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Friday, April 30, 2004

Minor league starters for Friday, 4/30/04 

Oklahoma: Corey Vance
Frisco: Kelvin Jimenez
Stockton: Wes Littleton and Jose Garcia
Clinton: Matt Lorenzo and Jesse Chavez, I think; however, with the DH on Monday throwing off the schedule, it could be Tim Cunningham and Williams Sarmiento

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On high schoolers and pitch counts 

Good Rob Neyer column today, on the story of Garrett Berger, a high school pitcher whose career may or may not have been ruined because of the way he was used in high school, and the way his baseball coach reacted when Berger's parents tried to limit the amount that he pitched.

After getting ridden hard as a high school senior, including having a 155 pitch outing (where he ended up pulling himself from the game, incurring the wrath of his coach), Berger was drafted in the second round by Florida, and just months later underwent Tommy John surgery. Berger's career has yet to recover.

The issue of pitch counts is still hotly debated, of course, with old-school types like Jeff Torborg, Larry Dierker and Jack McDowell seeming to scorn the notion (despite their first-hand experiences with A.J. Burnett, Scott Elarton, and McDowell himself, respectively), while the Beanian new-breeds embrace whole-heartedly the idea of keeping pitch counts down. The tandem starter system, which Grady Fuson brought to Texas from Oakland, is based, in large part, on the theory that by keeping pitch counts low for younger pitchers, you will avoid injuries (while also teaching your pitchers to be more economical with their pitches).

But the horror stories out there, of guys like Garrett Berger, guys like Bud Smith (who threw 134 pitches in a no-hitter at the age of 21 and has never been the same), would seem to serve as cautionary tales, would lead high school coaches to be more cautious with their pitchers.

Nevertheless, you still have someone like Kerry Wood, who insists to this day that throwing 200 pitches in one day, in the pursuit of the state baseball title for Grand Prairie High, was the right thing to do, even after missing almost two seasons to arm problems not long thereafter.

Yeah, there's no way to definitively link Wood's or Smith's arm problems to one particular game. Either one may have ended up having arm problems anyway...and Garrett Berger's torn elbow ligament may, just may, have been completely unrelated to his over-use in high school.

But given the risks, is it really too much to ask that coaches, particularly high school and college coaches, not treat young players with developing arms like they are Nolan Ryan or Curt Schilling?

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Michael Kay on Johnny Damon 

Michael Kay is the play-by-play announcer for the Yankees on the YES Network (the network the Yankees own). This is a couple of weeks old, but thanks to DWOTblog, I can offer the following excerpt from an article Kay wrote, regarding Johnny Damon's unkempt look:

"If you need a hint of what type of job Francona has done so far, you need only look at the appearance of center fielder Johnny Damon, who is sporting long hair and a beard that makes him look like the frozen caveman we've all seen at the museum. Damon looking the way he does shows a decided lack of respect to the game and the organization. It is incumbent upon Francona to step up and tell Damon to clean up his act. He hasn't and he probably won't. Bad sign."

Wow. So not only is Damon disrespecting the game and his organization, but the fact that Francona isn't making him get a shave and a haircut shows that Francona is a lousy manager?

Great insights from a Yankee employee...one has to wonder if King George was standing behind him as he was typing the piece ("Okay, now press shift and type "f", then type "r")...

It is a pretty interesting example of how the Yankees take themselves way, way, way too seriously...

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SI.com Power Rankings 

Rangers are #11.

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A stupid article on "productive outs" 

To go with the very nice article on Hank Blalock, ESPN: The Magazine has also put out one of the dumbest "analytical" pieces I've read in some time. Buster Olney has generated a column examining "productive outs", and arguing (rather weakly) that the "small ball" style is a better way of generating offense than the "Moneyball" style.

Olney comes across as an amateurish hack with an axe to grind, setting up strawmen with assertions such as:

"Boston plays the "Moneyball" style -- never bunt, don't take chances on the bases, sit back and let your hitters hack away and do the work regardless of the game situation, regardless of the identity of the opposing pitcher."

Derek Zumsteg did a very comprehensive rebuttal to the article for U.S.S. Mariner, and rather than just re-gurgitate what he said (because I doubt I'd add anything new), I'm just linking his piece...

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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Kurkjian on Blalock, "Texas' new cornerstone" 

ESPN baseball writer Tim Kurkjian has a glowing article on Hank Blalock in the latest issue of ESPN: The Magazine.

Great piece, and one that reinforces what makes Hank Blalock such a special player.


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Minor league starters for Thursday, 4/29 

Oklahoma -- Probably Mike Bacsik, although it could be Ryan Snare
Frisco -- Erik Thompson
Stockton -- John Hudgins and Jason Andrew
Clinton -- Matt Farnum and Edison Volquez

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Kerry Wood suspended 5 games 

Kerry Wood has been suspended 5 games for running at an umpire and screaming in his face after getting pulled from a game against the Reds.

It was yet another instance of Dusty Baker leaving a starter in too long, and having the starter blow the lead after cracking the 120 pitch mark.

Kerry should probably have been screaming at Dusty, not the ump...

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Michael Young, leadoff hitter... 

An mlb.com piece on the top leadoff hitters in the game gives some love to Michael Young, who several players on opposing teams nominate as the best leadoff hitter in baseball right now.

Young's hot start withstanding, he's still going to have to show that he can hit .330 for a full season, or learn to take a few more walks, before he'll truly be an elite leadoff hitter. A top leadoff hitter is going to have an OBP of at least .370, and Young's career spread between his average and OBP is just 42 points, which makes him highly dependent on his batting average to give him value at the top of the lineup.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see some of the young Ranger players getting raves from the other teams....

