Mar 202012
 
Tuesday Morning SlidersYu Darvish pitched 4 innings in the Rangers 5 – 3 loss to the Brewers yesterday.  The Rangers were in control of the game when Darvish left, with a 3-1 lead, but Joe Nathan surrendered the lead in the 6th inning.
  • Darvish allowed a run on 1 hit in 4 innings of working, striking out 3 and walking 3.  He also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter, so harnessing the control is still a work in progress which is perfectly fine for  Spring Training.
  • This was his first Spring Training game in which Yu pitched from the wind-up.
  • Darvish on the outing and his delivery, ”The way my body is working, my delivery, I can’t really repeat it all the time right now.  The consistency is not there. That’s why you see some good pitches and some bad ones. And I don’t expect it to be perfect right now anyway. Those are some things I’m going to continue to plan on polishing as we go on.”
  • Darvish on NL MVP Ryan Braun, ”He’s a tremendous hitter, has a tremendous swing.  I’m still new here and I don’t think it’s proper for me to evaluate him yet, but he’s a very good hitter.”
  • Pitching Coach Mike Maddux on Darvish, ”He progressed the way he wanted to today.  We worked two times and skipped a live BP to get more mound time. I was happy with his outing. He commanded the fastball and threw some good breaking balls.”
  • Closer Joe Nathan came on in the 6th and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits – should you panic?  No, but should you watch Nathan closely once the regular season gets underway?  Yes.
  • SS Elvis Andrus went 3-4 with a sweet bunt single in the 1st inning.  Both Elvis and Ian are really producing in Spring Training.  Hopefully, they can carry that momentum into the regular season.
  • Prospect Tanner Scheppers got through only 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and two walks.

Quick hits:

  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers and Derek Holland are on the verge of reaching a 5 year agreement.  No details are known at this time, so stay tuned throughout the week to find out the future of the Dutch Oven.
  • Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com) wrote “A New Start for Feliz; in more ways than one”, which rehashes Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, but also provides a closer look into the mindset of Feliz.  I’m really pulling for Neftali to experience some success in 2012.  His stuff is great, and I think he has the make-up to be a great starting pitcher in this league for a long time.
  • The Rangers optioned 7 pitchers to the minors yeterday:
  1. Neil Ramirez (Triple-A Round Rock)
  2. Miguel De Los Santos (Double-A Frisco)
  3. Jake Brigham (Double-A Frisco)
  4. Justin Miller (Triple-A Round Rock)
  5. Cody Eppley (Triple-A Round Rock)
  6. Roman Mendez (High-A Myrtle Beach)
  7. Martin Perez (Triple-A Round Rock)
  • Yu Darvish will not face the Angels this coming weekend when the Rangers square off with their nemesis in Spring Training, instead he’ll pitch in an intra-squad game.  I like the strategy.  No point in giving the Angels batters an opportunity to see Darvish live from the batter’s box before it really counts.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersMike Napoli is not pleased with C.J. Wilson’s attempt at a Twitter prank, and neither are we.  Jasen and I sounded off on this last night, when we attempted to record the weekly podcast only to find out that the file was corrupted and it was all for not.  Regardless, just know that we think this was a crappy thing for C.J. to do, and if we knew Kung Fu, we’d probably use it on him…
  • Josh Hamilton on potential of free agency after the 2012 season, ”Free agency is free agency.  If they sign me now, it’d probably cost less. If they sign me there (free agency), it’d cost more. So we’ll see.  Obviously, I told the Rangers that they get first shot, and I mean that. I have loyalty to the Rangers. They’ve been good to me and my family, and it’s been a good relationship.”
  • Does this make up for the “I don’t owe the Rangers anything” comment?  That’s for you to decide.  For me, I think Josh is over-correcting and probably just needs to let it go.
  • The Rangers meet up with the Cubs today in a split squad match-up in Mesa, AZ at 3:05.  Neftali Feliz will take the ball for the Rangers against Ryan Dempster.
  • Michael Young has now hit in eight consecutive Spring Training games, so watch to see if he can extend that today.
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Mar 192012
 

Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersThe Rangers fell to the Cubs yesterday in a split-squad Spring Training game, but the real story was the performance of Matt Harrison, who in five innings allowed one hit and one run with a walk and five strikeouts.

