Archive for the ‘Jamey Wright’ Category

Rangers Review: Starters

October 14, 2007

This year the Rangers used fifteen different starters.  This continues a trend of the last several years, 2000 was the last time they used less than ten, and they’ve been as high as seventeen in that time.  The idea of stability in the rotation is not one that the Rangers have grasped recently.  Now, this year they were beset by injuries, but still, towards the end they pretty much were just randomly bringing guys up for a start.  There were few plans to be found, as soon as the front five fell apart they began cycling guys through, at one point they even sent Kam Loe down just to bring him back two days later.  The impression anyone would get from this team is “if we try enough guys, sooner or later some of them will work out”.

Millwood’s 172 innings led the team, the worst this century, with Kenny Roger’s 195 the next worst from a couple of years ago.  Plus there was a huge falloff, okay four guys ended up over 100 innings, but just barely.  Again, blame injuries all you want, but there is no-one on the team right now you could count on to lead them to the playoffs.   There was not a single complete game, which was supposedly the first time an American League team did not complete a game since the league began in 1901.  I haven’t counted the number of quality starts, but I bet it was close to if not definitely a record low for the team.  One of the themes of this blog during the year was how unprepared the team was.  They started the season badly, and they started games badly.  If they do it again like this next year, the Rangers will be out of it in May, again.  And right now there is little hope that the rotation will improve.

Kevin Millwood summary:  A season beset by injury, or at least that’s what the Rangers will tell you.  How frustrated is he getting?  His last season with the Indians, he won the ERA title, but didn’t get any support so didn’t win much.  Now, he’s with the Rangers, where he has the run support (usually) but has a bad ERA, so he’s still not winning.  And he’s got three years on his contract.  There was talk in the middle of the year that the Rangers should trade him, which gives him a chance to win something and gives us some prospects.  Problem is his contract, which means we’d have to add a bunch of money, his performance here, which leaves a lot to be desired, and his health.  Isn’t there something about him pitching really well every three years?  Next year is the third year.

Kameron Loe summary:  Injured and ineffective would be one way to describe Loe, but that would also help describe everyone else.  Had a good stretch in June/July, after being sent to the minors for two days, but otherwise was pretty bad.  Just had surgery, should be healthy in the spring, but I think he’s given up his chance at a rotation spot.  Back of the bullpen work beckons.

Vicente Padilla summary:  Injury may explain much of his first half, where he tried to pitch through the pain.  He ended up missing a couple of months because of it, and came back fairly strong at the end, helping to improve his numbers.  What didn’t help was his attitude, which many will tell you stinks, both within and outside the team.  He doesn’t talk to reporters, so you don’t get to hear what he is thinking.  He apparently doesn’t talk to his teammates either.  And then he does things like throw at a batter, which at the end of the season got him suspended for a week.  Now, a teammate like that can be a problem, but the bigger problem is his performance on the field and the two years remaining on his contract.  The Rangers knew what his attitude was when they gave him the three year deal, so they can’t go bailing out because of that.  They can be worried by the way he pitched, and they will be asking themselves whether the 2006 or 2007 version of Padilla will show up in 2008.

Brandon McCarthy summary:  Started badly, in part because of pressure from the John Danks trade.  Turned it around after May 1, and became arguably the Rangers best pitcher from then on.  Another one hit by injuries, he lost large swathes of the season on the DL, first with blisters on his fingers then with a broken shoulder blade, of all things.  If he ever gets healthy, he certainly looks like he could be an excellent pitcher, potentially a number two (on a staff filled with fours and fives, that’s pretty good).

Robinson Tejeda summary:  Chance after chance after chance was given to Tejeda, and every time he dropped the ball.  He should really have been sent down a month before he finally was, but there wasn’t anyone ready to replace him while everyone else was hitting the DL.  When they finally gave up, it was a mercy killing more than anything.  Needs to work hard to make his way back, but I don’t know if he has the attitude to do it.  He has great stuff, at times.  May be more suited to a bullpen role than starting, because with his speed he could very well blow people away.

