Archive for July, 2008

Who needs pitchers anyway?

July 13, 2008

Today’s game was just another one of those reminders.  A reminder that we could have had John Danks and Edinson Volquez at the back of our rotation, instead of the pile of garbage we’ve been throwing out there every night.  Now, folks will tell you the Rangers are doing well (they’re not), and that the pitching is the same as always, but when Jayson Stark puts Danks and Volquez in his list of half-season Cy Young contenders, all you can do is be mad.

The Rangers threw those two players away, despite them being top prospects for so long that everyone was just waiting for them to win in Arlington.  Danks never got the chance, and Volquez was messed around for a while before being shipped out.  The apologists will tell you that we have Josh Hamilton instead, and although he’s been great so far, I still haven’t seen him throw a single pitch.

Once again the Rangers are running out of pitchers to start games.  Can’t decide if it’s just bad management (it is), bad pitching (it is), injuries (it is), or the pitching coach (it sure is).  I know there have been studies of how much effect a pitching coach has, and some say they do and some say they don’t.  I know that Mark Connor is a bad pitching coach.  One of these days I’ll take a look at his career and see how he has done.  I don’t expect it to be good.

There was a quote a while back, wish I could find it, where Volquez said he went from just throwing last year to pitching this year.  Basically, someone taught him there was a point to being up there and choosing a pitch, not just throwing at random.  I wonder who might have done that?  A pitching coach, maybe?  One that knows what he is doing?

Of the twelve guys that have started a game for the Rangers this year, only four have an ERA+ greater than 100.  Even Padilla, who you think has been pitching well, is at 88, with an ERA of 4.70.  The four above 100 are Ponson (106, now a Yankee), Hurley (115, four starts, on the DL), AJ Murray (117, two starts, on the DL), and Matt Harrison (160, one start, presumably back to the minors).  Is it any coincidence that these guys start getting hurt once they get in the hands of Mark Connor?  Every year?  Fire the guy, please.

Since you’re wondering, Danks is 171 and Volquez is 189.  And since I know you’re thinking “but there’s no guarantee they would have done that for the Rangers”, I can tell you that they wouldn’t, because they would be on a team that doesn’t know how to handle young pitching.  Best thing for their careers was to escape.

I can’t decide:  Paint him green, and does Warner Madrigal look more like Shrek or the Hulk?

Great headline on the Rangers site the other day:  Rangers lose by scoreboard only.  Not sure what other ways they’re supposed to lose, but I bet they can find them.

Everyone has suddenly started saying the Rangers are playing well, second best record in the league since April 26.  That is true (with a 41-28 record since then), but if you want to pick dates like that (April 26 being the day the Rangers bottomed out), how about I pick one too?  May 16 – since that date, the Rangers are 28-23, the ninth best record in the American League since then.  That’s right, for almost the last two months, when everyone has been praising the team for playing well, they aren’t even in the top half of the league.  And much of that was against the NL (10-8), who the rest of the AL was beating up on (which has produced another array of ridiculous stories about how the NL sucks and the AL is great, with various reasons.  The Washington Post at least put in the point that the NL dominated for 20 years and now it’s the AL’s turn, of course they put it in the very last line of the story after giving a hundred reasons why the AL is dominant now.  It’s luck, stupid).

So, stop pretending the Rangers are doing well, and are contenders.  It’s caused people to forget what a horrible job Ron Washington is doing, and Mark Connor.  There’s a reason we’re sending four players and zero pitchers to the All Star Game.  Let’s all calm down, enjoy Chris Davis and his brief cup of coffee (because Big Ron has decided that Blalock will be better at first if he ever gets back), and wait for 2010.  By then Mark Connor should be gone, and won’t be able to destroy any more of our prospects.

Life, Interrupted

July 1, 2008

Hi there! It’s been a while. Too long, in fact. I hope you missed me, or at least didn’t delete me from your feed reader. Actually, it’s been about six or seven weeks since I last wrote here. I’ve been meaning to, every day I’ve come up with a different idea or theme or something. I just haven’t gotten around to writing them down. And, once the days starting slipping into weeks, it just became easier and easier not to write. Makes Jamey Newberg look like a freaking firehose, doesn’t it?

Fact is, I got a new job in mid-May, and it’s been sucking up all my time and energy. When you go from a job you don’t really care about, to one that you’re passionately interested in, that’ll happen. Is it my dream job? No, probably not, since I don’t get to a) swing a bat, b) kick a ball, or c) dive into a swimming pool full of cash every day. But in terms of what I enjoy doing, which is messing around with software, it’s pretty high up there. It’s with a huge company that you may or may not have heard of, but who I’m not allowed to name since they have rules about blogging. And, although there’s no swimming pool of money involved, I can certainly take off my shoes and splash around in a puddle. Life, right now, is pretty darn good.

