Archive for the ‘Jason Botts’ Category

Correct somewhere between 0 and 100% of the time

May 8, 2008

Padilla is dealing. If my math is right, he went from 20 quality starts in 33 starts in 2006, to 7 in 23 in 2007, and now 5 out of 7 in 2008. He’s on a pace for 20 wins, and for his best ERA+ since 2002. Can he keep it up? As long as I don’t jinx him again he will.

Ponson is dealing. After his second start the media was all over the Sir Sidney thing again, which I thought was pretty silly, since he’d had two starts, one of which he gave up five runs (only one earned, but still) and the other of which he’d beaten Kansas City. Then yesterday he did it to Seattle. It’s a case of the more he does it, the more confident he will be, and maybe he can stick with it. You have to wait and see what adversity will do though, like with Padilla – he had a bad start but came back strong next time. Will Ponson do that too? Or is he a flash in the pan, the Sammy Sosa of 2008? Better yet, can he keep it going through July, so we can trade him to some desperate playoff bound team?

I was looking at Ponson’s Pitchf/x for his first couple of starts. I wanted to compare them to last year, to see if there was a difference from when he was going bad, but unfortunately he pitched so little none of his games were recorded by Pitchf/x. Shame.

Brandon Boggs is only here for a short time. Know how I know? Because they didn’t even bother to get him a batting helmet that fits. Come on, the guy has to push it out of his eyes after every pitch. After his 4-4 career start, he’s now 6-28, which means pretty much any day now they’re going to give up on him. How come on Opening Day we had about ten outfielders in line, and this guy is suddenly a starter? They have some odd priorities, I tell you.

What can I say about Jason Botts? In the last few days we saw that the Mariners brass have, well, brass ones, but the Rangers brass have none. The Mariners took the bull by the horns and released Brad Wilkerson, eating his contract, as they should have. The Rangers did the stupid thing, by moving out Botts. They could have gotten rid of Broussard, who hasn’t done anything. Instead down goes Botts and up comes Shelton, who has also done nothing. It’s so bad at first they’re trying Frankie Cat there again. Come on guys, basic sabermetrics says if you have two players who are similar (and I’m talking Botts and Broussard, although they’re not similar), keep the young one. Instead they bring in a never-will-be like Shelton. They should have dumped Broussard (who was a dumb pick-up in the first place) and given Botts the full-time job. Let him have half a season doing it every day, and prove whether he can hit in the big leagues or not. Tell Ron Washington to get stuffed when he tries not to play him.

Actually I don’t think the Rangers sent Botts down. I think Shelton ate him.

Last time I said to fire Ron Washington. I still say that. He’s become a little more animated since the Rangers have won a few games, almost lifelike lately. That’s a bad thing, because it kind of proves he was sinking into a deep morass, pretty much just waiting for the axe to fall. It’s still hanging over his head, just a little further away. Recent wins against the Royals (terrible team), and the A’s and Mariners (bad teams both, but not if you believe the media) aren’t really a good indicator of improvement, it’s just the pendulum swinging the other way.

I agree with the recent poster who said to fire Jon Daniels with him. The front office needs a clean sweep, from the owner on down. The owner especially, but where are you going to find a billionaire to buy the team? Mark Cuban wants the Cubs, or the Pirates. (Great Jay Leno joke the other day: “Miley Cyrus is now the richest child in the world. Except for Mark Cuban”). Not too many other rich folk around here that want to suffer the indignity of owning the Rangers.

Pleased to tell you I have a new job, starting next week, doing stuff I really enjoy doing. Can’t wait.

I’m starting to like Josh Hamilton, although it’s still early. Player of the month is good. He won’t win the MVP though, if A-Rod couldn’t because the team sucked, he won’t. Maybe in a few years, if we’re lucky. The way things are going though, he’ll be an MVP contender and Edinson Volquez will win a Cy Young. Is that a good trade? You’d probably say yes… but in the back of your mind will be that nagging feeling that the Rangers haven’t had a good starter since, ummm… (fill in the blank).