  • Harrison on the outing, ”So far, so good.  Hopefully, I can keep doing the same thing: pounding the strike zone and making quality pitches. I want to make them swing the bats because good stuff happens when they do that.”
  • Manager Ron Washington on the effectiveness of Harrison’s changeup, ”I’ve always thought that was his second-best pitch.  He worked on it the second half of last season, and he came into spring training, and he’s continued to work on it and it’s gotten better.”
  • Two of Harrison’s strikeouts came on changeups, which is an encouraging sign from the young starter.
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor discusses how the Rangers rotation is starting to take shape.
  • Ron Washington said a few weeks ago that he was going to split Harrison and Holland up in the rotation, which makes perfect sense.  To me, I’ve though the debate was whether they would fall in the second and fourth spots of the rotation or the third and fifth, with Darvish and Feliz taking the other two spots.  After the strong performances from Holland this Spring, I think it’s clear the order looks like this:
  1. Colby Lewis
  2. Derek Holland
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Matt Harrison
  5. Neftali Feliz
  • Washington on Holland and Harrison expectations, “I don’t want them having 18 or 20 wins on their mind.  If they set out to do what they did last year, they’ll surpass it without even trying. If they repeat the number of wins they had last year, that’s good enough for me – anything else is failure. I don’t want them going backward.”

Quick hits:

  • C.J. Wilson is an idiot.
  • The Rangers have partnered with the Japanese social media company gloops.  The partnership will include a gloops exclusive Japanese backdrop during press conferences, a fixed sign behind home plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and signs around Surprise Stadium for the rest of spring training.
  • Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersDavid Murphy and Brad Hawpe each went yard in the other split-squad game yesterday, before the game was called short in the 4th inning due to rain.
  • Torrealba was removed from the line-up due to stiffness in his back.  He did get some batting practice in, so it looks like his removal was precautionary.
  • Craig Gentry returned yesterday from his wrist injury that he sustained last week.  He went 0 for 2.
  • Prospect Robbie Ross, who is fighting for the bullpen role, started the game against the Brewers yesterday and didn’t fare well, giving up 4 runs on 5 hits across 2 1/3 innings.
  • Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins on Ross’ outing,  ”He was aggressive, went right after these guys.  He just didn’t have the command that he had earlier in camp. I liked his approach and liked his attitude. He has a good head on his shoulders.  He recognized those guys at the plate today, but he didn’t back off from them. He came right at them. I didn’t see any intimidation, and I didn’t see any fear. He just didn’t quite have the command, or otherwise he would have had a pretty good time out there.”
  • Good article from T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) on Johan Yan, who the Rangers are hoping to convert from a poor hitting fielder to a strong armed relief pitcher, just as they did Alexi Ogando.  Another current Ranger who made a similar conversion was Joe Nathan, who was originally drafted as a shortstop by the Giants.

Darvish Day III:

  • Yu Darvish will be on the mound and Mike Napoli will be catching today when the Rangers play the Brewers.  The game will be live on MLB.TV, at 3:05 p.m.  Darvish is making his third start and will be looking to throw 60 pitches across four innings.  Napoli, who has been dealing with a strained groin muscle, will be back behind the plate for the first time since March 8.
  • Monday Morning Fastballs   Darvish Day III & St. Patricks Day Ticket WinnersDarvish reportedly generated more than $250 million of advertising revenue in January alone.
  • Pitching coach Mike Maddux on Darvish (from Ben & Skin, 103.3FM ESPN), “So far we’ve got five innings to go on. In those five innings, we had some ups, and we had some downs. We had more ups especially the ball being up and down. It’s just something we need to continue to grind at. We’re going to work today and really get that ball going down. He showed us some good breaking stuff, and that’s kind of bailed him out since his fastball command has been erratic. He’s a confident young man. He only knows success. You look at his track record in the Japanese league, and he was dominating. His expectations are to go out there and dominate, but it’s a little different game over here. There is a more concentration of talent so he has to grind it out, and I think he’s learning that.”
  • Maddux on overcoming the language barrier with Yu, “It’s somewhere between broken English, broken Spanish and broken Japanese. Some how, we got it all on the same page. The good news with baseball is that it’s an international language. Whether you’re in Tokyo or Arlington, Texas, it’s fastball, curveball, cutter, slider, change. It’s a strike and a ball. Some of the phrases are universal. There are some phrases that everybody knows whether they be in English or in Japanese or in Spanish. You kind of use those bullet phrases, and we all get on the same page. We’re able to get the communication bridged. When we come to the dugout, we really start getting the communication bridged when we employ the translators.”
  • Darvish’s younger brother, Sho Darvish, was sentenced to a one-year prison term for assaulting a female friend. According to the Japan Times, Sho repeatedly slapped the woman in the face and tried to choke her. The attack reportedly resulted from Sho’s anger over her association with some of her friends.

St. Patrick’s Day Rangers Tickets Giveaway Winner

  • Thanks to all those that participated!  The winner of the tickets is rauch5s.  We’ll get in touch with the winner and get the tickets out in the mail this week.  Stay tuned for more giveaways throughout the season!
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Mar 122012
 

Monday Morning FastballsOne of the Rangers over-shadowed acquisitions of this off-season was the signing of closer Joe Nathan who, Joey Nowak (MLB.com) writes, is confident that he’ll return to form after missing a season and a half after Tommy John surgery.

  • Nathan on the injury and surgery, ”Obviously, the surgery, being two years behind me now, has allowed my arm to heal and do everything I need to do.  It’s not a concern, I’m not thinking about that anymore. I’m just concentrating on what’s important and that’s getting guys out.”
  • Ron Washington on Nathan and the acquisition, ”Last spring, we experimented with Neftali starting, but we weren’t protected in the back end of the bullpen.  And the first thing [general manager Jon Daniels] did this winter was go get us some protection in the back end of the bullpen so we could go make this move with Neftali. I think he made a great choice in Joe Nathan. More than that, Joe Nathan wanted to be in Texas.”
  • Catcher Yorvit Torrealba on Nathan, ”Not to take anything away from Neftali, but Nathan is one of the best closers in the game, and it’s a plus to have a guy like that to bring in.  With Neftali moving to the rotation, we need a guy like that, and to have him here is great.”
  • Nice to hear Joe’s confidence in himself and that the injury is behind him completely.  This was a move that not only netted the Rangers a potential stud closer, but also with a potential top of the rotation starter with the transition of Feliz.

Minus C.J., plus Yu, and more…  Mike Bauman (MLB.com) think that the 2012 Rangers Pitching may be better than last year’s.

  • Bauman on the depth, “And there is admirable depth here. Scott Feldman, a 17-game winner in 2009, appears to be all the way back after knee surgery. Hard-throwing Alexi Ogando proved his worth as a reliever in 2010, then demonstrated that he was a Major League starter in 2011.”
  • Overview from Wash, ”If our young kids continue to grow — it’s important that they continue to grow and don’t go backwards — we will certainly hold our own.  Name-wise, you put them up against some of those rotations out there, maybe we don’t compare. But result-wise, I think we will be fine. I’m certainly looking forward to them continuing their growth. And the addition of Darvish will certainly help. That will replace what we lost in C.J.  We should continue to move forward. We don’t doubt that. Colby showed that he’s coming around [with four perfect innings on Saturday]. Feldman has got his sink back and his cut back on his fastball, and he’s getting his ground balls. Neftali is moving along. Holland and Harrison have shown that they haven’t missed a beat, yet. And Darvish had a very good first outing. So we’re certainly very positive about what we have to go into the season with. And we’ve just got to hope that we stay healthy.”
  • Ron Washington on the young guys on the staff, ”The Harrisons, the Hollands, the Ogandos, the Neftalis, they were young, and they had a chance to pitch into the postseason two years, back to back, and understand what it’s like to compete.  And I think that’s a good advantage for us to have. They’ve been there and done that.”
  • Say what you want about C.J. (super douche), but his loss from the rotation did leave a gap…a gap that has been filled by Yu Darvish, who has more potential than C.J.  You couple that with the development of the younger guys on the staff, as Wash talks to above, and I think this year’s staff will out-produce last year’s staff.  A lot depends on what Yu can do…