Kason Gabbard summary:  Beat the Rangers in May, while pitching for the Red Sox, then came over in July in the Gagne trade.  From a marginal prospect, he turned out pretty good.  Big things will be expected of him next year, but that should be tempered with the thought that he really probably will fit in somewhere as a fourth starter, not necessarily a star.

Edinson Volquez summary:  This is definitely a case of being knocked down and proving that you can stand up again.  Sent all the way down to A ball, Volquez worked his way back to the majors during the year, and ended with some good starts, pushing himself back into strong contention for future consideration.  He is right now leading the race to be the fifth starter, but there are still five months to go.

Jamey Wright summary:  Did pretty much what was expected of him, which was not much.  Split time between the rotation and the bullpen, and was outstanding enough as a reliever (2.05 ERA) that they should leave him there.  Said at the end of the season he preferred starting, but he’ll go in the bullpen if he has to.  Since he’s a free agent, likely to go somewhere that will start him, but that’s likely to be a really bad team (as opposed to the Rangers, who are just bad).

Luis Mendoza summary:  He’d been going backwards until this year, when suddenly he rattled off a 15-4, 3.93 record at AA.  For some reason he was one of the guys dragged up for a start in Arlington, and ended up doing enough in a short time to slightly impress.  Will be back down to AAA next year, but he’s still on the fence regarding whether he can keep it all together.

John Koronka summary:  Couple of starts near the start of the year, nothing worth talking about, and was waived, claimed by Cleveland, where he did nothing in their minors and I think was released in September.  Career over?  Not likely, everyone wants pitching, but look for him to show up somewhere that has zero chance of contending (and I’m not necessarily talking about the Rangers).

Armando Galarraga summary:  A reward at the end of the season for going 11-8, 4.28 in the minors.  Like Mendoza,  probably shouldn’t have been near the Rangers, but at least he had been at AAA.  Also like Mendoza, could go either way in his prospecthood.  Mendoza is two years younger though, so more likely to succeed.

Relievers who started:
Willie Eyre, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker and AJ Murray started fifteen games between them (Rheinecker accounting for seven of those) but will be covered with relievers, as they either were mostly relievers just making spot starts, or started badly and relieved well (Rheinecker).

Minor league starters:  There are too many pitchers in the minors to deal with in a paragraph or two, so a full review of pitching in the minors will come separately.

2008:  Millwood, Padilla and McCarthy are locks for the rotation.  This is a problem because this season they pitched more like #3 and #4 starters, rather than top of the rotation guys the Rangers need.  A bunch of guys are battling for the end of the rotation, with Gabbard in the lead, and probably Volquez getting his chance again.  Can the Rangers attract any free agents to start?  Certainly not top-tier ones, they’ve proven that again and again.  Frankly, 2008 is a holding year anyway, so signing someone long-term will be a waste of money.  Keep growing the kids, and hope one works out.  Eric Hurley will lead the charge of the minor leaguers, there is some thought that he may make the big club out of spring training, but more likely he’ll be up later in the year.

2009 and beyond:  We’ll be in year four of Millwood, and the third (and final) year of Padilla.  McCarthy will of course be there.  Hopefully someone else will have stepped up and established themselves, working on experience for the team’s renaissance in 2010 or so.  Erik Hurley will probably get his first full season in 2009, which should be the start of a small trail of good minor league prospects.  Unfortunately they’re all in Low-A or below right now, so by the time 2010 comes around, many of them will have topped out or been traded already.  The odds of the Rangers growing good pitchers are just a little better than buying them.

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You spin me right round baby

August 4, 2007

I’ve been pondering a question all day today. It’s something I’ve thought and written about a few times recently, it’s something all Rangers fans think about now and again, it’s something that fans of any other team immediately think about when you mention the Rangers. It is, of course, where’s the pitching? More specifically, for today, my question is: who’s going to be in the rotation next year?