Surprised that Hit Tracker only gave the Hamilton home run into the restaurant area yesterday a distance of 422 feet. I would have said 450 easily, but they seem to think it was the wind.

Final thought is on the umpires (again). Here’s a chart:
Strike Zone 5-7-08

What this shows is the strike zone from today’s game, showing just the balls and called strikes (i.e. the pitches that the umpire was involved in calling). Josh Lewin kept going on today about how the umpires had released some kind of stats or study showing that they were right 95% of the time. Personally I automatically think that means they’re wrong one in twenty times, or given today’s 290 total pitches, they were wrong about fifteen times (but then, I’m a glass half empty kind of person).

The problem is that I don’t think they’re counting just the close decisions, I think they’re counting all of them. A pitch that’s two feet outside, and they call it a ball – does that count as a correct decision, or a duh decision? Or one that’s right down the middle of the strike zone?

Watching today’s game, with umpire Mark Wegner in charge, it was interesting to note that he threw out the Mariner’s manager for arguing balls and strikes, and had a lot of complaints from players. Do you think he said “but I’m right 95% of the time”?

Look at the chart above. The box is the strike zone I use as a default, over a group of players. One foot either side of home, and from 1.8 feet to 3.3 feet in height. It’s a rough analog for a major league strike zone, as shown by Pitchf/x studies. Red dots should be inside the box, blue dots outside. Look at the bottom left corner, you see several blue dots inside. Compare it to the red dots outside on the left and below, and you have to ask how those blue dots were called balls – they obviously were closer to the center of the plate than the red ones to the left, and had enough height compared to the red ones below.

When I count this chart, I get seven reds outside and eight blues inside – coincidentally for a total of fifteen “wrong” calls, exactly what we guessed at above. But in reality, that math is not correct. 15 over 290 is close enough to 5%. But they didn’t make the call on all the balls that were hit, or fouled, or swung at (except on appeals on swings going around), so you shouldn’t count all those. Counting just the balls and called strikes, there were 157 pitches, which means we’re closer to 10% (15 over 157).

But that also counts a lot of balls that were nowhere near the strike zone. Let’s narrow it down to a six inch area around the zone – in Pitchf/x terms, from -1.5 to 1.5 pfx_x, and 1.3 to 3.8 pfx_y. Six inches seems reasonably close, if you’re outside by that much in any direction, you’re hardly going to get much argument unless you really blow the call.

In that narrowed area around the strike zone, there were 111 pitches called ball or strike. We’re now at 13.5% of calls on balls and strikes that could have been considered bad tonight. That’s about one in every seven and a half pitches that they have to call. Granted, over the course of a game, it’s still only 15 pitches, about one every half-inning or so, but it’s still nowhere near the utopia those guys like to present.

I’ve said it too many times to repeat it, but I will. Baseball should use technology. Instant replay at the very least – and there are arguments against, mostly due to the outcome of a particular play, but those can be dealt with. It is more important to get the call right than to feed the egos of the men in black.

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.

Has the Rangers outfield improved?

January 24, 2008

I haven’t written for quite a while, but I’ve been thinking about a few topics. Most of the last few weeks I’ve either spent reading or playing games at the end of the day, and haven’t had the feeling of wanting to write. I’ve stored up that idea list though, and intend to get to many of them sooner or later. Today I got a little push on one of my ideas, because there was an article on the Rangers site by TR Sullivan about the outfielders the Rangers will be going with this year. I’ve been wanting to look at Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley from a Runs Created perspective, and see how much better they make the Rangers outfield in 2008.

You may recall I wrote a post about a month ago on Runs Created, comparing each position to the rest of the league to see where the Rangers were good or bad.  In it, I concluded that left and center were average or above average in 2007, but right was well below average.  While right could use improving, the other two outfield slots were nowhere near as bad as everyone assumed they were.