Quick hits:

  • Rangers split their two Spring Training games over the weekend, losing Saturday to the White Sox and beating Cleveland yesterday.
  • Derek Holland had an effective outing in the win yesterday, giving up 1 ER on 3 hits over 3 innings of work, striking out 4.
  • The Rangers play the Mariners today at 3:05pm.  Matt Harrison faces off with former Ranger prospect Blake Beavan.
  • Scooter Feldman (Jasen’s pick for Surprise Player of the Year) understands the starting pitching depth that this team has, ”I’m just trying to get my focus where it needs to be at the beginning of the season.  I’d like to know what I was doing, but I’m a fortunate guy to be on this team. I just go about my business and do what I can control. I can’t control the decisions they’re gonna make.”
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor (ESPN) compares the current Rangers squad to the dominant Cowboys of the mid-90′s.
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Mar 022012
 
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsJeff Wilson (Star-Telegram) wrote a column on Colby Lewis and how he likes the pressure that comes with being the Opening Day Starter.
  • Derek Holland’s thoughts on Lewis’ approach, ”He’s been there and done it all.  He might not throw 98, but he shows he’s not scared to go inside. His motto is, like, ‘Here it is. Go after it.’ We know we can do those types of things, too, if we focus like he does and carry ourselves like he does.”
  • Ron Washington and Michael Young are both in favor of the revisions to the playoff system which would add a second wild-card team in each league.  Drew Davidson (Star-Telegram) covers the story here.
  • Washington’s rationale,  ”It does create an extra hurdle, but I’d rather have that extra hurdle than be sitting at home.  Getting to the playoffs, I’m never going to look at it as a negative no matter how we got there.  You want to win the division, but I wouldn’t complain if I end up winning 94 ballgames and end up being that second wild card. If you’d rather go home, go home.”
  • Gil Lebreton (Star-Telegram) wrote a good column on the important role that David Murphy plays on this team.
  • C.J. Wilson spoke with The Mason & Ireland show (710AM in LA) recently.  When asked how difficult it was to choose the Angels, “I have told everybody it was a totally unpredictable process. You have this idea in July and you think okay it is going to shape out like this. Then October rolls around and November rolls around and you realize you have no idea because there are 30 different general managers, who have 30 different ideas about what’s going on. That could be everything from some teams are interested and other teams weren’t interested at all that I was for sure planning on visiting. It’s a very weird process, but in the end I think I made a good decision for the next 5 years at least to be an Angel too and I am really happy about it.”
  • Yu Darvish will face big league hitters for the first time today when he pitches in the intra-squad game.  He’ll head to the mound following Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison.
  • Evan Grant (Sports Day DFW) shared his thoughts regarding Yu Darvish on SportsDay (Fox Sports SW) yesterday.
  • His thoughts on Yu’s first Spring Start (next Wed.), “ I think what you’ll see is a lot of media showing up. The Japanese media has been very excited. There were about 120 people here the day he reported to camp for his first workout. Since then, because the only hitters that Yu has faced are all minor leaguers, I think everybody has grown restless evermore to see him face big league hitters. When he does so on Wendesday in San Diego, I think there’s going to be a postseason atmosphere to it because I think a lot of people are really excited about what this guy may or may not bring to the mound.”
  • His thoughts on what the Rangers expect from Yu in 2012, “That’s been the typical question of the Japanese media. “How many games will he win?” And I think what the Rangers are looking for is not wins. I think what they’re looking for is that he can go six or seven innings every time out, not exhaust the bullpen like a lot of young starters do — especially given the fact that you’ve got another young starter in the mix — and that he can get through this adjustment to the five-man rotation. He’s got a lot of things that he’s got to learn this year. He may not give you the complete return that you expect for whatever the investment is over the course this  year, but I think he’s going to set himself a very good base for long-term success. He’s got to adjust to the baseball, to the hitters, to the rotation — it’s a lot to try to take on in one year.”
  • Rich Gosselin on the three things that must happen for the Rangers to make it to a third consecutive World Series, “Derek Holland emerges as an ace, putting up the numbers C.J. Wilson posted last year.Yu Darvish winning 15 games and the middle of the order – Nelson Cruz , Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli – performing this summer like they did last October. The Angels are going to be stalking the Rangers every step of the way this season so the defending American League champions must play better than in 2011 to reclaim the division.”
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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 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 182012
 

