Archive for the ‘Michael Young’ Category

It’s June, time for the collapse to begin

June 9, 2009

I write this in my head every day.  It’s the getting it out through my fingertips that is the problem.

I want the Rangers to win, I really do.  I want them to make the playoffs, to actually win a playoff series, to win it all.  I’d love it if it was this year.  But as a Rangers fan (and an Arsenal fan) I know that it is far too easy for a team to set you up and then knock you down.  Every day I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the bandwagon to turn into a pumpkin.  That’s the way my mindset works.  The longer it takes for the Rangers to fall away, the worse it is going to be.  That tiny little feeling in the back of my mind that yes, they really are going to do it, is just going to end up a cruel joke.  And those folks who are getting on the bandwagon are going to be getting off in a hurry (Newy Scruggs, who has built his Dallas career on slamming the Rangers, had the gall on the radio today to be telling folks to shut up and enjoy the ride), and many of them will be having fun at my expense (all the people in my office who today are coming up to me and talking about “our” Rangers, in September they’ll be saying how much “your” team sucks for blowing it).  I can’t stand it, as Charlie Brown would appropriately say.

All of Tom Hicks’ teams are falling apart financially.  Even Liverpool lost fifty million pounds, seventy-five million dollars give or take, although they’re pretty much blaming the way he financed the team for that.  It’s funny, this is one of those cases where you’re enjoying a banker getting his, but then realizing what it could mean for the team.  Nolan Ryan as the owner?  Not many would say that was a bad thing.  But who else might want to get in on it?  David McDavid was rumored, not sure how a guy in the car business would get that kind of money these days.  And then there’s the man himself, Mr Cuban.  Out of the frying pan indeed.

You know what’s funny?  For years I’ve seen guys like Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard striking out near 200 times, and said who cares, it’s just an out, and they’re still hitting 40 home runs.  But when it’s one of ours, somehow it’s personal.  I think Chris Davis needs to go back to the minors, sad as that would be.  I just don’t want to see him flailing wildly again any more.  I’ve gotten to the point of closing my eyes or leaving the room when he bats.  It’s sad when they have to pinch-hit Andruw Jones for him to avoid a sombrero.

Wash was renewed today, of course, just a day after ESPN published a story saying how he wasn’t happy that he hadn’t been renewed yet.  Okay, technically he said he didn’t care, that he’d find something, but still, it was interesting timing.  I wish I had the dates from when he was extended last year, I’m pretty sure it came after a hot streak and was followed by the team’s collapse, but I may just be dreaming that (or foretelling it).

McCarthy is so brittle, they ought to check to make sure he has all his bones.  Although if they do, they’ll probably find another one he can break.  So much promise, so little on-field time.  You could argue that this comes so soon after his back-to-back 118 and 124 pitch starts, that surely they’re related.  I ought to make a chart showing the pitchers’ recent performances before their injuries.

Way back at the start of the season I said “I will bet you that one or more of these first four starters will be on the DL by the end of the month.”  Well, I was off a little, both in numbers and time.  The first five starters of the season were Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, Benson and Harrison.  Four of them have now spent time on the DL.  Wow.  How are the Rangers still managing to win?  Maybe they are star-crossed this season.

You’re not a true DIYer until you’ve fallen through a ceiling.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Padilla is infuriating.  I’ve said before that I watch his starts hiding behind the chair, just peeking now and then, waiting for the meltdown to happen.  Was that whole waiver thing really an attempt at a wake-up call?  Could they really afford to dump him now, when there’s no-one else left to go into the rotation?

Holland isn’t going to be a big league starter.  Not with three pitches, one of which he throws 80 percent of the time.  You can blow a 97 mph fastball past AA players, but in the majors they feast on it all day long.  Have you noticed how the more he pitches, the more he’s hit, and the worse he looks?  Okay, he’s still young, but there’s a lot more development needed.

I’m going to predict right now that the Rangers will make a blockbuster trade this month, for a starting pitcher.  The sooner the better.  I’m not saying Halladay or Greinke caliber, but Bedard might be available (although not necessarily within the division), or maybe Cliff Lee?

It says something when you’re unhappy about the Rangers splitting a road trip to NY and Boston.

As of when I write, the Rangers are leading the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, one of the better fielding ratings out there.  That’s going from dead last a year ago.  Really, the only significant change was moving Michael Young to third and bringing in Elvis at short.  Somehow, Michael is actually a worse third baseman than shortstop (you can make the excuse that he’s learning the position all you want.  I’ll just reply with the defensive spectrum, that short is a much harder position to field).  He’s even worse than the rag-tag mob that played there last year.  Between Elvis, who is head and shoulders above any other shortstop in baseball this year, and Kinsler, who has made a dramatic improvement, they’ve lifted the team a lot.  There are people who say the change this year is not the pitching, it’s the fielding, and they may be right.  Could all that losing of the last decade be placed on the horrible fielding from Michael Young?  If we’d had a decent shortstop in that time, could things have looked a lot different?  Something for the simulations, I guess.