For the last few weeks, every time I wrote about trading Tex, or the trade deadline in general, my main theme was always pitching, pitching, pitching. In trading the three players that they did, they got nine in return, of whom only two are major league ready, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kason Gabbard, one (Matt Harrison) is about AA level, and the rest are prospects, years away if they ever make it. In fact, of the nine, they ended up with four pitchers, which totally blows away my theory of getting more pitching. Not only that, but much of the criticism has been based on how many they got and how low they were. In other words, why trade Tex for five players, mostly low prospects, when a team might have been willing to go with two high prospects. I had set my sights on guys who were ready for the big leagues, AAA types, and they didn’t materialize. Oh, we got Gabbard, who I’m actually very pleased about, but what might we have had if we’d said forget the other two players in this deal, give us one single higher level player, a Jon Lester type guy (though not necessarily actually him). Again, to be fair, the deal with Boston got us much more than I ever hoped, I was expecting one AA level player for Gagne, to get a major league pitcher plus two others for him was excellent. But turn back to the Tex trade, and ask why we would make Salty the centerpiece, when we could have had one of their top pitching prospects? No offense to him, I expect him to become a top player for us, but why are we insisting on getting a first baseman back (yes, okay, he plays catcher sometimes too), when first baseman grow on trees and pitchers are what is coveted?

So, to get back to the point of this blog entry, how does our rotations shape up for 2008? Yes, asking that in the middle of the 2007 season is asking to be second guessed all the way, but since the team has to be thinking 2008 at this point, we may as well address it too.

Here’s who I think the candidates are currently: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker, Robinson Tejeda, Jamey Wright, Willie Eyre, Kason Gabbard, Eric Hurley, Josh Rupe, Armando Galarraga, Edinson Volquez. Now, some of these guys are locks, some of them are from my hopes or dreams, some of them may require a lot of other people to fall down in front of them, but all of them have to be considered legitimate candidates.

Locks: Millwood, Padilla, Loe, McCarthy. Does that seriously seem reasonable, that you’d have four locks for five slots already? No, of course not. In fact, quite honestly I’d say there’s only one lock right now, and that’s McCarthy. Apart from pitching very well since the beginning of May (once he got his nerves from the trade out of the way), he’s also one of Jon Daniels’ major trade acquisitions, received for the blue chip prospect John Danks (checked him out lately? I know it’s his first season in the bigs, but I’d take McCarthy over him, especially given his home run rate), which means Daniels has a lot riding on his success. His injury worries this year have been relatively minor (blisters on his fingers), and something that a competent pitching coach should be able to improve. Of the others, Padilla has been on the DL for weeks, although he may be back soonish, and has a big contract that a) is too big to be moved, and b) means he won’t be sent to the bullpen. As long as he’s healthy, he’s in the rotation. Kam Loe went on the DL today, with a stressed back, which is hard to tell from what they said how bad it will be. Given his performances though, he’ll be in. Millwood has had injury and ineffectiveness problems all year, but he also has a huge contract. He’s been making some noise about wanting to contend, not rebuild. If he makes enough noise, and we eat enough of the contract, he could be gone, but right now you’ve got to think he’s in. So that’s four.

Bubbles: Kason Gabbard. Mike Wood. John Rheinecker. Gabbard has to be the front runner, simply because of his success this year, but also because of the desire to show something from the Gagne trade. Wood and Rheinecker have pretty much proven themselves in AAA, but haven’t made a breakthrough in the majors yet. They both have mid-3 ERAs in Oklahoma, and mid-5s in the majors. Wood has a few years on him now, but hasn’t grasped the brass ring, and Rheinecker has had a little taste here and there but not taken it either. Remember Rheinecker’s comments before the trade deadline, about how if the Rangers didn’t want him, there were plenty of teams ready to trade? Laughable, really. They’re both getting a little old (27 and 28) to be pushing their prospect status, they’ll likely make it as journeymen if anything.

Rising: Eric Hurley. Hurley is the stud of the minors, and it’s highly possible he’ll get a few starts in September. Good work in those, plus a good spring, will put him on the bubble too.

