Archive for the ‘Draft’ Category

I’ll try and work harder too

August 15, 2007

So the Rangers finally inked first round pick Blake Beavan to a contract, one day before the deadline for signing players. With that one day to go, there are still a few players left that the Rangers won’t want to get away, so expect the possibility of another signing or two being announced tomorrow. Of course, chances are some of them won’t want to sign, and will be back in the draft next year (or later, depending on what their eligibility will be). If that’s the case, the Rangers will get compensatory picks in the same spots next year (e.g. Beavan was the 17th pick this year, if he hadn’t signed the Rangers would have gotten a compensation pick after the 17th pick next year), which to me sounds like an extremely unworkable solution, which is going to need some accountants to keep track of in a year or three. What if the Rangers didn’t sign that comp pick next year? Would they get another one the year after? Would it still be after the 17th pick, or would it be after the 18th, since that’s where it would effectively be next year (assuming all other teams signed their players)? What if the team drafting 17th next year also didn’t sign their player? And so on. You can imagine the team drafting 30th overall next year actually getting about the 35th player (if five teams don’t sign their first picks this year), and the year after that 30th pick might actually be the 40th player, and so on and so on. An accounting nightmare that only an Enron fan could love (sorry, had to throw that in since I’m reading a book about the Enron scandals right now).

Anyway, they got their man, at last. You can now expect to see Beavan in the Rangers rotation in about five years time. Well, expect is a strong word, since I’m guessing there’s probably about a10% chance he a) won’t get injured, b) will still be a rotation candidate instead of in the bullpen, c) will still be with the Rangers instead of being traded, or d) won’t have veered off into some other interests, like football, or girls, or drugs, or any of 1.5 million other distractions that an 18 year old with 1.5 million dollars might have. In fact, you’ll love this quote, when asked about a timetable on reaching the Rangers he said “It depends how hard I work in order to get there”. Uhhh, yeah, sure it does, kid. Hey, why don’t you spend some of that money on a PR person, someone who’ll tell you not to say really stupid things that will make people question your work ethic the day you sign a million dollar contract? I’ve been irritated at him before on this blog, and I can see that’s not going to stop. If he ever does make the majors, I have the strong feeling that my thoughts about him will always be colored by the dumb things he has said, and the holding out he did because he wanted more money. Ironically, just a few days ago one of the Rangers’ other first round picks, Michael Main, was promoted a level after pitching well at his first stop in pro baseball. Who are you going to root for more, the guy who signed, got on with the job, and stepped one rung closer to the majors, or the guy who held out for a few thousand more dollars, threatened to go to college, didn’t pitch at all this year, didn’t get any development done, and isn’t eligible to pitch until next year?

On the other hand, who knows? Maybe he has just the right attitude to turn himself into another Roger Clemens, or Nolan Ryan. As always with prospects, only time will tell.

Nice win against KC today. Gerald Laird pulls off a bunt to hit a three run homer, and of course it’s all about him being questioned as the catcher going forward. You know, four years ago when he made his debut I thought he might have the chance to be the new Pudge, setting up to be the Rangers catcher for the next ten years or so. Of course, that kind of got derailed, not only by various little injuries but also by the idea that Rod Barajas was better than him, and by Showalter not liking him for some reason. I think if he’d gotten the chances he deserved, he might have made something more of himself. Instead he’s going to be another one of those guys who, if not traded beforehand, will be looking elsewhere once free agency comes along simply because the Rangers didn’t give him those opportunities. It’s got to be really annoying for them to trade for Salty, say he’s going to catch just a little, then two weeks later turn around and say that they’ll split time behind the plate, to see what Salty can do. Yeah, that might be good for the team, but it’s irritating for the player. Gerald has shown he can field with the best of them, he’s just had trouble getting his bat going, which since he’s been jerked around so much isn’t surprising. Right now I’d give more than even odds that Laird will be with another team next year, because JD doesn’t have the skin in the game where Laird is concerned, not compared to Salty who he traded for instead of inheriting. Laird should be worth yet another prospect, in JD’s chase to have the best minor league system around.