2am.  This is why I don’t post that much.  Won’t even have any time for some Far Cry.  And only 17 hours until it all starts up again.

Taking steps towards progress

August 2, 2008

We went to the game tonight, and enjoyed so many aspects of it. Coming back from a big deficit was one, Boggs throwing a strike from left field, the dot race (although blue dot would have won if green dot hadn’t pushed him!), the little cooler bags, seeing Jamey Newberg on the big screen, and of course the winning. Even the failure of CJ Wilson, which I predicted as he came into the game, was ultimately irrelevant (at least in terms of today’s game: what it means in a month, or a year, I don’t yet know).

I started the week expecting to write something about how the Rangers had lost their senses, or their nerve, and pulled off some stupid crazy trade, dumping a bunch of prospects for some stud-muffin who would help drag them to 85 wins and just miss the wild card by five teams or so (exhibit A: Carlos Lee – and for some odd reason, when I typed Lee just then, my fingers ended up typing Less instead. Weirdly appropriate). I’m very pleased to have ended the week with everyone still intact (although I do harbor thoughts of getting some of these catcher prospects turned into pitching, before their carriage turns back into a pumpkin). I had even been thinking of a riff along the lines of “for the first time in my adult life, I’m proud of a Ranger front office”, but then gave that away as it would have been kind of silly.

Jamey Newberg had a long quote yesterday from Michael Young, which began with “I don’t really care about the trading deadline”. Reading that whole thing really burned me, because I distinctly remember a couple of years ago him (and a few other Rangers) being mad because the GM hadn’t done anything to help the team at the trade deadline. That has rankled with me ever since, and one of the chinks in the #10 armor that still makes me think he won’t be here at the end of his contract.

And yes, I have to admit, when I heard he had a broken finger I was pleased that we might get a good fielding shortstop up, to show us what we’re missing. And I was a little disappointed when I heard he would miss little time if any. Sorry.

I’m done with Hank Blalock. ESPN said tonight that the Red Sox traded Manny because several veterans told the GM they couldn’t count on Manny any more. I think it’s the same with Hank, he’s just going to pop in and out, between sessions on the DL, and disrupt the team a lot. First he insulted everyone at first base, because of his assumption that he was better than any of them if he moved over there “for the team”. Then he made Ramon Vazquez mad, moving back to third (although forced there), so much so that Ramon pretty much said “screw you guys, I’m going to play somewhere else next year”. Then, when he went back on the DL, he pretty much blamed the team for making him play third when they knew his arm was bad and he should be on first (sorry, Chris Davis, you shouldn’t have hit all those home runs). I liked Blalock as much as anyone for a long time (I still have a #12 shirt with his name on), but really, he can’t be counted on to be healthy any more. Pay off his option and get him out, and don’t even bring him back this year when he’s “healthy” again.

How the heck does Josh Hamilton get dehydrated? Or light-headed? Or whatever he had – and I’ll give you just one guess as to what my first thought was when finding out that was the reason he’d left the game. I mean, is he not used to the Texas heat yet? Does he not have a personal minder who should be able to tell him it’s time to drink some Gatorade? Hmmm. I’m not saying nothing.

Don’t know what Vazquez did to hurt himself, it looked pretty innocuous to me.

We got to see Shrek again, for a few moments. There were as many boos as cheers when he came up to pinch-hit (or maybe it was just me balancing out the cheers).

Twice they intentionally walked Marlon Byrd to get to David Murphy. I know it was lefty-lefty matchups that caused it, but really, we knew he was going to burn them at some point. I mean, come on, how dangerous is Marlon that you don’t want to face him?

I really appreciated Chuck Morgan explaining two errors to us in the first inning (pitcher interference followed by catcher interference). I wish he’d done it a little more though, in particular the ejection of the Jays pitcher, which all I saw was the umpire’s arm waving, I couldn’t tell who was ejected (for a while I thought it was Gaston).

Okay, so let’s get to the real reason you’re here today. The headline on the Rangers site, buried in the corner in the “Releases” section, says “Rangers name Andy Hawkins pitching coach”. You’d be forgiven for skipping over it, since hardly anything worthwhile ever goes down there, and it seems like they only update it every full moon or so. And there’s not even a story about it in the main section of reports (maybe TR Sullivan needed to get to bed early tonight).

The news that I have been hoping to read for a year or more has finally been delivered, the end of the Mark Connor era. Jon Daniels made some nice quotes about him, but basically what they were saying was that all the young pitchers weren’t listening to a broken down old man any more. I guess they hope that maybe the new guy knows something about pitching, huh? Or at least can relate a little better, where maybe they can talk to him like a dad, instead of a senile old grandpa.