Slipping: Robinson Tejeda. Jamey Wright. Willie Eyre. Tejeda you know about, back in AAA after a miserable half season in Arlington, I’m guessing it’s at least a year before he’s back, and even then he might have converted to a reliever. Wright lost his rotation spot to Gabbard, showing where he is in the team’s plans, which is interesting because he wasn’t horrible in the Arlington rotation (4.57 ERA, although far too many walks and too few strikeouts), but he’s just as likely to be a free agent as to be in the team’s plans. Willie Eyre isn’t slipping really, he’s simply been too valuable in the bullpen as the long man, and his lone start notwithstanding, if he comes back that’s probably his destination.

Not yet: Armando Galarraga. Edinson Volquez. Josh Rupe. Galarraga might prove to be the most successful result from the Soriano trade. His numbers across the board in Frisco were good, enough to get him a promotion to AAA, but he’s 25 and running out of prospect time. Won’t make it in 2008, but should be a candidate for 2009. Volquez, well, he was rushed too far too fast, and fell back to earth with a crash. Don’t forget he’s only 24, and should never have been in Arlington the last two years. Got himself back on track somewhat this year, but he’s also a year or more away from getting back to the show. Rupe was coming up and up, getting some time in the last two years, but injury has curtailed him a lot. He’s been decent as a starter in AAA this year, which puts him in this list, but my guess is he goes back to OKC to get more time in there.

So, throwing out the wildcards, the guys not likely to be here next year (either in the minors for sure or in another organization), what do we have left? Millwood, Padilla, Loe, McCarthy, Gabbard as the front five. Wood, Rheinecker and Hurley as the next three. The others are all unlikelies.

In the greatest teams, you look at their rotations and you don’t see a number one, two, three, four and five pitcher, you see a couple of ones, a couple of twos and a three. In most any playoff team, you’ll get a one, one or two twos, one or two threes, and a four (did you get all that?). Whatever you have, you need a one, and every five you have reduces your chances (and if you have sixes and sevens in there, you’re dead).  There aren’t that many ones (Clemens, Maddux, Santana, maybe a couple of others hanging around would qualify in the last few years), and there are far too many fives for anyone.

Millwood, at his absolute best, might have been considered a number one pitcher for maybe two seasons, and a number two for a couple more. Most of the time he’s been a three, which is probably where he’s at right now. What’s interesting, I just read somewhere in the last day or two but I don’t remember where, looking at his career, is how every three years he’s had a huge leap for a season, and 2008 will be a third year. How likely is that to continue next year, given that he’ll be 33?

Padilla had a decent year last year, and parleyed that into a three year deal with the Rangers, which we regretted pretty much from signing. A career 101 ERA+, meaning just barely better than league average, last year was in fact the first time since 2003 that he’d gotten over 100, and even then he only made it to 104. This year, 69. If he can’t get over his injury woes, or his mood swings, he’ll be a millstone on the team, but in fact if he does get over them, he’ll merely be a dragging anchor. I would never have considered him anything more than a number four starter, and probably even a five.

Loe just went on the DL today, hopefully for a short period but of long term concern, since he said it was his back and to be expected because he’s so tall. Well, unless he’s planning on losing a few inches, that might continue to rear it’s ugly head. Now at age 25, he put together half a dozen good starts which appeared to be a breakthrough, but then he regressed again.  Which Loe will show up next year?  The 7.40 ERA from the start of the season through early June, or the 3.30 ERA for the rest of June and most of July?  At this stage, he’s reliably a four, with the possibility of a three.

McCarthy continues to impress every time he pitches.  As noted before, a 3.69 ERA since the beginning of May.  Hopefully he’s gotten over new team jitters and will continue to pitch like this, and if that’s the case he can only get better as he ages into his prime.  Biggest concern is the 39 to 47 walk to strikeout ratio, and how he can get that to get better.  It is quite a bit lower than prior years, so can he return to the old ways?  I would say he’s probably a three, with bad luck he’s a four but with good luck he’ll be a two in a couple of years.

