May 122013
 
iankinsler

By: Dustin Dietz

After receiving a sizable contract extension shortly after the season began, Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler yielded a disappointing slash line of .256/.326/.423, along with a bWAR of 2.1 in 2012. Based on the above average production Kinsler produced in previous years, which led to him earning the extension, fans and pundits expected more out of Kinsler. Kinsler’s cavalier body language and slumped shoulders after pop outs only exacerbated the angst among the masses last season.

Kinsler was not much better in the field as he generated a negative UZR for the first time since 2008. During the offseason, there was speculation Kinsler might be moved to first base to make room for mega prospect Jurickson Profar at second base. Kinsler felt he was more valuable to the club at second base, and after the team signed Lance Berkman to be the primary designated hitter in January, Kinsler’s spot in the middle of the diamond was safe for the time being.

The Rangers hired renowned former Boston Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan in the offseason with aspirations Magadan would be able to improve the approach and mechanics of Ranger hitters, including Kinsler. So far, the results have been outstanding with Kinsler as he has produced a slash line of .324/.387/.544 with 7 home runs and a wRC+ of 149 in 2013.

Kinsler has played at an elite, MVP level the first six weeks of ’12. The biggest difference so far in Kinsler’s game has been his approach at the plate. According to PITCHf/x, Kinsler is swinging at fewer pitches as his O-Swing, Z-Swing, and Swing percentages are all lower than they were in ’12. I realize we are looking at a small sample size here, but early season plate discipline numbers are typically trends which last the rest of the season. When Kinsler does swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, he is making contact with 80.3 percent of them, a substantial increase from the 71.5 O-Contact percentage Kinsler yielded in ’12.

Kinsler’s early season success can also be attributed to the fact he has destroyed right handed pitching, something he has not done historically. The Rangers second baseman has yielded an outstanding slash line of .348/.414/.652 against right handed pitching in ’13, while his career line is .262/.340/.440 against north paws. The .652 slugging percentage is second in all of baseball behind only Shin-soo Choo’s .739. One can expect Kins’ numbers against righties to regress towards his career average, but his ability to hit to right handed pitching early on in the year is an encouraging sign.

Kinsler is winning battles.

The headline might be somewhat perplexing, but it will make sense in a moment. Many fans and writers are cynical of the WAR (wins above replacement) statistic because many misinterpret what the meaning is. For example, baseball writer Jon Heyman tweeted a couple of weeks ago his disbelief that phenomenal second year outfielder Bryce Harper had the same WAR as Pittsburgh outfielder Starling Marte. The number is not meant to represent how a player with a 5 WAR is better than a player with a 4 WAR. Rather, the WAR statistic represents the overall value the player provides for his team, and while Harper is a fantastic player, Marte and his superior defensive skills had supplied the same amount of wins for his team as Harper at that time.

Now that I have explained WAR for the baseball illiterate who refuses to accept the statistic’s validity, or the fact the earth is round, I will mention Kinsler is currently second in MLB among position players with 2.2 bWAR, behind only Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez’s 2.8. To put Kinsler’s stellar play into perspective, he has already surpassed the bWAR of 2.1 from last season. Quite simply, Kinsler has been the most valuable player to the Rangers. While Profar is probably ready to contribute at the big league level right now, there is little chance he would be producing the way Kinsler is from the second base position.

While Kinsler’ nonchalant demeanor in the batter’s box and in the field can indeed be vexing, I hope many realize how great he has played up to this point. Kinsler still does have the propensity to pop out rather often. However, if he continues to play at the level he currently is, he will not only be a bargain at the $13 million dollars he is being paid in ’13, but he also will be in MVP consideration at season’s end and helping lead the Rangers to a third American League West crown in four years.

For an infinite amount of baseball wisdom, follow me on Twitter @DustinDietz18 , or email me at ddietz2004@yahoo.com

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May 102013
 
cruz2

A LOB City Hit Parade

Have you seen the little girl in the Capital One commercial? Ya know, the one who says “We want more! We want more!” Even a seven year old knows that more is better. We all want more of the good things; money, vacation time, paid days off. It’s just how we are wired, more is better, which is why I believe that the Rangers “problems” with hitting with men in scoring position is not even a problem at all. It’s nothing more than blind perception to the bigger picture. Allow me to explain my reasoning.

How do the Rangers leave so many men on base to begin with? They hit the ball. It’s that simple. The more hits you have, the more chances you have to leave men on base. It’s a very elementary argument really. It’s the same type of argument I use when people tell me that Derek Jeter is a better shortstop than Elvis Andrus because he makes less errors. Elvis has way more range than Jeter ever dreamed of and because of that he gets to more balls, thus giving him more chances to throw runners out and more chances to make errors.

If you believe that teams have to have a very high average with runners in scoring position in order to win ballgames, let me present to you the World Champion San Francisco Giants (twice in three years even). In 2012, the Giants finished 13th in the league with a .259 avg with runners in scoring position compared to the Tigers who finished 1st with a .286 average and yet the Giants defeated the Tigers to win their second title in three years. In 2010 the Giants finished 24th with an average of .248 while the Minnesota Twins finished 1st hitting .285.
So the team that was statistically the best team in the big leagues with men in scoring position was swept out of the first round of the playoffs while one of the worst teams in baseball went on the win the World Series! BLASPHEMY!

The Rangers have a good offense. They hit the ball, they score runs, they steal bases and for the most part, they are consistent. The Rangers get on base. A LOT. It’s a double edged sword. The better you are, the more chances you have at failure. Let us take a look at just how good the Rangers have been over the last three seasons.