What I have been wanting to look at is how many Runs Created Hamilton and Bradley will increase (or decrease) the outfield by.  I have no expectation coming into this study, except that it will not be anywhere near the miracle cure the Rangers are looking for, and that it won’t improve the pitching any, which is where they really need help.  Now, first off, given that last sentence, I will agree that improved outfield defense should help the pitchers some.  That’s hard to quantify though (maybe another day), and since Runs Created only deals with offense it’s not at all considered here.

This post is looking at individual time played at each position, and so there is going to be a bit of rounding error popping in, so please excuse if I’m off a little here or there, or not consistent with the numbers from that last post.  It’s all relative anyway.  Plus, this is a fairly basic version of Runs Created, so there may be aspects of a player’s game that are not considered (again, it’s relative).  For the mathematically inclined, I’m using ((H+BB)*TB)/(AB+BB).  Easily obtained stats, and easily broken out into positions.  Even something as simple as SB by position is hard to come by without crunching my own data to get it.

So, my assumption is that Hamilton and Bradley will each have 500 ABs in the Rangers outfield this year.  This is a wild assumption, but it’s a starting point.  You would want to see that kind of output if you are Jon Daniels.  I mercilessly point out that in Hamilton’s entire career, his high is only 391 ABs, and that was in the minors in 2000.  In fact he has not had 500 ABs in the last five years combined (having missed 2003-05).  So projecting him for 500 is risky – although since his missed time was just as much due to drug use and suspensions, it’s not like he was injured all that time.  Bradley, on the other hand, has no such excuse.  In his eight years in the majors, he has had 500 ABs just once, in 2004.  Add in his minor league career, and going back to 1996 he has one more 500 AB season (with two near misses, both in the 490s combining minors and majors).  His last three years gave him 283, 351 and 209, so hope for 500 is possibly a stretch.  Hope for 500 in a Rangers uniform may be a stretch too, since I’m sure he’s going to be traded by the deadline if he is doing anything worthwhile, a la Lofton and Gagne last year (when did the Rangers decide that was a good strategy, signing old free agents to one year deals so they might be able to pick up some prospects?  Isn’t that a sign of a terrible team that knows it is going nowhere?).

Given all that, let’s project Hamilton and Bradley based on their 2007 stats.  A very small sample statistically, but it will serve our purposes (and avoid me having to dig through and weigh a bunch of data).

First, Hamilton:  in 298 AB, he produced 59.8 RC, a very good 5.42 RC/27 AB (which in itself is a simplistic version of RC/G).  Multiply it out, and he would give 100.3 RC in 500 AB.  For comparison, the Rangers center fielders last year produced 95 RC in 657 AB, so Hamilton immediately proves to be an upgrade.  Assume that Marlon Byrd will pick up the slack, the remaining 157 AB after taking out Hamilton’s 500, Byrd would give an additional 24.5 RC (at his 2007 rate) for a CF total of 124.8, a huge improvement of 29.6 over 2007’s 95.2.

On to Bradley.  In 2007 he had 209 AB, but still produced 45.1 RC, at a rate of 5.83, even better than Hamilton (by the way, David Murphy at 5.73 and Matt Kata at 5.72 were the only Ranger outfielders over 4.5 in 2007, and Kata’s 23 ABs in the OF didn’t save him from the chop).  Project Bradley all the way out, and you get 107.9 in 500 AB.  Again, a big jump over last year.  Now, Bradley is supposed to play RF for the Rangers this year, with Byrd leading from the left and Murphy being fourth outfielder.  I’m going to make Byrd be the swing man, so he can get as many ABs as he did in 2007, so I’m going to project 108 of his ABs in right, to get to the Rangers 2007 RF total of 608.  At his 2007 rate, Byrd gives an additional 16.9 RC to RF, bringing the total to 124.8 – exactly the same as CF projects.  Curious.  Anyway, last year RF gave us 86.8, so that’s an improvement of 38 RC.  Wow.