Padilla is going to start tomorrow. Quote: “We hope he throws well,” Connor said. “The Minor League starts don’t indicate he’s back to where he needs to be, but those are Minor League starts. Some guys don’t pitch very well in those starts.” Yeah, right. What do you call players who don’t pitch very well in the minors? Scrubs, usually. But usually you don’t give them 20 million dollar contracts. And then usually you don’t risk bringing them back up when they’ve had a 8 something ERA in 12 innings over 6 starts in the minors. That’s right, in his rehab he has averaged two innings per start. Do you think he’ll make it through two innings tomorrow? My prediction, he sucks tomorrow, and in the next couple of starts, and will eventually have season ending surgery, then will be back in the mix in spring training.

Speaking of season ending, that’s what they’re saying about Aki. Remember back in early July, when he first got injured? They didn’t put him on the DL for a couple of weeks, they kept saying it was a day to day thing, they kept hoping he’d be okay so his trade value wouldn’t be damaged. Now, six weeks later, they still don’t know when he’ll be back, if at all this year. This is another example of a pitching coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing, who is gambling with million dollar arms and losing more often than he wins. It’s not a coincidence that all these pitchers are getting hurt this year, there’s something deeper underlying it. If Blake Beavan wants to increase his 10% chance, he shouldn’t even shake hands with Mark Connor, let alone listen to his advice.

TR Sullivan took a look at where the Rangers are for next year. In a couple of places he talks about what the Rangers have to do to contend in 2008. The scary part is that Rangers ownership and management might be looking at this and getting ideas about winning next year. You know what the Rangers have to do to contend next year? Become the Angels. Seriously. If you think this team, which a while ago was almost guaranteed to lose 100 games but have improved so much they might only lose 90, is going to contend next year, then I’ve got some bridges you might be interested in. Yes, theoretically it’s possible they might contend, but in reality that’s maybe a 2% chance. They haven’t done anything to improve the major league team, they’ve got a rotation which I talked about the other day as being full of #4 and #5 starters, nothing to scare anyone, and they’re a franchise that has been drifting for years. They are going to plug in a couple of stop-gap free agents, pretend they’re big stars who are going to put the team over the top, and muddle their way back to another 70-80 win season. They don’t have the guts to tear it all down, they don’t have the minor league system to trade for the people they need, and they don’t have enough money to get the free agent pitching they need (they will get the mediocrities, the Chan Ho Park’s that will take a lot of dollars for a little result, and trumpet them as saviors). It doesn’t really matter what they do for the next year or two, they simply have to sit back and try not to destroy anything while the kids develop into a winning team in 3-5 years time.

Apologies for not getting Rusty photos uploaded yet, as I promised I would on the weekend.  Maybe tomorrow, if time doesn’t get away from me again.

Finally, it’s been fun to see some of the people that have linked to this blog over time. I’ve gotten a number of links from some high profile places in the baseball geek world. I recently passed a milestone, 1000 page views (in four months, although it took a couple of months to get to 50, so things have been getting better and better), and those page views only count people who browse or come in from other links, not those of you who read my feed, which would put the number a lot higher. It’s always an honor when I get a link, because it gives some validation to what I write and encourages me to continue. It’s especially pleasing from somewhere that I read regularly, like the Batter’s Box site that mentioned me nicely the other day in their preview of the Rangers-Blue Jays series. But today I got perhaps my biggest link ever, from Slate magazine discussing the online analysis of the Gameday system.  I’ve read Slate for years, they’re one of the premier online magazines around.  To get mentioned in there is definitely the highlight of this blog so far, even if their implication is that I’m among the geekiest of the geeks.  I’m proud to be a geek, and I’m proud to get that link.  Thanks to all who read.

Will it break more if you call it a breaking ball?

June 20, 2007

So Jon Daniels leads the Rangers to the worst record in baseball and gets a contract extension?  Okay, Hicks, you’re trying to show you’re behind him, but this is way the wrong time to do that.  He still had a year and a half left on his contract, you can wait until the end of the season.  That way you don’t try and distract from all your other problems.  I don’t know what the subtext to all this is, but it’s weird timing.  Maybe because I’ve been talking about firing people, you think you need to support him?  Sorry, Tom, you’re the one who needs to go, not JD.  Actually, I flip-flop on JD all the time, some days I like him, some I don’t.  I think I lean toward the idea that he hasn’t had enough time to do things yet, but I also note some of the trades he’s made have been bad.  That Chris Young/Adrian Gonzalez one is in line for a nomination as worst trade of all time, certainly for the Rangers.

