Archive for December, 2007

Plus ca change, plus ca Rangers GMs suck

December 22, 2007

To all the Cincinnati fans who visited my blog today:  You win.  No, really.  You might not be thinking so right now, in fact there are probably Rangers fans out there thinking they won, but I guarantee that in the long run, Cincinnati won this trade.  Oh, forget about Danny Ray Herrera, he’s nothing in this except a throw-in.  To quote Tom Hicks:  “the other owner didn’t want to do the deal so we had to sweeten it up [with Herrera]”.  You know why the other owner didn’t want to do the deal?  Because Hamilton was “a fan favorite”.  Ha ha ha!  They put in another player because the fans like their guy?  Wow, let’s trade Michael Young!  We can probably get Johan Santana for him, just because the Rangers fans love him so much!  If only Pudge was still here, we could have gotten the New York Yankees.

Edinson Volquez, though (boy, when I first read about the trade I thought they must have meant Ramon Vazquez).  He will be sorely missed by the Rangers.  Not only as the #4 starter this year, which he would have been, but because he would have been #3 the next two years and probably #2 after that.  Yes, I mean that, I think Volquez is potentially a #2 starter on a major league staff, definitely a #3.  Look at his numbers (and ignore the crap you’ll read on sites like ESPN), you will see his stats improving every single year.  Plus, and it’s a big plus, he’s only 24 years old.  He was rushed to the majors at a young age and struggled, but then turned it around and came on strong.  Unless the Rangers know something bad about him, this is the kind of loss that will come back and haunt us for years to come (am I being a hypocrite, because I’m always quoting TINSTAAPP?  No, because I think Volquez has graduated from prospect status, he’s moved into that middle ground of getting ready to explode).

And we get Josh Hamilton back.  I had Jon Daniels all figured out, he was doing some smart things all year long, but he has to go and ruin our Christmas (and next few seasons) by pulling a bonehead move like this.  Hicks, we already know he’s a bonehead.  But JD now falls in my estimation – he’s now into my “we will not win until he’s gone” category, along with Hicks and Ron Washington.  Remember the old saying?  Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it?  JD has never read a Rangers history, and thus doesn’t know it’s the pitching, stupid.  Do you hear me, JD?  IT’S THE PITCHING, STUPID!

No, really, how did Hicks become a billionaire?  Given their propensity to buy high and sell low, how did he manage to keep all his money?  I mean, Hamilton’s probably just had his career year, and Volquez is just starting his career.  Maybe we can go get Adam Eaton back while we’re at it, maybe give San Diego another Chris Young/Adrian Gonzalez package.  This is what truly irks me, that someone who has done so well in business just becomes blind when it comes to ballplayers.  He’s not putting talent in the baseball front office like he would in his corporate office.  Either that or he doesn’t listen, which is pretty much the same thing as not having them.

We now have just a D left from the DVD trio, which ironically is the rating you’d have to give Rangers management this year.  They were pulling a solid B for a long while, but their efforts this offseason are killing their grade.  Thomas Diamond better watch out next December though, we’re determined to take them out one at a time.

What does Ron Washington think?  “It’s a very Merry Christmas that Jon Daniels and Mr. Hicks have brought to the Texas Rangers in Josh Hamilton.”  Ron, you are an ass.  The perfect yes-man.  And still living in the 70s with your career.

At the beginning of the off-season, the Rangers had Byrd, Murphy and Botts in position to play the outfield in 2008.  A little weak, maybe?  Not so much, but they could do with a little upgrading, sure.  To wipe out 2/3 of that is crazy though.  In a recent post, I showed Runs Created by position, and that both left and center were a little above average, and right was well below.  Okay, so you need someone in right (although arguably at least Botts and Murphy should improve next year), so go out and get someone if you have to.  Not Milton Bradley though.  He’s a train wreck waiting to happen.  And then bring in Hamilton, and all of a sudden one of those guys is being pushed even further back.  Anyone need a Botts?  We’ll take your leftover trash for him, and watch him become an MVP elsewhere.  Hey, who was that druggie who played for Tampa (no, not Josh Hamilton, the other one).  Wonder if he’s still around?  Him, Hamilton and Bradley, wouldn’t you like to share a clubhouse with them?