But now we’ve got to pay attention to LF.  Left in 2007 was a mish-mash, a whole bunch of players thrown in for a short period of time.  Catalanotto led the way with 216, but next best was Wilkerson at 109 AB.  We’ve got to get to a total of 615 though.  Marlon Byrd has used up 265 in CF and RF, so only has 144 for LF.  Murphy will put in his 105 all in LF.  Botts had 99.   If we take all 216 outfield ABs of Catalanotto, we’re still 51 short.  Let’s give them to Nelson Cruz, who had 302 in 2007, and will probably get some in 2008.  Of course, many of these guys will have drastically different totals (you hope to see a lot more for Botts and Murphy, Cat is supposed to play first base instead of the outfield, and Cruz may even end up not getting any).  But trying to project playing time is pretty hard, especially when you have a team like the Rangers which gives up on people after just a few ABs.  We’ll leave in Cruz to represent all those who will get a small shot.  And leave the others where they are for similar reasons, and also to try and measure the impact of adding Hamilton and Bradley while keeping everything else the same.  So, 144 ABs of Byrd would be worth 22.5 RC.  Murphy had 22.3 in his 105, Botts had 13.8 in his 99, Cat got 33.9 in his OF time, and 51 ABs of Cruz would have earned 5.7.  Add them all together and LF projects to be 98.2 RC.  This compares favorably to the 90.7 that LF actually produced – an increase of 7.5 based on cherry-picking the best of the 2007 outfielders.

So, add up the increases.  LF gives 7.5, CF gives 29.6 and RF gives 38, for a total of 75.1 RC added by the addition of 500 ABs of Bradley and Hamilton.  With the standard calculation of 10 runs being worth one win, the Rangers potentially added 7.5 wins, which would push them over .500 (for just the second time since 1999).  That would suggest that these were valuable moves (not the getting over .500, but the 7.5 wins), especially given that Bradley only cost money, and Hamilton cost a good pitching prospect (and only time will tell how good or bad that works out).  The argument might be made that by spending their time working on the outfield, they didn’t spend enough time on the elephant in the room, pitching.  And since the Rangers have only added the likes of Eddie Guardado and Jason Jennings, it almost feels like a complete surrender in the pitching ledger.

Is this a reasonable projection?  These numbers seem to make sense, but I’m certainly open to someone else’s interpretation.  As noted earlier, neither of these players has had a good track record of staying on the field.  To suggest that both of them will get to 500 ABs is a pretty big stretch.  If Bradley gets 250 for the Rangers and 250 for someone else, I’ll consider that a success.  His 250 elsewhere would bring something back in trade, so that can only be good.  Knowing that he is likely to start the year on the DL, or playing DH, it already puts the projection in jeopardy.  And the whole Hamilton thing is a giant risk anyway, he is very likely to have a sophomore slump compared to the small sample of his first year in the big leagues.  So putting all these numbers together is a long-shot, but one probably worth doing for the Rangers.  Come August, if Bradley is in San Diego, Hamilton is in rehab, Volquez is in the Cincy rotation, and Nelson Cruz (or worse, think this year’s version of Jerry Hairston Jr) is patrolling right field, then I reserve the right to point a lot of fingers at Jon Daniels.  But right now I’ll give him credit for improving a position perceived as a weakness last year.

Rangers Review: DH

October 12, 2007

Sammy Sammy Sammy.  Did he keep the team together, or was he the waving of a white flag before the season even began?  Jason Botts finally got a shot, did little with it, but deserves more of a chance.  Sosa will not be here when the team starts winning, despite his desire to sign a five year deal and retire as a Ranger.  Botts might be, if they just leave him alone and let him play.  He had a .981 OPS at AAA, with an incredible .436 OBP, and yet the first thing he hears from Washington is that he takes too many pitches.  Let him do what he does, every day, and you’ll get a whole lot more production that you might expect.