Of course, Sammy is generally considered the worst Rangers trade, but I don’t know.  It’s kind of like the Bagwell thing, you project what you can when they’re that young.  And if you want excuses, well, let’s just say three strikeouts tonight made him not worth keeping all those years ago.  I prefer the sign that one Cubs fan held up, that said something like “545 HR for the Cubs, 12 for the Rangers, he’s still our Sammy”.  Yep, and you can have him.  We’ll trade him back any day of the week.  Maybe you can give up some middle reliever for him, perhaps that Marmol guy?  He looked pretty good tonight, although no-hitting the Rangers over the last five innings isn’t necessarily that great of a feat this year.

Once again, it all started with the rotation, and Tejeda was up and down and up and down all night.  He was about as inconsistent as I’ve seen him all year.  Got some interesting quotes though.  How about:  “Tejeda said he changed his approach, going after hitters with his breaking ball first, not his fastball.”  Does he have a breaking ball?  Not really, it’s a slider, and it doesn’t break that much.  If you read my post a couple of days ago about the Rangers rotation, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Does he imagine it is a breaking ball?  Does the media (in this case TR Sullivan)?  Someone needs to notice he only has two pitches, both are fast but neither break enough to fool people, which is why they can sit on it and why he has an ERA in the sevens.

Back to JD, and some of his other comments today:

“Daniels has already begun talking with other clubs about possible trades, and most of the interest has been in relievers Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne.”  Okay, trade them.  get something good back.  Let’s face it, the Rangers are at least a couple of years away, and need to get help for then, not keep them now.  I’ve always assumed that Gagne was a rent-a-pitcher, good for a few months then time to trade, but I hadn’t thought of Aki until now.  But why not?  Can we get some rotation help?  Probably not, unless it’s a decent prospect.  But in a couple of years CJ Wilson and Tejeda are going to be closing out games (and not necessarily in that order), so let’s use our big chips right now.

“We thought there was a window to win and we made some decisions to capitalize on that,” Daniels said.”  This, from someone who took over after the 2005 season, who’d been there for some time before that?  Come on!  That smacks of someone who really didn’t evaluate their team very well.  Either that, or an owner who wanted it to happen no matter what.  I’m surprised he didn’t go out and sign a bunch of high priced old guys, like they did in 2000.  We all saw how well that worked, didn’t we?

“Our goal is to be one of the premier development organizations in the game,” Daniels said.”  Darn it!  I thought your goal was to win the World Series.  That would be my goal.  I mean sure, develop talent that you can use or trade, but don’t say that as your goal.  I personally will not consider it a success if you’re stumbling along at 81-81, or even 85-77, even if you get twenty players on different major league teams.  I don’t want to be a feeder for other clubs.  I don’t want to develop Mark Teixeira (not that he needed developing) or John Danks and watch them walk off with other teams.  I want to win the World Series, and frankly, anything less than that is nothing.

“General manager Jon Daniels said the club will work out a program where Main will continue to get some at-bats and some work as a position player, just to keep it an option. But the primary focus will be to develop him as a pitcher.”  Oh, good, some kid we drafted as a pitcher wants to play in the field a little and we’re going to play nice and let him.  Just in case he doesn’t work out as a pitcher.  Good grief!  Just wait until he’s running the bases and slides and busts his arm up, and never pitches again.  Okay, so maybe Rick Ankiel can turn around and bat once he loses the pitching mojo, but that’s an exception, not something to aim for.  What’s the matter, Jon, are you afraid the Rangers pitchers are going to go 1-30 again in interleague play in five years?  Stop it, stop it right now.  Tell the kid he’s a pitcher and nothing else, he needs to learn how to pitch, and if he can manage to do that, then maybe we’ll see him in five years or so.  Screw around with hitting and we’ll throw in the towel right now.  By the way, we also signed second rounder Matt West (no relation, but I will buy the t-shirt if he ever makes it), and he said on tv tonight that his aim was to make it here in five years.  Dude, you’re 18, in five years you’ll be 23.  No superstars decided to wait five years before making the majors.  The correct answer to the question is “I want to be up here as soon as possible”.  The next answer is “I’m moving to third base because everyone says that’s where I will play, and Hank Blalock sucks when he’s not injured so that’s my best chance of making the big leagues soon”.  Okay, I kid about that last one.  But also, both of you, you just each got a million bucks, don’t say you’re sticking it in the bank.  Say you’re going to Vegas, or buying a Hummer, or something cool.  You’re kids, dammit, act like them!