2010: 4th-.276 w/RISP, 1st in regular season avg .276, 1st in hits with 1556, 6th.338 OBP

2011: 2nd – .285 w/RISP, 1st in regular season avg .283, 2nd in hits with 1599(one hit short of finishing 1st), 5th .340 OBP

2012: 4th – .275 w/RISP, 3rd in regular season avg .273, tie for 1st with 1526, 4th .334 OBP

As you can see the Rangers have been the best hitting team in baseball the last three years and one of the best in getting on base. It’s simple logic and statistics. The more you get on base, the more you will leave on base. Leaving men on base should be a testament as to how good a team’s offense is, not how poorly they are at driving them in.
The Rangers averaged about 1.06 hits per inning and 4.96 runs per game last season. That means on average that the Rangers will get a hit in every inning and score in about half of those. Remember, that’s just how it all averages out. If they get four hits in one inning and score three runs in that inning but then get one hit in four separate innings but score no runs, then it’s still the same thing. It still averages out. No one complains when the Rangers win but leave eight or nine guys on base. Why? Because they won. Its how you perceive the game.

Did you know that the Kansas City Royals finished 3rd, 5th and 8th respectively over the last three season in average with RISP? The Royals! Did you know that in 2012, six of the top 10 teams in average with RISP didn’t even make the playoffs? In 2011 that number was five of the top 10 and in 2010 it was six of the top 10.

What I’m getting at is that as long as the Rangers continue to lead the league in hits, they will also leave a ton of men on base. It’s just how it is and it’s not going to change. As long as they continue to score runs and win ballgames, what does it even matter? Remember, baseball is a game of failure. If you succeed 30% of the time, you are considered a phenomenal player. When it comes to scoring runs with RISP, you have a one in four chance on average. The odds are not in your favor. They never will be.

It could be worse; they could just not be getting on base at all. It’s a total team effort. If they win 2-0 but leave 10 guys on base, then you have to credit the pitching for tossing a shutout. If they lose 2-0 but leave two guys on base, then everyone complains that they didn’t hit the ball. So which is it Rangers fans? Do you want them to continue to hit the ball, get on base and leave men on base or do you want them to lose games and not leave any men on base?

Its perception. Look at the big picture. Think about it. It’s not as bad as you think it is.

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May 092013
 
NolanJD

By Sean P. Bloodgood

As we made our way into the long baseball off-season following a disastrous end to the 2012 campaign, the Texas Rangers organization faced a plethora of tough decisions to make. That is to say, they had options.

Josh

What to do about Josh’s impending free agency? Publicly, they said all the right things. “Of course we’d love to resign Josh”. But we can easily deduce that they had privately grown tired of his act. His performance following a supposed energy drink-induced fiasco, the fumbled lazy fly ball at O.co., and the 0-4 performance while seeing only 8 pitches in the one-game wildcard round created a hatred unseen here since the days of Adrian Dantley. Their options were to overpay to keep him here, or to let him go. So far, it looks like they made the right choice with regards to God’s Gift to Baseball.

Options

Nap and the hole at the 2-spot

A beloved teammate and fan favorite, Nap-Oh-Lee headed into the off-season with major questions about his physical condition. The Rangers chose not to make him a qualifying offer, which after the news of his failed physical with the Red Sox, looked like the correct move yet again. He verbally agreed to a 3 year, 39 million dollar offer, but ultimately signed for just 1 year, 5 million. He had made his proverbial bed with Boston. Barring an extension, Napoli, who’s playing at a torrid pace in 2013, will be a free agent at the close of the season. Unless Mitch Moreland consistently proves himself against left handed pitching this season, Nap would be an interesting option for the Rangers at first base. Mike’s days behind the plate are likely over, and while AJP provides a level of attitude this team hasn’t seen in a while, the condition of Nap’s hips relegate him to being strictly a first baseman or DH. What this team will do at catcher remains to be seen, but they have options. Jorge Alfaro is several years away, but by all accounts, he’s been anointed as the catcher of the future by none other than Mr. Catcher himself.

Options

 

Robinson Chirinos, acquired from Tampa on April 8 just after the start of this season, is playing really well in AAA thus far, so if Pierzynski continues to showcase his age, fragility, and weak arm, don’t be surprised to see Chirinos behind the plate at RBiA within the next few months.

The Golden Child

Speaking of anointed, towards the end of the 2012 season Jurickson Profar homered in his first ever at-bat at the tender age of 19 years and 195 days. He joined a list of only two other teenagers to do so – Whitey Lockman in 1945 at 18 years and 345 days, and Ted Tappe in 1950 at 19 years and 224 days. It’s feat that hadn’t been done in 62 years. I know most of us have tried to forget the end of 2012, but he was one of the bright spots. The Rangers have plenty of options with the phenom. They could have traded him (or Andrus or Olt depending on the source) for @JUP_8TL. Right now, Upton is tearing it up for the Braves. But there’s one question you have to ask yourself – why were the Dbacks so damned eager to get rid of him? The Rangers just let one head case move on to a real baseball town, but they had the option of adding Upton. In the long run, is he really worth Profar? Most folks, including me, don’t think so. Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) is younger and has more years of control remaining (through 2016) than Upton did at the time when the Braves finally acquired and extended him. David Price would be a magnificent addition to this rotation, and those rumors will keep growing as we move towards the July trade deadline.

Options

 

Keeping Profar provides the Rangers with mouth-watering options. You’ll need plenty of towels.