Okay, so now I’ve mentioned the big bear in the middle of the room.  Yes, Hamilton had a drug issue.  Yes, he beat it, if you can ever beat it.  But how often do you really truly beat it?  What’s the odds of a relapse?  Doesn’t really matter.  Better yet, who is worse, someone who takes a performance enhancing drug like steroids, or someone who takes a snort of coke?  At least the roider was trying to win.  Frankly, his off-field problems don’t bother me that much, until they spill onfield.  You know, like Milton Bradley’s issues?  And when a guy misses three years of his career due to drug suspensions, he’s a problem.   But look at Hamilton’s career – the most at-bats he’s had in a season is 391, and that was in 2000!  Which begs the question:  did they sign Bradley and Hamilton because between the two of them they might get one full season of playing time?

Sooner or later the screaming in my head is going to stop.  I’m betting it’ll be in a year or two, when Hamilton has washed out of the Rangers outfield (they don’t give anyone a chance there).  Or maybe after Volquez wins 20 games in a season.

Oh yeah, Eddie Guardado?  I guess we’ll have our new closer soon.  Yep, because it’s very important to get a few extra saves out of a 37 year old.  No, wouldn’t want CJ to have more experience by the time we get to winning, would we.  Let alone someone else in the pen who could have used those innings, and would be around in 2010, and still this side of a pension.

Can you tell I’m mad about this deal?  I can’t wait for their ticket people to call again and try and sell me something.  Because I’ll give them a message they won’t soon forget – and I’ll promise not to buy their season tickets until Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels are a million miles away from Arlington.

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Make it up as we go along

December 17, 2007

I spent much of today Christmas shopping, which was clearly a bad choice since so did everyone else in the Metroplex.  I ended up walking out of a few stores with nothing, simply because the lines were so long.  Since I sort of know what I want, and where I want to go, I will try again one morning this week, when the lines should be much shorter.  One item eluded me though: a can of snakes.  You know what they are, right?  When you open the lid, all the foam rubber snakes pop out?  I wanted it for part of a gag gift for Monday, and since I couldn’t find it, I’m going to have to improvise, badly.

Which brings me to the point of this article:  the Rangers’ off-season plans.  Improvising badly seems like a good description.  At the end of the season Jon Daniels and Ron Washington told us what they wanted, and told us who they were going to go after.  All of those plans have come to a dead end.  Admittedly, some of them (like Torii Hunter) were pursued, but upon realizing what a state this team is in, wisely chose to take the money elsewhere.  Others were pipedreams (actually the whole centerfield thing was a joke, because at the start they told us how many good free agent center fielders there are, and pretty much guaranteed one would be coming here, only to end up with Milton Bradley on a one year deal).  I read somewhere that the Rangers had kicked the tires on Johan Santana.  I’d love to get him, but to actually think he’s going anywhere other than Boston or New York is crazy.  The Rangers would have to give up a ton of prospects, and even then they’d be assured to lose him when free agency strikes.  By that time the team might be competitive, but in the meantime he’d be wasted here.

So Jon Daniels said in the last few days that the Rangers were pretty much done with any deals or free agent signings.  I find it hard to believe there’s not anyone out there that wouldn’t improve the team.  But I am conflicted, because I know the team will not contend this year, and probably not next year.  Since they need to work towards 2010, it’s probably a good thing they’re done – they won’t be wasting money on free agents, and they won’t be wasting prospects on veterans.