I wish I knew what training regime Connor taught. I read a while back about what various pitching coaches do (the days they have their pitchers stretch, and throw, etc), but not about him. Whatever he was doing was obviously a failure, since so many pitchers broke down themselves that the Rangers were running their own airline between OKC/Frisco and Arlington. Record numbers of starters, record numbers of innings and runs and so on. Connor really had no clue, and just seemed to be a grumpy old man wandering around trying to look like he belonged.

Yeah, I’m glad he’s gone. So what? At least now he won’t have the chance to ruin all the young stud arms that will be coming up in the next couple of years (he already got to Hurley). I have railed and railed against him, and the team obstinately refused to listen to me (hah!) until even they had had enough. Good riddance, I say. Since this is almost certainly his last appearance as a pitching coach (surely no-one would ever hire him again, not after the debacle that Rangers pitching is), we can start the clock on the analysis of his effect on players. Easy to do historically, not so easy live – because you want to compare a coach to when he has players and after he is gone.

Ding dong, the witch is dead. Now let’s see if we can manage to reanimate a few pitching arms.

And finally: I’m pretty steamed that there are no Chris Davis shirts at the ballpark yet. Even if it would be just the same as all the other Ranger shirts I own. Come on, guys, make some variations! Do something different with some shirts. Maybe even color them red…

Rangers Review: Shortstop

October 8, 2007

Prior to the season, Michael Young signed a 5 year contract extension for $80 million, and it didn’t take him long to realize that was a mistake.  It will take longer for the Rangers to realize it though.  Young spent half the season complaining about losing, saying he didn’t like it, didn’t like rebuilding and he didn’t want to have to go through it.  We’ve heard all that before, of course, when Alex Rodriguez left.  Michael Young, good friend of A-Rod, is apparently using the same tactic to try and get out of Texas.  At least A-Rod had the good graces to wait a couple of years after signing his contract before getting out, and Michael Young doesn’t even have the excuse of not knowing what it was like here in Texas when he signed the deal.  On the field, Young played short almost every day, and continued his highly predictable career trends in hitting.  He improved and improved until his age 27 year, then he started falling off.  Now 30, the slide has begun, and by the end of the new contract, he will probably not be worth half of it, if he’s even still playing.

Michael Young summary:  Had 200 hits for the fifth year in a row, which was one of the few highlights of the year for the Rangers.  Unfortunately, after a terrible April, he made a comment that “I’ll get my hits”, which implied that he didn’t care about the rest of the team’s performance, and he was playing for himself.  That may be true.  I like Michael Young, always have, my kid loves him, but the noises he is making tells me he’s not going to be a Ranger for very long.  Curiously enough he missed the last couple of days of the season (right after getting hit #200) with an “injury”, and the quotes were that they didn’t want him to be rehabbing it all winter.  Why not, what else would he be doing?  It’s not like he has games to miss in December.  At least that way he’d be working on his health, which would be a good thing.  Very curious set of circumstances all round.  He got his 200 hits, but it was an empty 200, with almost no power (at one point he went two months without a home run, and ended up with 9), in fact very reminiscent of Ichiro, the other current guy getting 200 every year.  His OPS+ of 103 put him right at league average for the year, and his trend is down, so the Rangers may end up paying a huge chunk of money for someone giving them little or no production.  Sound familiar?  You know you have problems with a player when the general manager has to go meet with him and assure him the team will be playing to win.

Others:  Ramon Vazquez, Matt Kata and Jerry Hairston all got a little time at short.  Vazquez surprisingly got 110 innings there, that’s more than Young usually seems to miss.  In fact Young “only” played 156 games, his lowest total since 2002.

Minors:  There are some good shortstops in the system, and like third base, they’re concentrated in the middle minors, with the top level containing filler and the bottom containing nothing much yet.  This actually bodes well for the Rangers, if they can bring a couple of strong prospects through at the same time.  Drew Meyer and Dave Matranga had the bulk of the time at short at AAA.  Neither is a prospect, Matranga, now 30, is one of those guys who hang around forever, waiting for someone to go down so they can get a shot at the majors.  Meyer was the big gamble for Grady Fuson when he was drafting a few years ago, it’s safe to say it was a gamble that didn’t pay off.  In Frisco Casey Benjamin played every day, was below average with the bat and is actually older than Meyer.  At High-A Bakersfield, Matt Smith was hitting well below average when he was replaced by Elvis Andrus, who came over in the Teixeira trade and immediately vaulted to the top of the Rangers prospect pile.  Andrus was four or five years younger than the people he was playing with, and still hit pretty well.  Down in Clinton, Marcus Lemon, also playing with people a couple of years older, got most of the time and hit decently, but needs to learn how to run (12 SB, 14 CS).  In Spokane Andres James didn’t hit worth a lick, and neither did his backup, Davis Stoneburner, who I only mention because of his name, and the possibility that the Yankees might be interested in him because of it (George being who he is).  And in rookie league Arizona, Jacob Kaase didn’t make much of an impression.  It’s also worth mentioning Joaquin Arias, who would be the AAA guy this year but missed most of the year due to injury.