This is the final round of our American League West Position Rankings.  To see how we got to our current standings/scores, be sure to check out the first three round.

Score at the end of Round 3:

    1. Rangers: 53
    2. Angels: 49
    3. Mariners: 26
    4. Athletics: 22

The primary reason for doing a full review of the American League West, rather than a Rangers vs. Angels review, was to provide a better reference point for how a player truly stacks up against his peers.  That said, the Rangers and the Angels have dominated the top two spot at most positions (exceptions being DH and CF).  The final round will consist of all facets of each team’s pitching, including 5 rotation spots, relief and the closer position.  Similar to the adjustments we made to the scoring for Manager and DH, we’re going to increase the weighting for the relief position since that is made up of a handful of pitchers and not just one.

Starting Pitching

We’re going to go through the starting 5 for each team’s rotation and stack them up against each other.  In order to avoid making assumptions around the rotation order, I’m going to be the using the depth charts for each team that they have posted on their team’s website.  They seem to be pretty accurate as to what most would think, with the exception of a few.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final Scores

The Ace

  1. Jered Weaver, LAA
    1.  Felix Hernandez, SEA
  2. Colby Lewis, TEX
  3. Brandon McCarthy, OAK

Only real debate lies between the top two here, and I’ve gone back and forth on the order of these two guys quite a bit over the last few days.  It’s very close, but I give Weaver the slight edge, no I give it to Felix, no Weaver…you get the point.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final ScoresYou could debate for days over who will have a better year in 2012, and in the end, I think they will both have dominating years where they finish in the top 8 in Cy Young voting.  With that said, I’m going to give them both the top spot from a points perspective, and I’m going to give them both the bonus point.  It’s not a knock on Colby Lewis, it’s just how good these two guys are.

The #2

  1. Dan Haren, LAA
  2. Yu Darvish, TEX
  3. Dallas Braden, OAK
  4. Jason Vargas, SEA
2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final ScoresI’d love to give Yu the nod here, and this is one where I could dispute the order of the rotation, as I envision Darvish being the 3rd starter and Holland pitching 2nd, but it wouldn’t really matter, as Haren has an edge on both of them given the unknowns around Darvish and the need for continued development with Holland. While I think Darvish is capable of putting up similar numbers to what Haren delivered in 2011 (16 W’s, low 3 ERA, low WHIP), Haren has proven what he can do at the MLB level and takes the top spot here.Darvish takes the second spot in the rankings over a rehabbing Dallas Braden and a mediocre Jason Vargas.

You could make an argument for putting Vargas in the third spot, but I think Braden is the better pitcher if he can bounce back from injury successfully (and word is he is ahead of schedule).