Let’s do some more house-cleaning though.  Here’s my not-so-radical suggestion:  trade Millwood and Padilla.  I hear you saying I’m crazy, and I probably am, but what will those two guys bring us the next two years?  Padilla, with two years on his contract, will bring an incredible amount of angst, with the other 24 guys in the clubhouse (and the manager) hating him all year long.  Works too slow, gets too wild, randomly decides to hit someone and mess things up.  On top of injury worries, he’s a big risk.  What can we get in return?  Anything will do, if we can save some contract money and some headaches.  Millwood, however, is pretty decent, due for a big season (every third year he has one, according to his career stats), and could be considered a leader.  Doesn’t that make his value higher?  Or do we wait for the end of the year (or even the middle) and get rid of him while he’s riding high?  Either way, his value to the 2010 and later teams is in what prospects he can bring in.

Of course, if you trade both Millwood and Padilla, you’ll make Michael Young mad, which in turn may mean you have to trade him.  Not necessarily a bad thing, with his contract and declining value.  So let’s concentrate on trying to get Padilla out, who no-one likes, and work on Millwood (and Young) later.  There are plenty of starting prospects in the organization, and they should be given a chance to sink or swim.  Imagine getting some of these guys two or three years starting experience by the time 2010 rolls around.  Why, you’d almost be like the current Tigers team.

My 2008 rotation would look like this:  Kevin Millwood.  Brandon McCarthy.  Edinson Volquez.  Kason Gabbard.  Luis Mendoza.  Armando Galarraga.  Eric Hurley.  Okay, so there’s seven names, and no I would not take all seven.  But I included Millwood, which adds one to the list, and then added one at the end just waiting for whoever breaks down.  That, by the way, is the order I’d use them in, too.  And as a target, I would like to see four of them in contention for a rotation spot in 2009.  Some of them I would like to write in ink right now (McCarthy and Volquez) and some of them I’ll pencil in (Mendoza and Hurley), but really any of them could get the nod.  The reason being that if four of them are successful (and by successful I mean look decent, and learn, regardless of stats) in 2008, then we only have one gap to fill in 2009.  That could be a free agent, or someone else who stepped up from the minors.  Then, repeat that in 2010, and the likes of Kasey Kiker will be knocking on the door.  By 2011 there should be another two or three starters working their way in.

The other day I did an analysis of the hitters by Runs Created, and said I’d follow up with pitchers.  The more I looked at them, the less there was to see.  I ended up ignoring most of what I discovered, because you already know the answers:  the Rangers had the worst rotation and the third best bullpen in the majors in 2007.  So where did we see the team looking?  That’s right, at the bullpen.  They release Aki Otsuka (remember when they wouldn’t put him on the DL, back in June, because they thought it would be a couple of days, and now they’re releasing him because they don’t think he’s healthy?).  They sign some other Japanese pitcher, who is automatically contending for the closer role (I’ve described the dumb moves of Ron Washington before, suffice to say that CJ Wilson is going to make some team a great closer one day, but who knows if it will be us?).  And they say they’re happy with the rotation as it stands.  Jon Daniels has apparently never read a history book, or at least a baseball stats encyclopedia.  The bullpen means nothing if the rotation can’t do anything.

I want to take one paragraph to talk about the steroid report.  I think I am like most people, pretty blase about it.  Sure, there’s the shock value of the Clemens/Pettitte/Tejada thing (gotta love the Astros’ timing), but overall I don’t really care.  My all-time favorite player, David Justice, was named, and then denied it.  Do I believe him?  Or the report?  Actually I haven’t made up my mind, but it doesn’t really matter.  Come on, you have the National Football Steroid League, and you care about a few people in baseball?  Did Clemens really go from Joe Blow to superstar because of it?  No.

What’s funny is the headline on the Rangers site, “Current Rangers not listed in Mitchell Report”, and the pride the team seemed to take in that.  Firstly, they just missed by a week having Jerry Hairston on the roster, Gagne was there this season (Jamey Newberg’s report yesterday suggested that a lot of people in the league knew that Gagne was using something), and they had a minor leaguer suspended 50 games on Friday for using.  Plus, they were tied for fourth for most players named.  The Rangers were definitely not squeaky clean in all this, and to say “oh well, what’s past is past” is a little disingenuous.  Still, the report is done and gone, and we can ignore the whole issue again for a few more years.