Sammy Sosa:  I think at the end of last year the management had a meeting, realized they weren’t going to go anywhere in 2007, and tried to see what they could do to bring in fans and attract attention.  So they signed Sosa.  That sound you heard when it was announced was a combination of Rangers fans groaning with embarrassment and the rest of the league laughing.  He was bad for the team from day one.  Oh, the Rangers will tell you he’s a great team-mate, a changed person, an RBI machine, blah blah blah.  But the fact is he cannot hit any more, not even with a corked bat, and just took time away from Jason Botts.  He didn’t even bring in the fans, there was a decided lack of enthusiasm when he hit #600, actually the only reason I was cheering him on to get there was so that they would finally sit him down and bring up Botts.  Which they did, but it was about a year too late.  There’s talk of bringing him back, Washington is a big fan, but the fact that he isn’t attracting attention from anyone else should give you a clue.  Even when the Rangers were trying to trade him at the deadline, as a killer of lefties, they didn’t get anyone to bite.  He has too much baggage, and he’s fallen too far, to be worth bringing back.  Ask yourself this:  what is a guy who hit .252, with a 99 OPS+, really worth?  I’ll tell you:  he’s worth just about what Catalanotto or Wilkerson were worth this year (except at five or eight years older, much more likely to collapse next year).  So how much more is his name worth?  And, by the way, if you take Victor Diaz’s numbers and project them to Sosa’s at-bats, you have the same guy, except Diaz would have 15 more home runs, 10 more RBIs, and is 13 years younger so is much more likely to improve.  There is talk about Sosa being an RBI machine, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and I intend to look at that at some point over the winter.  Ultimately a team that’s rebuilding shouldn’t be bringing in 38 year old former sluggers.

Jason Botts:  The little engine that could, Botts has done everything asked of him and more, but never gets the shot at the big leagues.  He could end up with three or four MVPs by the time he’s done, unfortunately they’ll be minor league MVPs, because the Rangers keep passing him over.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you keep a top prospect on the farm too long, he’s going to end up mad at you, and when it comes time for free agency he’s going to go somewhere else and have his good years there.  Or worse, you decide to trade him (Travis Hafner) and you don’t even get the advantage of the good cheap years.  If Botts had been brought up to stay two years ago, he’d have a whole lot of experience, the Rangers wouldn’t have wasted time and money on Sosa, and Botts would be a leader on this team.  Instead, he tore apart AAA again, and finally got brought up then jerked around by the manager, who much preferred Sosa.

Others:  Hank Blalock got some games here in September, after coming back from injury.  Catalanotto, Michael Young, Victor Diaz, Teixeira and Wilkerson all spent a little time DHing, either to give them some rest from the field or to get their bat in the lineup.

Minor leagues:  If you’re pegged as a DH in the minors, you’re in trouble.  After all, at least if you can field you have an additional skill to showcase, but if you’re just a hitter, and things go bad, you’ll be out of there.  Having said that, it’s better to be a DH than not to play at all, and you might be able to make something of yourself (see Jack Cust for an example).  In general though, DH is shared by a bunch of players taking a day off from fielding, so there aren’t many true DH prospects, especially the lower you go.  Botts, Diaz and Kevin West spent most of the DH time in AAA.  In AA Jim Fasano, Salomon Manriquez, Anthony Webster and Taylor Teagarden all got at least 15 games there, all resting from other positions.  Teagarden had spent a lot of time there in High-A as well, taking time off from catching where he is a legitimate prospect.  Several players in Low-A got a number of games there, the highlight being Chad Tracy, who spent much more time in left.  It was Ian Gac in Spokane, playing there or first, which is a fairly typical split (first basemen usually being the worst fielders, and becoming DH’s later in their careers).  Gac is only 21 though.  There was too much spread in rookie ball, Reece Creswell getting the most with 10 games there, and hitting pretty well.  The other was first round pick Michael Main, drafted as a pitcher but wanting to hit too, so they let him play there a little just to keep him happy (a foolish decision, because you risk injuring a top pick, plus he doesn’t get to sit on the bench and listen and learn from the coaches).