Okay, that’s enough.  One down to the Cubs.  On the news they said that 75% of the fans were Cubs fans.  My guess would be 20%, they’re just a lot noisier than Rangers fans.  Kind of like Yankees and Red Sox fans are.  They all suck.

We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher

June 8, 2007

So it seems the Rangers were listening before they began the draft. Four high school and two college pitchers in the first nine picks. Two CFs, one college, one high school, and one high school shortstop round out the first day.

From the reports I heard, the Rangers got the first three guys that they wanted. #1 pick Blake Beavan out of Irving HS, #2 Mike Main from a Florida HS, and #3 Julio Borbon CF from the University of Tennessee. All three should be signable, although Borbon is only a junior so could go back to college for one more year, but a) you’ve got to assume they checked whether he wanted to go pro, and b) is he likely to go much higher and would it be worth the extra year lost? He’s reportedly similar to Kenny Lofton, and with luck he’ll race through the system and fill the gap in CF we’ve had for years. The same might apply to the college pitchers we took, especially if the likes of Scott Boras advise them to hold out for more money. I’ve never quite understood that though, because surely holding out for a year for an extra million isn’t worth the extra year on your career when you could be earning several million. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to make it that far, are you? Plus, your agent wants his money now, not in ten or fifteen years.

I was concerned to see Beavan at the Ballpark today, for a couple of reasons. First, he saw a poorly pitched Ranger game, although since he’s from Irving he knows all about the Ranger pitching woes. But more importantly, I’m quite sure he would have met pitching coach Mark Connor, and that’s going to taint his ability to perform. Connor has clearly lost it as pitching coach, or never had it, and I’d advise the Rangers to keep their prospects well away from him.

The last high school pitcher draftee of the Rangers to make it to the majors was John Danks, drafted in 2003, traded over this last winter for Brandon McCarthy, then made his debut this year. Nick Masset, drafted in 2000, made his debut in 2006, before being traded in the offseason to the White Sox as the other part of the McCarthy deal. Prior to Masset it was Andy Pratt, drafted in 98, and traded in 2002 to Atlanta, where he made his major league debut that same year. And before that, Sam Marsonek, drafted in 96, dealt to the Yankees, and made his debut in 2004. So, based on these numbers, first of all it is rare for a high school pitcher to make it to the majors after being signed by the Rangers, rarer still for them to play for the Rangers, and even if they do make it at best they’re four years away, and potentially a lot more than that. So, don’t bet the farm on seeing Beavan or Main in a Rangers uniform, and even if they do, count on it being 2011 before you do. Which, fortuitously, would be just about the time that the Rangers are starting to win again, if you believe my analysis from the other day. Maybe they’ll join last year’s top pick Kasey Kiker in the rotation?

I don’t have my Baseball Prospectus Annual in front of me, but I think of their top 100 prospects only two were Rangers.  This is a system that is in clear need of overhaul, and maybe by getting a bunch of high picks – and getting them signed – can help out.  Next year, with luck, the Rangers will have the first overall pick, and get in another good  young arm.  Remember, you can get anything as long as you have pitching prospects.  But also remember, TANSTAAPP – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.  If you believe Jamey Newberg (and I think too often I do), the Rangers have a hundred stars just waiting in the minors for their chance.  In reality, if two or three of them pan out we’ll be lucky.