2008:  Young will start the year at short, barring a winter of discontent like we had when A-Rod left.  With another year of struggle next year, and the team two or three years away from contending, he may demand a trade, and then the question will be who will take him, and how much cash the Rangers will have to throw in because of the millstone contract.  My bet is that he will be the full-time shortstop all year in 2008.  I wouldn’t bet on 200 hits though.

2009 and beyond:  This is where things get interesting.  If he’s gone after 2008, what is there to replace him?  Elvis Andrus won’t be ready until 2010, at the earliest.  Some of the higher level guys (Joaquin Arias, if he can come back from injury) would probably get a shot, but they are simply filler, rather than longer-term prospects.  If Young leaves, expect to see a low level free agent brought in to keep the spot warm for Andrus.  Ironically, even after Young signed the seven year contract, this position may be one of the more unstable ones in the next few years.

The Young strike zone, part 3

September 16, 2007

Michael Young now needs 17 hits in 14 team games to get 200 for the fifth straight year. I would say that he will almost certainly do it, barring some kind of injury which keeps him out of a few games. I hope I didn’t just jinx him. He’s averaging about one and a quarter hits per game that he plays, which would give him 18 over the 14 games left. Now, if he slips for a few, he might be in trouble, but I think he’s just as likely to have a four hit game. What’s odd is that he had an 0-4 today, and the ESPN report said it broke his career high 14 game hitting streak. I am very surprised he hasn’t had a hitting streak much higher than that, in fact I would have expected at least a 20. I don’t know what that means, if he is not so streaky, but more consistent, or what.

There’s a few interesting things to point out about his shot at 200 hits. First of all, only 20 players have ever had five or more seasons of 200 hits, and only six of them had five consecutive seasons. Five of the six consecutive are in the Hall of Fame (Wade Boggs, Charlie Gehringer, Willie Keeler, Chuck Klein, Al Simmons), the only exception being Ichiro, who will probably be headed there one day. That’s interesting company. Many of the rest of the 20 are also in the Hall, in fact so are many of the 15 who have four seasons of 200. Is Michael Young bound for the Hall of Fame? By the way, of active players, Jeter is also 17 hits from 200, which would be his 6th season of 200. Juan Pierre (177) and Vlad Guerrero (176) are both trying for their 5th seasons, but they might be a bit too far away. Ichiro already reached his 7th, the only player with 200 hits so far this year.  The consecutive season record is 8, by Wee Willie Keeler, then Boggs and Ichiro at 7.  The record for 200 hit seasons (not consecutive) is held by Pete Rose with 10, then Ty Cobb has 9.

A while back I reported on his strike zone, and showed that I thought that it didn’t seem to matter where in the strike zone a pitch was thrown, the rate of result was the same, except for the down and away pitch. I looked at several batters and saw the same pattern, and didn’t know what was going on. I argued that the percentage of fouls, of hits, of outs, and of swinging strikes was roughly the same across all zones for the batter. This did not make sense, because everyone knows that batters have hot and cold zones. I am still perplexed by these results. I haven’t been able to do any kind of breakdown that would show something different, based on all the pitches. If this is the case, then it seems that random pitches thrown in random locations would give the same result.

I finally found a hitting zone chart for Michael Young online. Problem is, I can’t match it, for the simple reason that I’m using Gameday data and it’s not complete for Michael Young, or anyone else for that matter. I tried tracking them for the last week or so, but even that was impossible, because I could not make my pitch data match their strike zone. The strike zone is presumably a personal preference, or at least a programmatic preference, because I was able to follow some of theirs where a hit was recorded in one zone but an out in the same spot recorded in another. But their chart is still interesting, in that it shows his down and away to be his only weak spots, like I did. That at least tells me I’m on the right track.

Without putting all the numbers in, I can tell you that the highest average I have for him is.583, in the up and in zone. Dead center I have him at .415, whereas down and away I have him at a miserable .136. In all these cases, by the way, small sample sizes are very evident, as my largest zone, center, I only have 41 results (hits or outs). Of course, outside the zone it gets even worse.

I defined my zone horizontally as starting from the 0 point, dead center of the plate, taking three inches either side (technically, from -0.250 to 0.250 in the Gameday data), to make a six inch area. I then stepped out six inches on either side to make zones. Vertically, I went from 1.8 as the bottom line, up 0.567 each zone until I got to 3.5 as the top. Above and below also had that distance. So horizontally I am using 0.500, and vertically a little more. That means my plate is measuring at 18 inches wide, which for me is close enough.