The #3

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final ScoresC.J. Wilson, LAA
  2. Derek Holland, TEX
  3. Brett Anderson, OAK
  4. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA

This is another close race between the top two, and I know my fellow Ranger fans are throwing their hands up in the air as they look at the ranking, but if I put my bias aside and look at the two  pitchers, I lean towards C.J. having a slightly better campaign in 2012.

Baseball Do followers probably don’t want to hear this, but I think C.J. is going to improve slightly in 2012, primarily due to his new ballpark and being closer to home – which you could argue that his pitching ability isn’t really improving, but rather his conditions are.

I also believe that Holland is going to take the next step in his progression towards being a front-line MLB starter.  He showed flashes of brilliance last year down the stretch and of course in showing us all that he could one day be an Ace with his performance in Game 4 of the World Series.  All that said, he needs to prove that he can put a full season together, avoiding a slow start and showing more consistency.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final Scores

The #4

  1. Neftali Feliz, TEX
  2. Ervin Santana, LAA
  3. Blake Beavan, SEA
  4. Brad Peacock, OAK
Not going to spend a ton of time on these next two spots.  If you don’t already know how we feel about Feliz and what we expect from him production-wise in 2012, check out “The Other New Guy”.  Santana is a very good #4, but I think Feliz will have a better year.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final Scores

The #5

  1. Matt Harrison, TEX
  2. Jarrod Parker, OAK
  3. Jerome Williams, LAA
  4. Charlie Furbush, SEA
We all know how good of a pitcher Matt Harrison is, primarily because his case has been stated so often as a reason for not signing Roy Oswalt.  For many teams, he is easily a mid-rotation guy, and far outpaces the other three pitchers on this list, and for that get’s the bonus point.
I give Parker the edge over Williams on speculation of what Parker could become vs. what we know of Jerome Williams.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final Scores

Relief (not including Closer)

Given the importance of the bullpen and the fact the bullpen is generally made up of 6-8 pitchers, we are going to adjust the scoring for this position by multiplying it by two.

Keep in mind, that the names representing each team’s bullpen could change between now and Opening Day, and obviously by mid-season or season’s end.  That said, I’m going to try to avoid too much speculation with prospects and trades.

  1. Adams, Uehara (or maybe Mike Gonzalez…), Feldman, Ogando, Tateyama, Lowe – TEX
  2. Downs, Hawkins, Takahashi, Thompson, Cassevah, Bell, Mills, Jepsen – LAA
  3. Devine, Balfour, Fuentes, Wagner, Blevins, Carignan, Godfrey, De Los Santos – OAK
  4. Kelley, Wilhelmsen, Ruffin, Delabar, Sherrill, Jimenez – SEA
You could write an entire article breaking down the bullpens, but this is not the place.  The Rangers take the top spot primarily based on depth.  Downs and Adams are both top-notch set-up men, from there I think the depth of the Ranger bullpen gives them the edge.  They still need another left-handed specialist to replace Darren Oliver, which could be Mike Gonzalez, whom they are rumored to sign after they deal Koji Uehara.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final ScoresCloser

  1. Brandon League, SEA
  2. Jordan Walden, LAA
  3. Joe Nathan, TEX
  4. Whoever, OAK
Three years ago, JoeNathan is the clear cut leader on this list and easily gets the bonus point.  That was then.  Now Nathan has something to prove, and while I’m fairly optimistic that Nathan will serve as a strong closer, I think Walden and League rank higher until Nathan proves it.I went back and forth between League and Walden for the top spot here.  League was better last year, and while I think Walden will get more saves than him in 2012, it’s going to be based on the fact that he will be presented with many more opportunities.  The better number to look at here is Save% (Saves/Opportunities), where League (88%) outshines Walden (76%) and I think he’ll continue to do so in 2012.

