Day starter Colby Lewis yesterday.  If you missed it, check out “A Closer Look at the Cobra”.  Mike Maddux announced yesterday that both Colby and Scott Feldman will pitch in the Rangers first Cactus League game on March 4th.

Thursday Morning ChangeupsNolan Ryan spoke to the media yesterday, covering a number of topics including Yu Darvish and Josh Hamilton.  Here are some excerpts:

  • Nolan compared himself at age 25 with Darvish, saying ”I think it’s neat and exciting that he has the following that he does and so many people are excited about it.  When I look at my career and his career and where I was at 25 years old, there’s a substantial difference.  I had a control problem. I was very durable, but I didn’t have the feel for the baseball or my delivery as he does with his. That’s one of the unique things about him.  At 25, he’s still a very young pitcher and he has great delivery and control of his delivery and a good feel for the baseball. When I say that, what I mean is that he can throw different pitches, he can locate his pitches. For a 25-year-old, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
  • On the excitement around seeing Darvish pitch, “We’re all excited about seeing him throw, watching him work, and so I think watching video on him I have an expectation of what he’s going to be like, so I don’t think there’s going to be much difference of the videos I’ve seen of him.  But seeing his delivery, watching him from different angles and that kind of stuff, obviously, everybody that’s been involved in this process is anxious to see that.”
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsOn the adjustments that Darvish will have to make in MLB, “He’s going to have to learn the hitters; that’s something he won’t be able to do until he pitches to them and gets a feel for them. There will be an adjustment to the baseball some, pitching on a five-day rotation where he’s been on a six-day rotation over there. We’ll obviously try to help him any way we can.  But I think from being around him, I get a feel that those things he’ll handle well.  I think that’s his type of personality and the way he’s been raised.”
  • In wrapping up on Darvish, Ryan provided some advice to the young pitcher, “”My advice to him would be just to come in and not try to do more than you’re capable of doing,” Ryan said. “Just enjoy the spring and enjoy the new situation and challenges that he has and if he has any concerns or questions, we’re here to support him. I’d like to develop a relationship with him where he’d feel comfortable if he did have something on his mind or was bothering him that he could feel comfortable enough to come visit with me about it.”
  • Regarding concern for Hamilton, ”I think we’re all concerned with Josh in that us who don’t have an addiction don’t truly understand the challenges that Josh has.  So we’re concerned for him, and as an organization we try to do everything we can to help in any way we can. One of the things that Josh realizes after this last time is the support he does have out there, and that’s probably very comforting for him.”
  • On Josh’s attitude, ”Josh has great attitude, is looking forward to getting down here and going to work and is very excited about the upcoming year and with great anticipation.  I really think he’s very focused on this time of year and what he needs to focus on. I think he’s in good shape and is working hard. I feel very positive about where Josh is coming into camp.”

Ryan hit on some other topics, but these were by far the big two, and rightfully so.  Nolan also talked about the team in general and said this regarding their outlook, “They are very determined again this spring as they are last spring,” Ryan said. “I don’t hear them talking about the World Series. I think they’ve moved on and have put it behind them.”   Ryan handled the media very well, and seemed to be initially amazed by the amount of media present.  On to non-Nolan updates:

  • According to Gordon Edes, at ESPNBoston.com, Roy Oswalt will announce his decision today as to who he will pitch for in 2012.  The Red Sox and Cardinals seem to be the strong bets at this point.  You can read the update from Edes here.
  • Joe Nathan seems eager to step into the closer role for the Rangers, saying “I’m excited.  I had a great workout this winter and have looked forward to this day for a long time.”
  • Regarding the Rangers team chemistry and clubhouse, Nathan said ”Obviously, I haven’t seen them all together in one place yet, but I’ve heard they all get along real well and that’s why they’ve done so well.  There’s talent here, just like there is in every clubhouse, but usually the thing that separates squads is how well they get along and how well they pull for each other and it looks like these guys do that as well as anyone.”
  • The Rangers hired Tony Fernandez as the special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels.
  • Neftali Feliz is fully embracing his new role and preparing for the increased stamina requirements.  “I’m doing more leg lifting so I can have the endurance.  I’ve been working a lot more on my changeup because I didn’t use that as much as a closer, and my slider.  Those two pitches were my focus.”
  • Feliz had this to say about his off-season meeting with former ace Pedro Martinez, “He gave me a lot of good advice.  He talked to me about my mental training and preparation and to understand that not everything is going to be easy and that things are going to be hard at times, but to keep my head up and keep at it.”
  • Wanna know how we think Feliz will perform this season – “The Other New Guy”
  • Jasen and I talked extensively about the Rangers pitching depth and the eventual rotation in our Spring Training Special podcast.  T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) provides his thoughts here and provides a full breakdown of the pitching staff here.
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsTanner Scheppers, who is going to work exclusively out of the bullpen this Spring, is excited about the opportunity, but still wants to be a starter down the road, ”It’s definitely nice to know my role going into it.  Long term, I would still like the opportunity to start, but right now I have to go out and perform and be competitive.”
  • Derek Holland wants us all to know that even though he’s a joker off the field, he’s nothing but business when he’s on the mound, ”At some point, I’m going to have a bad game and the last thing I want is for people to think that its because I did a Harry Caray impression.  If I have a bad game, it’s about not executing pitches. I have my fun. But when I come here, it’s not about goofing around. I’m serious every minute I’m on the field. It’s time to get to work and finish off what I started last season.”
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Feb 222012
 

