November 1, 2010

If you had expected I might have posted something this October, you were wrong, but there was a good reason for it:  the Rangers were winning.

Not that I wanted them to lose, of course, but because of that craziest of sports things:  superstition.  You see, I hadn’t posted in a while, and they’d been winning, and the longer it went and the more I wanted to say something, the more I knew I couldn’t.  If I wrote something, they’d lose, and it would be all my fault.

Last week, on Wednesday afternoon, I went to Academy and bought some items.  Found a really nice gray-blue World Series hat, claw and antlers and a Rangers logo on it.  Wore it during Game 1 and Game 2.  Took it off for Game 3.  Yeah, superstition.  I guess I can wear it again now.

Went to Game 4, which, for the amount of money I had to pay on StubHub, was a rip.  Especially given the result.  And even though I was way in the depths of the third deck past the foul pole (couldn’t even see the center or right fielders at the start of each play), I was disappointed at the crowd.  There were occasional chants of Lets Go Rangers, but they were very much half-hearted.  When I read Jamey Newberg’s comments about the crowd this morning, I was very much nodding my head.  People seemed to be there just to say they’d been to a World Series game, like they knew what was going to happen so it was just the experience they wanted.  I wanted that, but I wanted a win too.  If we’d won yesterday, we’d still be going tomorrow.

Which leads to a few other things.  Like, why didn’t Cliff start Game 4?  We all knew Tommy Hunter wasn’t going to work out.  Didn’t know the offense was going to disappear though.  A whole bunch of bad at-bats.  At this point I’m supposed to say something about how it was great pitching from the Giants, but screw them.  They won.

Another thought from the playoffs:  taunting.  There’s a fine line between celebrating your team’s win and taunting someone else’s loss.  Yankees fans jump across that line all the time.  There’s only one thing I always think about when I hear about Roberto Alomar, and that’s taunting.  In the World Series in 92 (I think), the Blue Jays beat the Braves, and Alomar was in the clubhouse doing the Tomahawk Chop and singing “no, no, nooooo” to the tune of the Braves chant of the time.  That’s taunting, and that’s what has made him a jerk to me all these years.  I bring that up for two reasons:  in the Tampa series, a couple of the Tampa players were doing the claw as they won Game 4.  If I knew who they were, I’d remember them for that.  Glad they lost because of that.  The other is the Giants fan as we left the ballpark Sunday night, standing on a table and waving a Giants flag.  Sorry, pal, my memory of the 2010 World Series won’t be of your team outplaying and outpitching the Rangers, it’ll be of one jerk who has to ruin things for his whole team.

Not going to get into the manager right now.  I’ll put it this way:  he pretty much just got himself a job for life in Texas.  And he by no means deserves it.  I will maintain until the day I die that the team won in spite of him, not because of him.  He might be a good motivator, he might be a good coach, but he’s a terrible field manager and a terrible decision maker.  Just about every loss during this post season can be laid at his feet in one way or another, if not doing the actual deed then certainly not putting his team in a position to do well, or worse, taking them out of one.  And how he could let Vlad take all those at-bats, when he was a shadow of himself from even just a couple of months ago?  Certainly not hitting cleanup.

How come everyone thinks Nolan Ryan did such a great job turning this team around the last couple of years?  All his ideas that got the pitching staff going.  What was Mike Maddux, chopped liver?  He’s now done it in two places, and you can bet he’ll be a guy with a job for life, and that will be deserved.

Struggling to think what we can do with Michael Young.  He can’t keep embarrassing himself and the team out there at third.  The number of balls he missed that were right by him (or right at him in a few cases) was astonishing.  Does he have the power to play first, or DH?  Can he move to the outfield?  I don’t know, but Elvis can’t cover it all himself.

OK, final thought for the night:  In the next few days you’ll hear a lot of people saying “oh well, at least they are the AL Champs for the first time ever”.  To those people I say:  Bite Me.  Anyone who thinks that is not a sports fan.  That’s like getting a silver medal, nobody cares.  In my sporting fandom I’ve lost a number of finals (more than I’d care to think about), and in every case the trite “at least you were there” is like a punch to the gut.  No, it’s not like a silver medal, it’s like getting a participation award.  Tell that to the six year old who was crying himself to sleep tonight.  Then try telling it to his dad, who was sitting there trying not to cry himself.


Frenchy? JD is waving the white flag

August 31, 2010

C’mon, really?

I mean, Jeff Francoeur, really?  Really?

Okay, right now Jon Daniels’ GM reputation is based on getting Josh Hamilton and the Tex trade.  If you look at those, I’ll admit it, he looks pretty good.  But the negative side of the ledger is looking worse and worse.

Just take this year.  Gets Cliff Lee, great!  Doesn’t even do too bad in the trade.  Sure, Cliff has stumbled of late, and he’s not going to be back, but still, he’s going to get back to form in time to win in the playoffs (as the Rangers go down 3-1 to the Yankees in the first round).