Now I know you’re wondering about how I got 1.8 and 3.5. The Gameday data varies a little, as many people have shown, but in a recent game (9-9), the data had his strike zone from 1.531 to 3.502 (with a couple of variations, but these were the dominant measures). That suggests I’m good at the top, but I’m cutting off almost three inches at the bottom. Why? Here’s why:

Michael Young balls and strikes

This is a chart of the balls and called strikes Michael Young has received this year. Given that these are what is called by the umpire, this should be a fairly accurate representation of what his actual strike zone is. There is some variation, of course, and you have to realize that some of the dots are not really what they should be, but more likely errors from Gameday. For example, I doubt an umpire called a strike on that pitch that’s two feet outside (although most umpires are blind, but that’s another story).

What you see is a strike zone that is very well defined at the top, at 3.5 feet. At the bottom, the variation works out at 1.8 feet, with a couple of strikes below that, but also some balls above. Interestingly, the width of his strike zone is from about -1 to _1, or a total of 24 inches, a little wider than you’d expect.

What you also see is how many pitches are on the right side and down (both balls and strikes). There is a huge number down and away, which shows that other teams know his weakness too. I said before that his down and away zone average is .136, well if you include outside the strike zone, it falls to .093. Shouldn’t this be something that Rudy Jaramillo should be working on? Or maybe they don’t worry about it, since he’s approaching 200 hits anyway?

In the near future, I’m going to expand my look at who hits what where.  Showing Michael Young’s strike zone results don’t answer the questions I posed in the earlier post, namely that hitters seem to hit about the same anywhere in the strike zone.  This seems contradictory, after having read this post, but I am talking about two different things, namely the batting average here, but the rate of strikes, fouls, etc in the other.  How did I get that result before, and was it valid?  How do I reconcile it to this one?  With luck, and a little hard work, maybe I’ll have a result before Michael Young reaches 200 hits.

Cold pizza

September 10, 2007

I keep reading these crazy people saying the Rangers are 20-10 over the last month, and that’s simply not true.  Okay, you can look it up and see that on the board it is true, but really there is such doom and gloom about the team that it doesn’t feel like they’re winning.  Winning is a relative term, because they’re struggling to get near .500.  And, to use a little perspective, they’ve done that while playing losing teams, only the four against Seattle and three against Anaheim were against teams above .500, and Seattle is in a free fall.  So yeah, Ron Washington will spin it his way, and I’ll spin it my way, and we’ll see who the manager is on Opening Day next year.  As it is, the Rangers are on the verge of mathematical elimination, just five games away (a combination of five Rangers losses and Anaheim wins), which means they held in a lot longer than we expected.  When I was writing them off back in May, saying they would lose 100 games, I thought they’d be eliminated by the All-Star break.

With 20 team games to go, Michael Young needs 25 hits to reach 200.  I would almost certainly expect him to get the mark, for the fifth season in a row.  Only Ichiro has a longer current streak.   Michael has done it with no power, and his OPS+ stands at 101, meaning he is almost exactly league average.  He is following a very classic aging curve, having peaked at 28, and all those years left in his new contract may end up being a millstone for this team.  Not only is he likely not to perform the way he has in the past, but the size of the contract means he won’t be tradeable, especially not to a contender which is where he wants to be.  Much as I love him, I am already dreading the ugly breakup we’re going to have.

We went to the FC Dallas Major League Soccer match on Saturday night, the first time we’ve been to an MLS game.  I’m a huge soccer fan, as you may be aware from some of my previous posts, and I very much enjoyed the game, especially with the 2-0 Dallas win.  We had some disappointments, most notably in that they didn’t have any apparel for an almost-three-year-old to wear, which means all we ended up buying was a foam finger, which Josh fell in love with when he saw.  They’re missing that market, heck, we had Josh in Rangers gear the day he was born.

It was very interesting comparing the demographics with the Rangers.  The Rangers fans would be family-oriented, but much less so than FC Dallas.  If you’re at a Rangers game you’ll see a large percentage of adults, of all ages, and a reasonable but small percentage of kids (by that I mean perhaps 25-30%).  I’ve been to a couple of Cowboys games and they skew much higher to adults.  Never been to Mavs or Stars, but I’d say Mavs fans are the same as Cowboys, and Stars I think head more toward the 20-30-somethings than anything else.  This is a lot to do with economics, in that you pay a lot more to see the Cowboys and Mavs, so they tend to be adult ventures rather than family.  But the point I’m going to make here is that FC Dallas had huge numbers of kids.  Okay, they probably only had about 12,000 in the crowd, but I’d say it was 60% kids.  There were a lot of cases where an adult would bring a whole team of kids, which would skew the ages, but it was highly noticeable.  This is probably the biggest threat to MLB and the NFL, in that the kids growing up now with soccer are going to stay there as they get older, and finally soccer might manage to break through to a wider audience.  I think the NFL will stay #1, and MLB #2, but MLS will challenge the NBA and NHL for the third spot.  Of course, 50 years ago you’d say MLB would be #1 forever, and look what happened there.