A Closer Look at the CobraThere was some interesting banter earlier today on Twitter regarding Colby Lewis and his importance and value to this year’s rotation.  Lewis, barring injury, is more than likely going to be the Opening Day starter for the back-to-back defending American League champs, and the discussion was calling him out as possibly the most replaceable pitcher on the staff.  From time to time, the opening day honors don’t go to the most talented pitcher on the staff, but rather that honor can be granted to a pitcher with more tenure within the organization or one that has displayed some leadership.  Lewis is a perfect example of this. The fact that he was being brought up in the discussion has to do with the other options in the rotation than with Lewis himself, but it was enough to make me want to take closer look.

In 2011, Colby Lewis topped the 200 inning plateau for the second consecutive season, posting a 14-10 record with a 4.40 ERA.  For the most part, Colby’s numbers took a dip from 2010 across the board.

A Closer Look at the Cobra

Increased ERA and WHIP, with decreased strikeouts outweigh the benefits of decreased BB/9 and increased wins.  A helpful measurement to look at when comparing the two seasons is WAR (wins above replacement), which provides a measurement of value the player has to his team above a replacement level player (AAA).  In 2010, Lewis posted a 4.6 WAR, which dipped to 2.3 in 2011.  To put that into perspective, here is the 2011 WAR rating for a few of his peers:

  • C.J. Wilson – 5.9
  • Matt Harrison – 4.2
  • Derek Holland – 3.6
  • Colby Lewis – 2.3

While it’s always nice to see an increase in wins, the stat is too dependent upon the offense’s ability to provide run support.  When you take a closer look at Colby’s run support, it’s pretty clear he benefited greatly from the Rangers strong offensive performance.  In games started by Lewis where the Rangers scored 6 or more runs, Lewis had a 10-2 record with a 4.91 ERA.  In other words, he was still giving up too many runs in those games, but the Rangers bats had his back.

Another key stat to look at when reviewing Lewis’ performance in 2011 is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.  FIP is a better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level, by looking at things a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and homeruns. In looking at 2011 stats, Lewis once again falls short of his peers:

  • C.J. Wilson – 3.24
  • Matt Harrison – 3.52
  • Derek Holland – 3.94
  • Colby Lewis – 4.54 (3.55 in 2010)

While I think we can expect the Rangers offense to provide ample run support again in 2012 and I don’t expect a big change in facets of the game that are outside of the pitcher’s control, Lewis needs to improve on the mound and return to some semblance of his 2010 form.

Given the fact that this is his final year under contract with the Rangers and the plethora of young talented pitchers he is competing with, Lewis needs to prove that he is not only the big-game, reliable, work-horse veteran (deserving of the 2012 Opening Day nod), but that he is also one of the best pitchers on this staff from a talent perspective.  If not, 2012 could very likely be the last season we see the Cobra in a Rangers uniform.

Baseball Do Prediction: Colby bounces back and improves upon his 2011 numbers, while not quite performing at his 2010 level.  We think Colby will maintain a spot in the rotation throughout 2012 and, barring injury, will once again be a dependable option down the stretch and in the postseason.

