Archive for April, 2009

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.

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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.

Bubbles bursting pop!

April 10, 2009

Been meaning to write all week.  Takes the first loss of the season to get me to do so.  Hopefully that will deflate a few of the people talking about the Rangers contending.  Okay, yes, they did sweep the Indians, but one series does not a season make.  Has anything changed on the Rangers in the last week to make them suddenly likely to win the division?  No.   I’m sure you’ve heard it here before, but remember this phrase: “small sample size”.  How many times did the Rangers win three in a row last season?  A lot.  Just because it happened to come in the first three games of this season, are all the clouds surrounding this team blown away, and everything is now all fluffy and light?  No.

Hey, are you, like me, wondering what kind of idiot Ron Washington is?  In my case, it’s because he’s giving his starters 100 or more pitches in opening week!  Come on, even Kris Benson gets 100 today, when he sucked all day?  I know Nolan Ryan talked about getting the guys more physically fit so they can go longer, but please, this is ridiculous.  It’s like they told Washington that he will be fired if his starters don’t go 100 every night.  And yes, I freely admit that blame could just as easily go to Mike Maddux.  As of right now the MLB site shows 27 pitchers have thrown 100 pitches so far this year (presumably all in starts), and that doesn’t count Benson, who’s not on the list yet.  Our other three starters are though, tying us with Cincinnati as the two teams with three pitchers to do that.  I will bet you that one or more of these first four starters will be on the DL by the end of the month.  Don’t I remember Padilla having some trouble late in spring training, so much that he might have missed his start on Wednesday?  It’s criminal.  And yes, I did say when Millwood came out to pitch the seventh on Monday that he was about to melt down, having already gotten into the 90s in his pitch count.  If I can tell from section 235, how come Washington can’t?  Of course, I also called Salty’s home run (told my son to pay attention – he was goofing around – because Salty was going to hit a homer, and two pitches later he did), so maybe I’m just psychic.

Love the red.  Get a clue, Rangers.  Blue should be gone by next season at the latest.

Enjoyed Opening Day, despite the horrible traffic around the ballpark.  Somehow they actually managed to make it worse.  Yes, they’ll blame construction, which will presumably make things better one day.  Me, I blame the cops, who were doing a terrible job of traffic control everywhere I went.  When you’re in a mile-long backup, seeing the cop just letting people turn right on red into the very road all your cars are trying to get to, that’s pathetic.  We couldn’t go anywhere because the right-on-redders kept filling in our gaps.  If the cop had stopped them once in a while, we’d have gotten there in half the time.  And as for the folks at Six Flags (where we were forced to go to park), they should realize that they should open all of their ticket booths when they have a thousand cars waiting, not half of them.  I wanted to tell their workers who were blocking the lanes off that they should open the booths instead, but my wife wouldn’t let me.

Wednesday night was a lot better, of course, since only half as many people showed up.  I think it was a much more enjoyable day, too.  The temperature was just right (whereas on Monday we were fine in the sun but froze when the shadows hit).  The ballpark has much better screens this year, I really like the various video boards.  Plus, we saw Elvis hit his first career home run, hopefully the first of many (and yes, I know he’s only going to average two a year, but still).  I wonder when we’ll be able to get Andrus shirts in the store?  If it’s anything like Chris Davis last year, we’ll have to wait until Opening Day 2010.

How do you explain to a four year old that green dot won’t win every time?  He was just so mad about it, and then red won twice in a row, so that just made him even madder at Mommy (her dot is red dot.  Mine is blue).  It’s really funny to watch him get mad about it though.

One of the things about blogging (or indeed writing in general) is that you need to stick with it to be successful.  Take a few days off, and soon enough it becomes a few months.  I must try harder to post daily, or at least several times a week.  Too many thoughts bounce around my head to not commit them somewhere (and no jokes about committing me somewhere, please).

Nick Adenhart, huh?  On Opening Day we were in traffic that was so slow (I estimated it took us 45 minutes to drive a mile at one point) that the passenger in the car in front of us went to the cooler in his trunk twice while we were watching.  He tried to hide it when he went back, but obviously he and the driver cracked a couple of beers each while they were driving.  How stupid can people be?  And how come a victim like Adenhart dies, while the driver walks (or runs) away?  Let’s get some serious punishment for these people.

I like the idea of day games, but it still doesn’t really feel like the season has started until we get into our rhythm of watching the ballgame every evening through the summer.