Archive for the ‘Marlon Byrd’ Category

JD talks trash about the Rangers

June 24, 2009

I’d say it’s time for a fisking, but I’m not going into that much detail.  Just a few thoughts on an article on the Rangers site today.

The title is “Daniels says Texas could add to ‘pen”.  That should tell you a lot.  In fact, the opening quote is “it’s more likely that he’ll be able to improve his ballclub by adding bullpen help than in any other area”.  Now, you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lot of things we’re looking for, but one of them is not bullpen help.  Why, you ask?  If I could be bothered digging out the study I’m thinking of (my guess is it’s either in The Book or on The Book Blog, about the smartest baseball site around), it shows that the worst position to trade for during a season is the bullpen.  These guys don’t pitch much, and when they do they’re prone to great variation.  You’re just as likely to pick up good bullpen help by picking random player X from AAA as you are in a trade, and you don’t even have to give up something to get it.

If the Rangers have anywhere to improve, it’s the rotation.  Millwood is pitching lights-out, because he’s got a contract to play for, and Feldman has been more than holding his own (seriously, all those scouts who talk about a “game face”, they never looked at Feldman and said no thanks?  At least one of his parents must have been a frog).  But the rest?  I mean the other seven guys who’ve started a game for the Rangers next year, they’ve been below average (Padilla, McCarthy), sucky (Harrison, Holland), or roster filler (the rest).  Mathis is doing well in AAA but couldn’t make the leap, Feliz is staying down a while longer, and the rest aren’t anywhere near.  The thoughts of contention in 2010 rapidly fade when you think that maybe Holland and Feliz will be here, with less than a year’s experience, and the rest of the touted pitchers are still far away.

So yeah, if they want to contend in ’09, they need a starter.  But then JD says “the club’s need for starting pitching is not as dire as it’s being made out to be nationally”.  Uhh, right.  You go into a season with basically the same staff as last year, a year when they trailed the world in pitching, and imagine they’re going to be great this time around.  That May thing, where they pitched surprisingly well for a month before slumping again, that was what’s known as an outlier.  June is called regression to the mean.  By the way, did you notice they did the same last year – team ERA for May ’08 was 3.90, next best month was 5.08 – what’s that about?  The May ’09 ERA was 3.57, best since May (again!) of ’05.  Did you think they could repeat?

“Daniels said his most likely direction right now is to, “probably stay the course.””  Or, in other words, to pretend that they are contenders with the team they have, since crowds are up a little and no-one seems to be noticing the glaring holes.  And, oh yeah, there’s that little thing about money.  The thing where Tom Hicks bought a whole bunch of toys (Rangers, Stars, Liverpool, the AAC, the list goes on) using Other People’s Money, and now it’s time to pay the bills and he’s being found out for the fool he is.  Along with a bunch of other financial geniuses, of course.

“Daniels, like manager Ron Washington, continues to express confidence that first baseman Chris Davis will snap out of a season-long slump that has the Rangers considering other options at the position.”  CD sucks, so get him down to AAA.  You are of course aware that he just set a record for fastest to 100 strikeouts.  He is swinging at anything, and you see the fear in his eyes.  I happened to be browsing a story from April yesterday, which said they’d signed Joe Kochansky as depth at first.  Lost him pretty quickly, and never filled the gap.  Shame, because they really need it now.  Frankly, anyone would be better than CD right now.  I wonder if Ben Broussard is available?  CD needs to go down, but they will not admit they are wrong and send him there.

“Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson has been mentioned as a possibility and Cardinals infielder Troy Glaus could become available at some point.”  Johnson will cost a lot, because the Nats suck badly, and the only way they’ll get better is by robbing someone in a trade.  And yes, Glaus could become available, just as soon as he gets into a game this year.  The Rangers will do better to give the job to Andruw Jones for the meantime.

“But one of the reasons why we’re in the position we are today is how we’re playing defense and Chris is a big part of that.”  I always choose my first baseman based on how good his glove is.  The bat, that’s kind of incidental.  I mean, he’s just one number away from being a second baseman, and no-one cares how they hit, right?

“Nobody is more frustrated than he is.”  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Yeah we are.

“Starting pitching could be more expensive, both in prospects and salary that would have to be added. The Rangers are reluctant to trade top Minor League prospects”.  Me too.  Really, I don’t believe the Rangers are contenders, and I don’t believe there’s only one piece out there that would make them so.  There are a lot of empty shells that look pretty, but don’t help the team as much as you might think.  I love Marlon Byrd’s work ethic, but let’s face it, he is a below average hitter and his fielding is pretty bad too.  Shame that Hamilton had to run into a wall too many, but of course he’s more suited to a corner too.