But look at what else he’s done.  Cantu, he’s been dreck, although you’d have to say his track record suggested he should be better (not much, but better) than what he has been.  Molina was a bad deal all around (did I ever mention the Giants blog I read, that the very day he was traded, that morning they had said the Giants needed to get rid of him as soon as possible, because he is worthless?).  Cristian Guzman was a stupid panic deal, made worse by the fact they had to hide him on the DL so he couldn’t hurt the team any worse.  Alex Cora?  Roster filler.

And Francoeur.  This is probably the worst of them all.  I point you to this post, where the operative quote is down in the comments: “He could help a team as the short side of a corner outfield platoon.  Anyone who trades for him and gives him any more of a role than this will immediately earn consideration as the worst GM in the game, and will deserve to be immediately fired.”  So who wants to bet that Ron Washington runs him out there every day?

Or how about this,where the quote is “a pitch that might hit Jeff Francoeur’s knee, and he’s as likely to swing at it as a pitch right down the pipe to Gardner.”  Hey, at least Vlad will have company.

Or you could just look at this and cry a little.

Sorry, but as bad as that loss was (a walk-off wild pitch, after a bad Cliff Lee outing), the news the Rangers had acquired Frenchy is much more upsetting to me.  Even for Arias, where clearly it was a case of two teams dumping their 25th man on each other.

Bah.  The more I think about it, the more I come up with to be mad about.  This guy has been a joke on the blogs for years.  Oh, sorry, bloggers, what do they know, these guys are real baseball professionals.

JD, as a GM you’re going to make a great minor league coordinator one day.  And Chuck Greenberg is talking about contract extensions for JD and Washington.  I guess going 30-30 over a couple of months is something worth celebrating around here.

First but worst

August 18, 2010

The next person I hear saying that the Rangers have the biggest lead in baseball is going to get punched in the mouth.  I don’t care if it’s Josh Lewin, the guys on the radio, or someone at my office, I will track them down.

Why, you ask?  Because I’m sick of hearing that!  It’s meaningless.  It’s a pathetic way to drum up support for the team, and pretend they are better than they are.  It avoids all mention of anything like context, or how badly the team actually is playing.

So, here’s the context:  Yes, the Rangers have the biggest lead in baseball (excuse me while I punch myself in the mouth). Now, put them in any other division, and guess what?  They wouldn’t be in first place anywhere else!  Yeah, you heard me right, the great Rangers team, playing really good ball this year… and in the NL Central they’d be a game out of first, which is the closest they’d be to any of the other division leaders.

But, so what?  They’re in the AL West, and the reason they have such a big lead is that the rest of the AL West sucks, not because of the Rangers.  If any of the other teams were able to put together a run, they might be able to give the Rangers some serious competition.  But even though the Rangers have gone 3-7 in the last ten, the Angels have only gone 5-5, so they pick up two games.  Woohoo.  Keep doing that, and they might be able to squeeze by the Rangers by the end.  But they won’t, as my last post said, and I don’t believe the Rangers will go 3-7 the rest of the way either.  Maybe 5-5.

Anyway, so what if they do have the biggest lead?  Doesn’t matter if you win by one game or a hundred (except for the ability to rest people for the playoffs).  I’m about 99% sure the Rangers are going to get into the playoffs.  Obviously they’ll be the division winners, since they’re currently 6.5 games out of the wildcard after being humiliated in Tampa.

(Speaking of Tampa, you know the difference between Texas and Florida?  After the game today, the Rays were hosting a senior citizen’s prom, complete with king and queen.  Yep, that’s Florida, where people go to die.)

Now, let’s assume the races are settled in the AL.  Minnesota has a 5 game lead in the Central, and the Yanks and Rays are 5.5 ahead of Boston.  It’s possible someone will cough up one of those leads in the final month and a half, but if you were a betting man you wouldn’t get very good odds on it.  One of the Yanks or Rays will win the East, the other will be the wildcard.  Given that the wildcard cannot play the team from their division in the first round of the playoffs, that means they’re guaranteed to play the Twins and Rangers.  Whichever team wins the East will host the Rangers, since the Rangers have an inferior record to the Twins.  Does it matter which is which?  Do you think the Rangers will have much success going to either Yankee Stadium or Tampa in the first round?  No.  They won’t.

I can’t even see it happening with Cliff Lee on the mound, unless he has some kind of magic playoff mojo.  He can’t get any support here, plus he’s suddenly become mortal over the last couple of games.  And yeah, if you think he’s re-signing with the Rangers, I have one of those famous bridges to sell you.  He’ll say all the right things, but the look on his face in the dugout the other night should be all you need to see.  A zillion Yankee dollars is what’s going to get him.

So, here’s my prediction, and it’s a bad one:  The Rangers will probably win their second ever playoff game, but they still won’t win their first ever playoff series.