Is there anything to say about today’s game?  Ron Washington says they’re not going to take Kam Loe out of the rotation.  This is a good thing, I think.  Let him take his knocks, and learn how to pitch.  I’m working on a piece on how long it takes to determine someone’s value for the long term.  So far, Greg Maddux is my poster boy, in that it took him a couple of years and three hundred innings to show his ability properly.  Can you imagine if someone had given up on him after ten or twenty starts?

Did I mention the number of injuries to Ranger pitchers this year?  They’ve all spent time either sore or on the DL.  McCarthy has skipped a start recently, and now Padilla is apparently hurting too.  Here’s the money quote: “Connor said he had no idea who would start in Padilla’s spot if he couldn’t go on Sunday”.  Yes, you read that right, the pitching coach said he has no idea.  Is it because he’s clueless?  Is it because he’s the problem?  Is it because something he’s doing, whether it’s his training regimen or warmups or something else, that’s what’s causing the ineffectiveness and the injuries?

Close the door, there’s a draft blowing

May 30, 2007

The baseball draft is next Thursday. For the first time it will be televised on ESPN. I’m sure there will be a bunch of reports on how the NFL and NBA drafts get much better ratings, ignoring that they are on a weekend and are hyped like crazy, whereas the baseball draft is on a Thursday afternoon and largely ignored.

Anyway, I wanted to give a little advice to the Rangers: Draft PITCHING! I don’t care who, all I want to see is a list of 40 pitchers they drafted at the end of the day (or days, since it takes a couple). Who cares who will hit, you can buy hitters (usually). And if you have pitching in depth, you can trade for all the hitters you need – witness whoever gets Teixeira in a couple of months.

I also wanted to do a little look-back at recent Ranger drafts. Since they are kind enough to provide the lists since 2000 on their site, let’s take a look at them.

In 2000, the immortal Scott Heard was the number one pick. Laynce Nix and Nick Masset (for a few innings, until making a name for himself with the White Sox this year) made the Rangers, although Ed Encarnacion got some time in elsewhere. Some other names pop out as being memorable from the Newberg Report, is Erik Thompson still a prospect?

2001 gave us Tex and CJ Wilson, and that’s about it.

2002 started with another immortal, Drew Meyer. At least he made the big club for a cup of coffee. Kam Loe came in. Nate Gold is still a prospect of sorts.

2003 brought Danks #1, now starting in Chicago. Wes Littleton, Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman came in this draft. Vince Sinisi is ripping the ball in AAA for someone else. Again a few names here and there.

In 2004, Eric Hurley and Thomas Diamond were 1 and 2, still good or very good prospects. A bunch of other names will be mentioned by Jamey Newberg now and again.

2005 got John Mayberry and a cast of thousands.

2006 brought Kasey Kiker, who is starting to take off in A ball I believe.

Okay, so it’s not fair to judge the last few drafts, although players are starting to arrive in the majors, with Tim Lincecum 2-0, 3.24 in 5 starts for the Giants this year (they drafted him #10 in 2006, just ahead of the Rangers taking Kiker at #12). But from 2000-2003, the Rangers graduated 9 players to the big club, of whom Tex is a star, Kinsler is making it, and the rest are fair to middling, some with more upsides than others.

I have no idea how good that is compared to other teams. By my quick math, there have been between 180 and 220 players making their debut each year from 2000-2006, which would be an average of 6-7 per team. I didn’t count all the players the Rangers drafted that made other teams, I’m sure there were some I missed. And of course you get into the trail of player X was traded for player Y, who did play for the Rangers, and so on. But still, if you average 6 players a year, even for 2000-2003 that’s 24 players that should have made it, and we have 11 or so. I’m sure I didn’t miss that many.

So in summary, the Rangers have sucked at drafting too. A franchise that is going nowhere but down. Good old Grady Fuson, meant at one point to be the GM, didn’t do much when he was drafting. Of course it’s also an indictment of John Hart, who was clearly past his sell-by date when he came here (Travis Freaking Hafner!). And ultimately back up the line to Hicks again, he hired these people.

Where does the knowledge come from? Do they scout? Do they run stats? Do they pluck names out of hats? Do they do some thinking? As I said previously, all they have to do is think pitching pitching pitching. This year they have four picks in the first 54, I hope they’re all pitchers. Next year they ought to have the 1 or 2 pick, someone we can really get excited about. Lincecum won’t be there, but someone like him will. Don’t be one of the 9 teams that passed on him, that’s all I ask.