“and this could be a tough time to add salary with the current economic conditions.”  Especially when your owner was one of those morons who said “hey, property values are always going to go up, let’s gamble since it’s free money!”

I think I actually like Jon Daniels now.  He’s doing a pretty good job lately.  Okay, ignore the fact that Danks, Young, Volquez, Millwood, Galarraga would look like a fairly decent rotation.  I mean apart from that.  Clearly, in an interview like this, he’s got to say a bunch of good stuff about the team.  First of all, chances are some or all of the team are going to hear about his comments, and it won’t go over too well if he tells the truth about them.  And second, there’s all those tickets to sell, during the summer when it’s getting time for the Cowboys to start practicing.  If they can just pretend the team is contending for another month or two, they might be able to break even this year.

But never mind, it’s his job, for now at least.  Personally, if you or I gave Ron Washington an extension based on his performance this year, our feet wouldn’t touch the ground on the way out the door.  JD says he has a plan, and I have to believe him, even if I think that plan is slipping to 2011 or 2012, and depending on what they do the next few weeks, maybe even 2013.  At the very least, he’s padding his resume for a future director of scouting job.

The other thought that crosses my mind is Pedro Martinez.  Not the ridiculous rumors that we should sign him, both sides would be foolish to do that.  I actually mean the trade that took him to Boston.  Carl Pavano and Tony Armas were considered top prospects, and the initial reaction was that they paid too much for Pedro.  Wouldn’t hear that now, would you?  No, now all you’re hear is TANSTAAPP – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.  JD ought to remember that, when he’s thinking about blockbuster deals (which should be a year or two away).

And if anyone dares to mention Orlando Hernandez, I’ll be waiting for them outside with a bat in my hand.


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: Right Field

October 11, 2007

Another mixed-up position, where the traffic flowed through, and anyone handed the chance to take the job threw it away.  Nelson Cruz threw it away at the start of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, came back up and stank again.  Victor Diaz got time there early on, was doing okay but went down anyway.  Marlon Byrd got in there when David Murphy took over in center, and Sosa and Wilkerson tried there too.  All three outfield positions were the same, running people through to try and get someone to stick.

Nelson Cruz summary:  Still waiting for Cruz to put it all together at the big league level.  He’s been a minor league MVP, and was one of the keys when Coco was traded to Milwaukee, but he’s taking his sweet time adjusting to the majors, and Ron Washington has let him know it.  Now 26, what does he have to do to win the job?  Maybe nothing, because maybe Washington is already so frustrated with his inconsistency that he won’t give him a chance.  He struggled badly in the early part of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, then came back with a new batting stance, started out really well (two homers in his first game back), but then stumbled and bumbled to the end of the year.  His minor league OPS was 1.126, in the majors it was .671.  With an improved second half, he will get another shot, but he may have already burned too many bridges to get a good go next time round.

Victor Diaz summary:  Hit exactly league average during his month with the big club, but only had 104 at-bats in that time, and was used sparingly by Washington while he was up.  His prospect status is still intact though, because he’s only 25 and killed at AAA (.917 OPS) when he went back down.  Combined 23 home runs in both places, in under 400 at-bats, but will he be given the opportunity to play every day?

Others:  Everyone else who played here (Byrd, Sosa, Wilkerson, Murphy, Hairston and Mahar) has been or will be covered elsewhere.

Minor leagues:  Once again the Rangers have prospects in the middle minors, but little elsewhere.  If anything they have too many average guys at the top, none of whom have enough opportunity to stand out.  Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Mahar all took turns at right in AAA, with Mahar spending the most time there.  He’s getting old for a prospect (26) and isn’t hitting very well, so may have leveled out.  John Mayberry is one of the Rangers top prospects, combining for 30 home runs at A and AA.  Following behind him are Anthony Webster and Jon Weber, similar names but neither is likely to do much.  Weber in particular hit well at High-A, but is much older than the league, so is probably no prospect.  In Low-A, KC Herren worked very well at an age-appropriate level, so could either continue to develop or fall off the tracks.  Victor Barrios and Eric Fry split time at Spokane, neither showed much but each has time to put it all together.  And in rookie ball, Miguel Velazquez did some good in a short period of time.