Finally, a little more food for thought:  Since the eleven game win streak back in June, the Rangers are now below .500, at 23-24.  Just a week short of two months where they haven’t even won as many as they lost.  Thank you Angels for being so bad at the same time.

Print those playoff tickets already, will ya?

August 11, 2010

If you’re an optimistic Rangers fan, stop reading right now (this means you, Jamey Newberg).

Okay, now that they’ve stopped reading, here’s what I have to say:  The Rangers are not as good as you think they are.  I’ve been listening to a lot of sports talk radio lately, and hearing folks jumping on the bandwagon.  Every so often they’ll have the pessimists (like me) call, and say that they don’t believe because of the team’s history of collapsing.  In the last few days they were even asking if people were ready to start pressing the panic button.  Of course, you beat the Yankees last night (and lead in the 8th inning as I write tonight) and everything’s all right with the world again.  Short term memories for a lot of people.  Either that, or they’re the kind of people who say they don’t believe in global warming because there was a bit of snow where they live.

Now, my reason for not believing is not because of the Rangers’ history of discovering that their pitchers were just having a career year (hello Mr Feldman!).  I disbelieve because of the way the current season has gone.  The folks jumping in to root for the Rangers (although welcome) are only doing so because they see the Rangers climbing into a double digit lead (“biggest in baseball” as we are reminded ad nauseum, as though the poor performances of the rest of the division are something to be proud of).  But people haven’t noticed one thing:  the Rangers are not building this lead.  It’s actually the Angels who are doing it (and the A’s, I guess, although I really don’t care about them).

Now, what do I mean by that?  Take a look at the Rangers record.  Remember way back when, in June to be precise, they had an 11 game win streak (against those NL powerhouses of Milwaukee, Florida, Houston and Pittsburgh)?  What do you think they’ve done since then?  They’ve gone 21-19.  That’s right, in a month and a half they’re barely above .500.  Why has their lead gone up since then?  Because the Angels have been even worse – 17-23, to drop four games in that time.  Take out that 11 game streak, or even just make it a more normal 6-5 instead of 11-0, and the Rangers are stumbling in first by only 3 or 4 games.

Here’s a chart of the way the teams in the AL West have gone this season (I made this over the weekend, so it’s a couple of games out of date):

Games above 500

You can visually see the 11 game win streak, and how the Rangers have been losing just as much as winning since then.

So, ask yourself this question (the big question for Rangers fans):  Are the Rangers capable of winning the division?  Can they really hang on?  Which is more likely, that the Rangers can step it up a notch, or that the Angels will suddenly find themselves?  If you believe that the Angels are more talented than their record (and you might not since their loss of guys like Vlad from the last few years of dominance), you might expect them to be able to swing back into winning ways more easily than the Rangers.

One way of looking at things is to look at the last few years, with another chart:

Win Pct by Month

This would be the winning percentage of the Angels and Rangers this year (dark colors) and the last three years (07-09) combined (light colors).  Interesting the way they track each other this year – as the Rangers went up, so did the Angels, as the Rangers went down, so did the Angels.

[Minor interruption:  Feliz just blew the save.  He pitched two innings last night, and I said to myself there’s no way he’s available tonight.  Guess Ron Washington knows more than I do.]

The Rangers have followed the same pattern all four years, starting slow (despite everyone saying how good Washington is at having people prepared), getting good for a while (this is where people usually start jumping on the bandwagon), then fading down the stretch.  The Angels have been similar, although they tend to peak a little later, and all-in-all are better on average every month in the past three years.

So looking at this, what is the outlook for the Rangers this year?  As the old saying goes, if the Rangers only go .500 the rest of the way, the Angels would have to go about 33-14, close enough to .700 ball.  That puts the Rangers in a pretty good position.  Can you see the Angels playing .700 the rest of the way?  Look at the last three years, the Angels haven’t even managed to go .600 in August and September.  My guess is they will right their ship a little, and they will go .600, while the Rangers continue to stumble along at .500.  If that happens, the Rangers will end up with about a five game lead at the end, which is a good enough cushion – although if it comes down to that final week against the Angels and they’re at five or closer, the Rangers might just be in position for an epic collapse.

[And there goes the loss, dammit.]

Now when we get to the playoffs, it’s a different matter.  Everyone knows (don’t they?) that the playoffs are a crapshoot.  You roll the dice and hope for the best.  In our case, we hope for Cliff Lee to be just about perfect, because the cast of thousands behind him might not be enough.  Which of the guys in the rotation do you bet on in the playoffs?

Colby?  He’s having a really good year, and he might be good enough.  Not really tested in the big pressure cooker of the playoffs though.  I think I would trust him though.

CJ?  Do you know that with the next out he gets, he will have matched the combined total of his previous two highest innings pitched seasons?  Yeah, he’s at 141 innings, next best for his career is 73.  If that doesn’t worry you, nothing will.  Way back in April I was doubting that he could last a full season as a starter (and then I cringed as Washington sent him out time and time again to throw 100 pitches in six innings).  I’m amazed that he’s gone as far as he has, every outing I expect his arm to fall off.

