Archive for the ‘Jarrod Saltalamacchia’ Category

Catching the worst option they could

December 15, 2008

The Rangers had a surfeit at catcher, if you listened to anyone worth listening to.  They were going to deal some of them, and get some big-time pitching prospects in here, guys who were going to jump into a major league role right away.  The top four (Laird, Saltalamacchia, Teagarden and Ramirez) were all mentioned in different ways.

Of those, Salty was the one talked about most, and Ramirez hardly at all.  Jamey Newberg had Salty on the way out the door, Boston bound, and we were going to get Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in return.  We’d be pretty happy with either of those guys, right?  Either one would step into our rotation plans, probably as a 5th starter in 2009 but you’d expect them to be a 2 or 3 by 2011, the earliest the Rangers are likely to contend.

So what did the Rangers actually do?  They traded Gerald Laird to Detroit for nothing.  To be more precise, a 25 year old still struggling to get out of A ball (= No Prospect), and a 17 or 18 year old who has a thousand mile per hour fastball but is a crapshoot.

Yeah, genius work.  Much of the value of the catchers was in Salty, and if you consider that Teagarden is the one for the future, then it wouldn’t matter if you deal Salty or Laird, except for the fact that you get a much better return on Salty than on Laird.

So we presumably go into 2009 with Salty and Teagarden as our two catchers, two guys who have little experience at the job.  Yeah, they can learn on the job, but who are they going to learn from?  My ideal situation would have been to trade Salty for one of those Boston guys, and let Teagarden learn from Laird for a year or two before turning into our catcher of the future.  As it is, Salty hasn’t shown much of anything either with the bat or behind the plate, and may be destined to be yet another prospect who turned into a pumpkin at the big league level.

My biggest fear hasn’t been realized (yet):  that they will bring in a veteran to help the young guys.  You know, an Einar Diaz, Sandy Alomar, Rod Barajas, someone whose only job is to block young players from getting playing time.  It’s fine to have them as a teacher, but you don’t deal someone who could do that and then go get another one at twice the price.

This is the same brain trust that has them talking about bringing in Randy Johnson.  I defy you to find a more bone-headed move that the Rangers could make.  RJ would take a lot of money, and would bring back 300 wins (he’s at 295 now), so would get a lot of publicity.  But it would be Sammy Sosa publicity, where nobody around here really cares, because we know he did it all with another team.  It would be a publicity stunt to try and get the local fans interested, and God knows they’re going to have to do a lot to get the Texas fans interested in 2009.

My favorite line about Johnson was in the Dallas Morning News.  Nolan Ryan was quoted as saying he’d be a great teacher for the young pitchers we have coming through.  But then, Johnson’s agent said that he was a good teacher if the young guys asked him about things.  Not that he’ll be volunteering anything, but if some snot-nosed 20 year old comes up to future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and asks him for help, he will offer it.  Yeah, that’ll happen.

And they bring back Mark Connor, to a minor league role?  Did they forget how he was destroying young pitchers?

Seeing Sabathia and Burnett sign with the Yankees was very demoralizing.  The Rangers are left with Ben Sheets, hoping he’ll take a home town discount (except then there’s the story that he’s trying to sell his house in Dallas!).  Not a good long-term bet.  And I don’t think the Rangers should be signing anyone long-term, they should be concentrating on getting the kids in short-term.  Once we see the upswing in the team’s chances (and I said 2011 above), then you look for a free agent or two who can help put the team over the top.  Every dollar spent on top level free agents right now is a wasted one.  On bottom level ones too, for that matter.  Recognize the team isn’t going to win, and go with the kids, don’t bring in roster filler who are taking their time away.

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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.

What is he thinking?

March 27, 2008

Just a short one tonight, because it’s late.  I read in the Star-Telegram today (apparently someone at the office has begun a subscription and is bringing it in regularly) that Ron Washington said a few days ago that he preferred Mench over Botts, and that if Botts made the team “he didn’t have to play him”.  This is exactly the fear I talked about yesterday, that they would let Botts rot on the bench for a few weeks, say he wasn’t hitting and dump him somewhere.

Now, what can Ron Washington possibly be thinking when he says this?  Even if it’s your actual thought as a manager, you would have to be insane to say this out loud, especially to the media.  The whole article was about how the Rangers had discussed the competition between Botts and Mench and decided that Botts would be on the roster.  It said that Washington was opposed, but that Jon Daniels had the final say (as he should).