And you’d be forgiven for thinking that life is good for the Rangers. One of the things you haven’t missed lately is my dragging down the mood of the party in Arlington. There’s some perception going on that the Rangers are doing well. They are, if you consider that we’re now in July (by 16 minutes as I write) and they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet. Let’s take a look at a chart:

AL West Race through June 29

You’re probably familiar with this kind of chart. It’s the number of games above or below .500 each team is. The Rangers have, of course, spent the last 40 games or so hanging right around .500. But compare their low point, 9 games below, to where Anaheim was at the time, 5 games up. That’s a 14 game difference. Now, today, the Rangers are one over, and Anaheim is 16 over – a 15 game difference. That’s right, for all that you think the Rangers have been playing well lately, they haven’t gained on the leaders at all. Sure, they haven’t gone into freefall like the Mariners (and like the Rangers usually do), but is there reason for hope?

Cool Standings says that the Rangers have about a 10% chance to make the playoffs right now. Is that reason for hope? The Hardball Times yesterday said that the Rangers are performing above their talent level. Is that reason for hope? In fact, they say they’re about a 73 win team, playing about 85 win baseball. I predicted a 70 to 75 win season at the start of the year, and I see nothing to change that. What’s sad is that they’re hitting the heights of mediocrity, and people are using that as a pointer to them being good, a poor substitute for the reality of being good.

My fear is that ownership is going to be deluded enough, or pressured by the media enough, to do something stupid in a few weeks. Bringing in another Carlos Lee comes to mind. At least let it be a pitcher this time, and yes, I’ve heard the name CC Sabathia bandied about. Boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to see him here? Just think of all the prospects we’d have to throw out to get him.

I would rather the GM do nothing than go get someone like CC, who will be out of here as soon as he can. We have a plan, stick to it, plan on competing in 2010 and just pretend that we’re in it right now, so you can keep Michael Young happy a little longer.

Okay, now to a few other things that have been rolling around in my head for a while:

The tv broadcast lost TAG for a few weeks, and I am very glad to see him back. No offense, but Victor Rojas at times didn’t sound like he knew what was going on with the Rangers this year. Josh Lewin would say something, and Victor would be like “huh?”, and Josh would have to explain. Of course, Josh normally has to explain his jokes, but these were some pretty obvious things (and I can’t think of an example right now).

I emailed the booth tonight to tell them that Josh’s story about Yankees getting pinstripes to make Babe Ruth look thinner is a myth (they first had pinstripes in 1912, he joined the team in 1920). Maybe they’ll mention it tomorrow. There’s been a few cases lately where they’ve irritated me on things enough that I’ve written them. There was another one yesterday, something about stats, that really annoyed me. Again I don’t remember what it was now, I just remember thinking that someone like Josh Lewin really ought to have at least basic knowledge of modern statistical analysis. I don’t necessarily mean the deep stuff that people like me enjoy, but even the simpler ones like OPS proving things. Another that annoyed me tonight was on the radio on the way home, they said someone in the NL was having a bad year because he is something like 2-8, with a 4.20 ERA. Surely by now people realize that a pitcher’s record has little to do with his performance, it’s what happens around him. After all, if there was a guy on the Rangers with a 4.20 ERA they’d think he was a superstar (Padilla has a 4.13, next best is Feldman’s 4.60 among regular starters).

I’m starting to lose patience with Salty. He can’t hit (82 OPS+) and he can’t field. Opponents are 28-5 stealing against him, he has 3 passed balls and 17 wild pitches. He doesn’t seem to be improving. That jackass Ron Washington said the other day he doesn’t care if his catchers hit, he wants them fielding and working with pitchers. First of all, I’ll take a guy who can hit over someone who can’t any day, the numbers prove that hitting is much more important. Second, Ron Washington would say that, because he’s a guy who couldn’t hit the side of a barn in his career, so of course he doesn’t care about numbers. And third, why not give Max Ramirez the same deal that Laird/Salty had, splitting time? Right now, as far as I’m concerned, when Laird comes back, Salty should go to the farm.

Aren’t we glad we didn’t trade Laird during the spring?

Remember how the Rangers lost patience with Jason Botts, because in all those cameos where he barely got to string two games together, he didn’t hit much? Salty is barely hitting better than Botts did, and he’s had about 50% more playing time than Botts so far in their careers. Of course, Botts didn’t have the Teixeira trade on his side, whereas they will keep putting Salty out there until they can justify the deal.

I love Chris Davis. My natural nickname for him is CD. I’d drink some for him, if I could get it here.  Washington said that Davis will go back to the minors when Blalock comes back, no matter what.  I hope Davis can hit about .500 with 20 home runs between now and then, just to make it more difficult for them.  Davis should be playing first every day, and Max Ramirez shouldn’t be there at all.

And Blalock, well, how insulting is it to the other players that he says he’s going to switch to first to help the team?  It was Catalanotto and Shelton at the time.  Thankfully Blalock can’t get healthy (I don’t mean to insinuate anything, but don’t they say getting injured like this all the time is a sign of steroid use?).  The Rangers began to play well when he got injured, and the longer he stays out, the harder it will be for him to mess things up, like sending CD back down.

Now see, it took me an hour to write all that.  That’s why I haven’t been able to do it much lately.  Not only will I be tired in the morning, but I didn’t get a chance to play any games tonight.  So, no promises when the next one will be, but I hope it won’t be another six weeks.