Mar 212013
 

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

  1. Seattle Mariners
  2. Houston Astros

Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...The Mariners look forward to the arrival of the Astros in the American League West with the hope of getting out of last place for the first time in the last three years.  The Mariners took some positive steps during the offseason, including securing one of the best pitchers in the game to a long-term contract, but it won’t be enough to overcome Oakland, Anaheim or Texas.

This is a team with young talented players at some key positions in “King” Felix Hernandez (SP), Dustin Ackley (2B), Jesus Montero (C/DH), Kyle Seager (3B), Michael Saunders (RF) and the freshly drafted Mike Zunino (C).  Couple the young talent with some veterans sprinkled in and we should see the Mariners improve upon their 77-85 mark from 2012.  By how much is the question…

The Bats & Gloves

This lineup has some holes in it, but if a few of these guys can take a step in the right direction, it’s a lineup that could greatly improve over last year’s performance.

Projected Lineup

  1. Dustin Ackley, 2B
  2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B
  4. Michael Morse, LF
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Jesus Montero, C
  7. Justin Smoak, 1B
  8. Michael Saunders, RF
  9. Brendan Ryan, SS

I don’t think Manager Eric Wedge has unveiled his official Opening Day lineup, but it should look similar to what’s above, barring injury.  There are three bats in this lineup that peak my interest:

  • Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...Dustin Ackley was less than impressive last year (.226/.294/.328) and MUST take a major step in 2013 for this lineup to have success.  Keep in mind that he is still only 25 years old, but as the table-setter, the Mariners will be depending on him to get on base at a higher rate than .294.
  • Kyle Seager is an impressive young player (also only 25) who I secretly admire.  In his first full season last year, Seager put up a pretty respectable line (.259/.316/.423) with many of his metrics improving in the second half.  I think Seager will improve further in 2013 and be an important part of this lineup’s run production.
  • In mid-December, the Mariners shipped the frustrating Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales who just didn’t have a spot in the Angel’s stacked lineup.  It was one of those rare intra-division trades that addressed a need for both teams at the major league level.  I loved this trade for the Mariners.  Morales has has been hindered by injury and lack of playing time over the last two seasons, but it wasn’t that long ago (2009) that he finished 5th in the AL MVP voting (.306/.355/.569) and was the centerpiece of the Angel’s lineup.  Can he return to that form?  He’s only 29 years old, and I could see the change of scenery and opportunity to play ever day get him close.

Defensively, the Mariners are good, as the mantra of “pitching and defense” is still part of their identity.  They only committed 72 errors in 2012 (2nd best in AL) and had the second highest Defensive Efficiency rating in the American League.

The middle of the lineup may get some help from the fences moving in, but remember…that works both ways.

The Arms

The Mariners have something that we Ranger fans have coveted for a long, long time…a true Ace.  Perhaps one of the more upsetting off-season occurrences that didn’t directly involve the Rangers was the contract extension between the Mariners and King Felix which will keep Hernandez in Seattle through 2019.

Quick – who were the other four starters for Seattle last year?

I gave you Vargas, so that doesn’t count, and you probably thought of former-Ranger prospect Blake Beavan.  Do either of those guys do much for you?  Me neither, but the Mainers pitching staff was pretty good in 2012 when compared to the rest of the American League:

  • 4th in team ERA in AL at 3.76
  • 3rd in team WHIP in AL at 1.241

So, this is what a pitcher’s park and King Felix will get you.

Projected Rotation

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Joe Saunders
  4. Blake Beavan
  5. Brandon Mauer – this spot is still an open competition, but Mauer’s got my vote. Erasmo Ramirez was probably the favorite to win the spot (ala Martin Perez) and could still win the spot (ala not Martin Perez).

Breaking Down the West   Seattle Mariners   Moving the fences in...Can Hisashi Iwakuma be a legit #2?  There is no doubt in my mind that he can if he isn’t already.  Last year’s performance was good, but take a closer look – he was great at the end of the season.  Keep in mind 2012 was his first season in MLB, so the inconsistencies near the beginning of the season can be dismissed as part of his “adjustment period”.  In August and September, Iwakuma posted a 7-3 record with an ERA in the low 2′s.  I think he’s adjusted and gives the Mariners a nice 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

The Pen

The bullpen is fair, anchored by Tom Wilhelmson who assumed the closing duties last year and converted 29 saves on 24 opportunities.  Bullpens are generally boring.