I think Art Howe ran into similar problems when he was managing Oakland, didn’t he?  That GM Billy Beane had chosen the team, but Howe didn’t like them all, and didn’t approve of the statistical approach that Beane took to choose the team, and so snubbed some of the players who Beane wanted to play.  Wasn’t that part of Moneyball?  I don’t think I’m imagining it.  Anyway, Howe was fired from Oakland, and is now the bench coach for the Rangers, whereas Washington was the third base coach in Oakland at the time, and is now manager in Texas.  Birds of a feather flock together.  I’m all for Washington making in-game decisions (or I should say I’m all for the manager making in-game decisions, since I don’t believe Washington should be the Rangers manager), but he should be using the full set of cards he is dealt, not deciding he doesn’t like some of them.  I don’t know what he has against Botts.  I do know if you’re playing poker, you can’t say you don’t like threes and will never use them, because you might just flop a set and win a hand with them.

Remember, Howe is the manager-in-waiting.  It would be a cunning move on his part to put the idea into Washington’s head that he doesn’t need to use Botts.  Then all Washington has to do is blurt it out.  It’s kind of a Bush-Cheney thing, with the figurehead up front and the evil genius hiding in back.  Okay, maybe I’m being a bit too Machiavellian here.

Anyway, all I ask for is for Botts to get a fair shake this year, not mess him around with an at-bat or two here and there.

Oh yeah, and while I’m at it, the whole Salty thing is a mess.  He’s the centerpiece of the Tex deal, and he’s beaten out by a guy who could barely hold his head above water last year.  I like Laird, liked him ever since he was the new Pudge in fact, but in terms of the franchise future, Salty is the man.  Get him the games, get him the experience that will be useful in a couple of years when the team is contending.  Hmm, on second thoughts:  maybe it will help to have him in Oklahoma, it gives him a chance to be catching some of the guys he will be catching in 2010.  How many of the current pitching staff do you expect will be around then?  Two or three, maybe.  Salty might get to pitch to two or three in OKC in April alone.

Rangers Review: Catcher

October 4, 2007

Maybe Buck Showalter was right. For years, Gerald Laird sat on the bench as backup catcher, first to Einar Diaz then to Rod Barajas. His early promise had him compared to Pudge Rodriguez, but he never got (or took) the chances he was given. Each time he seemed to be ready to make the step up, some injury would intervene, and for the longest time it looked like Showalter had decided that Laird could never be the starter. But finally, in 2007, Showalter was gone and Laird was anointed the number one, with Chris Stewart as his backup, meaning that Laird would get the lion’s share of the playing time.

And he struggled from day one, never got the bat going, fielded okay, and threw pretty well, but at last Jon Daniels appeared to give up, trading for not one but two catchers in an attempt to improve the position both now and in the future. First Daniels got Adam Melhuse to be the backup, and when he didn’t work out, they went and traded at the deadline, picking up Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the Teixeira trade. At first the reports were that Laird was still the starter, and they wanted to look at Salty at first base as well as catcher, but as time went on Salty played more and more catcher, and in September as injuries hit Laird, Salty was the starter and yet another catcher, Guillermo Quiroz, came up and got in a few games as backup. By the end of the year there were persistent rumors that Laird would be on his way out over the winter, with the Cubs listed as one likely destination.

Gerald Laird summary: Laird couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat in 2007, and in the early part of the season he struggled to get his average up and over .200. As time went on he hit better, a little, and ended up managing to get his average to .224 for the year. He was very successful at bunting for a hit though, at one point he had as many bunt hits as all other catchers in the majors combined. His bunting was always good, and his speed was always good, but he just couldn’t swing away successfully. By the end of the season he was ranked among the worst hitters in the league, for people with enough qualifying at-bats, ending with a miserable 62 OPS+. You get the feeling that if there had been a decent backup, Laird would have lost time much sooner. His arm took the opposite route though, starting out the season very well, throwing out enough runners that they began to not try and run on him, but as time went on he slipped more and more, ultimately ending up with a good but not great success rate of 39.8% of runners thrown out. In addition, with the disaster that was the pitching staff early in the season, he wasn’t seen as doing much to help that (of course, Pudge had the same reputation in Texas, but when he went to Florida they raved about his handling of the pitching staff). As time went on, the pitching got better, which is worrying since Laird was playing less and less, and my feeling was that he wore down at the end of the year, having been in more games than he ever had before, but even so he was still only middle of the pack of the regular catchers around the league.