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Minor league starters for Wednesday, 4/28 

Frisco -- Chris Young (although he may have been bounced from the rotation)
Stockton -- Kiki Bengochea and Ben Keiter

Clinton and Oklahoma are both off...

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Francisco Cordero 

Can someone tell him that getting 1-2-3 innings for a save is okay, too?

Geez...he scares me sometimes...

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A flurry of roster moves... 

With John Wasdin and Chad Allen having filled their roles as an emergency starter and temporary backup outfielder, respectively, the Rangers DFA'd both players for assignment today.

The Rangers now have 10 days to waive them, trade them, or release them. Most likely, both players will be put on waivers, and assigned to Oklahoma if they clear (which they most likely will).

Doug Brocail, the veteran reliever who hasn't pitched since 2000 (but who impressed Buck in training camp), takes Wasdin's spot. Brian Jordan was activated from the D.L. to take Chad Allen's roster spot.

Mark Teixeira is playing in Frisco on a rehab assignment today, and if all goes well, he'll likely be activated tomorrow, with Adrian Gonzalez going back to AAA.


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Minor league starters for Tuesday, 4/27 

Oklahoma -- Nick Regilio
Frisco -- Unknown. I'd guess Erik Thompson, but the rotation has been thrown out of whack.
Stockton -- Cody Smith and Joel Kirsten (in the slot normally filled by Nick Masset and Josh Rupe, who are injured)
Clinton -- John Danks and Cesar Herrera

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Monday, April 26, 2004

Stupid trade rumor of the day 

The San Francisco Chronicle says that the "hot rumor among East Coast reporters" is that the Yankees are pursuing a Jason Giambi-for-Tim Hudson deal.

Yeah, I'm sure the A's would be all over that...


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Canadians even noticing the Rangers... 

A little puff piece on the Rangers' start from the Canadian Press.


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Jarvas released by Mariners 

After giving up back-to-back-to-back homers Sunday to Nix, Barajas and Gonzalez, and generally looking pretty awful all weekend (and throughout his career), Kevin Jarvias has been released by the Mariners.

At least they kept him long enough for the Rangers to beat up on him some...

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Minor league starters for Monday, 4/26 

Oklahoma: Juan Dominguez
Frisco: Off
Stockton: Wes Littleton and Jose Garcia
Clinton: Doubleheader. Not positive who is going to go, since the recent rain has thrown off the schedule, but it looks like Matt Lorenzo and Williams Sarmiento should each pitch today.

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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Rosenthal, Almanzar, and Scouts Covering Their Butts 

Ken Rosenthal's latest notes column includes this tidbit:

The Rangers' bullpen, which was fourth in the A.L. in ERA at the start of the week, faces similar questions, but RHP Carlos Almanzar has been a revelation after spending all of last season with the Reds' Class AAA affiliate in Louisville. Almanzar is throwing 95 to 96 mph, an increase of 4 mph from last season, scouts say.

Almanzar has been a revelation, that's true, but he was also dominant in AAA last season, with 54 strikeouts to only 3 walks. And more importantly, there's nothing that suggests Almanzar hitting 95-96 mph is anything new.

The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2002 said that Almanzar hits 95 mph; the Las Vegas Review-Journal, talking about Almanzar when he was the closer for the Las Vegas Stars, mentions a fastball that clocks in at 91-95 mph; and the Dallas Morning News said that Almanzar can get up to 96-97 mph.

So one has to wonder...what are these scouts talking about? Did Almanzar suddenly find some adjustment, some mechanical flaw to correct, that added that much to his fastball?

Hardly...more likely, the scouts Rosenthal has talked to are scrambling to explain why this hard-throwing journeyman pitcher was allowed to sign with the Rangers as an NRI, and are trying to justify missing on him by claiming that his fastball is somehow different than it was last year.

It is similar to Gerry Fraley's 180 on Gerald Laird. Just four months after writing off Laird as a back-up, at best, Fraley this spring declared that Laird needed to be the Rangers' starting catcher.

So was Fraley wrong in November, when he made his original pronouncement? Of course not...Laird still sucked back then. But Fraley assured his readers that scouts told him that Laird had made "more progress" than any other Ranger player. So somehow, the lousy catcher who would never amount to anything in November had metamorphed into a quality catcher.

It is important to remember that the writers, and their sources, are human...and rather to admit to error in judgment, particularly in an area so subjective, they'd prefer to explain away their mistakes by ascribing the changes to fundamental, and unforeseeable, changes in the player in question.


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U.S.S. Mariner on the Rangers 

Interesting response to a reader question on whether, as a Mariners fan, he'd swap the Mariners starting nine for the Rangers' starting nine.


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Saturday, April 24, 2004

June 7, 2000 

On June 7, 2000, the L.A. Dodgers, nursing a 5-4 lead, exploded with a 4 run 6th inning off of Ranger starter Rick Helling and reliever Tim Crabtree, putting away a game that eventually ended Dodgers 11, Rangers 6. Starters included centerfielder Jason McDonald, right fielder Chad Curtis, and shortstop Scott Sheldon.

With that loss, the Rangers fell to 30-28.

That was the last time the Rangers have been 2 games over .500, until tonight.

That's a hell of a drought...

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Teixeira could be back by Friday 

Good news on the Mark Teixeira front...Teixeira apparently took batting practice on Saturday. After swinging lefty Saturday, if everything goes to plan, he's supposed to take B.P. from the right side tomorrow, have a simulated game on Monday, and then join Frisco for a rehab assignment on Tuesday.