Final Score of the Baseball Do American League West Position Rankings

  1. Rangers: Score After 3 Rounds of 53 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 8 + 2 = 80
  2. Angels: Score After 3 Rounds of 49  + 5 + 4 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 6 + 3 = 76
  3. Mariners: Score After 3 Rounds of 26 + 5 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 42
  4. Athletics: Score After 3 Rounds of 22 + 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 3 + 4 + 1 = 36
There you have it.  On paper, according to Baseball Do, the Rangers should win the American League West in 2012.  And while I’m always on board with victory for the Rangers, the best part of all the time and work that went into these rankings and write-ups is that the games still have to be played on the field.

Keep in mind as well, that all four of these teams could look different by the trade deadline, with the Rangers and Angels both of some attractive pieces they could move in order improve, and the Mariners and Athletics have some attractive veterans they could deal in an effort to add youth.

My honest belief is that this is going to be one hell of a season for the Rangers and the Angels, which will come down to the final week, if the not the final 2-3 games.  The final series between the two is here in Arlington, September 28th through 30th, so get your tickets for those games now, as the entire season could hinge on those three games.  As fans, let’s just enjoy the ride.  A ride which will hopefully continue into the post-season for the Rangers and end with the ultimate reward…

‘case that’s the way baseball go…

2012 American League West by Position (Part 4)   Final Scores

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Feb 152012
 
  • If you have missed our American League West Position Rankings, check them out and let us hear from you.
Round 4 – Pitching (coming later this week)
  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsDerek Holland joined Ben & Skin (103.3FM, ESPN) on Monday for an entertaining chat.When asked if he felt like the Cardinals were destined to win the World Series last year – “We didn’t think that, because, to us, we felt like we were once again the underdogs. … It’s been like that for us the whole year. They picked the Red Sox to win the World Series and everybody else to be in front of us. The big thing is, I felt like we’ve been an underdog the whole time, and we’re probably going to do it again next year as well, and that doesn’t bother us. It’s like you said though, we were going up against some crazy odds, but we didn’t think like that though.”

    When asked if he felt like 2011 was a failure – “No, definitely not. First off, we weren’t supposed to be where we were. That’s the first thing. We did a lot with the injuries we went through. … We were proving people wrong, once again. I don’t even think we were picked to win the West. … If this season is a complete failure, that’s bad and I don’t know what’s going on with that. But, to me, I feel like we accomplished a lot. We didn’t get the World Series. That’s a big letdown. We did go back-to-back AL champs, so we obviously did something right.”

    When asked if he felt he could someday be an ace at the major league level – “If we went and closed everything off of this year, I’d say I’m maybe a two or a three. I’m not going to say I’m an ace, but I’m working to get there. … I still feel like there’s more that I need to do. I’m probably going to be the toughest critic on my own self. Some people might sit there and go, ‘You’re ace-ready.’ That’s you guys. I like to think different. I’m a hard worker. I want to make sure I do what I have to do to make sure I can be that ace.”

  • The Rangers packed up yesterday and sent the first truck on it’s way to Surprise, AZ for 2012 Spring Training…damn it feels good to type that!  Don’t believe me, watch for yourself.
  • Craig Gentry wants to start in center field and “make stuff happen on the base paths”.  Gentry spoke with reporters yesterday as the trailers were packed for the trip to Surprise.  Regarding the upcoming season, Gentry is excited about his chances, saying ”I’m excited this year because I feel like I have a really solid chance to be an everyday player.  In years past, I’ve been that guy that would scratch to maybe make the team. I’m excited about this year and ready to get it going.”
  • T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) handles up on his inbox and discusses excess depth at catcher, Oswalt, Hamilton, Darvish and more.  Apparently, Baseball Do’s inbox hasn’t been getting as much action as Sullivan’s.  Got a question?  Hit us up and we’ll answer here on the site…
  • Baseball Tonight’s Karl Ravech and Tim Kurkjian examine how the Rangers are equipped to deal with the media circus that will surround Yu Darvish and Josh Hamilton this spring.  Check out the video here.
  • We are a baseball blog.  More specifically, we are a Texas Rangers blog.  But, c’mon…

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