Chris Stewart summary: Stewart was acquired from Chicago in the winter, with the intent he would challenge for the backup job. He won it in spring training, and then sat on the bench for most of the first couple of months, starting just four games in April and six games in May, then one game in June before being sent down on June 9. Didn’t do much when he was able to play, but with Laird being given every opportunity, Stewart didn’t have any chances to get into a rhythm. Finally the Rangers got Melhuse, and sent Stewart back to the minors, where he split playing time with Quiroz in Oklahoma and performed just about the same as he had in Texas.

Adam Melhuse summary: Came over from Oakland in a bizarre deal for cash. Bizarre because he had been worthless for Oakland for years, but somehow Ron Washington liked him and convinced Daniels to trade for him. Once he got to Texas, he had limited playing time at catcher, although slightly more than Stewart had, and ended up playing a few games at third (which tells you how desperate the Rangers were at third, too). In late August the Rangers finally released him, when they realized that he wasn’t going to get to do anything, and he went back to Oakland again, this time in the minors. He was a gamble for a backup, but an unnecessary one, and if anything provided evidence that Ron Washington would prefer someone he knew over someone with ability. The Rangers would have been better off sticking with Stewart, they would have saved the cash they sent to Oakland and gotten the same production.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia summary: Top of the prospect pile in Atlanta, he had grown up as a catcher but when he was brought up to Atlanta earlier this year he played some first base too, to try and fill the hole they had there and to get him into the lineup. They finally decided they needed Teixeira’s bat, and were willing to give up Salty (plus others), so the Rangers got another catcher, or another first baseman. He played both positions, and as time went on played more and more catcher. He says his preferred position is catcher, and it shows: when playing first, his OPS was .582, when playing catcher it was .876 (but with small sample sizes for both). He did not show a good arm, throwing out just 17.8% of baserunners who tried to steal on him, and that is probably his biggest concern. If he doesn’t have the arm to catch, does he have the bat to play first? Of course, Piazza wasn’t a good catcher either, but his bat more than carried him, and if Salty can have a career like that we won’t worry about how many runners he throws out.

Guillermo Quiroz summary: Cups of coffee with other teams in the last few years, and the Rangers signed him to be the AAA catcher just in case of an emergency. Spent most of the year there, without a great bat, but was brought up for a few games in September. Has backup written all over him, although like Stewart is just 25, so could make something of himself one day.

Minor leagues summary: Nothing much happened at AAA, with Quiroz and Stewart sharing most of the time with Miguel Ojeda, none of whom showed much with the bat. But once you go down the system, you realize that the Rangers are pretty well stocked with catchers. Salomon Manriquez and Kevin Richardson at AA both did pretty well, Manriquez having performed better and being a couple of years younger is the better prospect. Star prospect Taylor Teagarden split time at High-A and AA, and split between DH and catching, having come back from injury the year before. Showed great ability with the bat (27 HRs), but is his future at C or somewhere else? The Rangers had traded Kenny Lofton in July for A-ball catcher Max Ramirez, who continued to hit almost exactly the same (.920 OPS) as he had in the Cleveland minor leagues (.923 OPS), and is now probably the number one catching prospect for the Rangers. The others at Bakersfield didn’t do much, and probably won’t get very far. In low-A Clinton, Manuel Pina was the feature catcher, and didn’t do much with the bat, but is still only 20 years old so has the possibility of developing. Short-season Spokane had Jonathan Greene doing very well, while 18-year-old Cristian Santana did very well both there and in rookie ball.

Overall, catcher is one of the strongest positions the Rangers have in the system right now, thanks to trades and the draft. At the top of the minor league tree there isn’t much, but every level below has at least one strong prospect. If Laird is considered expendable, then we should get something decent in return, and still have a good stockpile of catchers. Being loaded at a position is a good thing, because you can choose the ones you want to keep and deal the rest for something you need (a.k.a. pitching). Don’t expect to see even half of these names in a Ranger uniform, or even in the majors, but with luck you might see one or two and see some of the others in trades for someone we will use.