If he has no setbacks, he could be back for the Boston series starting on Friday.

That's good news, as oblique muscles can sometimes linger for quite a while, and Teixeira was red-hot when he went on the D.L. Still, the Rangers don't want to rush him back and risk re-injury, so the timetable for return could be pushed back if he exhibits any problems...

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I just gotta say... 

I'm a Hank Blalock fan...

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Minor league starters for Sunday, April 25 

Oklahoma -- With Wasdin coming up, I'm guessing Ryan Snare gets the start
Frisco -- Doubleheader. Erik Thompson should start one game, Sam Narron the other
Stockton -- John Hudgins and Jason Andrew
Clinton -- Williams Sarmiento and Tim Cunningham


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Rangers calling up Wasdin to fill in for sick Rogers 

Per the DMN...

Baffling move.

They are going to send prospect Ryan Snare back down to AAA, so that perennial journeyman scrub John Wasdin can make an emergency start in place of Kenny Rogers.

Given that we are rebuilding, we not take a look at Snare?

I don't get it...

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Watching Young turn the DP... 

It is only three weeks in, but Young certainly doesn't look too big, too uncomfortable, or too out-of-position at shortstop thusfar...

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Friday, April 23, 2004

Minor League Starting Pitchers for 4/24 

Something new I'm going to try to do is track who the scheduled starters for the Rangers' affiliates are each day. BA normally has this information, but they've been pretty slipshod about it. This is generally going to be based tracking what the usual rotation is, with any additional info I stumble across plugged in, so don't take this as gospel...

Anyway, for Saturday, 4/24:

Oklahoma -- John Wasdin
Frisco -- *EDIT* Looks like Kelvin Jimenez
Stockton -- Kiki Bengochea and Ben Keiter
Clinton -- Matt Farnum and Edison Volquez

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Ryan Drese starts tonight... 

After his last start, I should be encouraged. Still...

Ryan Drese is like the good looking girl you are friends with, and are sort-of kind-of trying to hook it up with.

And every once in a while, y'all go drinking together, and you might smooch a bit, but nothing ever comes of it.

Then, out of nowhere, when you've written her off, she calls you up, you go hang out, and you end up making out, maybe even actually finally hooking it up.

Tonight's start is like the next time you are going to go hang out somewhere she's gonna be...when you are hoping you can knock boots again, but you know, more likely, she'll pretend nothing happened, and probably even make out with some stranger in front of you.

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Rangers promote Chad Allen, send Ramon Nivar down 

With Brian Jordan's rehabilitation hitting a bump in the road, the Rangers finally opted to quit having Ramon Nivar waste away on the bench as the 5th outfielder, and purchased the contract of journeyman outfielder Chad Allen.

Allen isn't a bad ballplayer...he got a shot as the everyday outfielder with the Twins in 1999, proved himself unworthy, and has bounced around since then between the majors and the minors. Allen can man both the outfield corners adequately, and apparently started at first base for Oklahoma last night, with the organization wanting to bring him up if he could show he could play the position without embarrassing himself.

Allen has been red-hot in Oklahoma, hitting over .500 with an OPS of 1233. While he doesn't really fill the hole left by Mark Teixeira, whom the Rangers need to get healthy, quickly, he is a decent backup outfielder.

Which, of course, leads one to wonder why the Rangers would waste a roster spot and a guaranteed major league contract on David Dellucci, when Chad Allen, Peter Zoccolillo, Ty Meadows, and Jason Jones are all hanging around in the organization, and are just as capable as Dellucci of handling the job.


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Thursday, April 22, 2004

For the third time in about ten days... 

...I find myself asking, why is Rod Barajas hitting in a critical situation?

Does Showalter have so little faith in his bench that he'd rather have an offensive zero like Barajas hit late in the game, with the Rangers down, than go to, say, Kevin Mench or Gerald Laird?

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On sacrifice flies scoring two runs... 

One of the USSMariner authors made a snarky comment about overhearing someone at a Mariners game say that a sacrifice fly might drive in two runners. In response, a reader provided them with what presumably attempts to be a comprehensive list of instances over the last 30 years where two runners scored on a sac fly.

The curious thing is that, of the 9 instances, three of them occurred at old Arlington Stadium. Given that Arlington Stadium was out of the cookie-cutter mold, with your standard issue 330'-380'-400'-380'-330' dimensions, it seems a bit odd that there would be so many there. You'd expect it somewhere like Yankee Stadium, where left-center field seeming stretches to New Jersey...

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Shouse going to Oklahoma 

The Rangers have sent Shouse to Oklahoma on a rehab assignment.

We're probably looking at about a week until Shouse is ready to return, which will set up an interesting dilemma...presumably, Ryan Snare would get sent back down, but Buck Showalter has an irrational fascination with Doug Brocail, and there are indications that Brocail may be called up in the next day or two, with Snare going back down. If Snare is already demoted, or if they decide to plug Snare in Colby Lewis's spot in the rotation, then do the Rangers send down Erasmo Ramirez, who has pitched well so far? Or do they go with three lefties in the pen and ship someone else out? Does Benoit, for example, get traded to Montreal or Milwaukee?

Given that Shouse and Lewis will both be coming off the D.L. before too long, and possibly Mickey Callaway, as well, it will be interesting to see how the bullpen gets shuffled...

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Gerald Laird 

He's no Pudge Rodriguez, but man, he's got a good arm. Quick release.

He's now 4 for 8 in throwing out basestealers.


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On being 7 and 7... 

With last night's victory, the Rangers are sitting at 7-7, the latest in the season they have been at .500 since they were 10-10 in 2001, ARod's inaugural season.