2008:  Lots of stories say they’ll bring back Sosa, which would be a fool’s plan.  He’s reduced to only hitting against lefties, and while he does that well, re-signing him would simply block someone else who should be given the chance to play, and determine if they will be useful in the future.  Botts is the person most likely to suffer if Sosa returns.  Botts is in danger of becoming another Travis Hafner, someone who is so messed around by the Rangers that when they’re given a chance elsewhere, they turn out to be MVP caliber.

2009 and beyond:  Botts should be given the chance, and if he is, has the potential to be the DH for several years.  If not, it’s going to be a parade.  As it probably should be, because really no-one wants to be a DH, they normally only get there if they can hit but can’t field.  Usually older players, which is why the minors are so empty of regular DH’s.  Of all the players, Taylor Teagarden is probably the most intriguing, because he can DH on the days he is not catching.  DH is not really a position you should plan for though, it’s really just whoever is left over after all your fielders are assigned.  Or at least, that’s what it should be, because ideally all of your players should be able to play a position well enough that they can rotate through the DH to get a rest, not to hide their fielding.

Rangers Review: Left Field

October 10, 2007

The position of a thousand ballplayers.  Frank Catalanotto was brought back with presumably the intent he’d be the starting left fielder.  That experiment lasted a very short time, and once again proved the old saying that you can’t go back again.  He hit nothing early on, and after he came back from a stint on the DL he shared time with a lot of other players.  The fact that twelve different players got at least an inning in left (and five of them got at least a hundred) should tell you how bad the situation there was.  Oh for the good old days, when you could count on Rusty Greer being out there every day.

Frank Catalanotto summary:  Frankie dragged himself up to a 101 OPS+, after a miserable start and then injury.  As noted above, it was one of those predictable things:  fan favorite returns after several years elsewhere, and struggles to make an impact.  Actually, he hit a lot better than you think, if you consider the exchange rate between here and Toronto, where he spent the last four years.  He is in decline, and age 33, which means we’ve got another two years of this or worse to come on his contract.  An arguably foolish free agent signing by Jon Daniels, especially giving him a three year deal.  In September he was given a look at first, which tells you what they were thinking about him, since his range in left was abysmal.  Doesn’t have the legs for left, or the bat for first or DH, so expect him to play a little everywhere, where he’s likely to be a millstone for the team until 2009.

Brad Wilkerson summary:  As mentioned in the first base review, Wilkerson is a free agent this year, and may or may not be back.  He’s had a couple of years of injury, so he hasn’t shown what he can do, but he still managed to hit 20 homers in 338 at-bats.  Project that over a full year and he’s a 35 home run guy – but will you be able to get a full year out of him?  He’s at the point where I’d be willing to give him a one year deal.  I’d go two years, but we already have Cat signed for two more years, and they’re two very similar players.  If we got him relatively cheap, then it would be a good deal, but if not, there’s plenty of other players who can put up the numbers he does (maybe excluding the home runs, but certainly the same OPS) for a lot less money.

Jason Botts summary:  Blocked by Sammy Sosa until they finally brought him up in August.  Should have been here a year ago, and then there would have been no need for Sosa.  Still trying to find a position, shuttled back and forth between left and DH while he was here.  He spent August struggling, then hit well in September, following a career trend of taking a month to adjust to a new level.  Wasted by the Rangers in AAA for two years, he could have solved a lot of problems in Arlington.  Will he stay in left?  His range was actually good, although a small sample size.  He could be the everyday DH, or he could stay in left.  I don’t know if they’ve had any thought of trying him at first, which is currently a gaping hole.  He’s got a bat that has to be in the lineup, and they need to leave him alone and let him play, not try and tinker here and there (Ron Washington’s stupid comment was that he takes too many pitches for someone in an RBI slot).  My biggest fear is that they’ll re-sign Sosa, and send Botts back to AAA (not sure but he may be out of options), or worse, trade him, and he’ll end up being another Travis Hafner.