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Feb 222012
 
  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsThe time has finally come…Happy Pitchers & Catchers Day!
  • Yu Darvish got his first bullpen session under his belt, as he threw 30 pitches catcher Luis Martinez.  Martinez provides a brief scouting reporting into what Yu was bringing, “I was excited and happy to catch him.  He had a bunch of pitches, great stuff and stayed down in the zone. He threw curveballs, sliders, changeup, splits. He did really well.”
    Martinez went on to say that he was most impressed with Darvish’s cutter and two-seam fastball.
  • Darvish arrived in the bullpen area with several other pitchers, including Derek Holland, whom Darvish expressed his interested in learning English to.  Holland didn’t seem eager to take on the role of tutor, saying ”He’s practicing it.  He said, ‘Please teach me English.’ I told him I’m not the best guy to be teaching English. We were joking. He was getting a feel for it.  He wants to learn it. That’s a pretty neat thing. He’s interacting with us. He’s not standoffish. He’s coming right with us. He’s a normal person. It won’t be hard for him to fit right in chemistry-wise.”
  • Pitching Coach Mike Maddux spoke with Galloway & Company  (103.3FM, ESPN) yesterday, and had to this say about Darvish, ”As far as Yu coming in the clubhouse, he’s just going to be one of the guys, man.  That’s one of the greatest things about our team is the way Wash’s personality has infiltrated the clubhouse. Everybody’s family down here. We all got one another’s back. And Yu’s gonna come in. He’s just going to be another one of the guys. We’re going to support him every day so that he can concentrate on baseball and we’ll take care of the media stuff when we’re done with our work.”
  • Ron Washington got his first good look at Darvish yesterday.  Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) covers Washington’s thoughts here.
  • Most Major League baseball players are driving expensive cars, or at the very least, plush SUVs, so when something shows up in the parking lot that looks like this, needless to say it’s going to peak some curiousity:
    Wednesday Morning Curveballs That sweet-ass Dune Buggy belongs to none other than Derek Holland.  Holland says ”It’s a Razor S.  It’s an off-road vehicle. But it has license plates so you can drive it on the road. It’s perfectly legal.”
    Holland takes the off-road vehicle to the nearby White Tank Mountains, which can be seen from the Rangers Spring Training complex.
  • The Rangers acquired Kelvin De La Cruz from the Cleveland Indians and placed him on the 40-man roster.  GM Jon Daniels feels a change in role will benefit De La Cruz, “He’s done very well against left-handers.  We see him in the bullpen and have some scouts who feel he is more suited to that role.”
  • Kohi Uehara, who has been the talk of much trade speculation, got the vote of confidence from JD yesterday, ”There are always some deals in the spring, moves here or there.  But we’re ready to go with this group of guys. I have no moves planned or anything like that.”
    JD went on about Koji, saying “The guy had a tremendous year last year.  One of the attractive things about trading for Koji last year was he was not just a rental. He was a two-year fit. That was an attractive element to the deal and still is.”
  • Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli both participated in full batting practice yesterday, with Manager Ron Washington throwing BP.  Both players had off-season surgery, so it’s nice to see them getting some early cuts to test their limits.
    Napoli has said that he believes his ankle is currently at 80%, but feels confident that he’ll be ready to go by Opening Day.
  • Colby Lewis isn’t concerned about his contract situation, ”We had very small, limited talks right after the season.  They wanted to know how I felt. Nothing came of it this offseason. If something comes up, it will come up, but I’m not too concerned about it. I’ve got to take care of the daily stuff.”
    Word is Colby was sporting a sweet beard when he arrived in Surprise…that means he’s going to have a great year.
  • The Rangers intend to stretch a few of their pitching prospects out to prepare for rotation roles in the minors, including Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez & Robbie Ross.  Tanner Scheppers, on the other hand, will work exclusively in relief during the Spring.  Based on the current make-up of the bullpen, it’s been speculated that both Scheppers and Perez could find a spot there with the big league club.  As of now, the Rangers could use another left-hander, so watch Perez closely this Spring to see if he could fill that void.
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Feb 212012
 

Baseball Do Podcast   Spring Training Special

We’re back…

Spring Training is upon and we answer some key questions facing the Rangers as they get to work in Surprise.

  • Center field – Gentry, Borbon, Martin, or….
  • Mitch Moreland
  • Pitching Rotation
  • Yu Darvish Distractions
  • Josh Hamilton Hangover (may be a better way to describe this…)

Be sure to listen carefully for an easy way to win a free “Nolan is my Homeboy” T-Shirt and for a way to participate and contribute to Baseball Do!

Smile folks…it’s time for Baseball!

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