There's a marked difference between 2001 and 2004, though...in 2001, despite the fact that we were winning some games, the team didn't inspire confidence. The games we were winning were slugfests that the Rangers squeaked out, while the losses were ugly. And win or lose, it seemed that nobody on the pitching staff, and in particular, the starting rotation, was pitching well. Though the Rangers were at .500 after 20 games in 2001, it was obvious that, unless they ratcheted up their play, they were in for a serious nosedive.

This year, though? If anything, the 7-7 record understates how well the team has played thusfar...the Rangers have outscored their opponents by ten runs thusfar, and have an OPS advantage of 89 points, suggesting that, if anything, the Rangers have been unlucky this season. Whereas in 2001, the .500 start had one worried about whether the team was going to turn it around, in 2004, this start makes one wonder how long the Rangers can keep playing as well as they have.

I'll still be surprised if this is a .500 team at season's end...particularly if the injuries keep mounting. The news that Mark Teixeira likely won't be ready to return from the D.L. when he's eligible on April 28 is particularly troubling.

Nevertheless, for the first time in quite some time, the early season results for the Rangers are encouraging. And while this team has, the last several years, had a proclivity for going into tailspins that sink the season, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that they can keep motoring along...

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Monday, April 19, 2004

Ouch...U.S.S. Mariner takes a shot... 

U.S.S. Mariner, the excellent Mariners blog done by a couple of Baseball Prospectus contributors, has some harsh (though not necessarily incorrect) things to say about this past weekend's series...

Interestingly, they seem to be referring to Mark Teixeira as the Rangers' best hitter...

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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Rod Barajas???? 

How can Buck Showalter justify having the Rangers' worst offensive players, Rod Barajas, hit in the bottom of the 9th?

He sent Eric Young up to hit for Laynce Nix, and he sent Perry up to hit for Adrian Gonzalez (who looked completely overmatched all day). But he let Barajas, positioned between Nix and Gonzalez, hit?

Barajas is a horrible, horrible hitter. Career .198 EQA. A 455 OPS coming into this game (where he went 0 for 3 with a walk).

And Gerald Laird, who has been red-hot so far, posting a 945 OPS, is available on the bench.

Buck should have let Nix hit instead of Barajas, or should have had Laird hit for Barajas. Failing to make either move is inexcusable, and it is another example of Buck putting way too much faith in "veteran experience" and the value of "his guys".


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Thompson out after five innings 

After four very strong innings, Thompson ran out of gas in the fifth, giving a couple of hard hit fly balls and a double before allowing a bloop single on a ball that should have been caught, according to the Redhawk announcers.

He then gave up a double, a triple, and then a Calvin Pickering homer before getting a flyout to end the inning.

Disappointing way to end his AAA debut, but his first four innings were very strong, and he didn't allow a walk.

Now we just need to see if he can build on this outing and get better next time out.

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Erik Thompson update 

I'm sitting here listening to the radio broadcast of the Oklahoma game online...

Through three innings, Thompson is pitching very well...

No walks so far, and no runs. He's given up 4 hits, but hasn't been hit hard, at all...two of the hits were bunt singles, one was a grounder between first and second, and one was a grounder on a hit-and-run into the hole vacated by the shortstop, a ball that would have been a double play if the hit-and-run weren't on.

Very encouraging outing so far...a lot of ground balls, and he's staying ahead of the hitters. I believe the only 2-0 count he's had was to the first batter of the game.


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Thompson to make his AAA debut 

With righthander Ricardo Rodriguez sidelined with appendicitis, Frisco righty Erik Thompson has been promoted to take Rodriguez's place in the Oklahoma rotation. Thompson will make his debut against Kansas City AAA affiliate Omaha today at 2 p.m.

I'm a big fan of the 21 year old Thompson, whom Grady Fuson drafted out of junior college in the 12th round in 2002. After a nice debut, splitting time between the GCL and the Appalachian League, Thompson turned a lot of heads in 2003, splitting time between low-A Clinton and high-A Stockton. He dominated at each level, and despite bringing serious heat with his fastball, he's got an uncanny ability to control the strike zone, as he came into the season with 22 walks versus 164 strikeouts in 193 professional innings.

The knock on Thompson thusfar has been his height; he's listed at 5'11", but reportedly is closer to 5'8" or 5'9", and scouts have traditionally discounted short righthanders (despite the success of pitchers such as Roy Oswalt and the Fuson-drafted Tim Hudson in recent years). His build has led some to speculate that he won't be able to handle the rigors of starting in the majors, and will be relegated to a relief role.

Nevertheless, Thompson came out of the box strong this year, going 6 1/3 innings in his AA debut, striking out 4, walking just one batter, and allowing just a single hit and no runs. With the promotion to Oklahoma, Thompson has a chance to ensure that his career AA ERA will stay at 0.00; Fuson has not been shy about rapidly promoting players who show they can handle the challenges in the past, and if Thompson can hold his own in Oklahoma, he may never return to AA. And, more importantly, if he continues pitching in Oklahoma the way he has throughout his professional career, he could be pitching at TBIA before the season is up.


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Saturday, April 17, 2004

Jeff Nelson booed by Mariners fans 

Longtime Mariner Jeff Nelson was just booed when he came into the game for the Rangers.

For those who forget, Nelson was traded by the Mariners for Armando Benitez last year, right after he ripped Mariners management for, once again, not making a deal at the trade deadline. Nelson was just vocalizing the same things that a lot of Mariners fans that I know were saying.