A thought for the people running Pizza Hut Park.  The name of the place is Pizza Hut Park.  You have a thousand pizza stands around the place.  So why did I have to wait at least five minutes, if not more, for you to cook me a pepperoni pizza?  Surely by now you know what demand is at your park?  This was my biggest gripe about the place, except for the shirts for small kids.

Oh, and I want to say thank you to the person who gave us tickets at the gate.  We were just lining up to buy tickets when someone offered us their season tickets (or some that they had) for free.  They were pretty good seats, down by one of the penalty areas, and we had a good view of a lot of action.  Whoever you are, you will probably never read this, but thank you.  There was one time at TBIA the same thing happened to us, and we got good seats then, and there was one time that we had extra tickets (Marian’s boss had arranged to get tickets for her, and got too many for our party) and gave two away.   Whoever those people were, I bet they were surprised to be handed two tickets on the second row behind the visitors dugout!  But it goes to show, if you ever have extras, hand them off to someone who could use them – the Pay It Back theory will come back to you.

I’ve been trying and trying to re-analyze Michael Young’s strikezone locations, and things just don’t seem to be coming together.  It’s weird, but I seem to be getting some noise from the ballparks, in that different parks seem to have different strikezones.  That makes no sense at all.  Of all the Gameday stats, I would expect the strike zone to be the most accurate, because it is the most fixed position (at least horizontally).  Now, some of the studies online have shown it to vary horizontally quite significantly around the edges, but I would expect the mean horizontal position to be at zero, or at least in the same position in each park.  Different batters move the mean around some (if you face a lot of righties the mean will move to the right, and vice versa for lefties, because pitchers tend to pitch away), but after controlling for that I’m still getting more variation in ballparks than I’d expect.  For example, the mean strikezone in TBIA is a little to the left of zero.  This messes up my evaluation of Michael Young’s strikezone, because if I set the center at zero everything skews (word of the day) to the left.  Maybe I’ll just present what I’ve got in the next couple of days and see what I come up with overall.

Double-header in Detroit tomorrow, but it’s a split, so one game is at noon and the other at six.  We get to see a little Pudge, and perhaps even a McCarthy sighting will come out of it too.

Random strike zones part 2: The Michael Young perspective

August 9, 2007

About a week ago I looked at the strike zone from the pitcher’s point of view, and showed how it did not appear that the result of the pitch was in any way influenced by the location within the strike zone. I broke all the pitches for an individual pitcher into types, and then into zones, and could not show the expected pattern, which would be something along the lines of if you throw a pitch down the middle of the plate, hitters will feast on it. The results, using several different pitchers, suggested that where the pitcher threw the ball (once you took out balls and called strikes and leaving just pitches the batter swung at) did not matter, that the rate at which various events occurred was similar anywhere you looked in the strike zone. The one place I found was that down and away to a right hand batter, they were much more likely to swing and miss than anywhere else, but otherwise results were pretty much the same across the strike zone.

Once I found that, I wondered if the same would be seen from the batter’s point of view. We’ve all seen those hot and cold zone charts, where they break out a particular batter, and tell you how they are doing in that zone. For example, batter X will hit balls middle inside at a .350 clip, but middle outside he’ll only hit .250, and so on. If that’s the case, we should be able to see at least something from some different batters that would interest us. My suggestion last week was that perhaps pitchers are so homogeneous because they are an agglomeration of multiple hitters, and if the hitter is really the one who influences the location it might be hidden in the pitcher data because of the large numbers of different hitters they face, all contributing to the pitcher’s chart.

So this week I performed the same test as last week. I took the top six hitters from my Gameday database, based on number of pitches tracked in the database, and ran the same set of charts on each of them, then looked at the data. The hitters in question were Ichiro, Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, Richie Sexson, Rafael Furcal, and, in case you were wondering why I chose six instead of five like the pitchers, Michael Young. I pulled their data, dropped their charts into my templates, analyzed the numbers, and guess what? Well, let’s look at some charts to see. Since this is primarily a Rangers blog, I’m going to show you Michael Young’s charts:

Michael Young All

First, the overall picture. If you look closely you might detect some patterns, but I’ll make it easier on you and break it out by result type.

Michael Young Foul

Here are just the foul balls.  As always, this is from the catcher’s perspective.  You might already tell a slight pattern, which is that there are more pitches to the right, and you would be right.  In fact, of all the pitches Michael Young swung at, about 55% were to the right hand side of the strike zone (away, of course, since he is a right hand batter).  As a matter of fact, once we take into account the number of pitches into each area, we find that Michael Young fouls off about 40% of all pitches he swings at, with the exception of down and in, where he only fouls off about 25%.  More on that in a moment.