A year or so ago there was a short fad of creating sort of family trees of some teams. Basically showing the current roster and how they got there. Did anyone ever make one for the Rangers? Anyone know where it might be?

We’re number one!

May 27, 2007

The good news is that the Rangers are now firmly in the race for the number one draft pick last year, sitting just half a game behind Cincinnati for MLB’s worst record. The bad news is that the recent run of first overall draft picks has been pretty miserable, where for every superstar Alex Rodriguez and Joe Mauer you get two or three run of the mill major leaguers and five total washouts. Of course the one time the Rangers had it they took David Clyde, a ridiculous pick at the time which was only mismanaged by taking him straight to the big leagues to ruin his career. Look for them to make a similar mistake next year (let alone next week, when this year’s draft will be held), because the management has proven itself again and again incapable of making good decisions. It all ends up with Tom Hicks, of course, who fell into a winning team when he bought it, but since getting his hands all over it has made it fall into disrepair. On today’s postgame radio show, I heard a few comments about him selling the team. I only wish there was any fire behind the smoke, but having said that any new owner would only come in with their own five year plan anyway, and we’d be starting again at the bottom.

Laughable comments from players and manager in the game recap on the Rangers website today. Among them was Michael Young invoking the 2005 Astros as a team to emulate, and Ron Washington saying he’d been 14 games back and won before. Guess what, Michael? Your comments are like saying “Jesus performed some miracles, maybe we will too”. No, I’m not comparing the Astros to Jesus. I’m saying that what the Astros did was pretty darn incredible, and to suggest that you could follow that as your plan is ludicrous. At least the Astros could field, throw and pitch in 2005. And as for Ron, when you get three horses like the A’s had in Zito, Mulder and Hudson, then yes, you can suggest that. Your top three horses right now are Tejeda, McCarthy and Padilla, and McCarthy’s hobbled his finger. They shoot horses like that, don’t they?

Partway into the game today, in the second inning, I was thinking it might be interesting to blog a whole game. Not individual comments, like Twitter might do, but writing my thoughts as the game goes on, then posting it all at the end. It was too late to do today, since I would want to do a whole game, although today would have been perfect to do. A good beginning by Loe (although he was clearly afraid of Manny Ramirez), until he gave up a three run homer (and as soon as I saw that, I thought I would see a post-game comment along the lines of “he kept the ball down all day except for that one pitch”), a comeback by the Rangers to take the lead (with Teixeira increasing his trade value, and yes, I am starting to resign myself to the idea that he will be gone by July 31), then the pitchers giving it all back again. Kind of a microcosm of the whole season, although with a twist that the two most reliable pitchers, Aki and Gagne, were the ones to cough it up at the end.

By the way, Rangers relievers have a 3.77 ERA so far this year. That’s pretty good, shame the starters are at 6.26. Maybe the relievers should start the games. Or maybe they should begin the split thing they were doing in the minors a couple of years ago, where you have 8 starters, each only going 4 innings or so but two of them going together in a game (i.e. starter #1 starts and pitches 4 innings, starter #2 then pitches innings 5-8). Might be worth a try, they could go a little harder if they knew they were limited like that, and at least it would get some people some more major league experience. Or better yet, maybe drop from a 5 man to a 4 man rotation. They clearly don’t have enough for five, and could use the extra guy in the bullpen. Everybody used to run 4 man rotations not too long ago, in the 70s. They have nothing to lose by experimenting. It’s not like they have a division title to throw away.

PS If you’ve noticed some inconsistent punctuation in places, which you probably haven’t, I can honestly say it’s not my fault. I always type two spaces after a period, but for some reason whenever I switch to the code window to insert a link, when I go back WordPress drops one of them. So you will see occasions where I have one space after periods all the way up to my last link, then two spaces after that. Odd, and it only happens in Firefox. I would use IE, but that has it’s own problems, like dumping my posts every time I try to publish them. I reported these problems to them, but their response was kind of waffly and didn’t resolve anything.