Stacking up the Runs Created

December 11, 2007

One of the things I keep harping on about is the Rangers pitching, and how they need to upgrade there a lot more than they need to work on the hitting. In a recent post, I showed how the hitting has been fairly decent for the 2000s, but the pitching has dragged the team down. I calculated that the hitting has been winning them in the mid to high 80s in games each year, but the pitching has been winning them anywhere from the low 60s to 82 at best. Clearly the pitching is the trouble spot. Clearly I am not the first to say this, and I won’t be the last. But clearly management doesn’t seem to be listening. Any improvements they make, and almost all the talk they talk, has been about the hitting side of the equation. Okay, so the Rangers sank to their worst hitting level in the 2000s this year, with 83 hitting wins, but as noted above, their best pitching was only 82 wins (and in 2007 it was 75). Pitching is all that counts for the Rangers.

But, since they only care about hitters, I thought I’d look at hitters too. This study is team by team and position by position Runs Created in 2007. It uses the simplest version of Runs Created (Hits + Walks * Total Bases/At-Bats + Walks), because that is the data easily available and easily calculable. Thus it ignores things like baserunning, and the different variables in hitting, and also park factors, but it is still comparing apples to apples so it is relatively useful. What I am trying to look at is the Runs Created for each team at each position, and see how the Rangers compare at each position, and thus where they need to improve. Note that these are team totals, not for any specific player.

Okay, this post is going to contain my first try at tables, so let’s find out how they will look. We’ll start with catcher:

Team

Runs Created

NYY

119

CLE

110

MIN

85

SEA

81

DET

79

BOS

75

TEX

62

BAL

60

TOR

58

LAA

58

CHW

58

OAK

57

TB

55

KC

54

No big surprises there. The Yankees with Posada and the Indians with Martinez dominate. If you play fantasy baseball, you know that the rule is grab one of the top few catchers, or don’t bother because the rest are pretty much all the same. The surprise really is that the Rangers are right in the middle, despite the poor year with the bat that Laird had. The good news is that if the Rangers hand the reins over to Salty, as expected, they’ll probably improve by 10 runs based on this year’s numbers. On to first base:

Team

Runs Created

TB

138

BAL

98

MIN

98

OAK

95

BOS

95

CHW

94

CLE

93

DET

90

LAA

90

TEX

87

KC

81

NYY

81

TOR

77

SEA

70

Everyone knows the monster season that Carlos Pena had. This illustrates it very well, he was far and away the best first baseman in the AL in 2007. Once again, Texas was right in the middle, with just 11 runs separating them from second place. But this is an illusion. The Mark Teixeira factor was huge. Tex in fact had 58 of those runs, despite having less than half the at-bats. The rest of the first basemen for the Rangers were useless. Put it this way: if Tex had had all the at-bats, he would have scored 125 RC, putting him closer to Pena than to anyone else. If Tex had had none of the at-bats, the rest of the first basemen would have put up 58 RC, significantly worse than anyone else. Yes, that is how much of a difference Teixeira made. In 2008 they’re again going with a bunch of stiffs at first, and look to see them looking up at the rest of the league. This is one position where the Rangers need a huge upgrade before beginning to contend.

On to second base:

Team

Runs Created

DET

111

NYY

105

TB

103

BOS

102

BAL

101

TOR

95

LAA

92

KC

91

OAK

89

TEX

81

CHW

73

MIN

65

SEA

61

CLE

60

I don’t know why I had the impression that Ian Kinsler was so good, when second basemen for the Rangers were so poor. In truth, some of the dreck they put out there (Hairston, Desi Freaking Relaford) were so bad, they dragged things down. Not worried about this position, as Kinsler ages he is going to get better, and I could see him lifting himself by 10 RC next year, which would put him on the fringes of the top players at second.

