May 112012
 

Friday Morning KnuckleballsThe Colbra gives up 5 jacks…but strikes out 12!?!?

“When I came out of the game, I didn’t even feel like I had thrown,” Lewis said. “I felt like I had some of my best stuff all year. It was just a weird game. I don’t know how to justify that game.”

In one of the more puzzling starts of the 2012 season, by any Rangers starter for that matter, Colby Lewis was both dominant and weak, both baffling and predictable, both great and below average.  As he said, “It was just a weird game.”

Lewis got the loss in yesterday’s game, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 12 over 7 innings of work.  The 12 strikeouts is a new career high for Lewis…as is the 5 home runs that he surrendered.   Colby gave up 3 consecutive home runs in the 1st inning, and 2 in the 7th…in between he managed to retire all 18 batters he faced.

“The first inning, you still have to keep your team in the game,” Lewis said. “Of course you want a clean inning, but if it doesn’t you still try to go as long as you can and keep your team in the game. You keep making pitches and not worry, eventually somebody was going to get out.”

We are all used to the mandatory home run that Colby gives up in each start, and while it can be frustrating from the fan’s perspective, we put up with it because he often allows that home run in the middle of a above average performance.  However, you could see the patience of the Rangers fan wearing very thin on Twitter during yesterday’s start.  With such a heralded group of pitching prospects and Feldman and Ogando looming in the bullpen just waiting for their opportunity to move back into the rotation, it’s easy to quickly call for a change…but Colby’s not going anywhere.

“He still kept us in the ballgame,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Five home runs, usually a lot of damage is done and you can’t come back from that. But we almost did.”

The Rangers bats gave it valiant effort in the 9th, down 6-2, when David Murphy hit a 3 run bomb off of O’s closer Jim Johnson, but couldn’t muster another run and fell just short.

Luckily, this was just the first game of a double header (due to Wednesday’s rain out) and the Rangers would have a chance for redemption in the night cap.

Baltimore glad to see Josh go…

Friday Morning KnuckleballsJosh got the tweeters tweeting early last night with a first inning 2-run shot off of Tommy Hunter, as many wondered if we might be in store for another historic night.  But that was all Josh had to offer, and it was all that was needed as the Rangers took the final game of the series in Baltimore, 7-3.  This gave the Rangers a series win after three consecutive series losses.

“I’m tired … hungry … it will be nice to get home,” Hamilton said. “You never know what will happen in this game, that’s why you play the games. I’m excited I had a good series, but the series is over. We can go back home and get ready for Anaheim. We’re ready to get home.”

Tommy “Big Game” Hunter may have summed it  up best…

“He hit a baseball,” Hunter said. “The dude is on fire. What do you want me to say? He is, he’s a freak.”

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

Hamilton’s home run was a big moment, but Mike Napoli’s first triple in over 2 years was key in the win, as was a very productive night at the plate by Elvis Andrus (2-3, 2 RBI, 2 R).  Beltre and Young also both contributed with a RBI a piece.

All  the offense was nice, given the defensive woes from the night, as the Rangers committed three errors…but hey, it’s the 10th game on the road.

The Dutch Oven  gave up three unearned runs in the 2nd inning, but bounced back and got the win. Holland pitched six innings, giving up the 3 unearned on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out five, moving his record to 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

It’s time…

The series we have all been waiting for…the game of the season…Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-1, 2.61 ERA).

For those of you going to the game, C.J. is prepared for boos:

“I think the biggest thing will just be that we’ll be playing in front of a huge crowd in a stadium that’s relatively hostile to our team — and I’m sure will be fairly hostile to me,” he said. “I think a lot of people will boo me and stuff.  The main objective is just focusing on the baseball aspect of it and preparing to get their guys out.”

Ian is downplaying it here, and you can’t blame him.  This is the perspective that players have to have.

“It will be fun, a chance to face somebody you know, but other than that it’s just another game,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said.

But fans don’t have to have that same perspective…to us, this is BIG.  I’ve heard the plan is to give him the silent treatment when he is announced.  I’ve also read plenty of tweets from fans that will be at the game saying they are going to boo the hell out of him.  Regardless what you do, make sure you put far more effort into cheering for Yu and chanting “NA-PO-LI” every time Nap comes to the plate.

The ESPN Baseball Tonight guys give a preview of the series here.

Friday Morning Knuckleballs

“It’s fun to play in front of packed houses and we’ve had that almost every game,” Michael Young said. “When our park gets going, it’s the loudest ballpark in the big leagues. I’ve played in the World Series twice and played in other parks. It’s the loudest. The Cardinals said the same thing to us last year in those games in Arlington. Lots of parks don’t seat 40,000 and we’ve got close to 50,000 and the just the way the ballpark is structured, it makes for a very loud place. We’ve been spoiled this year. We’ve had big crowds nearly every night. We feed off of it. We love it.”