Matt Kata summary:  For a couple of weeks he was a star.  For a couple of weeks he was average.  For a couple of weeks he was bad.  Then he was gone, and resurfaced in Pittsburgh, which should tell you all you need to know about him.  Kata is very much a replacement level player, the 26th man on any team that would have him, really just roster filler while you’re trying to find someone to play the position.  He played all over the field (all the infield positions as well as left), which gives him a little utility, but it would be better to have someone play one position and play it well.

Others:  Nelson Cruz, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, Jerry Hairston, Victor Diaz, Desi Relaford, Freddy Guzman, and Gerald Laird.  Need I say more?  All of those guys played in right at some point.  All covered at other positions.

Minor Leagues:  Probably the worst position in the minors, which combined with the performance on the major league levels spells a lot of trouble.  The guys who did well in AAA have already been up with the big club, leaving the marginal people down below.  Victor Diaz had a hundred at-bats in Arlington (with 9 home runs), then went down to AAA and hit well down there, although playing left, right and DH about equally.  Jason Botts had blown everyone away there as well.  Marlon Byrd, Kevin Mahar, and Kevin West all played there too, in fact left at AAA was as unsettled as left in the big leagues.  In AA Steven Murphy got the bulk of the playing time, and was a little below average with it.  Eleven different players got a game in left in High-A, Tom Berkery having the most with 30 games.  None of them were outstanding.  Chad Tracy played most of the left in Low-A, but also played several other positions.  He ended up hitting a little above average.  Steven Marquardt and Tim Rodriguez split time at Spokane, neither outshone the other.  Miguel Alfonzo rounded out a very poor left-field system in rookie ball, he actually hit pretty decently.

2008:  Catalanotto is the leading candidate, unless he moves to first, which may just be the preferable option.  Botts would be next in line, then probably Murphy.  Washington said this is one of the spots that needs an upgrade (he said that about a lot of spots though), and it’s probably one of the easier ones to fill in terms of free agents.  Could we see a marquee guy here next year?  For that matter, Barry Bonds is available.  No, I’m not suggesting Bonds, what I’m really trying to say is that for left field in 2008, your guess is as good as mine.  Since there is a surplus of center fielders available as free agents this winter, I would actually expect the Rangers to go for someone there and let Murphy/Byrd/Botts (in that order) share time in left.

2009 and beyond:  There is little or nothing coming through the minor league system to play left.  Combine that with little or nothing at the major league level, and you have a recipe for a big splash at the position.  If the Rangers do as I suggest for 2008, then the guys sharing the position (Botts, Byrd, Murphy) will all be playing for more time in 2009.  My hope would be that Murphy grabs the job full-time by 2009, Botts is the DH, someone like Andruw Jones (or preferably someone younger and cheaper) is playing center and Byrd is filling in all over the place.

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.

Go Rangers! Beat A’s!

July 17, 2007

So I’ve decided on a strategy for the rest of the season, and a goal that the Rangers can aim for.  For a couple of months I’ve been touting the “lay down and die” theory, that you’ll get the first pick and help the club more than any other strategy might.  But I’ve changed my mind, since the players won’t cooperate and insist on trying to win (and also insist on deluding themselves that they’re not out of it yet).  Now, my goal is simple, and only involves one other team:  finish ahead of the A’s.  I’ve never liked them, I’ve never really respected Billy Beane’s theories (he came across as an ass in Moneyball, and I think he largely simply got lucky having three horses to ride, without them the team was pretty average), and in a previous post I showed how their recent success was largely due to timing, that they were in an upswing in their historical behavior, which he just happened to jump on just as it took off.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in OBP etc, I’m a paid-up member of SABR, yadda yadda, I just think his deification by some members of the blogosphere and elsewhere is a bit over the top.