Third base:

Team

Runs Created

NYY

150

BOS

119

SEA

102

TB

92

OAK

87

BAL

86

LAA

86

TOR

84

CLE

80

KC

76

TEX

69

DET

64

CHW

60

MIN

57

I like Hank. If only he could put it together for a full season, like we continue to think he could. Third was just like first, except it was occupied by bad players because of injury, not trade. Again, if Blalock had played the whole season there, he’d have put up 110 RC, putting him in the top three. If he hadn’t had a single at-bat, Vazquez and Metcalf would have gotten 48 RC, by far the worst in the league. At least in this case, Hank will be back at third so we don’t need someone to fill in. Oh yeah, there was some rich jerk who did pretty well for the Yankees at this position.

On to short, and Michael Young:

Team

Runs Created

NYY

111

BAL

102

TEX

99

DET

95

CLE

87

LAA

87

SEA

72

TB

71

BOS

64

OAK

63

MIN

63

CHW

60

KC

56

TOR

47

Best position on the team, but as I’ve stated before, he’s only going to get worse as he ages. Still, he has enough room to decline and still be useful to the team. He’ll probably be above average for the position for the next couple of years, which is hopefully the point by which he will have been traded, when his whining about contending reaches fever pitch.

Left was a sore spot:

Team

Runs Created

NYY

118

BOS

114

SEA

113

LAA

109

TB

108

OAK

96

TEX

89

TOR

84

CLE

77

CHW

75

DET

68

MIN

67

KC

64

BAL

58

But it wasn’t as sore as they seemed to think. Right in the middle of things. Given the number of players who trundled through, they were not as badly served as Ron Washington’s comments made out, when he seemed to dismiss all the outfielders at the end of the year, and suggest someone new be brought in. It’s probably going to be Murphy and Byrd out there in 2008 most of the time, can they continue their success? And for center:

Team

Runs Created

DET

128

SEA

111

CLE

109

MIN

105

TEX

94

TB

90

NYY

85

LAA

80

KC

79

BOS

79

TOR

78

BAL

78

OAK

77

CHW

62

In 2008 Milton Bradley will be getting the call here. Can he do a Lofton job for us? Once again, surprisingly high in the charts despite the mixing and matching of players, so looking for Bradley to provide a much bigger boost is not necessarily the best of tacks to make. Over in right, a position which contained the true MVP:

Team

Runs Created

DET

169

TOR

117

LAA

113

BAL

112

SEA

103

NYY

103

OAK

102

CHW

98

KC

95

BOS

93

MIN

88

TEX

87

CLE

85

TB

85

Gone are the days of Juan Gone. The guys that filled this spot were actually only bad compared to other right fielders. Put them in most other positions and we’d have been happy with their performances. Of course, they’re right fielders, so we’re not happy. Much room for improvement here. Maybe the better move would be for the Rangers to put Bradley in right, and let Murphy and Byrd occupy the other two slots in the outfield. That would probably give the best chance for all three spots to improve.

Finally, the DH:

Team

Runs Created

BOS

154

CHW

108

TOR

102

DET

99

CLE

98

OAK

96

TEX

96

SEA

85

NYY

84

MIN

75

BAL

75

KC

73

LAA

72

TB

70

Maybe Sosa was more effective than he appeared to be?  I still believe that a full-time Botts would produce as well or better than Sosa, and should be given a chance.

So, of all positions, first and right were the weakest points.  And right now, those are positions the Rangers haven’t done much with.  Oh, they got Shelton for first, but how much of Teixeira can he replace?  Especially if they are filling in with Catalanotto et al?  In right, nothing has happened yet.  The other positions, they will all shake themselves out in the end.  Some will get better, some will get worse, but they should be okay.  Like I said at the start, it’s not the hitting we have to worry about.  Anyway, there’s two years until it’s time to contend, plenty of time to fill the holes and improve the positions they need to.

Next time, I’ll see what I can do with pitching.  If anything.  The Rangers never have, so why should I be any better at it?

