Mar 302012
 

If you didn’t catch it on Twitter last night, we are giving away a pair of tickets to see the Mariners and Rangers on Wednesday, April 11.  To be eligible for the drawing, all you have to do is purchase your tickets for the Baseball Do Field Trip prior to midnight tonight.  We’ll announce the winner over the weekend.

Friday Morning KnuckleballsMatt Harrison continued his strong Spring in yesterday’s 6-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

  • Harrison pitched 6 innings, giving up one run on six hits, while striking out seven and only walking one.  He threw 91 pitches and lowered his Spring Training ERA to 1.69.

“I think I have really been consistent this spring pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters,” Harrison said. “A lot of it comes from last year. The games I was successful were the ones that I was aggressive and went right after hitters. I brought that mentality into Spring Training and it has paid off.”

  • Reliever Yoshinori Tateyama gave up 3 runs in the top of the seventh, blowing the 2-1 lead Harrison had protected.
  • Napoli and Moreland led off the second inning with back-to-back home runs off Giants starter Matt Cain. That was the third home run in the last three days for Napoli.
The Rangers have set their rotation, which to the surprise of at least Baseball Do, will not split up left handed starters Derek Holland & Matt Harrison.
  1. Colby Lewis – Opening Day, April 6th vs. White Sox
  2. Derek Holland – April 7th vs. White Sox
  3. Matt Harrison – April 8th vs. White Sox
  4. Yu Darvish – April 9th vs. Mariners
  5. Neftali Feliz – April 9th vs. Mariners
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsIt was well known that Wash was going to give the Opening Day nod to veteran Colby Lewis.  While you could argue that Lewis doesn’t necessarily have the highest ceiling or most potential of the pitchers on this staff, he deserves the nod for his tenure with the team and more importantly for his recent big-game/postseason performances.
“He’s my veteran,” Washington said. “He’s the guy who is dependable. You know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to battle and he’s my most experienced pitcher.”
  • I like the move.  Darvish debuts in a game which will probably have less pressure (Sunday nights game will be nationally televised) and it’s a bit of a reward for Matt Harrison, which is much deserved given his strong campaign in 2011.
  • Splitting up the lefties, while seemingly a sound strategy, doesn’t carry much weight statistically and more the likely the rotation will be out of order due to off-days or fill-ins by Scooter Feldman by mid-May…if not sooner.

Quick Hits:

  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsRangers face off with the Rockies tonight in what will be the final Spring start for Yu Darvish.
  • Brad Hawpe’s career with the Rangers is over, as the veteran was unconditionally released yesterday.  Hawpe, who was brought on as insurance against Moreland’s wrist, has been invited back by the club to play in the minors if he is unable to find a major league job with another team.
  • Next week’s podcast will be our official 2012 Season Preview.  Feel free to post questions here on the blog or send us questions via the Contact Us page if you have anything specific you want us to address.
  • Sports Illustrated has put their season predictions out, and while they have the Rangers making it into the postseason as a wild card, they give the AL West crown to the Angels.  Even worse, they pick the Angels to eliminate the Rangers in the ALDS and to go on to win the World Series.

Have a good weekend!

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Mar 072012
 

Baseball Do Episode 10 – Spring Training Games & Surprise Players of the Year

Tim Howell joins Baseball Do to talk about the Rangers start to Spring Training, the upcoming Yu Darvish debut and all three of the guys pick their surprise player of the year.

Who do you think will be the Mike Napoli of 2012 that exceeds all expectations and shocks the pants right off of us?

Give the podcast a listen and be sure to comment below to let us know what you think.

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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 212012
 

Baseball Do Podcast   Spring Training Special

We’re back…

Spring Training is upon and we answer some key questions facing the Rangers as they get to work in Surprise.

  • Center field – Gentry, Borbon, Martin, or….
  • Mitch Moreland
  • Pitching Rotation
  • Yu Darvish Distractions
  • Josh Hamilton Hangover (may be a better way to describe this…)

Be sure to listen carefully for an easy way to win a free “Nolan is my Homeboy” T-Shirt and for a way to participate and contribute to Baseball Do!

Smile folks…it’s time for Baseball!