President of Baseball Operations

Nolan Ryan is the face of the Rangers. No one argues that undeniable fact. If they did, they would deserve to be placed into a Texas-sized headlock on the mound in Arlington and repeatedly punched in the face. But Nolan is not the brains of the Rangers. I know. It seems blasphemous for me to even write that sentence. However, that distinction belongs to Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, AJ Preller and company. The Rangers sustained success has led to a raised awareness around the league of the cyphering abilities of the young front office personnel. What could the organization do to ensure they had options when and if some rebuilding franchise comes lustily calling on one or more of the young protégé Jedi knights? The option they went with was to promote JD and create room for advancement. It was a brilliant move. Was it handled in the best of ways? Obviously not. The promotion led to a consideration of options for Nolan. Would he leave? Would he stay? If he stayed, what would his role be?

OptionsIn the end, obviously he stayed, thanks be to whatever higher power you choose to believe in. Losing Nolan would have been a public relations blow to this team, no doubt. But ask yourself this – Would the Rangers still be averaging the highest attendance in the AL if the Ryan Express has decided to take his talents elsewhere? Probably so. Ownership stepped up and reassured him of his importance. Good. He belongs here. But so do the young baseball minds who have helped shape this team into a perennial contender – arguably the best franchise in MLB. JD is the head of what happens on the field, while Nolan is the face and the embodiment of The Texas Rangers as a whole – Mr. CEO. They both are vital to this thing.

 

Cash

The Rangers have plenty of it. They don’t owe Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, or C.J. Wilson nearly half a billion dollars, although they had the in-your-face options to sign at least two of the three. I’ve read where a few fans are starting to call the front office “cheap”. Stop. But while that opinion might be up for debate, you can’t argue with the added fiscal freedom they have because of the options they chose with the Head & Shoulders boys. Off subject, but Ceej and Josh do both have magnificent heads-of-hair. I do not. Just ask my daughters.

OptionsBut, back on topic, if you look at where the Rangers are and then compared them with any other team in MLB as far as talent on the MLB roster, minor league system, revenue and cash flow, fan base, from the front office down to the parking lot attendants, which team would you choose above the Rangers? I dare you to name one. If you said the Angels, your headlock and face punches await you.

 

Decisions

The Rangers, for good and bad, have had to make many other tough choices in recent years. Wash used cocaine. Chuck Greenberg versus Nolan Ryan. Michael Young was the center of many options the Rangers have been faced with. Cliff Lee. But through it all, this team has come out on top more than it hasn’t. I’ll never forget the Newberg Report night at the ballpark in 2010. When JD was announced to a standing ovation, he reminded the crowd, “I’m still the guy who traded away Adrian Gonzalez.” He gets it. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time when presented with options. We can’t predict the future. When we fail, it’s all about how we deal with those failures. This organization learns from right and wrong decisions and moves on. They, and we as a fan base, are better off because of it. There’s no crying in baseball. (Until we win the World Series.)

 

Now and Later

Options are a good thing, and this team has more than most, if not all. The Rangers at times seem to hesitate. I don’t think that’s really the case though. We as fans, want to see the big splash. We want to see Sports Center lead with a story involving the team that Chris Berman once referred to as “The  Strangers”. I was 14 years old in 1984 when I first heard that. I’ve held that grudge for a long, long time. I still do. The Rangers aren’t a joke anymore and they won’t be moving forward. They have too many options available. Keeping your options open is what you do when you are certain better things are or will be available. When Colby Lewis and Martin Perez return from the DL, what will JD do? When Profar’s play demands his arrival, what will JD do? This farm system is rich with talent. I’m reminded of The History of the World when Dom Deluise decided to take a Treasure Bath. Google it. Google it now. You won’t regret it.

 

When the stupid amount of talent, so #wanted by many is ready, what will JD do? The talent, money, farm system, front office, and ownership and fan base alike provide this team with all the parts, pieces, and options needed to rise to the pinnacle of not just baseball, but all of sports. World Series Champions. I trust JD and Nolan and the rest of the front office and ownership and Wash and this team and its fans. How could you not? It’s all about options, buddy.

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May 082013
 
usp-mlb_-boston-red-sox-at-texas-rangers-4_3_r536_c534

BaseballDo Guest Contributor Michael A. Morales

 

In a 3-1 count, David “Big Papi” Ortiz stands in his arrogant, intimidating way awaiting what he knows is coming. If memory serves me, Steve Busby described it as a cutter that got a little too much of the plate. MLB.com called it a 4 seam fastball for some reason. Whatever it was, Ortiz was happy to see it coming, and happier to see it leaving. His blindingly fast bat made short work of it. And because it wasn’t enough to hit the ball so hard it apparently knocked a fan for a loop, Ortiz felt the need to watch Yu’s reaction before tossing his bat toward the third base dugout to start his triumphant trot. It’s not surprising that Ortiz hit that ball hard enough to make it seem to disappear (honestly, my first reaction was that he had swung through it). It’s not even surprising that he hit it off Yu Darvish, who has made a mistake here and there, and especially in the first inning. What was surprising was the sequence of pitches to Mike Napoli that followed Ortiz’s at bat. He got a 4-seamer for a ball, followed by three methodically placed and tightly twirling sliders, only one of which made any contact with Napoli’s bat.