Michael Young IPNO

Here are the in play, no out results, which is basically his hits.  These appear to skew slightly to the inside, but that is an optical illusion caused by one thing:  there is not a single IPNO result on the right hand side, below 2 feet.  And on the left side, below 2 feet, there aren’t very many either, but enough to make you think it skews left.  Is this surprising, that he doesn’t get many hits when the ball is down, and doesn’t get any when it is down and away?

Michael Young IPO

Here are his outs.  In a repetition of the results found for pitchers, he shows a much higher rate of making outs when the ball is inside, especially down and in where the rate is about 50% higher than the other zones.  In the pitcher article, I attributed that to the ball coming inside and batters hitting grounders to third or short.  This seems to back up that theory.  This in fact is the partner of the foul ball:  there were many less foul balls inside, and down and in especially, because there were many more outs inside, and down and in.  In fact, when adding the two types together, their rates stayed remarkably stable, suggesting that fouls and outs are closely tied together.  I’m not sure why this would be, except to say perhaps that, as above, instead of hitting the ball foul down the left field line he is hitting it fair on the left side.

If you think about that, you realize that a right hand hitter will foul most of his pitches to the right side, and not many to the left.  Imagine, if you will, a baseball diamond from above, with the 90 degree angle of fair territory.  Imagine a hitter hits to, say, 120 degrees of angle.  If the angle was even with fair territory, he would hit fouls to 15 degrees on the left and 15 degrees on the right.  However, since he is a right hand batter, he tends to foul to the right, so place the left baseline of the 120 degree angle down the third base line, and the hitter will foul pitches off an extra 30 degrees to the right.  Vice versa for a left hand batter.  The closer to center, the more likely a hit, so in the case of these pitches inside, if a batter hit evenly across fair territory they would merely be fouls down the left field line, but since he tends to hit more to the right, they stay fair and end up with the third baseman or shortstop throwing him out.

Okay, that was not very well explained.  I’ll have to make a picture of some kind, and come back to that later.  Let’s move on.

Michael Young Runs

Here are his play results where he put it in play and runs scored as a result, not too many so not necessarily a large enough sample to deduce anything, and in fact there were really no areas where the rate was higher or lower than any other.

Michael Young Swing

And, once again, our final picture is the most interesting one.  If you’ve watched Michael Young bat as many times as I have, you know he is very susceptible to swinging and missing at the pitch down and away.  Here is that pitch, shown quite clearly in this chart.  Four times as many swinging strikes on the outside as on the inside.  Most of those strikes are in the middle or lower.  All those previous charts where he wasn’t hitting the ball much down and away, they all end up here, as he swings and misses those pitches.  In fact, he is over two and half times more likely to swing and miss down and away, as he is to swing and miss anywhere else.  The middle away zone does show a lot of dots, but you also have to remember there were a lot of other pitches there too.  There are 22 swinging strikes out of 59 pitches down and away, and 24 swinging strikes out of 124 pitches middle away.

Now, back to something I said at the top.  I said I’d show you Michael Young’s chart, because this is a Rangers blog.  Well, that is true, but there’s another reason.  All five of the other batters showed very similar patterns.  Oh, there were minor differences, like Ichiro’s left-handedness causing his swing and misses to be down and to the left, and their areas did show different shapes, Sexson’s being a little taller presumably due to his height, but really the overall sense was the same as Michael Young’s:  the outcome when they swung did not matter on where the ball was, except they would ground to third (first, if they were a lefty) more on inside pitches and swing and miss more on outside down pitches.

So again I ask the question:  What is the use of location within the strike zone?  If you’re just throwing it randomly in there, you’re going to get a fairly random result.  In fact, if you want, just throw it down and away all the time, hitters won’t have much chance of doing anything with it.  That is crazy, of course, because hitters will adapt.  If you decide to just throw to one spot, pretty soon the hitters will be waiting for a pitch there, and they will tee off on you.  And I’m not advocating complete lack of command, either, because that would be fatal in other ways.  If that were the case, you’d throw too many balls, and the whole point of this study was to ignore what the pitcher was throwing outside the strike zone, but rather to look at what the batter felt (for whatever reason) was worthy of swinging at.  No, the point is to induce the batter to swing at the pitch, and it’s only then that this study appears to show that the result when they swing is random.

So now that I’ve gotten this far, what’s next?  If you rule out location as a factor in a result, what are you left with?  First, speed, followed by the various breaks (vertical, horizontal, amount of break on the pitch), angles, types of pitches.  Does it seem like one (or more) of them should stand out?  It does to me, because if it doesn’t, then what is the skill of batting, other than just randomly swinging at what the pitcher throws?  I’ll start working on that, and let you know what I find.