2008: My expectation is that Laird will be dealt this winter, and Salty will be the starting catcher next year. Will Quiroz get the backup job? Stewart? Ojeda? Each is an interchangeable part, except Ojeda is several years older. Or will they look at some veteran catcher to teach Salty? If they could get someone who can sit on the bench with Salty all year and teach him what they know (which is what Sandy Alomar did a couple of years ago), that would be a good deal for the Rangers. Salty has good value as a catcher, but probably below average bat value at first. Will his arm be good enough to stay at catcher, and if not where else does he go? Third?

2009 and beyond: If Salty works out, he could be the starting catcher for several years to come. If not (and he needs to be given enough time to prove not before the Rangers quit on him), then as noted the system is loaded and someone else should come through in a year or two. Perhaps Taylor Teagarden has the best opportunity, if he stays at catcher, but otherwise Max Ramirez should be ready around 2010, right when the Rangers farm should be maturing into a contending team for several years.

No White after Labor Day

September 5, 2007

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been (and you probably haven’t), we spent the Labor Day weekend down at Crystal Beach (near Galveston) with family, as we do every year. A long drive in each direction, but a chance to catch up with people, to have some fun in the sun (or clouds, as it mostly was this weekend), to enjoy our almost-3-year-old discovering how much fun everything at the beach can be, with a number of firsts for him, and to get away from baseball. Now, the getting away from baseball wasn’t intentional, but by the time we got round to even looking at the tv it was already Saturday evening, and all we got was the score from Saturday’s game, nothing about Friday at all, or about what happened during Saturday. Paying more attention on Sunday morning (it rained quite a bit so we stayed inside for a while, before heading down to the beach figuring that the water from the sky is exactly the same as the water we were swimming in, although a whole lot less brown), we got to see SportsCenter and the no-no by Boston’s Clay Buchholz. I wish we had gotten him for Gagne, no disrespect to Gabbard or Murphy, who should end up as solid major leaguers, but Buchholz should end up as a superstar, and not just based on his no-hitter, but everything he’s done. As it turns out, Buchholz went to high school with my nephew, something I did not know until Sunday, but maybe I can leverage that piece of information one day (yeah, me and a million others, huh?).

Sunday night was the one good night, because we saw the Rangers on ESPN, the only way we would possibly see them down there. Talking to the folks who live in the Houston area, they said that they used to see the Rangers a lot, but not any more, they’re only on tv down there when the Astros aren’t playing and there’s no other filler shows to put on. A little similar to here, although I think we get more Astros games than they do Rangers. I wonder what drives that? Yes, there’s the franchise competition (our market vs their market), but I think if your local team isn’t playing there’s no reason they couldn’t show others. It’s kind of like the frustration I get knowing I’ll be lucky to see only three or four Seahawks games all season (until the playoffs!), but in that case worse because I know the NFL and DirecTV conspire to stop me being able to watch the game I want. Sooner or later Congress will get on with their hearings into that, and then things will change.

But I digress. Sunday was a great day to watch, especially seeing Hank back at long last, and with a salami to win the game, too. We got a month and a half of him at the start of the season where he showed a few sparks, but with quite a bit of cold in him too, and now we’re going to see another month at the end of the year. It will be interesting to compare the two. He’s had the knock on him of slipping every year he’s been in the majors, and this was his chance to break that streak, but of course being shortened it doesn’t mean as much. Is he “back”? Was he ever gone? He was certainly headed in the direction of losing his job, but then you have to remember that he’s only 26 (27 in Nov), so his peak should be the next few years. I have no doubt if the Rangers didn’t want him, someone would. Hopefully he can turn it around, and I won’t have to write some of the scathing things I wrote earlier this year about him. I have the greatest wish for him to succeed in a Rangers uniform, but as with all players, if he can’t cut it, move along and find someone else.

That move along attitude was biting me again tonight. I was watching them bring in Jamey Wright, and wondering why, when there are no plans for him next year (I assume). It really is time, especially now it is September and rosters expand, to have some of the dead wood sit at the back of the bullpen and watch the future overtake them. There was a stupid question about Jason Botts on the Rangers site in the last couple of days, saying he’s never going to make it and we shouldn’t play him. His past has strongly predicted success, and unfortunately they are going to measure him on a month in the majors. Jamey Newberg pointed out today that he had a poor first month in various places, and then exploded, and coincidentally tonight he gets three hits. If I were the GM I would be writing his name in for next year already, and not worrying about finding another Sammy Sosa or equally worn-out player.

