Mar 272013
 

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

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Houston Astros

Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?The Oakland Athletics won the American League West last year in dramatic fashion, snatching the division title away from the Rangers on the final day of the season.  If you are reading this, I’m betting that you haven’t forgotten.

With a hodge-podge of contributing veterans, break-out players, timely performances and a Cuban who is slugging his way towards stardom, the A’s won the division when the consensus going into 2012 was that they would finish a distant third to the Rangers and Angels.

So, who would dare pick them to finish third again?  Who would challenge Moneyball?  Who would give the A’s their bulletin board material in 2013?  Me…and Dan Szymborski of ESPN.com…and others for that matter…but most importantly ME.

Bottom line (oddly near the top of the article), I’m not a believer.  The Rangers helped the A’s to the West title last year more than any other team in baseball could have.  The A’s don’t have what it takes to win the AL West without another collapse from the Rangers and Angels.  

The Bats & Gloves

This is still a lineup made up of guys (with the exception of a few) that are relative no-names.  No offense to those guys, but these just aren’t names that the average baseball fans is familiar with.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t good…

Projected Line-up

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Jed Lowrie, SS
  3. Josh Reddick, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Brandon Moss, 1B
  6. Seth Smith, DH
  7. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  8. John Jaso, C
  9. Scott Sizemore or Eric Sogard, 2B

There are some projections out there that have Jaso batting higher in the order and even 2nd, but Lowrie is leading candidate.  Former Diamondback outfielder Chris Young will also probably get plenty of ABs as the fourth outfielder on the team.

Three bats that peak my interest:

  • Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?Brandon Moss…solid player who far exceeded expectations in 2012 – or – late blooming journeyman who just needed a chance to prove he is a middle of the order talent?  The 29 year-old Moss, with his fourth team in Oakland, broke out like no other in 2013, and while I’m inclined to call it a “one-hit wonder”, I’m not quite ready to completely dismiss Moss.  In 265 crucial at-bats last year, he hit 21 bombs with a .954 OPS.  Projected over a full season, he would have been a 40+ HR, 100+ RBI MVP candidate.  The only other season in his career in which he had as many plate appearances was in 2009 when he hit 7 dingers with a .236 batting average with 120 more at-bats than what he had last year.  So, will the real Brandon Moss please stand up?  Like I said, I’m intrigued.
  • John Jaso was once trusted to lead off by the great Joe Maddon (he with the sweet black-rimmed specks).  Jaso flies under the radar (just like the A’s like ‘em), but is an extremely productive player when you take into account he is a catcher (thin position).  Last year with the Mariners, he hit 10 HRs with 50 RBIs over just 294 at-bats, while putting together an impressive slash – .276/.394/.456.  While it’s quite possible that Jaso too played above his head a bit in 2012, this dude can hit and he is a perfect fit for this line-up.  Derek Norris will still get time behind the plate, but Jaso’s bat will find away in to the line-up more often than not.
  • Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?Yoenis Cespedes scares me and he should scare you too.  As stated earlier, this team is made up of a bunch of second-chancers and no names with the exception of a few….and Cespedes is part of the few.  Wanna dark horse for 2013 AL MVP?  Look no further.  Cespedes put together an impressive rookie campaign in 2012 with a .292/.365/.505 slash, but when you look at the splits, you see that he really figured it out in the second half of the season with an OPS of 119 points higher than the first half.  He doesn’t care if the pitcher is a rightie or a leftie, and get’s even better when runners are in scoring position (.345/.430/.540 slash with RISP).

Defensively…well, you’ve probably seen Moneyball…so you know how Billy Beane does it.  Outfielders are good, infielders are average…again, breaking down defense is boring.  Not dismissing it’s importance, but c’mon…

The Arms

The A’s have an impressive stable of young starters who, while none of which are Ace material, combine to make a strong rotation – that’s synergy…maybe.

Projected Rotation

  1. Brett Anderson, LHP
  2. Jarrod Parker, RHP
  3. Tommy Milone, LHP
  4. A.J. Griffin, RHP
  5. Bartolo Colon, RHP

Dan Straily will be the 5th starter for at least the first time through the rotation, but it’s really Colon’s spot to lose.

  • 2nd in the American League in team ERA at 3.48
  • 2nd in the American League in team WHIP at 1.239
  • Last in American League with just 1 Complete Game – they rely on their pen.
  • In the bottom 3 of the AL in strikeouts while in the bottom 5 in the AL in walks – they don’t blow you away, but they also don’t give free passes.