Nelson is the Mariner career leader in appearances, and pitched on two Mariner playoff teams, allowing just 2 runs in 14 playoff innings for the M's, and Eric Nadel just said that Nelson has the lowest ERA of any Mariner pitcher with at least 300 career innings.

While I didn't think Nelson would get a standing ovation, the fact that the Mariners fans booed him baffles me. They have no reason to be angry at Nelson.

Unbelievable. And unbelievably classless.

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John Sickels on the Ranger pitching prospects 

In his mailbag this week, John Sickels analyzes Danks, Hudgins, Littleton and Lorenzo. Those were the four pitchers the Rangers took in the first five rounds of the 2003 draft.

Perhaps the most interesting comment has to do with Danks, taken #10 overall by the Rangers, as Sickels says that "[s]couts like his personality and aptitude for pitching, and he has the highest ceiling of this quartet."

That's an interesting comment about a high school pitching draftee...as Grady Fuson has made clear, he generally steers clear of high school pitchers in the first round, although he is willing to make exceptions in special cases. Jeremy Bonderman, of course, was one of those special cases, which incurred the wrath of Billy Beane...Bonderman, however, has turned out extremely well thusfar.

What makes Danks such an interesting case study is that what he brings to the table is much different from what you normally see in high school pitchers taken at the top of the first round. Most highly-touted high school pitchers are flame-throwers, guys like Scott Kazmir, Colt Griffin, Zack Grienke, Josh Beckett, Kerry Wood...guys who have incredible arms, and who just need to learn to pitch.

Fuson's hallmark has been looking for pitchers who have "pitchability"...the ability to command a couple of pitches, a certain maturity and presence, a knowledge about how to pitch. That is going to lead you, most often, to college pitchers, who also have a much better track record of success than highly drafted high schoolers.

Danks, though, is not your typical high school pitcher. He doesn't hit 96 mph...instead, he sits in the low-90s. However, he also has, by all accounts, a tremendous curveball, along with an aptitude for pitching which most 18-19 year olds don't possess. Fuson has also commented several times about Danks "clean" delivery, which would seem to be crucial for a high school draftee, in light of the research that suggests that good pitching mechanics significantly reduces the chance of injuries which is the main bugaboo of high school pitchers.

So really, Danks, despite being a high school draftee, seems to have the repertoire and mentality of a college pitcher...and in particular, of the type of college pitcher that Fuson generally targets.

Virtually every report I've read from people who have watched Danks has been extremely positive...and while I still question the wisdom of taking a high school pitcher so high, it will be interesting to see if this, like the Bonderman pick, is another Fuson gamble that pays off.


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Friday, April 16, 2004

Another encouraging outing from the Ho 

7 shutout innings against Seattle.

This makes three solid starts in a row for the Ho...and yeah, I'm counting the loss to Anaheim as a solid start. Virtually none of the 8 singles he allowed in that game were hard-hit balls, and he walked just one man while striking out 5 in 6 innings.

In today's game, he had 3 walks to 5 Ks, which isn't as good a ratio as you'd like to see...but still, he threw strikes once again, and dealt with adversity well. In three starts now, he's thrown 290 pitches, 198 of them for strikes, with 18 strikeouts and just 5 walks. If Park keeps throwing almost 70% of his pitches for strikes, and keeps hitting 95 mph, as he did today, the Rangers may have a decent pitcher on their hands. Not the #1 starter that he's being paid like, but possibly a low #2/high #3 starter, which is what he was in Los Angeles.


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Thursday, April 15, 2004

Lineup weirdness today 

The lineup is up for today's game, and Michael Young is sitting, with Eric Young playing shortstop.

Obviously, Michael Young isn't going to play every day...he's got to rest occasionally. But the Rangers have Kenny Rogers, a groundball-inducing machine, on the mound today, so you'd think they'd want to maximize their infield defense. If you are going to rest Young, rest him with someone like the Ho or Dickey on the mound.

Not only is Eric Young replacing Michael Young at short, but Herb Perry is filling in for the still-injured Mark Teixeira at first base. This could be one of the worst defensive infields the Rangers have ever run out there...

EDIT: Yahoo now has Michael Young at shortstop, not Eric Young. Guess it was just a typo.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The Small Ball Fallacy, or Why Buck Was Right To Let Laird Swing Away 

Last night's game was incredibly frustrating, on a lot of levels. Mickey Callaway getting shelled (and promptly being put on the D.L.) wasn't as troublesome as Joaquin Benoit's failure to shut down the A's in his newly anointed position as the designated long man.

Still, the Rangers got to Barry Zito early and often, and when Eric Young doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth, putting the tying run in scoring position, the Rangers had a golden opportunity to at least tie the score. Playing at home, with none out and a rookie catcher coming up, the book would say to bunt, in order to get the tying run to third so that a fly ball could score the runner. Buck Showalter let Laird swing away, and...well, you know the rest. Laird got out, Nix hit a fly ball that would have probably would have brought Young home, and Michael Young grounded out to end the game.

Buck's decision resulted in a fair amount of second-guessing. And while I'm someone who is not terribly impressed with Buck as an in-game manager, and am more than happy to second-guess his decisions (*cough* David Dellucci *cough*), in this case, the book was wrong, and Buck was right. Gerald Laird should not have bunted.

Quick review of the situation -- Eric Young was on second base, none out, 10-9 A's lead in the bottom of the ninth. Arthur Rhodes was on the mound, and Gerald Laird, Laynce Nix, and Michael Young were due up. With Mark Teixeira sidelined because of an oblique muscle problem, only Rod Barajas and David Dellucci were available off the bench.