Tommy Hunter?  Love the guy.  I think he’ll be a great pitcher in a few years.  Now though, going into the playoffs?  Maybe he can do it, maybe he hasn’t learned how to lose yet.  We can hope.

So you’ve got two likely’s in Lee and Lewis, and two maybes in CJ and Hunter.  A lot of teams have ridden two horses all the way through the playoffs, so there’s no reason the Rangers can’t.

Assuming they can hit, that is, and that’s not a good assumption right now.  They are sorely missing Kinsler, who every time he is out injured is supposed to be back in just a few days, and ends up being gone for a few months.  The guys they’re putting on second just aren’t doing the job.  Cristian Guzman was a panic trade, because the Kinsler injury happened a few days before the deadline, and they thought they needed to do something.  He hasn’t shown anything with the bat or in the field since he came over.  Seriously, I think Blanco would be a better option, at least he gives something when he’s fielding.  And I never thought I’d say that Blanco would be a better option than anyone.  In fact, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, Guzman, Blanco or Arias (if he ever comes back from his conveniently timed injury), they’re all much of a muchness.

Looking at the other trades, Cantu and Molina haven’t shown much either yet.  Of course, they weren’t expected to, based on their career numbers.  I think all of the trades (Lee excepted) were just done to make the team look like it was doing something.  They weren’t really upgrades, were they?  Unless you say upgrades over Chris Davis, which pretty much anything would be.  Point is, the way things were going, there wasn’t much the Rangers could do to mess up the season.  They’re very likely to make the playoffs, and most of those guys will have little to do in October other than ride the bench.  I guess the good part is that most of them won’t be around in the next few years, when things might really get interesting around here.  The bad part is that Cliff Lee won’t be around either.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again:  I write these posts in my head every day.  Just wish I could get round to writing them on the computer.  I have the greatest respect for Jamey and the prodigious output he has had over the last decade.

JD talks trash about the Rangers

June 24, 2009

I’d say it’s time for a fisking, but I’m not going into that much detail.  Just a few thoughts on an article on the Rangers site today.

The title is “Daniels says Texas could add to ‘pen”.  That should tell you a lot.  In fact, the opening quote is “it’s more likely that he’ll be able to improve his ballclub by adding bullpen help than in any other area”.  Now, you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lot of things we’re looking for, but one of them is not bullpen help.  Why, you ask?  If I could be bothered digging out the study I’m thinking of (my guess is it’s either in The Book or on The Book Blog, about the smartest baseball site around), it shows that the worst position to trade for during a season is the bullpen.  These guys don’t pitch much, and when they do they’re prone to great variation.  You’re just as likely to pick up good bullpen help by picking random player X from AAA as you are in a trade, and you don’t even have to give up something to get it.

If the Rangers have anywhere to improve, it’s the rotation.  Millwood is pitching lights-out, because he’s got a contract to play for, and Feldman has been more than holding his own (seriously, all those scouts who talk about a “game face”, they never looked at Feldman and said no thanks?  At least one of his parents must have been a frog).  But the rest?  I mean the other seven guys who’ve started a game for the Rangers next year, they’ve been below average (Padilla, McCarthy), sucky (Harrison, Holland), or roster filler (the rest).  Mathis is doing well in AAA but couldn’t make the leap, Feliz is staying down a while longer, and the rest aren’t anywhere near.  The thoughts of contention in 2010 rapidly fade when you think that maybe Holland and Feliz will be here, with less than a year’s experience, and the rest of the touted pitchers are still far away.

So yeah, if they want to contend in ’09, they need a starter.  But then JD says “the club’s need for starting pitching is not as dire as it’s being made out to be nationally”.  Uhh, right.  You go into a season with basically the same staff as last year, a year when they trailed the world in pitching, and imagine they’re going to be great this time around.  That May thing, where they pitched surprisingly well for a month before slumping again, that was what’s known as an outlier.  June is called regression to the mean.  By the way, did you notice they did the same last year – team ERA for May ’08 was 3.90, next best month was 5.08 – what’s that about?  The May ’09 ERA was 3.57, best since May (again!) of ’05.  Did you think they could repeat?

“Daniels said his most likely direction right now is to, “probably stay the course.””  Or, in other words, to pretend that they are contenders with the team they have, since crowds are up a little and no-one seems to be noticing the glaring holes.  And, oh yeah, there’s that little thing about money.  The thing where Tom Hicks bought a whole bunch of toys (Rangers, Stars, Liverpool, the AAC, the list goes on) using Other People’s Money, and now it’s time to pay the bills and he’s being found out for the fool he is.  Along with a bunch of other financial geniuses, of course.