Those four pitches seemed to come from a confident pitcher with a good feel for his filthy slider, not from a guy who just gave up a two-run shot. The slider had a ton of bite, and was breaking well into and out of the zone at Yu’s will. Any viewer who missed the first three batters (namely, me) would have wondered why in the world Yu didn’t throw a single slider to Ortiz rather than trying to get the hitter with the longest hit streak and the strength of two men to chase fastballs out of the zone. That viewer (again, me) might also have wondered why Yu didn’t go to the slider when the fastball plan failed. Even if Ortiz dropped the barrel and golfed one out, Yu would have had good hitting to blame, and not his own 89 MPH batting practice pitch in the heart of the zone.

A glance at MLB.com’s play by play of the previous three batters explains things somewhat, but questions still linger. Ellsbury grounded out on a cutter after watching two 4-seams go by, and Nava fouled off two sliders before becoming the first strikeout victim on a 96 MPH fastball. Pedroia then singled on a slider that Yu was obviously trying as his out pitch in a 2-2 count. Maybe that explains why Yu seems to have given up on his slider by the time Ortiz came to the plate, but Pedroia’s single was a complete fluke. It was an infield roller that was so slow Yu couldn’t cleanly field it and make the throw to first. In other words, the slider did its job, and Yu was just a victim of the BABIP gods. So why no sliders to Ortiz? I have a thought or two, though I imagine some people will think I’m crazy.

If you’ve seen the gif of Brett Wallace striking out on a slider from Yu in his start against the Astros, and you like good pitching as much as I do, you probably also get goosebumps every time you see it. Wallace took a hack at a pitch he thought would end up in the zone, while AJ had to catch the ball behind Wallace’s back leg. Let me reiterate that Wallace swung at a pitch that ended up BEHIND HIM. No one is accusing Brett Wallace of being an all-star hitter that pitchers fear, but he is a MLB hitter with the skill and talent to make a big league team. He has been involved in trades for such players as Matt Holiday and Roy Halladay, and was called up to replace Lance Berkman after Berkman was traded to the Yankees in 2010. Yu Darvish is good at throwing baseballs, and he’s even better at making them spin. So what was he thinking in that Ortiz at bat?

If I had to guess, and that’s exactly what I have to do, I would say that Yu has a penchant for experimentation. I can’t speak to the type of personality he has, and I don’t have much authority on his routine or patterns, but it seems like patterns are exactly what he is trying to avoid. Those who have watched him this season have no doubt seen that his slider has been the go-to pitch, and the pitch that is most effective. A recent article on Yahoo Sports famously quoted a scout as saying that Yu had the best slider he had ever seen. Is it possible that Yu doesn’t want to be known that well? Is he trying to stay out of patterns and use different pitches in different situations so that batters won’t learn that he goes to the slider when looking for the third strike? Does he want to be a guy who can’t be scouted? That Ortiz at bat has me baffled and looking for answers.

That same Yahoo article referenced the observation of another scout, a veteran with two decades of seniority on the previous guy, who claimed that there was not another pitcher in existence with the combination of repertoire and command of Yu Darvish. That unusually large mix of pitches may have an unintended consequence: it may leave Yu with the desire to break out some of his lesser used stuff now and then. For what reason, I have no way of knowing, and all of this is just speculation anyway. But if Yu is experimenting with what he throws in certain counts in the first inning rather than relying on what has worked in the past, that may be the reason that he seems to be vulnerable in the beginning of every game. If he was able to use every pitch he has available effectively at all times, and no batter ever knew what was coming, he would be a phenomenon like no one has ever seen. Oh, wait…

I’m no expert, but I would love to have seen Ortiz react to the slider in that at bat. Maybe he walks, and Mike Napoli strikes out anyway. The score is still 0-0 in that scenario. If Ortiz wins the battle, at least it’s not on a meat pitch that looks like a gimme. I know Yu isn’t the kind of guy who gives up, but that pitch was ugly. But in the end, a win’s a win, and a sweep’s a sweep. I’ll take it. Hopefully, Yu learned something from that first inning.

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May 072013
 
untitled

Yu Darvish, It’s now safe to call him an ace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanner Holubar – Guest Baseballdo.com contributor

Following his second 14 strikeout performance of the season, Yu Darvish has shown nearly enough for the righty to be considered one of the top pitchers in the American League.

Darvish owns a record of 5-1, with an ERA of 2.56 and leads the major leagues with 72 strikeouts; in only 45.2 innings.

Yu keeps the Rangers in every game, and with Ron Washington letting him throw 127 pitches today, the Rangers’ skipper showed his confidence in the 6’5 Darvish.

It is arguable Wash would have pulled anybody else who had thrown so many pitches in the seventh inning, and any other pitcher would not still have been hitting 94 on the gun.

These are the traits of a top flight pitcher. With the manager leaving his guy in the late innings with the game tied, and with the pitcher being able to keep his normal velocity.

Darvish proved both of these to be true in today’s game, and if he can keep this up he can be considered the long awaited ace the Rangers and us fans have been waiting for.

Most pitchers in their second season would not be looked at as a top pitcher in baseball. With Darvish it is a different story, not only because he leads all of baseball in strikeouts, but because he holds a lower ERA than most would hold in a hitter’s haven like The Ballpark.

Darvish fools hitters like few pitchers can. He can throw high 90s heat or fool a hitter with a 60 mph curve that takes longer to get to the plate than Benjie Molina getting to first base. Darvish also throws about five other pitches that make him so unhittable at times, batters need not bring a bat to the plate.

The arrival of Darvish in Arlington shows the brilliance of what Jon Daniels has been able to keep up since he learned from the mistake of trading Adrian Gonzalez for another starter who was so disappointing the name Adam Eaton sounds like getting offered a Natural Light rather than a Shiner Bok.