They will definitely miss Brandon McCarthy, but Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker make up a pretty salty 1-2 punch at the top of the order.  Parker has the potential to be something special for the A’s long-term at the tender age of 24 and under the team’s control through 2017.

The Bullpen

Given the stat above of only one complete game last year, the A’s are a team that leverages their bullpen regularly….exactly 161 times in 2012.  Grant Balfour will be the closer once again.  The bullpen, like the rest of this team, underwhelms you by name but gets the job done.

The Manager

Bob Melvin is a healthy 6’4″, 205 pounds and has a career managerial record of 634 – 628, so….there’s that.

The Bottom Line

Look, the Athletics are a dangerous team, as proven by last year’s dominance down the stretch, but…I don’t think they are better than the Rangers or the Angels…on paper…which is why they play the games.

Could the A’s surprise us all again?  Of course, but this team is not a playoff team without help, in the form of a collapse, from the Rangers and/or Angels unless both wild card teams happen to come from the American League West (which was the prediction from ESPN The Magazine).

  • Best Case: 94-68, same as last year.  While the Astros will help them out in the win column, I see more consistent and improved play from the Rangers and Angels stopping the Athletics from improving upon last year’s mark.
  • Worst Case: 82-80, this team is better than .500, barring any major injuries.

Down to the top 2 now…stay tuned.


Side note – we are less than two weeks away from the 2nd Annual Baseball Do Field Trip.  We still have tickets available.  If you want to go and your want your shirt to be ready for the Field Trip,  you need to order your tickets tomorrow.  Looking forward to it!

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Jul 182012
 
Roy

Coming into last night’s series opener against the Texas Rangers, the Oakland Athletics had been on a roll. Their offense had finally started to support one of the league’s most underrated—and unheard of—pitching staffs.

But then along came Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt’s previous four starts had ranged from decent to terrible. Last night was easily his best start as a Texas Ranger. Oswalt’s dominant effort quieted the A’s offense, with Adrian Beltre and Craig Gentry combining to solve the riddle of the Athletics’ Colon.

Um, Bartolo that is. On a side note, the Athletics should have that checked at least once a year or so. It’s better safe than sorry when you’re talking about something as important as your Colon.

My thoughts from last night’s 6-1

That a boy, Roy

That was a nice start from Mr. Os. 6 1/3 innings of three-hit ball, with six strikeouts and zero walks. A few more starts like that and Neftali Feliz will most certainly end up in the bullpen.

Mike Adams, indigestion inducer

When Adams is on the hill, I tend to pop Rolaids like C.C. Sabathia does Oreos—by the sleeve.

Adams had Jemile Weeks down 0-2, with one out…then plunks him. Next thing you know the bases are loaded and Rangers killer Yoenis Cespedes is up. Somehow Adams got out of the inning unscathed.

But c’mon, this guy wants to close? I’m fine with that, as long as it’s for a different team.

Adrian Beltre

Beltre’s fourth inning solo shot represented the point in time when I first realized the Rangers were about to defeat the rotund right-hander, Colon.

All kidding aside, it was nice to see the Rangers have some success against Bartolo Colon. Remember that the last time Texas took on Colon in Oakland, he shut them down and did it in about two hours…no easy task.

Gentry not so Gentlemanly while in Oakland

Craig Gentry is now batting .550 (11-for-20) with 5 RBI off of Oakland Athletics’ pitching this season.

That’s downright uncivilized, good sir (or madam).

This is the equivalent of obliging a fellow gent’s request to a duel, only to shove a grenade down his pants and run like hell—all the way to the victim’s quarters so as to bed his recently widowed wife.

Or something like that…whatever, keep up the good work, Gentry.

Welcome back, Aleix Ogando and Mike Napoli

Napoli hadn’t been gone long, but his run-producig stroke had been witnessed on more than a few DFW-area milk cartons. Last night, his RBI single plated Gentry for the first run of the game, and here’s hoping it’s a sign that Napoli is finally turning the page on his very unproductive 2012 story.

It’s always a pleasure to see the “Stickman from the Dominican.” Alexi Ogando hadn’t appeared in a game since straining his right groin last month in San Francisco. Ogando pitched 2/3 of an inning of scoreless relief, ratcheting his fastball all the way up to 97 MPH. His addition makes the Rangers bullpen that much stronger.

Up Next

RHP Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.51 ERA) will make his first start since June 23 today at 2:35 (CT). Lewis had been sidelined with right forearm tendonitis. For the Athletics, Australian-born left-hander Travis Blackley (2-2, 3.20 ERA) will make his eighth start of the season.