In evaluating whether or not to bunt, you have to determine whether Young is more likely to score from third, with one out and Nix coming up, than he is from second, with none out and Laird and Nix coming up. According to Nichols' Expected Run Table, a runner on 2nd with none out has a 63.3% chance of scoring, versus a 66.7% chance of a runner on third with one out scoring.

That gives a slight edge to bunting (if we ignore the possibility of the bunt not advancing the runner or, even worse, getting the runner thrown out at third on the attempted sacrifice). Yes, a 3.4% advantage isn't great, but it is on those small advantages that winning teams are built, right?

But let's look at this particular situation more closely, and examine whether the participants involved might narrow the gap.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to bunt comes down to whether the likelihood of Young being able to score from third, but not from second, is greater than the chance of Laird driving him home from second. While there are circumstances, such as with a wild pitch or an infield single, where Young might score from third when he couldn't otherwise, the determination basically boils down to whether Nix is more likely to drive Young home with a sacrifice fly or a ground out than Laird is to get a hit.

The Rhodes-Nix matchup is very unfavorable for the Rangers, in this case. For one, you have the lefty/lefty matchup. Rhodes, throughout his career, has been tough on both lefties and righties, but has been especially tough on lefthanders. Lefties, from 2001 through 2003, put up a line of .206/.243/.281 against him, versus a .210/.266/.329 line for righthanders. Moreover, since Buck has benched Nix against lefthanded starters, both last year and this year, it is makes it that much more difficult for Nix when he does face off against a lefty, since he almost never sees them.

Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that Nix is a .200 hitter against Rhodes (which may be slightly overstating his expected average, but makes the math easier). That means that 80% of the time, Nix is going to make an out. So how often is that out going to advance a runner from third?

We know that Rhodes is a strikeout pitcher, and Nix has been, during his stints in the majors, prone to strikeouts. Over the course of Rhodes' career, he has faced 3,742 batters, and struck out 872 of them, meaning he strikes out 23.3% of the hitters he faces. Nix, in 215 major league plate appearances, has struck out 58 times, or 27% of his plate appearances, which, once again, is a very high percentage. In contrast, the 2003 Minnesota Twins, who were #15 out of 30 teams last season in strikeouts, struck out in 16.2% of their total plate appearances.

So Rhodes strikes out batters about 44% more often than the average, and Nix strikes out 69% more often than average. As a result, you would expect Nix to strike out in approximately 39% of his plate appearances against Rhodes.

So if Nix gets a hit 20% of the time, and strikes out 39% of the time, that leaves 41% of plate appearances where he will put the ball into play for an out. One would hope, of course, for a sacrifice fly. Rhodes, however, has been a very groundball-oriented pitcher the last several years, putting up groundball/flyball ratios of 1.22, 1.40, and 1.27 from 2001 through 2003. As a result, that means that Nix would be hitting a fly ball out against Rhodes approximately 16% of the time, and a groundball out against Rhodes approximately 25% of the time.

Now, with a collection of outfielders with pretty good arms, what are the chances that Young will be able to score on a fly ball out? One in two, maybe? That gives us 8% on the flyballs. With a drawn in infield, and a ground ball from Nix, what are the chances of Young scoring? Closer to one in three or one in four. Say it is one in three...that gives us an 8% for groundballs.

That gives us a 16% chance that Nix would drive in Young from third with a "productive out", where Young wouldn't be able to score from second.

However, that 16% chance is gained at the expense of taking the bat out of Gerald Laird's hands. And unless the chance of Laird getting a hit against Rhodes is less than 16%, bunting Young from second to third reduces the chances of the Rangers scoring in that situation. Plus, giving up the out with the sacrifice bunt significantly reduces the chances of scoring two runs and ending the game once and for all...the expected total runs scored with a runner on second and none out is 1.13, versus .96 runs expected with a runner on third and one out.

So, by foregoing the bunt, Showalter, at the very least, did not reduce the Rangers' chances of scoring a run in the bottom of the 9th, and increased their chances of plating two runners and getting the win.


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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Garret Anderson agrees to $48 million, four-year extension 

That's good news for Rangers fans.

Garret Anderson is not a $12 million per year player. Left fielders with a career 807 OPS and a career .273 EQA simply aren't that valuable, even if they are good enough defensively to handle centerfield, as Anderson will be this season. Yet he's gotten a reputation for being an underrated star because of his gaudy RBI totals, while his apologists dismiss his sub-par OBPs, claiming that it is his job to drive in runs, not get on base.

From his debut until 2001, Anderson was a below-average player. He cranked it up the past two seasons, to the point where he's an above-average outfielder,

This deal covers Anderson's age 33 through 36 seasons, a time frame when most players decline. Anderson reminds me most of former Ranger Al Oliver, another guy without a ton of power, who didn't walk much, but who hit the ball hard every time up. Oliver actually aged fairly well, and Anderson may, as well...but the Angels have just bet heavily that Anderson will retain most, or all, of the value from his peak seasons during a time span when most players start going down hill. The Yankees and the Phillies, with Jason Giambi and Jim Thome, learned the hard way the risks that you run when you pay a player based on a peak performance at age 30.

The Angels overpaying for an aging, overrated player is definitely good news for the Rangers, for a couple of reason. First, obviously, overspending on Anderson means less money to spend on other, better players. With new, deep-pocketed owner Arte Moreno in place, this may not seem like such a big issue, but unless Moreno is going to go Steinbrenner, the Angels are going to have a finite payroll, meaning that this poor decision will limit the Angels' ability to spend elsewhere.