Darvish also gives fans something to cheer about more than the YUUUUUUUUUUU birds that echo around Rangers Ballpark. He gives Rangers fans the joy of watching the most dominate starter the team has had since The Ryan Express was striking out hitters in his late 40s.

Darvish is now a proven commodity in the MLB, and he now only needs to win some playoff games before he takes his perch as a top five pitcher in the game.

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Apr 122013
 
LeonysCraig

Twos a Crowd: Leonys Martin and Craig GentryIts no secret that I am not a fan of the platoon at any position in baseball. It’s also no surprise that I prescribe to the theory that baseball can’t be explained or dissected with statistics and spreadsheets alone. Certainly if you do believe that everything is just a percentage of potential success with each batter a platoon makes a lot of sense. My biggest problem with the concept is the affect it has on a hitters timing. I’ve talked to former players (add that to my bragging montage) and I get the sense that there is something to the idea of “being in the zone”. I’m not going to try and convince you that this is some magical place where hitters are more focused than usual but I do think that it has something to do with muscle memory. Precisely why I hate the idea of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin sharing time evenly in center field this year.

I really like Craig Gentry. He’s proved in 2012 during his 260+ plate appearances that he can be a productive hitter when he hit .304 and had an OBP of .367. Very solid numbers for a guy who wasn’t blessed with incredible physical gifts. All that being said, the odds are not in Gentry’s favor that the 29 year old can be repeat his solid 2012 season.

On the other hand, you have a guy in Leonys Martin that has a ceiling higher than the screeches from women when Craig Gentry is introduced (He’s handsome). Martin is a 25 year old outfielder who defected from Cuba 2010 and after being allowed to become a free agent by MLB was signed by the Rangers to a five-year 15.5 Million dollar contract including a five million dollar signing bonus. The Rangers made a significant investment in an unknown commodity because of his potential which he showed off in 2012 prior to being called up in June. He hit .344 in Round Rock with a .414 OBP. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder with a 70 grade arm. Keep in mind this year that he’s learning, he’s being exposed to things as a MLB player that he’s never been exposed to before. Growing pains and struggles are to be expected. They can’t all be Mike Trout.

I want Leonys to get the opportunity to struggle and learn in the big leagues and if he’s splitting time with Gentry its going to extend the learning curve for a guy that has the potential to be a much bigger difference-maker than Gentry.

Here’s hoping Wash see’s things my way.

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Apr 112013
 
hangout

If it wasn’t for the greatness of Monica and Lexi, this roundtable would have been an utter disaster. We fought technical difficulties and Scott’s obsession with Google hangout sound effects. Enjoy.

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Apr 102013
 
Sundberg

My drive into work today started the way it normally does. The blurry-eyed walk to the car only to realize I should have worn a coat but too lazy to walk back into the house to grab one. The radio always tuned to The Ticket from the drive home the afternoon before. I chuckle listening to Gordo’s Corner and the impeccable timing of Jeremy on the board. Today though, I found myself getting worked up over the segment right after Muse in the News. Jub and Junes were discussing an article Rob Neyer recently wrote naming every current major league franchise’s Mister.

Some of these are no-brainer choices. Mr. Cub Ernie Banks, Mr. Tiger is Ty Cobb, Mr. Brave Hank Aaron and Mr. Ranger is Jim Sundberg?

The fact that this bothered me was more than a little confusing. I love Sunny, he’s one of my all-time favorite Rangers. He was a fan favorite, albeit a little before my time, and at the time the best catcher the Rangers had ever employed. I just think the choice was short sighted. Here are 2 choices I think would have been more prudent.

Pudge – The fact that I can refer to him by one name should say a lot. Pudge is arguably the most dominant player at any position the Rangers have ever had. Hell, he might be the best catcher in baseball history, although its a little more debatable. In his 12+ years with Texas he was Rookie of the Year, a 10 time gold glove winner, a 10 time all star, a 6 time silver slugger, and the AL MVP in 1999. Not to mention probably the best defensive catcher of his era.

Michael Young – Say what you want about PADMY but in 12 full seasons with Texas he was often the lone bright spot of some pretty bad teams. I don’t want that to sound like a reduction because in those 12 years he had 2230 hits and that’s nothing to laugh about. He was a seven time all star who was widely considered the “Face” of the franchise. He represented himself, the organization, and baseball with dignity and respect. Had he retired after 2011 I think this would have been a much easier sell. Had they won a World Series in 2011, I might have put him in front of Pudge.

Just one cold and tired guy’s opinion. I’d love to hear your Mr. Ranger choices. Argue in the comments section.

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Apr 042013
 
RangersAstrosOpeningDay

Baseball, Beer and a Babe? An Opening Night Excursion

So, as some of you know by now there was a large group of people that went down to Houston to watch our Texas Rangers take on the newest AL West Rival, the Houston Astros. Of those people, three of them are from right here at Baseballdo; Jasen Southward (the man), Dustin Dietz (the bunting advocate) and myself (the pretend writer) and since the three of us ended up hanging together most of the weekend, I’d like to give you a brief rundown of our weekend so that you can see how much fun the trip really was. That way, you’ll know what you need to do to make it to our next trip!

The Beginning

It was back towards the beginning of Spring Training 2013 when a friend approached me about an idea to get a group together to head down to Houston for Opening Night. It started out as one of those “wouldn’t it be cool if… “ moments and then it quickly came to fruition.