Here’s what I’d be doing if I was GM right now: Murphy, Byrd and Cruz in the outfield every day. We know what Cat can do, we don’t care about Wilkerson, but we need to see these three guys. In the infield, we’re wasting time with Vazquez and Hairston, because we think Blalock will be back. Okay, but don’t read anything into them, they should both be free agents in the offseason, because they are easily replaceable parts. I’d like to see Salty catch every day, but I’d also like to see Laird every day, and that’s going to be the toughest decision of the winter. My guess is Laird is done here, sad to say. He hasn’t shown much improvement with the bat, if any, and I think the clock is ticking. He’s done well at bunting for a hit (not necessarily a great skill to have), and pretty good defensively, but not enough to offset the bat that Salty brings. I think we should get Salty in catching, put Wilkerson at first (just for the heck of it), and deal Laird in the winter at unfortunately a low point. Not all his fault, the organization dicked him around a lot, and didn’t give him the chances he needed a few years ago. But they’ve done that to a lot of people.

On the pitching front, I think we’re set with the rotation, unfortunately. They didn’t do anything this year, why should they next? I said a few weeks ago we are loaded down with third and fourth starters, and don’t have anyone to drag us along with them. The bullpen is really a mess right now, after CJ and Jack what do you have? A bunch of parts that hopefully slot together in the right way at the right time. I read a study a little while ago, I’ll have to find it again, that said the Rangers bullpen was over-rated last year, because they weren’t in high-leverage situations. That’s definitely true again this year. Frankie and Aki are probably going to be in the mix, but there’s a lot of question marks there. Of course, they end up bringing up Bill White, the reason for which I’m not clear, it’s either because he’s been around a long time and they felt he should have a go, or because someone lost a bet.  Seriously, why?  There is nothing in his stats to say he belongs, having spent several years at AA with pretty mixed results.  My only guess is that they felt they should do something, and he was the guy who was expendable, so by putting him on the 40 man roster they weren’t risking losing someone they didn’t want to lose.  Hey, good luck to the guy.  He’ll certainly remind you of that old saying:  If at first you don’t succeed, may as well give up, it probably wasn’t worth doing anyway.  Uhh, something like that.

Speaking of CJ (I was!), Sunday night reiterated what I’d said a few days ago about him. The Rangers should go with dual closers, him and Benoit. Jack would get all the “easy” saves, and CJ should be used for the one run leads. Not because Jack is any less of a pitcher, he’s just a lot more steady. CJ has given me (let alone Ron Washington) half a dozen heart attacks in the last week, and I’ve only watched half the games. If the game is tight, he’s the man you want in there, but if not, give it to Jack and save me from tearing my hair out.

I have so many different studies I’m working on now it’s crazy trying to keep track of them all. I need to keep a list of everything that pops into my head, and prioritize on the immediate vs the interesting. Of course, there’s also the impending end of the season, I have a few things I want to look at but I should probably wait a few weeks and get a complete dataset. And then there’s stuff I think about so long that someone else comes along and gets it done for me, like the comparison of release points among ballparks. This guy has a new blog, and did the study I’d been thinking of, and even stepped through the same ideas I had. It’s nice know that my thinking is being matched by others, that tells me I’m on the right track for what I’m doing. If I was getting radically different results, I’d be worried, but I think the fact that we’re validating each other as we go tells me that the Cambrian explosion as Dan Fox put it may be happening. Fun times to be looking at this stuff.

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.

The trade winds blew some good

August 1, 2007

ESPN’s poll on the trade deadline says the Braves and Red Sox both handily beat the Rangers in their trades. It also says only 11% think the Rangers “won” the trade deadline. Jayson Stark’s article pretty much says the same when reviewing each trade, but then says Jon Daniels gets an A for everything he did.  Huh?  Part of the problem is that if you ask the question “Who got the better of the deal, Braves or Rangers?”, more folks are going to put Braves, simply because they’re a more famous/better known team.  Same with the Red Sox.  If you had a third option, for “Both”, or “Neither”, I think you’d get a lot more votes for that.  It’s simply the case that there must be a winner and a loser, instead of both teams being able to come out looking good.

