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 092012
  • Thursday Morning ChangeupsHopefully, 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.
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Jan 252012

The Other New GuyWith much of the focus on Yu Darvish over the last 4-6 weeks, some of the limelight that may have been on Neftali Feliz’s transition from dominant closer to starting rotation was redirected.

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.

The Other New GuyIt 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?

Define success…

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.

The Other New GuySo, what can we expect from Feliz in 2012?

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

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Dec 062011

WWJDD   What would Jon Daniels do?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.

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Dec 022011

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.

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