It’s beginning to look a lot like the Rangers don’t care about 2008

December 10, 2007

It’s hard being a Rangers blogger these days. Being December, there’s little or nothing going on in baseball right now. It’s hot stove time (literally today, as the temperature plummets below freezing in Dallas), but nothing is cooking for the Rangers. Oh, they’ve had fits and starts here, trading for Chris Shelton (for some reason I couldn’t get Scott Sheldon out of my head when I was reading about the trade), saying they wouldn’t re-sign Gagne, being mentioned here and there in a couple of deals, and today signing free agent Milton Bradley (which requires an obligatory comment about board games, although if you search his name on Yahoo he gets 8 out of the top 10 references).

Bradley is interesting, but only a little. He’s had run-ins with players, coaches, managers and umpires everywhere he’s been. He ended last season on the DL after a crazy injury during an argument with an umpire, and may not even be ready for Opening Day. At best I’m betting the Rangers are looking at him as a rent-a-player, like a Lofton or a Gagne from this year, and we’ll have him for three months before sending him to a contender for some prospects. The annoying part for me is that they gave him a one year, 5 million dollar deal, and that is foolish money. Not for him, but for the Rangers. Since they are clearly not going to contend in 2008 (more on that in a moment), spending money like that is just wasted. Unless you’re signing a star player who will be around for years, you need to be going on the cheap, getting your young prospects playing time to see how they will adapt. Yes, I’m following the Tigers model of the last five years, and look where they are now. They went from the worst team ever to a contender who is now listed among the top three teams in the AL. In that time, the Rangers went from slightly below mediocre to slightly below mediocre.

So yeah, I think the Rangers shouldn’t have spent the money. They should have saved it another year, kept it for when they really needed to spend it on someone worthwhile. Whoever the top free agent pitcher is next year. Yeah, they would be paying them a ton of money anyway, but $5 million more could make all the difference. Lord knows the Rangers aren’t going to attract them based on history, or the park they’d be playing in, or their own players singing the praises of Texas (reference to Jamey Newberg’s report today, where he told us that Aki Otsuka told Fukudome he’d be better off in San Diego than Texas).

And as for the manager, Ron Washington reportedly told the press he’s looking for a ten game improvement this year. While that’s not impossible, it’s still only an 85 win season. Kudos for being realistic, Ron, even if I think you’re being optimistic anyway. First of all, compare the 2008 team to 2007. What’s changed? We lost half years from Lofton, Gagne, and Teixeira. And gained half a year from Bradley. Dunno about you, but that sounds to me like the team is more likely to lose ten extra games than win them. Where’s the improvement coming from, Ron? What has management done to get better? A little hot air, maybe, but now we’re starting to get into the second tier free agents, and there’s not much out there to pick from. Any pitchers who are going to help out? No, although I’m hopeful to see improvement as we ramp up towards contention in 2010 and beyond, I’m not really seeing any intent from ownership to get better. I guess Tom Hicks is too busy trying to put out fires in Liverpool these days, to deal with the Rangers’ problems. Kind of like he began ignoring the Stars when he bought the Rangers.

ESPN just ran a piece about contenders.  They listed 18 teams with “at least an outside shot” at a playoff spot next year.  Rangers?  Nuh-uh.  What are we supposed to think when we’re not even in the top 18?  Are we planning on surprising everybody?  The only good part of it is that they only list two AL West teams, the Angels (who they say are a lock) and the Mariners (who they say could sneak up on a wild-card spot).  Which means that if the Rangers get really hot, they only have two other teams to beat.  Or something like that.

I’m sure I will be much more hopeful come April.  By then we’ll know who is on the team, and we’ll imagine Millwood and Padilla bouncing back and winning 18 games apiece, and Sheldon (nope, Shelton) hitting 30 home runs at first base, and Milton Bradley playing the game of life to win again, and some magical wonder player coming out of the woodwork to drive us to the playoffs.  Remember, Rangers fans, everyone is even right now.  It takes until about June to dash our hopes again.

In the meantime, most of you reading this will be celebrating the Cowboys clinching their division, and I’m celebrating the Seahawks clinching theirs.  Yep, football is all we care about now.  That, and my cold feet, so I’m going to bed.  I actually have a bunch of stuff to write about the Rangers, various analyses I’ve run, but it’s too cold so they’ll wait a little longer.