Gabbard is an unknown quantity to Ranger fans.  His career numbers look surprisingly similar to McCarthy’s 2007 numbers though, and that’s probably a good thing.  To have a 3.73 ERA for Boston in the pennant race is good, too.  Everything I’ve read about him suggests he’s doing better than anyone expected, and they don’t seem to think it will last.  I’m honestly not sure where to put him, I feel like he’ll be somewhere between a three and a five, like McCarthy it all depends on luck.  Let’s call him a four just to make it even.

Wood and Rheinecker are fives, at best.  The fact that they were kept in the minors while Tejeda did what he did speaks volumes about the team’s belief in them.  They’re only getting starts when there are gaps, such as tomorrow when Wood will go for Loe, and Rheinecker being in the rotation after both Padilla and Tejeda went out.  As mentioned, their age really hurts them when considering them as prospects.

I’m not even going to rank Hurley, because he doesn’t have one big league pitch to his name.  You want to think he’s a number one, and who knows, maybe one day he might be.  For starting next year though, you’d call him a five and hope for a four.  His 39 to 111 walks to strikeouts rate is phenomenal though, so he could be good.  Just remember he’s still only 21.

So the front five will be, barring trades or free agents, the same as it was starting this year, with the exception of Gabbard for Tejeda.  And herein lies the problem of the Rangers.  The guys that might help are years away, the guys that are here are largely mediocre, and we’re relying on the bats to cover over the cracks.  When the bats go silent, as they did at the start of the year, the huge hole is exposed.  When the pitchers pitch well, as they did in July, again the bats let them down.  Yes, it’s hard getting everything working in tune, but it’s even harder when you’re going with a couple of threes and three fours in your rotation, and trying to pretend they’re anything other than what they are.  Unless the Rangers blow someone away with a free agent offer (which hasn’t happened in the last 30 years) or a trade (and the biggest chip just left town), they’re waiting for some of these prospects to grow up and become number one and number two pitchers, all before they reach free agency themselves and take the prime of their careers to greener (and deeper) pastures.

Finally, can anyone actually define a number one pitcher, or number two pitcher, or so on?  Have the Rangers ever had a one?  Maybe I need to come up with my own rankings, and see what I can come up with.  It seems like the annual free agent rankings from Elias ought to be useful in calculating starter status, but I don’t think they’re available for any but the most recent years, and the algorithms that make them are certainly not free.  If I can find some of those rankings, and throw in a dash of my own calculation, I might be able to get something workable going.  Give me some time to think about it.  I guarantee I’ll answer the question before the Rangers have a true number one pitcher.

Why are these guys even here?

June 30, 2007

There are times when you’re resigned to losing, and times when you’re mad about losing. This was a mad day. The Rangers had opportunity after opportunity, and couldn’t do anything. As the reports say, they were 0-7 with runners in scoring position (mostly Kenny Lofton, after stealing four bases). To lose when the opponent only gets two runs out of this pitching staff is disappointing. To lose with your final batter, a former batting champ, a multi-All-Star, the 80 million dollar man, standing with his bat on his shoulder, that’s frustrating. How many times did he foul pitches off, and then leave one alone that was almost right down the middle? The least he could have done is swing at it wildly, like he was earlier in the year, striking out on a ridiculous pitch six inches outside. But no, this was a pitch to hit, this was the one he was waiting for, and he watched it go by to end the game. I remember getting really mad at Wilkerson earlier this year, watching the final strike of the game, so I have to get mad at Michael Young too. At least he had the guts to say he blew it though.

For what it’s worth, I could not tell who won the race between Papelbon and Lofton. They didn’t slow it down enough, but of all that I saw I said that the tie goes to the runner. So it’s also annoying that the wire stories said that replays showed Papelbon might have beaten Lofton. That’s absolutely not true, and there’s no need to introduce that bit of bias into your story.