So did the Rangers come out looking good today?  On Friday I felt they did really well, getting a decent prospect for 40 year old rent-a-player Kenny Lofton.  Yesterday I thought they did pretty good, getting four players for Tex, three of whom were the Braves’ top three prospects.  Today that was amended slightly, because the Braves added another player to the list, Beau Jones, which makes it a little better for Texas.  The only thing I know about Jones is what Baseball Prospectus said, that he’s got a lot of heat to his fastball, all he needs to do is learn how to throw it over the plate.  So you’ve got to be fairly happy about the Tex deal from a Texas standpoint.

And then there’s Gagne.  One of the first things I read about this deal was how the Rangers didn’t get anything good for him, and how the Red Sox were happy because they’d kept all their top prospects.  Good point.  Could they have gone for a little more quality and a little less quantity?  Overall, are nine prospects worth four major leaguers?  In the Gagne case, they appear to be hedging their bets, working along the lines of “put more fish in the barrel and you’re more likely to hit one”.  If you’re not going to get a Buchholz, or Ellsbury, or something decent out of the Yankees, then is it smarter to play multiple choice instead?  Time will tell.  I like Kason Gabbard, for some reason I thought he’d thrown seven shutout innings against the Rangers in May, that was wishful thinking, because it was actually three runs in 5.2 innings, although he did get the win.  In 66 career innings, he has given up 52 hits (good), 34 walks (not good), 44 strikeouts (decent), 3 home runs (good, especially at TBIA), and has a 3.65 ERA.  Granted, that will go up at the Ballpark, especially once Mark Connor starts to ruin him, but he’s going to slot into the rotation, give us a number three or four starter for next year, and is another 25 year old yet to reach his potential.  The other two players we got from Boston I don’t know, but for 30 innings of Gagne I think we got ourselves a pretty good player.

What surprised me was that Hicks came out today and said that on July 15 he had offered Tex an 8 year, 140 million dollar contract extension and was turned down.  That is proof that Tex wanted out of town.  The surprising part is that the offer was not leaked before the trade deadline.  I think if it had been, it might have affected his trade status, because teams would have offered less knowing the Rangers had to deal him.  But it also would have taken some of the heat off the Rangers, because the fans would have seen that and said “get rid of the bum”.  I love Tex, but his mind was clearly elsewhere.  I hope he doesn’t end up regretting it in a Juan Gonzalez kind of way, Gonzo turned down similar years and dollars from Detroit and then injured his career away.

Hicks also said they had been negotiating with Gagne, but couldn’t get together on years and dollars.  With luck, we can work on him in the offseason, and bring him back next year, when we might be slightly more competitive.  The fear is of moving up the timetable on winning, which is still at least three years away, and blowing money and players we shouldn’t be to try and win now.

Sosa is still a Ranger.  I wonder if they will waive him right away, get him through waivers so they can trade him to anyone, or at least have someone claim him and get him off our hands.  Hicks says they won’t release him, “I won’t do that to Sammy”, which tells you why he’s an owner, not a GM, and why he’s a bad owner too.  Sometimes you have to cut the famous players, even the ones with poor reputations.

Interesting quotes from both Millwood and Michael Young, once again not wanting to be part of rebuilding.  Could their trade time be coming soon?  Don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but you’ve got to think that if you don’t do something good in another year, their complaints are going to increase as time goes by.

How do you explain a trade to a two year old?  All season we’ve gotten Josh into the Rangers, so much so that he will tell you that Michael Young is his favorite player, Frank Catalanotto (or rather, Catalano in two year old language) is Mummy’s favorite, and Mark Teixeira (pronounced very well) is Daddy’s favorite.  We tried to talk to him about it today, but I don’t think he got that Tex is gone.  All he knows is that there are two teams in baseball, the Rangers and the Other Team, and telling him that Tex now plays for the other team didn’t work too well.  Neither did telling him that Daddy needs a new favorite player, I think he was more upset by that than the idea that Tex is gone.