2008:  It’s almost as if there are too many players for this spot, and if one slips even slightly, he will quickly be replaced.  Long gone are the days when Juan Gone roamed right field, banging home runs all over the place.  Now there’s a bunch of prospects, each one able to hit home runs in the minors but not yet in the majors.  Unless they look for a free agent, the Rangers will likely begin with Cruz or Diaz in right, with Murphy/Byrd playing fourth outfielder and getting in there every so often.  Don’t plan on any kind of stability here yet.

2009 and beyond:  Surely one of these guys will step up and grasp the brass ring?  Like the other outfield spots, it’s in so much flux that there’s no way to predict what might happen.  Either the Rangers will go for a big name center fielder and let the four or five guys left behind battle for the left and right field spots, or they’ll decide they don’t have what they need and another big name will come into right as well.  It’s been years since the Rangers had a productive outfield, they’ve let all three positions lag, and they need to get them working again before they can contend.  John Mayberry is the great hope of the minors in right, and although he might have a chance at 2009, he’s more likely to be in Arlington in 2010.

Rangers Review: Center Field

October 10, 2007

With the loss of Gary Matthews Jr to free agency, a very smart decision by the Rangers since he took the Angels millions and performed well below that level, the Rangers were left with a hole which they attempted to fill in a way that had worked previously:  hire a veteran, trade him before the deadline, and let a bunch of others fill in for the rest of the year.  This time it was Kenny Lofton, and he did admirable service, not while he was playing, but by bringing back a decent prospect when he left.  Then the Rangers tried out several people, even announced they were giving some of them trials for the rest of the year, before finally splitting time mostly between Marlon Byrd and David Murphy.  As the season wound down, it felt like Murphy was getting more of the time, and that may be an indicator of where the future lies.

Kenny Lofton summary:  Hit and ran nicely while he was here, but was here for one reason, which was to get us a prospect when he was traded at the deadline.  Max Ramirez was that prospect, and he is immediately one of the Rangers’ top prospects, so Lofton did the job he was hired for.  Ended up in the post-season with the Indians, so they’ve got to be happy with the trade.

Marlon Byrd summary:  Came up in May, hit like a superstar for a month, then lived off that reputation for the rest of the year.  Finished with a 110 OPS+, but his true level is probably below that.  He’s a free agent, but someone the Rangers should try and re-sign, because he provides cover all over the outfield.  Not a superstar, never will be, but he will give you everything you ask of him, and will give you 110 percent (or 110 OPS+, which is about the same thing).  If he stays, he should split time in center with Murphy, and that won’t be a bad thing.

Jerry Hairston summary:  Played all over the place, and as mentioned before, didn’t do anything well.  He is one of those players who drift around all the bottom-feeder teams, not good enough to play for a true contender, but just good enough that all the bad teams (like the Rangers) will bring him in, in hopes that suddenly everything will click and he will have a career year.  It’s never going to happen.  They’d be better off bringing up a prospect and letting them play, that way they would at least give someone some good experience.  Fortunately he is a free agent.  Hopefully management will recognize his inability to play and let him leave quietly.

David Murphy summary:  Came over in the Gagne trade, was considered almost an afterthought at the time (behind Kason Gabbard), but turned out to be better than expected.  Spent time in all three outfield positions, including an extended trial in center, and hit very well with the bat.  His 135 OPS+ is tempered by his small sample size of just 103 at-bats, but he showed promise.  According to the Red Sox, he’d been labeled as a fourth outfielder, and although that should be the expectation for the future, he needs time to prove otherwise.  In with a chance at a starting spot next year, he may end up doing the same as this year, and moving all over the outfield depending on where he is needed at the time.

Others: Kevin Mahar spent most of his time there, I don’t remember why he was even up in the first place.  Freddie Guzman got a few innings at the end of the season, and Brad Wilkerson had filled in for two innings at one point.

Minors:  A system with a bunch of prospects, but none of them blue-chip, especially at the higher levels.  The biggest thing was drafting Julio Borbon and signing him to a major league contract, meaning he needs to be up with the Rangers within three years.  That’s a lot of pressure, for both sides.  Freddie Guzman had the job at AAA, had a lot of speed but didn’t really hit enough.  Another year there is in line, but he’s starting to get too old (26).  In Frisco Brandon Boggs did most of the work, and put together a very good season to keep himself on the radar.  In Bakersfield, there was a three-way split between Craig Gentry, Truan Mehl, and Terrance Blunt, none of whom outshone the others by themselves, but since Gentry spent time at Low-A as well, where he hit better, and had a combined 40 SB (with 10 CS), he would be the better of the three.  Apart from Gentry there was also David Paisano at Clinton, he was the other part in the Danks-McCarthy trade, and although he struggled he was the youngest player on the team (19), so has time to get better.  Spokane spread it around, Tim Smith probably being the standout, although draft pick Julio Borbon (he of the major league contract) got a few games in after signing.  In rookie Arizona Engel Beltre stood out, after coming over in the Teixeira trade, and leapt into Ranger prospectdom.  No-one else there did anything to be excited about.