Secondly, though, this is an indication that the Angel front office still doesn't get it. They are paying a guy who has been a mediocrity for much of his career like a superstar, and to compound the problem, they are locking him up during the time frame when he can be expected to decline. The Angels are ignoring basic baseball history by assuming that Garret Anderson will continue to play as well in his mid-30s as he did in his late-20s, and they pulled the trigger on the deal a full season before he was even eligible for free agency.

Such decisions, particularly when combined with the decisions to overpay Jose Guillen and Kelvim Escobar, should cause Rangers fans to breathe a little easier. As Tom Hicks has proven, spending a bunch of money on payroll is pointless if you don't spend the money wisely...

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Monday, April 12, 2004

Mark Prior, out until 2006? 

From CBSSportsline:

"Word circulating among baseball executives suggests that Mark Prior's right elbow injury might be serious enough to require Tommy John surgery and keep him out the entire year, according to a report in Sunday's Newark Star-Ledger. Cubs manager Dusty Baker has been confiding in friends that the situation is bleak. "

Good grief...fire Dusty Baker now...

The best young pitcher since...I don't know, maybe Roger Clemens, looking at a 12-18 month recovery period because Baker trashed his arm?

Inexcusable...

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Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Real Secret to the Rangers' 3-2 Start... 

Grouchy DMN columnist Gerry Fraley is following the Stars.

No doubt, without his negative, bile-spewing presence around the team, the Rangers' attitude has improved, thus leading to more wins.

Of course, it means that he's dragging the Stars down with him...maybe he can take a vacation for a few weeks, or get sent off to cover the Astros for a while or something.

And yes, I'm joking...although, given that Fraley's apparently the self-anointed chief curmudgeon on the DMN staff, finder of the dark lining to any silver cloud, I'm sure that the Rangers' management would be happy if he stayed elsewhere for a while...

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Thursday, April 08, 2004

Kazmir injured? 

A press announcement from the St. Lucie Mets indicates that uber-prospect Scott Kazmir may be hurt.

The press release said that Kazmir "had to leave the game early" after going just 1 2/3 innings.

Something to keep an eye on, particularly given the speculation nationally that the Rangers were interested in dealing Alfonso Soriano to the Mets in a deal that could include Kazmir.


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Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Rangers win!!! 

Yay!!!

A pretty good outing from Colby Lewis, which is the most encouraging thing. A bad beginning and end, as he walked the leadoff hitter on 4 pitches, and then ran out of gas late, giving up a homer and two walks in the 6th before getting pulled. But up to about the 90 pitch mark, he did a terrific job of throwing strikes early in the count, going after hitters, and staying away from those walks that killed him last year.

Very, very positive outing for Colby...let's hope he builds on it in his next start...

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Passing on Jeriome Robertson 

Never one to pass up an opportunity to take a shot at the Rangers, Gerry Fraley whined about the Rangers not trading Ramon Nivar for Jeriome Robertson, claiming that the Rangers "cannot afford to pass on 27-year-old left-handers who have had some success", even though saying that Robertson has had some success is setting the bar extremely low.

And to his credit, Evan Grant this week, in response to a reader's letter, did a very good job explaining why Robertson for Nivar would be a bad deal, given Robertson's mediocre peripherals, ERA, and flyball tendencies.

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The Diaz trade 

Einar Diaz was traded over the weekend, and the deal has been commented on by the Transaction Oracle and Jamey Newberg (along with Chris Kahrl in the Transaction Analysis, although his comments were mainly a snarky re-hash of how stupid John Hart was for trading Einar Diaz in the first place).

I didn't comment on the deal this weekend, because I didn't really know what to say about it. And I still don't, really. I am amazed that they were able to get anything for Diaz at all, but then, they kicked in Justin Echols as part of the deal, so that has to be taken into account. My initial reaction was that they would have been better off just releasing Diaz, but after looking a little more closely, I don't think that's the case any more...Josh McKinley and Chris Young are decent prospects, worth more combined than Echols alone.

The depressing part of this deal, of course, is that it dredges up the original Einar Diaz trade, where the Rangers gave away a pretty nice hitting prospect in Travis Hafner to get Diaz in the first place. Diaz was what he's always been in 2003, a good defensive catcher who doesn't hit much, and it seems like we could have found someone like that on the waiver wire or as a NRI without giving up Hafner...hell, we brought in two of those guys this spring, in Ken Huckaby and Rod Barajas.

At the end of the day, the net effect of the two Einar Diaz trades ends up being Aaron Myette, Travis Hafner, and Justin Echols for Ryan Drese, Josh McKinley, Chris Young, and one season's worth of Einar Diaz at $3.5 million. Myette is gone from Cleveland, and while he is floating around hoping that the light eventually comes on and he's able to channel his electric stuff well enough to become a good setup man, for all intents and purposes, he's a non-factor at this point.

Ryan Drese is still hanging around in AAA, with the Rangers still holding out hope that he can be an adequate fifth starter or middle reliever. He's got more value than Myette, in the sense that he had an option left and thus is still here, but barring a major turnaround, his value is pretty minimal.

That leaves the two pitchers and the two positional players. Young is older than Echols, and is more of a project, even though he pitched at a higher level than Echols last year. He's a giant guy who has frustrated pitching coaches because he hasn't been able to generate the velocity they believe he should generate with his frame. Echols is one of Melvin's coterie of high school pitchers, who has put up a fireballer's peripherals in the minors (lots of strikeouts, lots of walks, not many hits) despite having average velocity. With Echols, as with a lot of young pitchers, his ability to succeed depends upon his ability to cut down on his walks, although his lack of a dominating fastball makes his chances of success less likely than others with his profile as he advances.