The Manager

Eric Wedge.  Enough said.  Nothing special.  Career 703-755 managerial record with Indians and Mariners.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, the Mariners could push for 3rd place in the American League West, but I think a 4th place finish is more likely.

IF…the the lineup can get consistency from some of the youngsters (Ackley, Montero, Smoak).  IF…the back-end of the rotation can be average.  IF…they can stay healthy.  Three big IF’s, but it could happen.

  • Best case: 84-78 record behind the emergence of Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero as legit major league all-star caliber players.
  • Worst case: 77-85…again…hey, they have King Felix.

Up next…you can probably figure it out from here.


Side note – we are close to 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 by next Wednesday at the latest.

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May 212012
 

King Felix vs. The Yu: A Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners PreviewTonight, the Texas Rangers will look to dispatch yet another potential AL West contender not named the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

And, as if fueled by the overpriced coffee that Seattle is famous for, there is quite a buzz surrounding tonight’s series opening starters.

This is what happens when The Yu comes to town. And when you pit Yu Darvish against Felix Hernandez, you’re looking at two of the most exciting right-handers in the American League if not the planet.

The King vs. The Yu is intriguing too given it’s not a particularly good matchup for either pitcher.

King Felix has struggled against the Rangers, and this is the first time Yu will have faced a team twice, and the initial visit didn’t go so well.

Normally, during a series preview, it’s extremely pertinent to, well, preview the series.

Much like a photo of Katy Perry in a bikini, with King Felix, you’re already looking at the best part of the team, so why bother going further?

King Felix vs. The Yu: A Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners Preview

On team Katy Perry, I'd gladly be the designated hitter.

The Seattle Mariners minus Hernandez are basically Katy Perry in a parka. I’m sure there are many other wonderful things about the two, but who gives a shit?

Yu Darvish vs. Seattle

In his well-chronicled debut, Darvish needed 42 pitches to get out of the first inning, and was particularly susceptible to fellow Japanese-born bats. Munenori Kawasaki (Kagoshima) was 1-3 off of Yu with an RBI, and Ichiro Suzuki (Kasugai) went a very Ichiro-like 3-4 with a double.

Hell, the Mariners lit up Darvish so well that even castaway Ranger Justin Smoak got a hit. Kyle Seagar will be the biggest out for Darvish to establish dominance tonight; the diminutive infielder went 2-3 with 3 RBI during Yu’s outing back in April.

The Seattle Mariners are batting .318 off of Darvish with 4 RBI, 4 BBs and 4 Ks.

King Felix vs.Texas

Obviously, the sample size for King Felix against the Rangers is much larger than Yu’s versus the Mariners. It’s also the only thing that Felix can claim to be bigger than anything Yu possesses.

Since Felix’s debut back in ’05, the Rangers have hit .258 with 12 homers and 45 RBI off of Seattle’s ace.

Elvis Andrus has hit him to the tune of a .349 BA with 8 RBI. David Murphy has mashed against the King, with a team-leading 10 RBI and 2 home runs, while hitting at a .310 clip.

Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler have combined for 6 home runs off of him with 10 RBI, but have also struck out 18 times against the King. Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and the aforementioned Kinsler have batted below .200 with 31 combined strikeouts against his highness, the Mariner’s Majesty.

Of Rangers regulars, Adrian Beltre has seen Felix the fewest times. He’s batting a pedestrian .222 off of him, but has a home run and 2 RBI over his 10 plate appearances.

Prediction time:

I can guarantee that Yu Darvish will throw fewer than 42 pitches in the first inning of tonight’s game. Munenori Kawasaki had his best game of the season thus far in Yu’s first start; since then he hasn’t even been an everyday player.

Ichiro is Ichiro, so if he gets his knocks in against Darvish it should surprise no one. I’m taking Darvish to win this game, but it’s going to be a low scoring affair—mainly because the Mariners can’t hit— and the Rangers have been in a tad of a power surge. Plus, Safeco is the American League’s Petco Park in terms of being pitcher-friendly.

Here’s my imaginary line, straight-up from the fake future fool!:

Yu: 7 IP, 1 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs
Felix: 5 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 5 Ks, 1 BB

The Rangers will win 5-2. And even if I’m wrong and the Rangers lose, I’ve still got a sweet bikini pic of Katy Perry to (ahem) pick me up when I’m feeling down.

Go Rangers!

King Felix vs. The Yu: A Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners Preview

No dude, it's cool. Her eyes are down there too.

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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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