Speaking of, who is Daddy’s new favorite?  We were talking about it, and I think I ended up saying McCarthy, although I don’t know if a pitcher should be favorite, since he doesn’t play every day.  Laird, although he may be on the outs now that we have Salty.  Salty could be it (I love the fact that he has “Salty” printed on his batting gloves), but you shouldn’t go for a guy you just met a day ago, even if you know he’ll be around for years (hmm, that’s advice for a lot of people, not just for a favorite ballplayer).  Salty might be it in the future, but not right now.  Maybe Nelson Cruz, who will be my favorite if he can keep up what he’s been doing the last few days.  Maybe Marlon Byrd, if he’s here for more than a couple of months.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Maybe I just need to wait and see who pops out and surprises me.  I do think I want a Saltalamacchia t-shirt though, just to see what those tiny letters look like, and to see people try and pronounce it.  Kudos to the Rangers equipment manager for getting him a shirt to wear today when he showed up at the game.  In fact, kudos to Salty for getting there, I know players have three days to report after a trade, so he looks eager to get on with things, not necessarily an expected situation for a guy traded from a pennant race to a last place team.  I really wanted him to pinch hit tonight, when we had the bases loaded and Wilkerson coming up, but in hindsight that would have been a lot of pressure for him to face.  Interestingly, Tex arrived in Atlanta mid-game too, but wasn’t needed there as the Braves pounded out a bunch of runs.

The Rangers actually played a game today, too, and ended up with a nice win.  With all the attention firmly on trades, McCarthy went out and had a good start, his third game score of 60 this year, just behind his best of 61.  He pitched 6.2 innings, the first time he’d gone over six all year.  He walked three, which was a little too much, but he kept them down even with that, only giving up a solo home run.  Nice work.  And good by the bullpen too, especially CJ Wilson pitching four outs for his first save of the year.  You know, Gagne only had one save of more than one inning all year.

So what’s next?  For the Rangers there’s now nothing left in the season except to try and play well the rest of the way.  There are no drafts or trade deadlines or anything like that out there.  No chance of October baseball.  Just time to get some players bedded in to the team, see who is worth keeping for next year and who is going to be gone.  See what minor leaguers will be ready to step up.  See if Gabbard can make the rotation better.  See if Rheinecker can do the same.  Work out what happens at catcher/ first base.  Get Botts some playing time.  Hopefully watch some more winning baseball, but not too much that we earn yet another season of mediocrity (and not too much that we end up getting to the 16th draft pick, meaning that we lose a first rounder if we sign a decent free agent).  The Rangers had their first winning July since 2001, which is a sign of improvement, but we’re not working on now, we’re working on next April, getting out of the gate much better than this year and maybe contending with what we have, while sticking with JD’s one year plan in the bigs and five year plan in the minors.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  Two plans to execute, always a good idea.

Goodbye, nice to know you

July 31, 2007

So the Tex era ends with a bang, or a whimper, depending on who you talk to.  At the very least it ended with a single, in a humiliating loss to KC, part of a humiliating sweep in KC, and you’ve got to know that Tex is jumping for joy at the chance of getting out of this mess.  After yesterday’s game, did you notice what he did?  He walked in from second base, where he had been stranded, took off his helmet and gloves, then looked around in the crowd, then took off his cap and threw it to someone in the crowd.  The cameras didn’t show who he threw it to.  Was it someone he knew, or just a Rangers fan?  Was he pretty much saying “yeah, it’s over”?  When Pudge left, everybody loved him, and I was so happy when he won the World Series the next year with Florida, I felt almost like the Rangers had won it.  Tex doesn’t have anywhere near that love, but I will be happy if he makes it too.

Whether you like it or not, you have to admit that Tex was not the solution here.  Part of the solution, yes, but unfortunately a part that didn’t have all the other parts ready to be solved.  It’s like baking a cake, being partway through when you put in the Tex baking powder, then realizing that oops, you don’t have any cocoa (or Coco?), so your chocolate cake is going to end up a bland vanilla, ending up in third or fourth place every year.  Okay, so we got Tex via the draft, not free agency, but the concept is the same, the waste of a top talent while he was here.  It’s kind of like when A-Rod came along, he was going to be the straw that stirs the drink, but they forgot that you have to make the drink before you can stir it.  In yet another metaphor, they were busy looking for the final piece of the jigsaw when they still had half of it to build.

Okay, so what are the pieces we just obtained worth?  First, Saltalamacchia, or Salty as he is obviously known, replaces Teixeira in the Rangers scrabble game.  I hope they charge by the letter when printing his shirts.  On Opening Day this year, some kid was asked to spell Catalanotto, and couldn’t, then on Opening Night another kid was asked to spell Teixeira, and couldn’t.  Here’s a tip for the kids:  if someone asks you to play the game on Opening Day next year, just take the consolation prize and walk away.