So why finish ahead of the A’s?  It’ll only help them, getting a higher draft pick.  Yes, that’s true, but when you get to where these two teams are going to be, in slots 7-10 in the draft, it’s all a crap-shoot anyway.  Look back at previous drafts, there are too many occasions where a guy picked at 5 is a flop who never makes the big leagues, and a 6 is a superstar.  It’s all random, and besides, it doesn’t really matter who the Rangers draft, they’re going to ruin them or trade them before they get good.  Nope, of all the teams in baseball I hate the Yankees the most, and the A’s the second most.  I don’t know why, I just do.  Probably because they’re in our division, but I don’t hate the Angels or Mariners as much.

Funny thing is, Billy Beane did show his genius today, trading Jason Kendall to the Cubs.  Okay, he didn’t get much in return, but he wasn’t giving up much.  I’m not sure if this is Billy Beane genius or Jim Hendry stupidity though.  Either way, the Cubs are in big trouble if they think Kendall will help them.  You know what this reminds me of?  Those years I played fantasy baseball.  One guy talks another guy into giving up a star for an over the hill dud.  In this case it wasn’t a start, but it was a dud.  And it was always me getting the dud, which is why I always finished last.  Yes, I could do Jim Hendry’s job.

Beating the A’s today is a nice start on my new goal.  Well pitched by Wright, who has suddenly become the ace, with the best ERA on the team.  Good of Gagne to finish it, after they got in trouble, but it proved that even with a four run lead in the 9th that we’re not out of the woods.  The offense has been scratching since the All-Star break, against admittedly good pitching in Anaheim, but I think they can step it up again.  After all, they have a goal now.

If you’re interested, there were four straight 4th place finishes from 2000-03, and three straight 3rds from 2004-06, so if we can get into 3rd that’ll keep the streak going.  After that, four straight 2nds, then four straight 1sts from 2012-2015.  Well, maybe sooner than that?  Let’s get ahead of the A’s and then we’ll talk about 2012.

Speaking of bad GMs, why would JD let Aki sit on the 25 man roster without being able to pitch, for 15 days?  I mean, at the very least you make a decision during the All-Star break, you say that he’s not going to be ready, give him a few more days, backdate the disabling, and get another pitcher (or hitter, since the bullpen is more than full) in.  Are they afraid to DL him, because he is trade bait?  You don’t think other teams won’t notice he hasn’t pitched for two weeks?  If you’ve been following this at all, you know that every single day they’ve been saying he’ll be ready in a couple of days.  I remember right before the All-Star break they were going to pitch him that Sunday, because he’d missed several days and they wanted him back, and I said that was a stupid idea, if he’s missed a week, give him one extra day without pitching and it turns out to be five days because of the break.  But no, they didn’t think of that, but fortunately he wasn’t ready, and unfortunately he still isn’t.  I like Aki, I’d keep him if I could, but since he won’t be here in 2010 (or 2012) we may as well get something for him.  Kind of like Gagne.  And especially like Sosa.

Reports are all over the place about Jason Botts now, everyone just waiting for him to come up.  The Sosa trade talk is ongoing, with the suggestion that Sosa needs to be traded for Botts to come up.  My preference would be to trade Sosa, although no-one is surely stupid enough to bite on that (maybe the Cubs are), and if not then release him to make room for Botts.  All of a sudden there’s coming to be a log-jam at AAA, with Nelson Cruz having been tearing the ball too, and ready to be back.  Where are we going to put all these guys if we don’t trim some of the dead wood?  Botts is 27, and has wasted at least two years at AAA, while the brass keeps bringing in “veterans” who can’t hit or field.  Botts apparently can’t field, but he sure can hit, and with two years experience right now we’d be sitting pretty, not having to make lame signings like Sosa to try and show the fan base they want to win.