- Hopefully, tomorrow morning we’ll be posting an update that the Rangers and Nelson Cruz have reached an agreement and avoided arbitration. Evan Grant (SportsDay DFW) reports “According to a major league source, the club is close with OF Nelson Cruz on a two-year deal that would eliminate his scheduled arbitration hearing next week.” Grant provides more details and a good comp here.
The deal is expected to get done this morning.
- Details on Elvis Andrus’ 3-year contract were released yesterday. Elvis will get $3.125 million in 2012, $4.8 million in 2013 and $6.475 million in 2014 for a total of $14.4 million. The annual average value is $4.8 million.
Elvis had this to say about getting the contract wrapped up and his future with the club, “These next three years, I can focus on the team and continue to help the lineup have success. I’m still learning every day. My best years are coming. I’m getting to know myself and my offense. I’m just trying to get better every year.”
- Fangraphs.com recently published what they believe to be the 10 worst transactions of this off-season. The Rangers made the list one at #8 with the signing of Joe Nathan. From the article:
“During his prime, Nathan was one of the best relievers in baseball. Then he had Tommy John surgery, spent a year on the DL, and was essentially a replacement level arm during his first year back on the mound in 2011. The velocity was still there and he still got a decent amount of strikeouts, but his extreme fly ball ways turned into a home run problem, and going to Texas probably isn’t going to alleviate that issue. Nathan’s a decent enough bounce back candidate, but that’s why they invented one year deals with incentives. At 2/14, the Rangers should have gotten a sure thing, but Nathan is a high-risk arm who hasn’t been a good pitcher since 2009. If Texas would have shown a bit more patience, they probably could have ended up with Ryan Madson instead.”
Check out the full list here.
- The Rangers Believe in Mitch Moreland…of course they do, but if you need some more feel good reading on the first basemen, check out Richard Justice’s (MLB.com) article here.
- T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) wrote a good column about the questions the Rangers must answer during Spring Training this year, including setting the starting rotation and figuring out who will play center field. Good read. Jasen and I are going to be going over what we believe to be the primary questions that the Rangers need to answer during Spring Training in an upcoming podcast.
- Speaking of the podcast, it’s been a few weeks now since our last episode. We are not giving up on the podcast. Just been working out some technical difficulties and trying to get everything straightened out before Spring Training starts. Stay tuned.
- Hope to have Round 2 of the American League West Position Battle posted later tonight.
Tag Archive: Joe Nathan
Feb 09 2012
Jan 25 2012
Shortly after the 2011 season ended, the idea of Feliz moving to a starting role was being pondered by many Rangers fans. Feliz has made it no secret that he wants to be a starter and after the devastating end to the 2011 World Series, and the role that he played in it, it seemed like the timing was right.
Feliz was noticeably bothered and distraught over the way things went down in Game 6 of the World Series, and who could blame him.
A few months removed from that fateful night, Feliz said ”I’m not mad at myself because I threw my pitch, it just got hit.” He also discussed his emotions following Josh Hamilton’s 10th inning 2-run home run, saying ”I was upset, but after we hit the home run, I thought I was ready, but no one told me to pitch. When we got the lead back, I thought I was going to be able to come back because I was more calm and relaxed after that.”
As you know, Feliz never came back in the game, and the rest is history. Oliver and Feldman allowed 2 runs in the bottom half of the inning which knotted the game up again, and then the unbelievable…
That was how Neftali finished his season. That was his final moment in the 2011 World Series…the lasting memory that he got to carry into the off-season.
Then, just weeks later in mid-November, he got the call. His role was changing. The Rangers had signed Joe Nathan to take over the closing duties and Feliz was being transitioned into the starting rotation. A chance to start fresh.
It was only two years ago that the Rangers were making a similar move with C.J. Wilson. In 2008 and 2009, Wilson spent time as the Rangers closer before successfully transitioning to the starting rotation in 2010, winning 15 games with 3.35 ERA that year.
So, while the transition from closer to starting rotation is something that Rangers fans will get to experience twice in three seasons, the list isn’t long of major league pitchers that have successfully made the change in roles. Looking at career statistics across all major league pitchers, we wanted to identify pitchers that met three criteria:
- A minimum of 40 saves, which is meant to signify the equivalent of two seasons as a closer.
- A minimum of 90 games started, which would signify that the pitcher was at least successful enough to maintain a role in the starting rotation for roughly three seasons.
- The last thing we look at is the order of things. We want to only identify the pitchers that served as closers prior to moving to the starting rotation.
The list is 7 guys long.
7 major league pitchers that started their careers as relievers/closers and saved at least 40 games, then transitioned into the rotation, starting at least 90 games. They are (in no particular order) Charlie Hough, Derek Lowe, Wilbur Wood, Kelvim Escobar, Shane Rawley, Doug Bird and Braden Looper. I know…who cares about who they were. I just figured the list was too short not to share. Note: C.J. Wilson doesn’t even make the list because he hasn’t started 90 games yet. A milestone that, barring injury, he’ll eclipse something in late June/early July.