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Feb 082012
 
  • Wednesday Morning CurveballsThe Rangers and Elvis Andrus will avoid arbitration as the two sides reached an agreement last night on a 3 year contract worth $14-15M.  The contract is pending a physical.  Elvis would have been up for arbitration after the next two seasons as well, so this contract will eliminate that.  Elvis will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.  Richard Durrett (ESPNDallas) provides some more background on Elvis here if interested.
  • If you missed the Part 1 of American League West Position Showdown, check it out to see where Elvis stacks up against his peers.
  • Next up – Mike Napoli and Nellie Cruz
  • The Rangers have hired Shayne Kelley to be Josh Hamilton’s accountability partner.  Kelley, a longtime college baseball assistant coach and former coach in the Royals’ system, will also serve as a Major League staff assistant for the Rangers.
    Jon Daniels had this to say regarding Kelley and the search, “We talked to a few people, but Shayne was at the top of our list.  We had more interest in this position from people reaching out all over the country than all other positions combined since I have been here.”
    Kelley accompanied Hamilton to New York on Monday to meet with doctors from MLB and the Players Union.
    T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) covered the story with some additional detail here.
  • Mitch Moreland reports that he is feeling great after his off-season wrist surgery in November.
    Moreland says “Going into Spring Training, I’ll be in some kind of routine, but I don’t think there will be many limitations.  They said we’ll go on how I feel. If I feel good, we’ll keep going through it. That’s going to be for me to find out. Nobody will know until we get there but me. Right now I’m feeling good.  I know it’s going to be better than last year.  It was pretty bad the last month. There were days that I would go into the [indoor batting] cage, I’d just come out for batting practice, take two, three, four swings and see how I feel. We got through it.”
    This is great news for the Rangers and Mitch as he looks to take the next step in his progression.
  • The Rangers have released their Spring Training broadcast schedule.  There will be a good amount of coverage, with 10 games on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM, 10 games on local television and 10 free audio webcasts at texasrangers.com. You can check out the full schedule here.
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Feb 072012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)I recently got into an argument with a fellow Rangers fan regarding how much the Angels improved though their off-season acquisitions.  As we talked through Pujols and C.J., it lead to a position-by-position comparison of the Rangers and Angels for the 2012 season.  I’ve taken the next step here to bring the Mariners and Athletics into the argument.  While they look to have no reasonable chance to contend in the division, there are two reason to include them here:

  1. You never know.
  2. Allows us to rank 1-4 for each position.  So, even if you are primarily interested in Rangers vs. Angels, you can get an understanding of where the players actually stack up against other peers to give you a frame of reference.
We’ll break this up into four pieces to be posted over the next couple of weeks.  Feel free to chime in with your comments!
  • Catcher & Infield
  • Outfield & DH
  • Bench & Manager
  • Starting Rotation, Relievers & Closer
We’ll track inverse points (ex. Napoli is #1 catcher, so he get’s 4 points), and award a bonus point in situations where the top player has an extreme advantage over the rest of the players at that position.  We’ll define extreme advantage as a WAR (wins above replacement) variance of 2 or more in 2011.  WAR can be a bit inconsistent depending on the source, so we’ll be using fangraphs.com.

Catcher

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Mike Napoli, TEX
  2. Chris Ianetta, LAA
  3. Kurt Suzuki, OAK
  4. Miguel Olivo, SEA

Nap takes the top spot here easily and get’s the +1 with a 2011 WAR of 5.6, compared to Ianetta who was at 3.3.  Even with Napoli’s season being a bit of an outlier when you look at his career, I don’t see Ianetta or Suzuki closing the gap enought in 2012 to argue against it.

The biggest debate here is between 2nd and 3rd place, primarily because Ianetta is changing leagues and may be in adjustment mode during the first part of 2012.  That said, Ianetta had a better WAR and OPS in 2011, and will be managed by a former catcher that can certainly help in improve even further behind the plate.

1st Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Albert Pujols, LAA
  2. Mitch Moreland, TEX
  3. Justin Smoak, SEA
  4. Brandon Allen/Daric Barton/Chris Carter, OAK

Similar to catcher, you can’t argue with number one, as Pujols not only takes the prize, but also takes the bonus point with relative ease.  Pujols put up a 5.4 WAR last year in the National League with the Cardinals and a .906 OPS, which was a down year for him, compared to a .733 OPS for Moreland and .717 for Smoak.

The battle for 2nd and 3rd is a lot closer than most Rangers fans would like to think, as you can tell by the OPS stats above.  Statistically, Moreland and Smoak had  very similar years in 2011, with Moreland producing at a slightly higher level than Smoak in almost all categories.  Both are still young players that should improve even further in 2012.

I give the edge to Mitch here in a close one.  Smoak was the more highly touted prospect, so you might expect him to progress at a more accelerated rate than Moreland, but I don’t think you’ll see that in this case, primarily because of the teams that surround them.  Mitch faces far less pressure and will face many more bullpen caliber pitchers because of the extremely productive lineup that he is playing in.  Switch their situations, I would lean the other way.