It bothers me a little that Salty was in AA last year, then jumped to the majors this year as a first baseman, when they needed help.  My first thought when they said his name was that he would slot in at first, but every comment I read said catcher, which makes me think he’ll be there.  So my second thought was “what about Laird”?  He’s proving himself defensively, and his hitting is improving.  A couple of years ago I thought he was going to be the new Pudge, settling in for a decade at catcher.  Then along came an injury, and some absolutely worthless years being blocked behind Barajas, of all people, and Laird’s star slipped a little.  Is he going to regress back to backup catcher again?  I hope not, I hope there’s a way to get them both in the lineup.  Everyone says that Salty has great defense, but needs to work on offense a little.  He’s 22, and in the big leagues, so maybe he’s the next Pudge instead.  One liner from the Baseball Prospectus annual says it all: “back to being one of the best catching prospects in the game”.  I love Gerald Laird, but given the five year difference in age, Salty is the better prospect.

Elvis Andrus.  My wife will love him, just for his first name (Stojko, not Presley).   19 years old in one month, and a long way from the majors.  Hasn’t hit much yet, but apparently fields well, was in the Futures game, and named his league’s most exciting prospect.  Very much a reach, if not three or four years away at best.  Of course, Michael Young has that position locked up, which means one of them will have to move somewhere.  Baseball Prospectus quote: “a potential All-Star, and there’s a chance he’ll be more than that”.  Let’s hope for more.

Neftali Feliz has apparently made a lot of people spell his name wrong today.  Another 19 year old, which the BP annual says has hit 98 on the radar gun, but Baseball America says he touches mid 90’s with ease.  Control issues.  In A ball.  His walks are of concern, but he can also strike them out.  Project him years away too, he’s probably round about the same level as a Kasey Kiker.

The fourth one is the interesting one.  Some sites say Matt Harrison, others say a player to be named later.  I read a couple of days ago that there are arm issues, and the Rangers are examining medical records on him.  One report is that they have a list of four other players they can choose from.  Baseball America says Harrison projects as a number three or four starter.  Yep, we need more of those.  Has good walk to strikeout ratios, and apparently control of several pitches.  If the Rangers take him, he’ll presumably go to Frisco and get a whole lot of publicity.

So what to make of them?  One legitimate top prospect in Salty, and three projections.  As always in projections, especially those so far ahead, a lot of it is a crap-shoot.  Will any of them pan out?  Remember Drew Meyer, Rangers first round pick a few years ago?  Did almost nothing for us.  But the good news here is that we got the Braves #1, #2 and #3 prospects, according to the Baseball America rankings.  That can only help our system, which is terrible but improving a little both with the draft and with this trade, and the Lofton trade on Friday.  The argument goes that the more prospects you have, the more likely some will pan out.  The alternative argument is that prospects are just that, prospects (TINSTAAPP – There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect).  Yes, you’d rather have Tex playing every day, but you’d rather do it in meaningful games, and this might help make some meaningful games in about 2012.

Remember back when the Red Sox traded a couple of their best prospects for Pedro Martinez, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed?  One of them was Carl Pavano, who’s had about two good years since, and the other Tony Armas Jr, who barely even had that.  The point being, from the Atlanta perspective they’ll say yay, they got a stud hitter, future MVP, for a bunch of prospects who may or may not pan out.  The Rangers will take the opposite tack, and say that they’re building for the future, and got a good package of prospects in return for someone they couldn’t sign.  Right now, I give this trade a little advantage to Atlanta, but it will only take two of these prospects to make it a good deal for the Rangers.

Oh yeah, Ron Mahay was in the deal.  We liked you too, Ron, but let’s face it you weren’t a player we were building our hopes around.  Sorry.  We’ll slot someone else into the bullpen and hardly miss ye.

In other news, with a little over half a day until the deadline, we still have Sammy Sosa, and we still have Eric Gagne.  Teams are lining up for Gagne, or so they say, but if we trade him, who’s gonna be the closer since Aki is on the DL?  Well, first of all, we don’t need a closer, because we’re not winning anything.  Second, I think you’ll see Benoit and Wilson stepping into that slot, and I’ve been saying for a while that CJ Wilson is the closer of the future for the Rangers.  The future is now, as they say.