Archive for August, 2010

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.