Go Rangers!

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Jul 172012
 
Oswalt-sharp-in-first-start-of-the-season-GQ1NTKTC-x-large

Nothing really happened in Rangerville yesterday. It was an off day—viewed as a necessary evil to the die-hard fans like you and I. Other than ensuring proper rest for our favorite team as they ready for a stretch run in the 100-plus degree heat, off days don’t do much in the way of news.

Let’s see…

So, Jason Kidd was arrested for DWI. He’s pleading not guilty, and the word is that he was under the influence of a drug used as a sleep aid.

Sure, Kidd. I know the medication—it goes by the street name of vodka.

What else?

Rangers Head Back to Cali—Looking for Road Trip Revenge over Athletics, Angels

Mike Trout. One great hitter, and one ugly chick.


Ah yes, the Los Angels of Anaheim continue to lose. That’s always a plus. Trumbo can hit 74 bombs and Trout can bat .400 for all I care—as long as: a. The Angels keep losing, and b. Albert Pujols continues his path towards the worst year of his career.

But back to the stuff that really matters, let’s take a look at some Texas Rangers news and notes.

Rangers Rumor Mill

It’s no secret that most contending teams are hot on the tail of the Brewers’ Zach Greinke and the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.

Both are outstanding pitchers that are capable of elevating a solid team to a World Series-caliber club.

With Hamels, you’d get a lefty with a WS ring and plenty of postseason experience. It’s largely being speculated however that Hamels would be a Cliff Lee-like pickup as he would be out the door as soon as the postseason comes to a close.

For what it’s worth, I’d rather have right-hander Zach Greinke. Sure, he has anxiety issues, and no, he doesn’t have the postseason experience of the aforementioned Hamels, but I feel the Rangers have more of a shot at extending him for a few years into the future.

One knock on picking up either is that the new collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow for compensatory draft picks should either acquisition decide to jump ship…in other words, the Rangers would be out a ton of prospects for a rent-a-pitcher.

However, the lack of compensation picks might lessen the sheer amount of prospects necessary to obtain said pitcher…either way, why not pursue a pitcher like a Matt Garza, who would come with an extra “bonus year” of team control?

Roy Oswalt

When the Rangers signed Roy Oswalt several weeks ago, they realized that they weren’t getting an ace. What they wanted was a solid middle-of-the-rotation innings eater.

Oswalt looked much better in his no-decision against Minnesota during his last start. He only surrendered five hits—so noted due to the fact that he was averaging over 11 hits in his previous three starts.

The success of Oswalt over his next few starts—as we roar towards the door of the July 31 MLB Trade Deadline—will factor in to whether or not the Rangers make the move for Greinke, Hamels, or Garza.

Texas clearly has all the pieces in place to make either of those trades happen.

Josh Hamilton, former tobacco user

Rangers Head Back to Cali—Looking for Road Trip Revenge over Athletics, Angels

Seriously. Someone get this dude some snuff pronto.


Yeah, as far as I can tell, Hambone is still snuff free. Good for him. Sadly, he’s also been largely impact-free since he decided to ban the can.

It’s great—fantastic even—that he’s saying nope to the cope. And with his burgeoning family no one would doubt his modus operandi to ditch the lip candy.

However…

Can’t you wait until the offseason? No matter how talented the batter, being productive in the box takes maximum concentration. If you’re jonsing for a lip log, dude, you’re not locked in. Hamilton’s recent struggles at the plate soundly backup the “nic-fit” theory.

Injury Updates
Rangers Head Back to Cali—Looking for Road Trip Revenge over Athletics, Angels
As of today, the Texas Rangers should activate Alexi Ogando, and Koji Uehara.

Talk about a boost to the bullpen.

Rather than a B12 to the buttocks, the additions of Ogando and Uehara are more like a Pulp Fiction-esque adrenalin blast right through the ‘ole bullpen breastplate.

Also, Colby Lewis is slated to start against Oakland on Wednesday.

Up Next

Tomorrow night the Rangers start a two-game series with A.L. West foes, the Oakland Athletics. The first pitch is scheduled for 9:05 (CT), so make sure you have your energy drink of choice at the ready…

On the bump for Oakland will be RHP Bartolo Colon (6-7, 3.80 ERA) against Rangers’ right-hander Roy Oswalt (2-1, 6.26 ERA).

Should be an interesting matchup—and one that reads as a “who’s who” of turn-of-the-century aces…

Go Rangers!

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