2008:  The Rangers have a bunch of third or fourth outfielders, so rumors abound about free agents.  First it’s Torii Hunter from Minnesota, who lives in Dallas, saying he’d love to play here.  Then he says he wouldn’t.  Andruw Jones is available.  Mike Cameron, if you want to go short and old.  And plenty of others, center field is one of the most full positions in terms of free agents this year.  The Rangers should commit to Murphy (and to a lesser extent Byrd), with the knowledge they’re not going to contend.  But they’ll probably do one of two things:  a) hire someone cheap, and try and get something good in trade in July, a la the way they worked Lofton this year, or b) throw a ton of money at Torii or Andruw, absolutely destroying their rebuilding credibility, but making that splash to try and keep the fans and Michael Young happy.  If they do that, at least Murphy and Byrd will be able to move to left, which would solve another position too.

2009 and beyond:  If they sign someone long-term, that of course is who it will be.  If they sign someone for a year, then Murphy will get another shot late in 2008 to prove if he can handle it for 2009.  Otherwise, hopes are probably being pinned on Borbon, who will have to make a few quick strides to get into the job, and Beltre, although he is still just 17 and very much a long-term project.

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.

Doing the splits

July 22, 2007

Splits are one of those funny things. Split too much and you end up with useless data. Split too little and you may be hiding things in the noise. But split just right, you can find out all sorts of interesting information about players. I can’t guarantee the following splits are done just right, but I still think some of it is interesting.

I’ve been on the Marlon Byrd bandwagon for a while now, a good month or so. I’ve been advocating giving him a long term contract, since he’s “proven” himself here. Of course, he’s only had 195 PA in Texas, which is virtually identical to what he had last year in Washington, where he sucked so badly he couldn’t even get another year in Washington, and ended up having to sign a minor league contract with the Rangers. Taking a look at his career numbers, he is so far ahead in Texas that it’s unbelievable. You either have to say wow, he just put it all together this year, at age 29, or you have to believe in the small sample size compared to the nearly 1500 PA he had with other teams. Look at his OPS+, you’ll see the only year before this one that he was above average was 2003, his rookie year, when he was 109. Apart from that year, his peak was 88, well below average, until this year where he’s 128, a huge improvement. First thought would be the new league, that he’s doing well and will come down again soon. Second thought is that he’s been a spark plug, driving in crucial runs at different times, doing things for the team that were missing in the early part of the season, and that the team really took off when he came along.

Funnily enough though, he’s been tanking for a while. He got off to a hot start, and there was a lot of talk about him hitting .400, but now he’s at .343 and sure enough, he’s been slowly going down. In the splits, for his last 14 days he’s been hitting .195, with little power and a lot of strikeouts (14 in 42 PA). Then all of a sudden he comes alive tonight, five RBI including a bases loaded triple to put the game away. So who is he, the hot start, the cooling off, the exciting spark to the team, or the career 90 OPS+? Will he turn this year into a big contract with someone, and will it be us? And if it’s not, will we regret it?

Adam Melhuse was a career backup when obtained from the A’s a few weeks ago, but fortunately did not take significant playing time away from Gerald Laird. If he had, it would be because of Ron Washington, one of his coaches in Oakland until this season, and reportedly the guy that recommended him. So you know Ron has an agenda regarding Melhuse, especially when after tonight’s game he says “I think the bat Melhuse had was key. Mel worked to get on base. He’s been in pinch-hit [situations] a lot and I definitely trust him when he goes up there to pinch-hit.” So what do you think he means when he says Melhuse has pinch hit a lot? Looking at his numbers, I don’t know if he means this year or for his career. This year, with both Oakland and Texas, he is 2-3 with two walks. Small sample size alert! For his career he’s hitting .232 in 69 ABs, which is not only a small sample size, but it’s also poor batting and below his career averages, which were poor anyway. Look for Ron to back Melhuse to be resigned next year, because everyone knows you need that experience to help the team along. His experience, by the way, is about the equivalent of one season’s worth of at-bats for a full-time player. Admittedly he was a backup catcher everywhere, but to get that little playing time in seven years? He’s appeared in about one in four of his teams’ games when playing. Could Ron like him so much because they sat side by side on the bench for four years, having nothing to do but chat all that time?