“Daniels, like manager Ron Washington, continues to express confidence that first baseman Chris Davis will snap out of a season-long slump that has the Rangers considering other options at the position.”  CD sucks, so get him down to AAA.  You are of course aware that he just set a record for fastest to 100 strikeouts.  He is swinging at anything, and you see the fear in his eyes.  I happened to be browsing a story from April yesterday, which said they’d signed Joe Kochansky as depth at first.  Lost him pretty quickly, and never filled the gap.  Shame, because they really need it now.  Frankly, anyone would be better than CD right now.  I wonder if Ben Broussard is available?  CD needs to go down, but they will not admit they are wrong and send him there.

“Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson has been mentioned as a possibility and Cardinals infielder Troy Glaus could become available at some point.”  Johnson will cost a lot, because the Nats suck badly, and the only way they’ll get better is by robbing someone in a trade.  And yes, Glaus could become available, just as soon as he gets into a game this year.  The Rangers will do better to give the job to Andruw Jones for the meantime.

“But one of the reasons why we’re in the position we are today is how we’re playing defense and Chris is a big part of that.”  I always choose my first baseman based on how good his glove is.  The bat, that’s kind of incidental.  I mean, he’s just one number away from being a second baseman, and no-one cares how they hit, right?

“Nobody is more frustrated than he is.”  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Yeah we are.

“Starting pitching could be more expensive, both in prospects and salary that would have to be added. The Rangers are reluctant to trade top Minor League prospects”.  Me too.  Really, I don’t believe the Rangers are contenders, and I don’t believe there’s only one piece out there that would make them so.  There are a lot of empty shells that look pretty, but don’t help the team as much as you might think.  I love Marlon Byrd’s work ethic, but let’s face it, he is a below average hitter and his fielding is pretty bad too.  Shame that Hamilton had to run into a wall too many, but of course he’s more suited to a corner too.

“and this could be a tough time to add salary with the current economic conditions.”  Especially when your owner was one of those morons who said “hey, property values are always going to go up, let’s gamble since it’s free money!”

I think I actually like Jon Daniels now.  He’s doing a pretty good job lately.  Okay, ignore the fact that Danks, Young, Volquez, Millwood, Galarraga would look like a fairly decent rotation.  I mean apart from that.  Clearly, in an interview like this, he’s got to say a bunch of good stuff about the team.  First of all, chances are some or all of the team are going to hear about his comments, and it won’t go over too well if he tells the truth about them.  And second, there’s all those tickets to sell, during the summer when it’s getting time for the Cowboys to start practicing.  If they can just pretend the team is contending for another month or two, they might be able to break even this year.

But never mind, it’s his job, for now at least.  Personally, if you or I gave Ron Washington an extension based on his performance this year, our feet wouldn’t touch the ground on the way out the door.  JD says he has a plan, and I have to believe him, even if I think that plan is slipping to 2011 or 2012, and depending on what they do the next few weeks, maybe even 2013.  At the very least, he’s padding his resume for a future director of scouting job.

The other thought that crosses my mind is Pedro Martinez.  Not the ridiculous rumors that we should sign him, both sides would be foolish to do that.  I actually mean the trade that took him to Boston.  Carl Pavano and Tony Armas were considered top prospects, and the initial reaction was that they paid too much for Pedro.  Wouldn’t hear that now, would you?  No, now all you’re hear is TANSTAAPP – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.  JD ought to remember that, when he’s thinking about blockbuster deals (which should be a year or two away).

And if anyone dares to mention Orlando Hernandez, I’ll be waiting for them outside with a bat in my hand.


June 11, 2009

No, there’s no space in the title, so don’t get your hopes up.  They extended him, anyway.

I hate rainouts.  You have all the waiting round to see if something is going to happen, and then it doesn’t.  Waste a bunch of time that you could use on more interesting things, but you don’t want to get started on something in case the game starts.  You’d think they’d have a better system for calling games, like someone saying “hey guys, there’s a bunch of tornadoes around, let’s get out of here!”.  They just don’t want to give up the ticket money.

Our garage door was bowing in the wind tonight, I really thought it was going to bust in and do some real damage.  It’s an interesting feeling to be watching the rotation in the clouds, while you’re listening to sirens going off.  No touchdowns, but it was certainly running through my mind at the time.  And there’s still thunder as I write, 6 hours later.

Our first pick in the draft went to Klein High in Spring, which is where both David Murphy and my niece went.  At different times, of course.

The Red Sox are 7-0 against the Yankees this year?  Wow!  If it wasn’t for that series, the Yanks could have a good lead in their division.  Of course, we might say the same about us and the Tigers, too.

I really want to write something insightful here, but I don’t have squat.  If I’d thought of it earlier, I could have started a longer stat study, my next will be on the 300 game winners and how they got there.  But it’s almost 1.30, so you’ll have to wait – just don’t hold your breath.

It’s June, time for the collapse to begin

June 9, 2009

I write this in my head every day.  It’s the getting it out through my fingertips that is the problem.