Young and Echols are both middling prospects, and neither is real likely to make an impact. As Jamey pointed out, the most interesting question (which we can't really answer at this point) is which team pushed to include these two pitchers in the deal.

As for McKinley versus Hafner...well, the Rangers spent $1.5 million to get Brad Fullmer, who is basically an older version of Travis Hafner, this season. That was a cheap, reasonable deal, and I praised the Rangers for making it, although obviously, if they had never made the original bad Diaz trade, it wouldn't have been necessary.

But that highlights the thinking behind making Hafner available...why hold onto a guy who projects to be a pretty good DH when you can sign one any offseason on the cheap? And that does make a certain amount of sense...the mistake Hart made, however, as he made repeatedly in Cleveland, is not getting value for a young player who is expendable. The problem isn't with trading Hafner...it is with trading Hafner and getting little of value in return.

McKinley is being converted to catcher, and will apparently be the starting catcher for AA Frisco this year. If he takes to the position, he'll probably hit well enough to be a pretty decent major league starter. If not, he's a future utilityman, at best. Given that he's a guy that Fuson apparently has targeted for a while, since he was part of the aborted Juan Gonzalez trade last summer, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while, in light of Fuson's track record.

Again, though, what is most frustrating about this move is that it amounts to making the best of a bad situation that was self-inflicted. And that seems to be what most of the Rangers' deals lately have involved, be it the Darren Oliver trade for Carl Everett, the Esteban Yan trade, the Andy Pratt-Ben Kozlowski trade, and, in particular, the ridiculous Alex Rodriguez trade.

After a while, as a fan, it gets tiresome praising the Rangers for doing a pretty good job cleaning up a mess that they created in the first place.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

On the backlash against statheads 

One of the side effects of the success of "Moneyball" is a backlash against the sabermetric crowd by the "traditionalists"...those who think clutch hitting exists, RBIs are meaningful, and that the stats don't tell you as much as watching a player does. Baseball Prospectus has a very good piece on that trend, in which they try to de-bunk some of the myths about the statheads, and respond to some of their critics.

Part of the free section of BP, and an excellent read...

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Monday, April 05, 2004

Rangers lock up Mike Young 

After weeks of negotiating, and numerous whiny columns from the DFW media, the Rangers have signed Mike Young to a 4 year, $10 million deal.

They might have overpaid a tad, but still, if Young can make the transition to short successfully, this will probably work out well for the Rangers.

And a nice way to close out the spring, making a commitment to a guy who seems to be very well liked by both the media and his teammates, and who appears to be one of the building blocks that the Rangers are going to construct the team around.


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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Milton Bradley traded to L.A. 

Well, Bradley to the Rangers was a nice fantasy, but Milton Bradley is a Dodger.

L.A. gave up Franklin Gutierrez and a player to be named later, and TV stations out of Cleveland are purportedly describing the PTBNL as a "significant" prospect.

That's a pretty steep price for Bradley, probably a better package than the Dominguez/Mench combo they wanted from Texas.

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One positive thing from Showalter 

One of the big stathead campaigns of late has been the return of the four-man rotation; given the shortage of quality starters, the argument goes, a team is best served by replacing 32 starts from a fifth starter with eight starts apiece from the top four starters.

While the Rangers aren't going to a true five man rotation, Buck Showalter has indicated that he will skip the fifth spot in the rotation when possible, noting that the Rangers need a fifth starter only seven times until the All-Star Break. This would allow Mickey Callaway to swing between a long-relief role and the fifth starter spot.

Given the rotation problems the Rangers currently have, eliminating as many starts as possible from their weakest starter, whomever it may be, can only help matters...

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Rangers dropping out of contention for Bradley 

Despite early interest in acquiring Cleveland headcase Milton Bradley, it looks like the Rangers have judged the Indians' demands too steep. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Indians asked for Kevin Mench and Juan Dominguez for Bradley, while the Star-Telegram, citing Rangers sources, says that the Indians asked for Mench, Adrian Gonzalez, and newly-acquired Joaquin Arias.

I'm surprised that the Indians are after Mench, rather than Ramon Nivar, although they reportedly were ready to trade Ricardo Rodriguez for Mench, rather than Ryan Ludwick, prior to Mench's injury last season, so the Indians have had their eye on Mench for a while.

I'd probably make the Dominguez/Mench deal, but giving up Mench, Gonzalez and Arias would be too much for Bradley...

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Rangers interested in Milton Bradley 

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Rangers are among four teams that have expressed interest in acquiring headcase centerfielder Milton Bradley.

That's good news. It will be interesting to see how this plays out...

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Milton Bradley storms out on Indians 

CF Milton Bradley has left the Cleveland Indians, and Peter Gammons is reporting the Indians will trade him within 72 hours.

Bradley has a history of bad behavior and off-the-field problems, with this just being the latest, and apparently the straw that broke the camel's back in Cleveland.

John Hart better be on the phone with Mark Shapiro, the Indian G.M. (and Hart's protege). The Rangers are in dire need of a quality offensive, and defensive, centerfielder. Bradley is young, inexpensive, and (when healthy) a top-tier centerfielder. He would allow the Rangers to go with a Mench/Bradley/Nix outfield, which would be an upgrade over the Mench/Nix/(Jordan/Dellucci platoon) we currently have. And Hart has a history of dealing with malcontents, be it Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Carl Everett, or John Rocker...

The Rangers have stockpiled some good young talent in the minors, and it is time to put some of that to use...offer Ramon Nivar and a couple of pitchers from the lower levels, and see if that's enough to entice the Indians to send Bradley this way.


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