My impression of Michael Young this year has been that he is much better hitting third, and the team is much better with him hitting third. Looking at the team first, he batted third from Opening Day until April 26, when the team was 8-13 (.381). From then until June 8 he batted second, and the team went 22-39 (.361). Slight advantage to batting third. Then Tex got hurt, and Young went back to third, and the team went 16-11 (.593), a much better performance at third. Then Tex came back, Young went back to second, and the team is 4-5 (.444). Overall, .500 at third, .371 at second. The cynics would actually say the team was much better when Tex was on the DL, which would point to Tex being the culprit and pave the way for him to be traded since he’s only hurting the team.

But turning to Michael Young’s splits, we see something odd.  When hitting second, he has a .835 OPS, but when hitting third, it’s .643.  We find that the team was better when he was worse!  That makes no sense at all, since he is supposed to be the centerpiece of the team.  Could it be that the rest of the team improved, to cover for his lack of performance?  Could it be that when hitting second, he had Tex behind him to protect him, but when hitting third it was mostly Sosa while Tex was out, and Sosa is no longer protecting anyone so they could pitch around Michael without any problems?  I don’t know, but I’d rather have a winning team than a producing Michael Young, if I had to choose one over the other.  Of course, in general you’d say they would go hand in hand.  Either way, I cringe every time I see Michael hitting second, or worse Michael hitting third and some piece of trash like Jerry Hairston killing us in the two spot while Marlon Byrd rots away at five or six.  The lineup should begin Lofton, Byrd, Young, Teixeira, or at least until some of those parts get traded.  Given all his time in Oakland, you’d think Ron would have paid attention to things like OPS, optimal lineup strategy, heck even how bad the sacrifice bunt is for a team, but he seems to have thrown all those things out the window.  Heck, he even batted Ramon Vazquez leadoff, which is kind of like saying “okay, we’ll give you the first out for free”.

Brandon McCarthy got a hard luck loss last night, and reports said that he’s had zero run support the last few appearances.  Now me, I’m not sure about run support, or how it’s calculated, because I see it two different ways.  One way is how many runs a team scored when that pitcher started, even if those runs were scored after the pitcher left.  The other way is how many runs the team scored while he was pitching, in other words how it could have truly affected his outcome.  Looking at team numbers, we see in his last six starts the team has scored 20 runs, or 3.33 per game, significantly below the team average of 4.93.  Now, to be fair, make it his last seven games and, with 14 runs in that seventh game, his average jumps to 4.86, right in line with everyone else.  But still, it’s been a dry spell for him lately.

Now to runs scored while McCarthy was the pitcher of record.   Sure enough, in 29 innings while he was the pitcher, the Rangers only scored two runs, which is an 0.62 ERA for opposing pitchers.  Now, I’ve never been one to believe that hitters can’t hit for certain pitchers, I think it’s just random luck (although Nolan Ryan has burned this excuse into his career), but that’s ridiculous.  What’s more ridiculous is that he’s faced Daisuke Matsuzaka (11-7, 3.99), Ben Sheets (10-4, 3.39), Kason Gabbard (4-0, 2.97), Erik Bedard (9-4, 3.12), Jered Weaver (6-5, 3.30), and Fausto Carmona (12-4, 3.52) in that time.  Talk about Murderer’s Row!  In that time McCarthy has gone 0-3 with a 5.08 ERA, but take away the first start of those six and his ERA falls to 4.10.  Take him all the way back to May 4 and he’s 3-3, 3.83.  Once again, the perception is that he’s been struggling, because his season ERA stands at 5.53, but really it was a horrible start that caused that perception, just as the excellent start caused the Marlon Byrd perception.

Tomorrow it’s Robinson Tejeda’s turn to stand in the firing line again.  His perception has been the opposite of McCarthy’s, in that he started well but quickly sank without trace.  In the same timeframe that McCarthy had a 3.83 ERA, Tejeda had a 8.15.  I predict right now that on Monday he will be sent to the minors, because he will be beat up by the Indians and it will be the last straw, never mind that we will need pitchers with the doubleheader coming up on Tuesday.  Could it be time for Erik Hurley?