I want the Rangers to win, I really do.  I want them to make the playoffs, to actually win a playoff series, to win it all.  I’d love it if it was this year.  But as a Rangers fan (and an Arsenal fan) I know that it is far too easy for a team to set you up and then knock you down.  Every day I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the bandwagon to turn into a pumpkin.  That’s the way my mindset works.  The longer it takes for the Rangers to fall away, the worse it is going to be.  That tiny little feeling in the back of my mind that yes, they really are going to do it, is just going to end up a cruel joke.  And those folks who are getting on the bandwagon are going to be getting off in a hurry (Newy Scruggs, who has built his Dallas career on slamming the Rangers, had the gall on the radio today to be telling folks to shut up and enjoy the ride), and many of them will be having fun at my expense (all the people in my office who today are coming up to me and talking about “our” Rangers, in September they’ll be saying how much “your” team sucks for blowing it).  I can’t stand it, as Charlie Brown would appropriately say.

All of Tom Hicks’ teams are falling apart financially.  Even Liverpool lost fifty million pounds, seventy-five million dollars give or take, although they’re pretty much blaming the way he financed the team for that.  It’s funny, this is one of those cases where you’re enjoying a banker getting his, but then realizing what it could mean for the team.  Nolan Ryan as the owner?  Not many would say that was a bad thing.  But who else might want to get in on it?  David McDavid was rumored, not sure how a guy in the car business would get that kind of money these days.  And then there’s the man himself, Mr Cuban.  Out of the frying pan indeed.

You know what’s funny?  For years I’ve seen guys like Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard striking out near 200 times, and said who cares, it’s just an out, and they’re still hitting 40 home runs.  But when it’s one of ours, somehow it’s personal.  I think Chris Davis needs to go back to the minors, sad as that would be.  I just don’t want to see him flailing wildly again any more.  I’ve gotten to the point of closing my eyes or leaving the room when he bats.  It’s sad when they have to pinch-hit Andruw Jones for him to avoid a sombrero.

Wash was renewed today, of course, just a day after ESPN published a story saying how he wasn’t happy that he hadn’t been renewed yet.  Okay, technically he said he didn’t care, that he’d find something, but still, it was interesting timing.  I wish I had the dates from when he was extended last year, I’m pretty sure it came after a hot streak and was followed by the team’s collapse, but I may just be dreaming that (or foretelling it).

McCarthy is so brittle, they ought to check to make sure he has all his bones.  Although if they do, they’ll probably find another one he can break.  So much promise, so little on-field time.  You could argue that this comes so soon after his back-to-back 118 and 124 pitch starts, that surely they’re related.  I ought to make a chart showing the pitchers’ recent performances before their injuries.

Way back at the start of the season I said “I will bet you that one or more of these first four starters will be on the DL by the end of the month.”  Well, I was off a little, both in numbers and time.  The first five starters of the season were Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, Benson and Harrison.  Four of them have now spent time on the DL.  Wow.  How are the Rangers still managing to win?  Maybe they are star-crossed this season.

You’re not a true DIYer until you’ve fallen through a ceiling.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Padilla is infuriating.  I’ve said before that I watch his starts hiding behind the chair, just peeking now and then, waiting for the meltdown to happen.  Was that whole waiver thing really an attempt at a wake-up call?  Could they really afford to dump him now, when there’s no-one else left to go into the rotation?

Holland isn’t going to be a big league starter.  Not with three pitches, one of which he throws 80 percent of the time.  You can blow a 97 mph fastball past AA players, but in the majors they feast on it all day long.  Have you noticed how the more he pitches, the more he’s hit, and the worse he looks?  Okay, he’s still young, but there’s a lot more development needed.

I’m going to predict right now that the Rangers will make a blockbuster trade this month, for a starting pitcher.  The sooner the better.  I’m not saying Halladay or Greinke caliber, but Bedard might be available (although not necessarily within the division), or maybe Cliff Lee?

It says something when you’re unhappy about the Rangers splitting a road trip to NY and Boston.

As of when I write, the Rangers are leading the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, one of the better fielding ratings out there.  That’s going from dead last a year ago.  Really, the only significant change was moving Michael Young to third and bringing in Elvis at short.  Somehow, Michael is actually a worse third baseman than shortstop (you can make the excuse that he’s learning the position all you want.  I’ll just reply with the defensive spectrum, that short is a much harder position to field).  He’s even worse than the rag-tag mob that played there last year.  Between Elvis, who is head and shoulders above any other shortstop in baseball this year, and Kinsler, who has made a dramatic improvement, they’ve lifted the team a lot.  There are people who say the change this year is not the pitching, it’s the fielding, and they may be right.  Could all that losing of the last decade be placed on the horrible fielding from Michael Young?  If we’d had a decent shortstop in that time, could things have looked a lot different?  Something for the simulations, I guess.

2am.  This is why I don’t post that much.  Won’t even have any time for some Far Cry.  And only 17 hours until it all starts up again.

A little help

April 20, 2009

What would you think if I ran out of runs, would you stand up and walk out on me?  Lend me your ear and I’ll tell you a tale, and I’ll try not to go oh for three.