Jennifer C. Brown told me that she knew a ticket rep in Houston and could probably hook us up, so I said, “What the hell, let’s do it, I’m down.”

It started out as a simple 20 tickets because we were unsure of who we could get to go being on Easter Sunday and having to travel and get hotel arrangements made. We had 20 tickets gone within the hour. It jumped to 40, then 60 and before we knew it, we had 100 tickets reserved and paid for. We even had shirts made so that we could rule our entire section once we got there. After adding a few more tickets here and there, we ended up with 114 people strong. We definitely represented the Rangers very well.

Saturday – The Pre Game

A couple of other buddies and myself arrived in Houston around 5pm on Saturday evening, got checked into the hotel and decided to go grab some grub before an organized group meet up. Right off the bat, the first place we look up and walk to, is nowhere to be found. It just doesn’t even exist. So we scramble to find a new place, walk there…. Closed. Really? It’s a Saturday Night Houston! Why are you a restaurant in downtown Houston, closed on a Saturday Night? Come to find out, EVERYTHING was closed for the ENTIRE WEEKEND due to it being Easter. Hey, I can understand being closed on Easter Sunday but come on! The Clippers were in town as well as the Rangers. Houston failed big time in this aspect, at least to me anyways.

We finally find an overpriced Mexican Restaurant to eat at. Naturally, being the only thing open, it’s pretty busy. After dinner, as we are getting ready to get up and leave, I look up and standing right in front of the booth next to us is Rangers Pitching Coach Mike Maddux with his wife and who I assume to be his daughter. I mean, it could be some party chick for all I know, I don’t know what the guy does in his spare time. Anyway, being that he is with his family I didn’t really want to disturb him and be “that guy” so I decided that while we were waiting for our check that I would start talking Ranger baseball a little too loud in hopes that I could distract his mind from the menu and engage us instead. Yea, that didn’t work. Dude was a like fat kid in a candy store; oblivious to his surroundings.

Meanwhile, back at the Four Seasons Hotel, Dustin and some of the others have already met up at the hotel bar and started to pre-game. About the same time that Maddux sits down, I start seeing pictures surface on twitter from Dustin’s brother, Austin, which show the players walking in. Beltre, Wash, Gentry and even Jon Blake. At this point, I know it’s time to go. So we pay the check and off we go to the hotel.

Once there, I start to get introduced to the people that I don’t yet know. Then I was introduced to this girl. A pretty girl even but at this moment, I had Rangers on my mind. One by one they start to appear. Andy Hawkins, Gary Pettis (who later becomes our best friend), Josh Frazier, David Murphy, Joe Nathan, Derek Holland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis, Wash and even Nolan Ryan all appear at some point albeit brief.

A couple of the folks in our group decided to talk to some of the players/coaches and one person decided it would be a good idea to invite Gary Pettis out to the Flying Saucer with us a little later on that evening. Clearly the invite was a joke because Pettis would never take us up on that right?

So after about an hour of staring down Joe Nathan and Derek Holland having dinner, I started to feel like a dirty groupie outside a rock bands dressing room in hopes of catching a sweat bead off their hair. We decided to bounce and head over to the Flying Saucer.

The place is packed. I run upstairs to try and find a table big enough to fit the 20 people we have going on this excursion. There was plenty of room in an area in the back but “Jeff” was having a birthday party. Problem is, “Jeff” reserved a spot for about 40 people and only had about 10 friends. So we crammed into two small tables since it was all that was left.

There she is again, that pretty girl from the hotel that I was introduced to. Now she’s sitting next to me at this bar. Now that the Rangers aren’t on my mind, I start to make some small talk, nothing to extravagant. About the time we get our drinks, “Jeff” decides that no one likes him and his party is lame and he and his group leave. We immediately take over the entire area and fill out the whole section that was supposed to be for “Jeff.” Now, as new seating arrangements are happening, I don’t want to be the creepy guy that comes in and sits directly next to the pretty girl I’ve only known for a couple of hours, so I sit across from her.

The night is progressing, lots of fun is being had and even more than just small talk with the pretty girl.
Then it happens. The improbable. In walks Gary Pettis. NO WAY! Gary freaking Pettis is actually joining us at a bar?! How freaking cool is this?! Houston patrons have no clue what’s going on. They are wondering who we are all clamoring over. Shut up and go root for the Dynamo.

While everyone decides to hit up Pettis right away, I hang back until everyone gets their turn before I swoop in. When I finally do get my shot, I figure I’m going to drop some straight hardcore knowledge bombs on Pettis and tell him how to run that third base line this year. Well, unbeknownst to me, Pettis is clearly the superior baseball mind. I did ask him one question and his answer I thought was very interesting. I told him that a lot of fans think that since we lost Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, that the team would regress this year and asked him what he thought about it…

“So?..”

He says this while looking at me like I was crazy. He further elaborated saying that we are a better team now because we are a more versatile team and bring a different type of game to the field instead of just a power, swing for the fences game.

My night has been made. I couldn’t have asked for a better answer.

Pettis decides that he’s had enough of everyone buying him drinks and decides to call it a night. Or he was drunk, one of the two, probably the latter. A few more side conversations with group members and people start to call it a night. Me? I find myself still chatting with that pretty girl from the hotel. I hear her say to her friend that she’s not ready to go yet because she hasn’t found a date to the game.

Challenge accepted.

I jump in and immediately suggest that I’m available, jokingly of course, because if she says no then I need a way to save face right? RIGHT?

“Oh really? Ok then it’s a date.”