I’m so pumped for this series.  I can honestly say that this feels like playoff baseball…

Quick Hits

  • One of the more bizarre story lines from yesterday’s double-header came in the second game when Robbie Ross was warming up in the bullpen…in the wrong colored uniform.  The Rangers were wearing their blue uniforms, but Robbie had on the road grays.
  • Angels catcher Chris Ianetta will be out tonight as he will undergo surgery on his right wrist today that will keep him out of action an estimated 6-8 weeks.  Everytime I hear or read the words “Angels” and “catcher” together I snicker and chant “NA-PO-LI” under my breath and give a silent shout-out to Frankie Francisco and the Blue Jays…
  • If you missed it last night, we are doing a Twitter Ticket Giveaway.  Be sure to check it out, follow us on Twitter and retweet one of our tweets about the giveaway and you’ll  be eligible…easy as that.  4 front row Lexus Club level seats for next Tuesday’s game!

Enough said…GAME ON!

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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 142012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Be sure to check out Round 1 (IF and C) and Round 2 (OF & DH) of the 2012 American League West Position Rankings if you missed them.

Score at the end of Round 2:

  1. Rangers: 35
  2. Angels: 31
  3. Athletics: 15
  4. Mariners: 14

We’ll be ranking the benches and the managers for each of the AL West squads in this round, which will be handled a little differently from how we have handled the individual positions so far.

Bench

For benches, we are looking at the quality, depth and flexibility and we’ll have one rankings for the entire team.  While the bench for a team, in it’s entirety, may not play the equivalent of a full 9 innings every game, I feel that it’s still more valuable than just one player.  Given the flexibility and strategic advantage that a strong bench can provide to a team, we are going to double the points awarded in this section.

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Kendry Morales/Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Cesar Izturis, Hank Conger, Mike Trout/Peter Bourjos – LAA
  2. Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon/Leonys Martin, David Murphy, Yorvit Torrealba, Brad Hawpe – TEX
  3. Mike Carp, Alex Liddi, Adam Moore, Casper Wells, Michael Saunders – SEA
  4. Daric Barton, Eric Sogard, Chris Carter, Kila Ka’aihue, Collin Cowgill – OAK

This is a close one as both the Angels and Rangers have some flexibility with their bench and some starts, but the Angels take the pole here as they have the best two quality players overall in whoever isn’t starting at DH between and Morales and Trumbo and whoever isn’t starting in CF between Trout and Bourjos.

2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)The Rangers have flexibilty with their starters at every infield position (Young & Napoli in mix with starters), CF and DH (Napoli and others with Younger considered starter) which amplifies the role that the bench players can play on a day-to-day basis.  They clearly outpace the Mariners and Athletics, but fall short of the Angels primarily based on the quality of the players that would make the most impact off of the bench more often.

Manager

Similar to the bench, I feel like the manager rankings have to account for more than just the equivalent of one starter.  Considering the impact that the manager can have on every game, we will be doubling the scoring in this section as well.

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 3)Ron Washington, TEX
  2. Mike Scioscia, LAA
  3. Eric Wedge, SEA
  4. Bob Melvin, OAK
It’s hard to go against managing a World Series winner (Scioscia in 2002) and twice being named the American League Manager of the Year (Scioscia in 2002 & 2009), but when looking forward to 2012, Ron Washington is the best Manager in the American League West.  Washington has managed his team to the World Series in both the last two seasons and finished in the top three of AL Manager of the Year voting over the last three seasons.

In 2012, both managers go into the season with an increased level of expectations and some new stars/phenoms to work with – Pujols & C.J. in LA and Darvish in TEX.  The ranking comes down to who’s hotter as of late and Washington get’s the nod.  That said, Scioscia is an excellent manager that knows how to use his players to maximize productivity and performance.  There isn’t another division in baseball that has two better managers than Wash and Scioscia.

Score at the end of Round 3:

  1. Rangers: 35 from first two rounds + 8 + 10 = 53
  2. Angels: 31 from first two rounds + 10 + 8 = 49
  3. Mariners: 14 from first two rounds + 6 + 6 = 26
  4. Athletics: 14 from first two rounds + 4 + 4 = 22

Round 4 will cover all facets of pitching (starting rotation, relief and closer) and will be posted by this weekend.  At that time, we’ll crown the winner of the American League West in 2012 and notify commissioner Selig that playing the games won’t be necessary this year.  You picking up what I’m laying down here…my point exactly.

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