Get this, from the Rangers site about Jamey Wright: “He is now 68-100 in his career, a .404 winning percentage that is the lowest by an active pitcher with at least 100 decisions.” So why is he pitching for us? Okay, sure, wins are really a team thing, not a pitcher thing, but you know, after a long enough period you can kind of tell what the pitcher is like too. And looking him up on Baseball Reference, we see he is a career 93 ERA+, a little below average. Why is he with the Rangers? I’m guessing Jon Daniels would say something like “veteran presence”. I’d say something like “blocking a young pitcher from getting major league experience”. Is he going to be with the Rangers when they start winning in 2010? No. Is he going to be here even next year? Doubtful. He’s 32, he’s not part of the future and the present isn’t hopeful. Heck, get Mike Wood back up and give him an extended trial. At least he’s only 27, and might be able to stick around a bit. Of course, his ERA+ is only 81, but it’s also only in 300 innings, whereas Wright has had 1475 innings.  At what point is a pitcher’s future determined?  Is 300 innings enough to show what his career will be like?  My very preliminary analysis says that it might be, but that’s for another day.

Vazquez showed why you need a third baseman at third base, or at least why you need to be able to think faster.  Personally, I’m not really sold on him.  I don’t think he’s much of a keeper, he’s really just about replacement level, meaning there’s a hundred other guys who could do the same job.  Once again, 30 year old roster filler, but why block someone who could use the experience?  Travis Metcalf is up, but he should be playing every day.  It doesn’t matter if you want to try platooning him.  Let him try.  The more he sees, the better he will be.  And no, watching from the bench does not count.

I would love to have just one at-bat against Tim Wakefield.  I know, I know, he fools people who can actually hit a baseball, but every time I see him I wonder why the Rangers aren’t pounding him, and I always end up saying “come on, I could do better than that!”.

Ultimately a bad loss, even though they fought all the way.  I’d rather succeed than try.  Still, as I said earlier in the week, they’re now playing good teams.  Two losses in a row puts them back to normal, and with Tejeda against Beckett tomorrow, I’d put my money on three losses in a row.  But at least he’s getting the ball every fifth day, not being jacked around, or buried behind some old fart who’s got nothing left.

Insert your own pun about Wright being Wrong

June 17, 2007

So Jamey Wright proved he does belong in the Rangers rotation, giving up three home runs on the way to the loss, only managing to go five innings, and giving up the obligatory couple of runs in the first inning. Watch out guys, we have a new contender for worst pitcher in the league. Now, to be fair, it was Ken Griffey Jr hitting two of the home runs, and what on earth is he doing swinging at a ball in the dirt, let alone jacking it out? But as Jerry Narron said afterwards, he could have had four today. Given Sosa’s month without a home run, what are the odds that Griffey will get to 600 before him? After all, he’s only 19 behind now. Actually, I have this feeling that Sosa is going to do it against the Cubs. I also have the feeling he’s going to do it against the Astros, on the same day that Biggio gets his 3000th hit (but that too is a stretch, because Biggio needs 11 hits, and he has four games before coming to Arlington, so he will have to have 11 hits in their next 7 games if he’s going to do it here, and that assumes that he doesn’t get left out of the lineup so he can get 3000 at home).

Ever heard of Muhammad Ali, Pat Riley, John Unitas, Bear Bryant and Paul Hornung? Of course you have. Does it shock you that Brad Wilkerson is joining those guys in the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame? It does me. He must have been really good in high school, because he’s not getting in on his professional record. And I shouldn’t pick on him for his ability to play first, but there are a couple of plays in the last two games that Tex would have made but he didn’t. Actually he has played at first a few times in his career, 168 games according to Baseball Reference, so he should be somewhat used to it by now.  And Tex only has two inches on him, so it’s not really a height thing either.  Probably just lack of practice there, but that’s something that can be said about everyone on the Rangers this year.

I made good progress on my statistical research today, and I expect to complete it and post it tomorrow night.  You’ll love it, full of pretty graphs and such, all showing how the Rangers rotation sucks.  No, really, I can prove it.  Okay, so don’t believe me then, just wait till tomorrow.