Yea I figured you’d say no, I was totally kidding any…. I’m sorry what? You were being serious? And you said yes? Well then I was totally being serious.

So finally, Jasen, Dustin, Dustin’s Wife, his sister in law (the pretty girl who is now my date for the game), myself and a few others decide to wrap it up and we all walk together back to our separate hotels. While walking, I find myself talking with; yup you guessed it, the pretty girl. I mean after all, she is my date now. I have to put forth some sort of effort. We all go our separate ways for the evening and decide to meet up again in the AM for some more pre gaming.

Sunday – More Pre Game

After wondering around downtown so my buddy could find an ATM that clearly didn’t exist, (second time something we looked up didn’t exist) we find a pizza place open and sit down for some lunch. I call up Dustin and the gang and invite them over and we all enjoy some pizza that was a cross between Indian food and Italian food. It was pretty good too.

We decided to mosey on down to the “Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park Opening Day Festival” and see what all it had to offer.

The $26 Boomstick hotdog at Rangers Ballpark was bigger than their “Festival.”

Sunday – The Game

The game sucked. We got our asses handed to us on a silver platter on National Television by the worst team in the Major Leagues and that’s all I’m going to say about the game. Justin Maxwell made it pretty high up my “I can’t tolerate you” list by the end of the night too.

The Astros fans really took me off guard and honestly, I’ve got to say that I lost a little respect for them. I mean you are the worst team in baseball coming off back to back 100+ loss seasons. Hey, I understand you want to defend your turf and represent your team and all but to tell us that the Rangers suck and that we wasted our money coming to Houston just to see them lose and we all needed to shut up and go back to Dallas is a little backwards to me. Maybe it’s not what they said, maybe it’s how the said it. Maybe it stung more because they really did whip our butts.

Not all was lost at the game though, being is that I had an extra ticket; I invited the pretty girl to come and sit by me for a portion of the game. (I didn’t want her to abandon her sister and brother in law). She obliged and joined me for about 2-3 innings on two separate occasions. After the game was over, we all moved down to enjoy some fireworks, which are my favorite. Fireworks, baseball AND a pretty girl?

Baseball, Beer and a Babe? An Opening Night Excursion

The night is still young so we decided to go get more beer and head on back to my hotel room to drink it up and chat the night way. And by we, I mean about 10 of us including Dustin and Jasen. I notice that the pretty girl decides to cuddle up next to me. Who am I to tell a pretty girl not to do that?

So after several hours of talking and drinking, we decide to order some late night pizza, and by late night I mean 2am. Flakey’s Pizza was the place and it was the best damn pizza I’ve ever had on a Saturday night at 3am.

Oh and they offered a $10 Ho. Don’t ask.

The night comes to an end and everyone goes their separate ways. Oh the pretty girl you ask? Well I guess what happened when I walked her out will have to stay between her and me now wont it?

Overall I would have to say that the trip was a gigantic success. I had more fun than I had had in a long time. Everything from the people, to the game made this trip a fun and memorable trip. It was my first time seeing my Rangers play on the road so I didn’t know what to expect. If I get to give advice to Gary Pettis every road trip, then I’ll quit my job and do it again! It was so much fun and such a huge success that we are already planning another trip. I can’t wait to go again.

And then there was this pretty girl.



Follow me on twitter @bcasey55

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Apr 012013
 
Rangers - Angels girls

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. L.A. Angels of Anaheim
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

Just as it was supposed to be last year…the American League West will ultimately come down to the Rangers in Angels in 2013.  The Rangers will win the AL West with some new talent (see AJP, Berkman, youngsters), better pitching and better “chemistry” (SABR guys going nuts on that).  Given the Rangers Opening Day loss to the Astros last night, this may seem hard to believe, but remember, they have 161 more to redeem that loss and that game means no more than game 40, 80, 120 or 160.

With the season already underway, I thought we’d look at the top 2 spots in the division a little differently and do side-by-side comparisons… purposely glossing over the areas where the Angels are better.  Not really.  Look, the Angels are the consensus pick to win the division with the Rangers evening dropping a low as 3rd in many preseason predictions.

This is quickly becoming a big rivalry across the MLB landscape.  Let’s not kid ourselves and put it in the same ballpark as Yankees-Red Sox, but it is getting stronger every year…and this year will only make it better as it comes down to the final week of the season.

The Angels may be better…on paper.  While the “role of the underdog” is fun to take on, it’s not that far-fetched that the Rangers can win this division.  Here’s how…

The Bats & Gloves

Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

Michael Young, Clubhouse Leader & Struggling Veteran

While the Rangers lineup took a hit with the departure of Josh Hamilton, you can’t say the same thing in regards to the departures of Michael Young and Mike Napoli.  Sure Young was a “leader” and I won’t discount that, but given his performance from last year, he is clearly in the twilight of his career and the line-up should improve with his departure (that hurt to say).  Napoli was a fan-favorite and we will miss the “NA-PO-LI” chant (sarcasm), but let’s face it – 2011 Napoli was the anomaly. 

Enter Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski – names that aren’t as pretty, but still potentially very effective – mind you, both of which are also in the twilights of their careers.

Adding Josh Hamilton to the Angels lineup, behind Mike Trout, whatever bum bats second and Albert Pujols is frightening…if only for the protection that Hamilton provides based on what he is capable of.