2nd Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Ian Kinsler, TEX
  2. Howie Kendrick, LAA
  3. Dustin Ackley, SEA
  4. Jemile Weeks, OAK

This is by far the best position across the board.  Kinsler had the strongest campaign in 2011 and should be the most productive in 2012, but the divide between he and Kendrick is not big enough for the bonus here.

I think the rankings are clear cut, but we could see both Ackley and Weeks close the gap even further during 2012.

All three players had an OPS in 2011 above .761, with Ian leading the pack at .832.  There is no weak player in this bunch.

3rd Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Adrian Beltre, TEX
  2. Alberto Callaspo, LAA
  3. Scott Sizemore, OAK
  4. Kyle Seager, SEA

Clear cut number one at the hot corner, as Beltre dominated the group statistically.  Beltre’s dominance is enough to get him the bonus point here as well, outpacing Callaspo’s 2011 WAR ranking by 2.1 (5.7 for Beltre to 3.6 for Callaspo).

Callaspo get the nod for 2nd place here, but again, it could be closer than you think, and rumors of Mark Trumbo making the switch to 3rd base cloud the ranking a bit.  That said, if Callaspo is the starting 3rd basemen for the Angels in 2012, he’ll be hitting in the much more productive line-up and is better defensively.

Shortstop

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Elvis Andrus, TEX
  2. Erik Aybar, LAA
  3. Cliff Pennington, OAK
  4. Brendan Ryan, SEA
Close race for the top spot between Andrus and Aybar here, but Elvis takes 1st place by a small margin.  Statistically, the two are very close, with Aybar posting a higher OPS in 2011 at .743 compared to Elvis at .708.  Elvis is superior defensively and is the younger player.  Both stand to improve in 2012 as Elvis continues to mature and Aybar welcomes a much needed bat to the Angel’s line-up (Mr. Pujols).

This is my biggest decision in the rankings so far, and I have to lean towards Elvis here.  Even factoring out my bias, if that’s possible, I see Elvis improving at the plate in 2012 to an equal level of Aybar, and far outplaying Aybar defensively.

Score at the end of Round 1:

  1. Rangers: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 4 = 21
  2. Angels: 3 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 17
  3. Athletics: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 8
  4. Mariners: 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7
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Jan 172012
 

The Prince Fielder and The PauperOn Friday, news broke that the biggest free agent left on the market, Prince Fielder, was having dinner and meeting with Ranger brass in a Dallas hotel. Although most saw (and still see) Prince as a pipe dream it’s becoming more apparent that there is some mutual interest between the Rangers and Fielder.

Prince Fielder is far from an unknown commodity even having spent his career in Milwaukee. He’s a mammoth 27-year-old left-handed power hitter of the highest order. A career .282 hitter that hit a career high 50 home runs in 2007.  While some have claimed that Prince will wear down with such a large frame he has been very durable. He played in every game last season and showed no signs of slowing down. The guy has some of the most incredible pull power in baseball and would be a beast in The Ballpark. Whether you are an advanced STAT person (better WAR than that Albert guy) or an “Eye test” person (2011 All-Star MVP and Silver Slugger) he is a top 3 1st baseman in MLB. While it’s still unknown what Prince will get in free agency, he should be able to get somewhere in the range of $20M a year.

That’s a huge investment for any team, especially one that is on the verge of signing a player they paid $50m just to negotiate with in hopes of signing a contract. This opportunity is one that doesn’t happen often. It’s also become even more important that the Rangers get better this year with the interdivision rival Angels signing two of the top free agents available this year.

The question that has to be asked is, is Prince Fielder that much better than Mitch Moreland when Mitch is making $500,000 a year? Mitch had a breakout 2010 postseason when he had some of the best at bats of the playoffs against great pitchers like Mariano Rivera. Hopes were high last year that Moreland would improve on a promising first year in the big leagues. Unfortunately he didn’t live up to those expectations. He managed a .259 average and struck out 92 times in 464 ABs.  Those signature Mitch ABs where he battled pitchers and got on base were farther and fewer between.

Although Mitch had a setback in 2011, does that mean its time to give up and invest big money in Prince Fielder? Well it’s not that simple. Signing Prince Fielder almost certainly means that you will have to lose Josh Hamilton in free agency as well. Josh is arbitration eligible this year and has a huge contract waiting for him after next year. Texas has several players they need to lock up and Prince and Hamilton contracts wouldn’t allow the team to keep the majority of the core together. In my opinion, a choice between a long-term Hamilton and a long-term Fielder is a no brainer. I love Josh Hamilton but the stress his body has been through and the durability issues he has experienced make it a much bigger risk to lock him up long-term.

The next month is going to be very telling about where the Rangers see the future of this team. It’s a great time to be a Ranger fan. Now, let’s go ahead and get that Yu thing done and let the chips fall where they may.

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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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