And so we continue the saga of Kevin Millwood suing the Rangers hitters for lack of support, as the rather boring old joke goes.  Here’s a question for you:  what exactly does clutch mean?  Numerous sabermetric studies show that clutch hitting doesn’t exist, but any baseball man will tell you that such-and-such a player is clutch, because he gets better when the game is on the line.  And, returning to Millwood, they’ll tell you players perform better in contract years, because their money is on the line.

Let me suggest this to you (and you’ve probably heard it before):  since it is impossible for anyone to give more than 100% (which by definition is the maximum), if they improve they must have actually been giving less than 100%.  So a clutch hitter is, if ever possible to find, not so much a clutch hitter in those pressure situations, but rather a choke hitter at other times.  And a Millwood is not so much proving himself this year, as proving he was dogging it the last three years.  He can bleat all he wants about finally being healthy this year, but you go back every spring and you’ll see stories about him being fitter than ever (didn’t he spend the winter a year or two ago doing karate to improve his fitness?).  So, whether these first three starts are an indication of being healthy, being better, or the contract year, I have no faith in him any more.  I’m waiting for him to break down, and I’m waiting for him to prove it was just a small sample size thing.  If that doesn’t happen, I’ll consider him a money-grubbing jerk.

We went to Saturday night’s game, but I spent more time out of my seat than in it.  Had to get seats in the third deck, because I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay $65 a seat to sit in the good seats (although by the end of the game I told my wife to make me buy the better seats if I ever think of going in the third deck again).  I spent about two innings trying to get some hot dogs and cokes on the third deck, and after a long wait I eventually went down to level two to get them, which was much faster.  Note to Rangers:  your food service on the third level sucks.  Watching the servers for four different lines grab each hot dog or hamburger as they came out, one by one, was pitiful.  The vendor up there is not doing their job, and even if I did only pay $8 a ticket, I would rather stay at home than sit in there again.

Between the first two games of the season and last night, someone in the Rangers organization made the rule that the vendors have to take the caps off the soda and water bottles before giving them to us.  Note to that person:  you are a $*(&(@$&.  Get out of your air-conditioned box, then try carrying a tray with hot dogs and a couple of uncapped bottles up the stairs on the third level.  I don’t care if someone else threw their caps, you don’t punish everyone for it.  You’re not Homeland Security.

Brad Wilkerson retired.  Some of us would say he retired three years ago, he just kept wearing the uniform.

Not even a Michael Young walk-off can make me happy about the fact that the Rangers are playing sucky ball.  I keep thinking I need to revise the projection down.  Seventy is looking a long way off right now.  The teams we’ve played so far are a combined 17-20 when not playing the Rangers.  How bad are we going to be when we play some good teams?  Better yet, how bad is the rest of the division when we’re tied for second?

Wish I’d known Derek Holland was in the bullpen Saturday.  We stood behind there in the late innings, and I looked at them, but the only ones I knew were Frankie Francisco and Taylor Teagarden (FF & TT).  Would have even been a nice surprise if Holland had had his jacket off, so I could have read the name on his back.  Could have told my son that there’s another one of the guys we met at Jamey’s book signing in December.

I feel pretty confident in saying that this is no longer Michael Young’s Rangers, it’s now Ian Kinsler’s Rangers.  There was a palpable difference in the crowd when Kinsler was up, compared to anyone else.  Okay, he just cycled and went 6 for 6, which would sure help his profile, but even without that I think he is now the man.  If you want another indicator:  my four year old now has an Ian Kinsler shirt, to go with his old Michael Young.  His choice.

I still want an Elvis shirt.  Best first two weeks for a Rangers rookie ever?  Must be close.  He’s starting to get the crowd buzz, too.

Do you need anybody?  I need somebody to love.  Could it be anybody?  Sure, as long as they can help the Rangers win.  It might take Superman though.

Fooled me once, shame on you

April 18, 2009

They give you hope, they take it away.  Actually, I don’t have hope, except for a fleeting moment after sweeping the Indians, and watching the Angels implode.  Fact is, the Rangers are in last place in the West, and there’s only one team with a worse record in the AL.  Sweet dreams are not made of this.  The Indians, the team we swept, have gone 3-5 since, so they were a bad team we were beating up on.  The only good team in the West, and I use good in it’s broadest sense, are the Mariners, off to a 8-3 start on their way to 75 wins.

My guess?  First team in the West to 81 wins will take the division title.  Rangers?  71.

Over-under on Ron Washington I put at May 10.  Can’t even win when we’re given a patsy schedule to start the season?  His only saving grace may be the Rangers in foreclosure, so they won’t want to pay him to do nothing while they hire a new manager and have to pay them a million bucks.