You could easily argue that none of the above pitchers, with the exception of Lowe, were as dominant as Feliz has been as a closer over the last two seasons. All of them went on to achieve a reasonable amount of success in the starting rotation, with Bird being the least successful and bouncing back and forth between the bullpen in later years.
The point of all of this is that Neftali Feliz is attempting to do something that few pitchers have accomplished before in Major League baseball. And do you have any doubt that he’ll be successful?
Let’s look at two of the more recent pitchers that fit the mold. Derek Lowe moved into the starting rotation in 2002 and won 21 games, finishing 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting. Looper won 12 games with a 4.94 ERA when he made the switch in 2007. And of course, we’ve noted above the success that former Ranger C.J. Wilson had in 2010. A relatively vast range here, but the results were in line with the abilities of each of the three pitchers.
We know Feliz has a devastating fastball, which make his curve and change-up that much better. In 2011, as a closer, Feliz threw that fastball 80% of the time. He’ll have to learn to rely more on his off-speed pitches and his slider, as the majority of starting pitchers utilize their fastball 70% of the time or less. I’m confident that he’ll be able to make this change and with the right coaching from Mike Maddux and Napoli’s presence behind the plate, take full advantage of his abilities.
The skill and abilities are there.
Location and team are both contributing factors to success, especially when looking at statistics. He pitches in a hitter-friendly ballpark, but has a stacked line-up that will put runs up on the board to support him.
The final piece is endurance and health, which both lead to opportunity. Neftali is young and it will be interesting to see what restrictions the Rangers coaching staff put in place throughout the season to protect his arm. Assuming no injuries, I think it’s reasonable to project him at 29-32 starts with 175-190 innings pitched.
While I’m not ready to project a performance in line with what Derek Lowe had in 2002, I think it’s reasonable for us to believe that Feliz can perform close to the level that C.J. did just two season ago.
Baseball Do’s official prediction: 16-7 with a 3.70 ERA, 165 K’s
Dec 06 2011
This time of year it always fun! The speculation sometimes can be overwhelming, yet exhilarating at the same time. And it’s nice when your team is involved in so much of the speculation, as the Rangers are.
With all the Hot Stove talk, I’m going to put my own plan/scenario out there for the 2012 Rangers.
- Extend Mike Napoli – Arbitration eligible this year, and free to walk after 2012. This guy became a fan favorite over the course of 4 months, and his development (at the plate and behind it) has been astounding. Nap should be the full-time catcher (as discussed in Episode 1), and locking him up now might bring some savings rather than waiting until the end of 2012 when the Rangers would have to deal with signing him in free agency.
- Extend Josh Hamilton – No need to elaborate on this one. The guy has been a huge part of the resurgence and like Nap, is a fan favorite. He needs to remain in a Ranger uniform throughout the remainder of his career for more reasons than production.
- Sign Prince Fielder – I’d love to see $147MM – $160MM over 7 years, but given Prince’s agent and the competition in the bidding, it may require upwards of $190 over 8 years. Prince will turn 28 this season, so that would lock him up through age 34-35, which should be right on the backslide of his prime years.
I think this move makes sense long-term as Prince will be ready to slide to DH right around the time that Michael Young is ready to retire (3-4 seasons?), which could allow Nap to transition to 1B permanently at the age of 33-34, which should help preserve him offensively.
- Trade David Murphy to Oakland for Andrew Bailey – may very well take a little more to make this happen, but I’d think it’d be a marginal prospect at best. Oakland has said that they want an OF in return for Bailey, and while it you don’t see inter-divisional trades that often, I think this make sense for both clubs (given the moves above). Bailey is another right handed arm in the bullpen (along with Adams and new closer Nathan), but gives you some insurance for Nathan and is someone that can close, so he could transition back into that role after 2013 when Nathan’s contract is up.
This move would mean that Mitch Moreland needs to work as an OF more frequently to maintain his usefulness with the big league squad. I think he’s capable.
- Let the current starting pitching rotation ride…for now – I want to see how Feliz is going to work out in the rotation and how Holland, Harrison, Ogando and company are going to continue to develop before throwing a big contract at CJ Wilson or Mark Buerhle. If we could get either of those guys at a good rate, I’d be all over it, but I think both are going to get contracts that are bigger than what the Rangers would be comfortable with.
If Feliz is not working out or injuries decimate the staff, then make a bold move before the trade deadline. The one thing the Rangers have a surplus of is strong prospects, which are better than money during mid-season deals.
I know this increases the payroll, but the time to strike is now, and the revenue generated over the last two seasons (playoff runs, increased fanbase) should be able to finance this.
Thoughts? Post comments and let me know what you think.
Dec 02 2011
Episode 1 is finally here…
Jasen and I discuss the foundation of “Baseball do”, the acquisition of Joe Nathan and the catcher position for the Rangers.
We’ll be highlighting a different position each week during the off-season, with 1B on deck in Episode 2.
We’d love to hear your comments, and remember, everyone deserves a second chance.