Rangers Projected Lineup

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS
  3. Lance Berkman, DH
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
  5. David Murphy, LF
  6. Nelson Cruz, RF
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  9. Leonys Martin, CF

Angels Projected Lineup

  1. Mike Trout, LF
  2. Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Aybar will have plenty to smile at hitting between Trout and Pujols/Hamilton

    Erick Aybar, SS

  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Josh Hamilton, RF
  5. Mark Trumbo, DH
  6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  7. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  8. Chris Iannetta, C
  9. Peter Bourjos, CF

The Angels top 5 is easily the best in baseball – can’t argue with that, but the Rangers aren’t too far off with:

  • Freshly extended “Ranger-for-Life” Elvis Andrus has to take the next step in his progression as a hitter.  This is the expectation and will be realized in 2013 – I’ll project a .775 OPS, which isn’t All-Star caliber at the plate, but Elvis is so much more than that.  
  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Elvis needs to give Ian more kicks in the butt

    Ian Kinsler has to be better than what we saw in 2012, which was the worst season, statistically, of his career.  We saw greatness in April last year, but the rest of the season was mediocre at best.  He’s still only 30 and last year was clearly the outlier when you look at his career year-over-year.

  • The Rangers need something similar to the 2011 version of Lance Berkman.  Big Puma is 37 now and still a lethal hitter.  Players of his age don’t generally improve, but 2012 was injury-riddled, so if can produce close to his ’11 slash (.301/.412/.547), the Rangers have taken a big step towards replacing Hamilton’s production in the lineup…

Three big ifs?  No, all three of these keys are more likely than not and will go a long way towards the Rangers maintaining their status as a very dangerous lineup.

Defensivily…well, we’re all cussing Kinsler right now and calling for Profar to take over at 2B and that would improve the Rangers defensively.  For the Rangers, the left side of the infield is Legendary and Mitch is a superb defensive first basemen.  AJ is average behind the plate and the outfield is average as well.

Between Trout and Bourjos, there won’t be too many balls dropping in left-center against the Angels and we know Hamilton is an excellent defender…when motivated.  Pujols is above average at 1B and the rest of the infield and Iannetta are average.  Suffice to say, the Angels aren’t built to win with defense, but they aren’t going to hinder themselves here either.

The Arms

This is an area where the Rangers have an edge.  An edge that could grow considerably at the trade deadline…given the recent extension for Elvis and the potential of trading away the top prospect in the game.

Rangers Rotation

  1. Matt Harrison, LHP
  2. Yu Darvish, RHP
  3. Alexi Ogando, RHP
  4. Derek Holland, LHP
  5. Nick Tepesch, RHP (to be replaced by Colby Lewis in the near future)

This thing is going to take a on different look as the season goes on, with Darvish stepping forward as the Ace of the staff and unfortunately some unpredictable twist and/or turn.

Angels Rotation

  1. Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Hanson – once a top young arm in the game is bringing up the rear of the Angels rotation after stuggling

    Jered Weaver, RHP

  2. C.J. Wilson, LHP
  3. Joe Blanton, RHP
  4. Jason Vargas, LHP
  5. Tommy Hanson, RHP

Weaver is a true #1 who is capable of being dominant night in and night out.  C.J. is C.J and the rest of the rotation is meh, bleh and blah.

The Bullpens

Neither bullpen is lights out, and while many rankings out there put the Rangers ahead of the Angels in regards to the bullpen, I think they are evenly matched as they stand right now.  If Neftali Feliz can return as an effective reliever, that would put the Rangers ahead.  The Rangers also have more flexibility in bolstering their bullpen at the trade deadline if necessary, while the Angels depleted farm system will make it tougher for them.

The Manager

Hard to argue Wash over Scioscia…so I won’t.  Given my choice, I’ll take Wash.  He needs to improve as a strategist and I think he will.

The Bottomline

Why the Angels could win the West:

  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Josh can be great…when motivated.

    The addition of Hamilton’s bat in the lineup provides legit protection for Pujols and bolsters the heart of the order significantly.  Put aside what you think of Josh right now and the bad taste he left in our mouths at the end of last season – he’s good, if not great and has the skill/talent to put together a MVP-caliber season.  

  • Mike Scioscia knows how to win…for what that’s worth.  But can he manage the egos with extremely high expectations and the circus that can come with the presence of Josh.
  • Outside of Hamilton, they have a few other guys that could collect some major awards at the end of the season.
    • MVP – Pujols & Trout
    • Cy Young Award – Weaver

Why the Rangers will win the West:

  • Because I’m confident enough to underline the word “will”.
  • Darvish will elevate to a Ace status in 2013.  Last year was his introduction to the Major Leagues and was a major transition, not only in baseball but life for Yu.  While he didn’t get better as the season went on, he finished the season on a strong note with a 3-0 record and a 2.21 ERA in Sept/Oct.  It’s clear what his objective is – to become the best pitcher in the Majors.  2013 will be a big step in that direction.
  • AJP and Berkman will exceed expectations.  They aren’t long-term solutions, but they are both very good and will help take the edge of off the perceived blows of losing Hamilton, Young and Nap-nap.
  • The Rangers are in a position to improve at the trade deadline.  With hot commodities at the minor league level, they will be able to pull the trigger if necessary.
  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Adrian Beltre, the new face of the Texas Rangers

    There was a problem in the clubhouse last year…call is Josh, call is whatever you want…actually, just call is Josh.  The atmosphere will be improved this year with Adrian Beltre assuming the leadership role vacated by Michael Young.

It’s going to be a close race, and in the end I think the Rangers will win the division by  a slim margin, but they will win the division.  LAA will secure a playoff spot as a Wild Card team.  If you want to hear my full predictions for the season, make sure you listen to our last podcast.

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