2010 is looking a long way away, and realistically, if we’re planning on contending with a bunch of rookie pitchers, it ain’t gonna happen.  Let’s assume we get three prospects up from OKC by the end of the year.  They replace Millwood, Padilla and Benson.  Are we really going to be in it with a rotation whose most experienced player is Brandon McCarthy?  Or whichever piece of dreck they drag in next winter?  Nope, those guys will need time, as will the next group, and the group after that.  At best you’re bringing in three guys a year, two of whom can stick.  In three years you have half a pitching staff, with very little experience.  2012 is the earliest, unless the other teams throw in the towel.  Let me revise that:  2012 is the earliest we win a playoff series.

Millwood is flattering to deceive.  Just pray he doesn’t get to 180, or we’ll get another year of it.  I’ll be at the game tomorrow night, so I bet his true colors will be shining through.  Five innings, five runs.

It’s become even more clear that Nolan Ryan’s emphasis on starters going longer has been pushed into the manager’s brain, because he gets everybody 100 pitches regardless of if they stink or not that day.  I think he has a flowchart on how to manage pitchers, with the first box asking “has he thrown 100 pitches?”, and the No answer being “do nothing”.

CJ Wilson should never come in with a four run lead.  I’ve talked about this before:  bring him on with bases loaded and nobody out, he strikes out the side.  A four run lead, he will melt like an icecream on a Dallas sidewalk in August.

The Rangers are second in the league in batting average.  Take out Kinsler and Byrd and they fall to tenth.  Yeah, that’s how much those two have meant so far.  The offense has definitely not been firing very well so far, and 19 run outbursts really just mask how things are.  If we really have such an excess of offense, as we seem to every year, how come we’re not trading some of it for pitching?  Oh yeah, park effects.  Raw data gets masked so easily.

I think Kinsler flirts with .400 one of these years, if not this one.  Okay, six for six will inflate you a little in the early going, but he has so much potential and room for development.

If your four year old gets onto a team called the Diamondbacks, and they play a team called the Rangers, who do you root for?  I’ll find out in a few weeks.  Oh, and don’t tell anyone, because I’m trying not to be “that guy”, but I was as proud as punch when in his first ever practice with a real team, he was hitting harder and further than anyone else.

Central Market is expensive, but I could stand in the coffee aisle all day with my eyes closed, just breathing.

The Rangers need to wake up and smell the coffee.

300 Game Winners by Year

April 11, 2009

One of the baseball stories I get a little tired of, and one that is going to pop up again pretty soon, is the demise of the 300 game winner.  In a few weeks Randy Johnson will win his 300th (he’s at 295 as I write), and there will be a trove of media stories about how pitchers don’t win as much any more, they’re not as tough as the old days, and that we may never see a 300 game winner again, at least not in our lifetimes.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on wins and other stuff to do with pitching, and I’m going to start sharing some of it with you.  Here’s the first piece, and we’ll start with a chart:

300 game winners

From this, you can tell that I like ugly charts, and it’s probably too small to read.  Click it to go to Flickr and see it larger if you wish.

This chart is showing you two things:  the red dots are the year that a pitcher reached 300 wins (mostly one a year, in a few cases two reached in the same year), and the blue line is the number of active 300 game winners by year.

The blue line does need a little clarification:  it means when a 300 game winner was pitching, not when a guy who would win 300 was pitching.  For example, Greg Maddux won his 300th in 2004, so he counts from 2004-2008, the years he had 300 or more wins, but he doesn’t count from 1986-2003, the part of his career when he had fewer than 300.

What I am attempting to show here is scarcity.  There have only been 23 300 game winners in baseball history.  If you take the history of baseball as being from 1870-present, that’s about one every six years.  If you count from 1888 (the first year someone won 300), it’s still only once every five years.  But here’s something interesting:  they appear to have some clustering.  Take the last five years, for example, and you have three guys who made it.  From 1983-90, you’d expect about one and a half, but you actually have six!  The peaks of the blue lines show how clustered things seem to be.

Now, the point of all this was the meme that the 300 game winner is going the way of the dodo.  The point I am making is that we’ve gone through a recent history where there have been more 300 game winners than ever before, and although this is a historical blip, somehow writers are assuming it has been the norm, and they’re thinking that things are going wrong.  Fact is, there have been more 300 game winners in the last 25 years than in any 25 year period before.  The only comparable time was the late 1800s, when a group hit 300, in the days when baseball was a lot different than today.

To suggest that 300 game winners are dying because we are dropping down from a peak is like suggesting that home runs are disappearing because we’re coming off recent records.  We went from the 1930s to the 60s with just a single 300 game winner, and from the 30s to the 80s with just three.  At those times you might have had a reasonable argument that the 300 game winner had disappeared, but they came back with a bang.  Incidentally, this may in some ways devalue the 300 game winners of the 80s, because it suggests they were somehow lucky to be pitching in the time they were, where for whatever reason a group of guys made it to 300 together.

Next time I’ll show you how the 300 game winners got there.  If you thought this chart was ugly, you’ll think the next one was drawn by my four year old.