I would also like to find somewhere that actually shows me the heat zones I referred to earlier (or even scouting reports that say something like “don’t throw inside to this guy”), and see if I can replicate them with the Gameday data I have.  I question whether I could, based on this admittedly small sample of data.  But I don’t know, maybe people have imagined things, or simply not measured them accurately, and written down their expectations?  It wouldn’t be the first time that “experts” were shown to be wrong when someone actually bothered to measure something.  It also wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve looked at some data and come to a conclusion that’s not necessarily supported by deeper analysis.  More study is necessary, I think.

The slings and arrows of outrageous strike zones

August 7, 2007

The umpires are at it once again. No, I’m not talking about the stupid attempt of MLB to do background checks on all umpires (the right to privacy does not mean I have something to hide), I’m talking about the inconsistent ways they call the game. Tonight we saw it over and over again as the Rangers lost to Oakland. Throughout the game there were complaints about the strike zone, ending with Michael Young and Ron Washington being ejected in the 11th. To be fair to Young, he was right, the pitch he struck out on was out of the strike zone. But also to be fair, two of the pitches that were called balls were in the strike zone and should have been strikes. This just shows up the ridiculous nature of the umpires’ strike zone, in this case Bill Miller, but overall pretty much every umpire has great inconsistency.

First, let’s take a look at Michael Young’s last at-bat from Gameday:

Young 8-6 vs OAK

Pitch one is a called strike, at the bottom of the zone. Pitch two, on the outside edge, is fouled off. Pitch three a ball down and away. Pitch four, well inside the top of the strike zone, is called a ball – bad call. Pitch five, on the bottom outside, catches the strike zone but is called a ball – bad call. Now it’s three and two. Pitch six, the one that gets him ejected, is called a strike. Now, Gameday shows it is not touching the strike zone, but Gameday is not necessarily perfect. What bothers me most is that pitch six has a horizontal value of 1.211 in the Gameday data, meaning it is 1.211 feet off the center of the plate. Pitch three was 1.204 and pitch five was 0.909. I’m assuming that for three, five and six the vertical is within the strike zone, because they’re above pitch one which was called a strike, and well below the top of the strike zone. Thus, horizontally, pitch six, which is further outside than three and five, is called a strike whereas the other two, closer to the plate, are called balls.

The more I dig into the Gameday data, the more I find these annoying inconsistencies. If he’d struck out on pitch four, I’d have no problem with it. If he’d struck out on pitch five I’d have no problem. But pitch six I do. The Hardball Times recently reviewed the strike zone, and showed that while pitches are overall called fairly well, there is a huge gulf around the edges of the strike zone. Yes, you’d expect that, but not to the extent that it happens, and not horizontally as much as vertically (because the horizontal strike zone is fixed, while the vertical varies with the height of the batter).

Now let’s take a look at the strike zones as called today for each team:

OAK SZ 8-6

We’ll start with the strike zone called when Oakland was batting. The box I drew simply touches the outside edge of the outside strikes in each direction. It does not allow for anything else, such as the strike on the right edge (near the bottom) being slightly further out than the others, and compared to the balls. This strike I would say is so close to the edge it could go either way, as shown by the number of pitches called balls inside it. Either way, the Oakland strike zone as measured this way is 2.268 feet wide, and 1.529 feet tall.

TEX SZ 8-6

The Texas strike zone, displayed and measured in the same way, is 2.421 feet wide and 1.938 feet high.

Thus, the Rangers strike zone was 0.153, or 1.836 inches, wider than the Oakland strike zone. I think that is a pretty big difference, given that this is a game of inches, as is so often stated. To be fair to the umpire, a large portion of that difference is caused by one pitch, the one upper right in the Rangers strike zone, which happens to be the one that Michael Young struck out on.

The vertical difference is much more striking, 0.409 feet or almost five inches. Now, obviously, there are differences in the heights of the players in the two teams, so we need to take that into account. The average height of the batter’s strike zone (based on their measured height in Gameday) for Oakland was 2.02 feet, for Texas it was 2.10 feet. A very small difference, equating to close to an inch. Surprisingly enough, their maximums and minimums were very similar. What you probably can’t see by looking at these two pictures is how they vary. In looking at them side by side, I see a huge difference, with the Rangers strike zone extending about three inches higher and two inches lower than the Oakland strike zone, something that is not backed up by the height of the players themselves. For whatever reason, the umpire had a larger strike zone when the Rangers were batting.

I would say that this was a large reason for the Rangers striking out twenty-one times today, but that’s not necessarily true. What I can see from these charts is that there were a total of six pitches that the Rangers took as called strikes, which would not have been strikes in the Oakland strike zone. They also got approximately three pitches called balls that would have been Oakland strikes. Is that a big deal, given that the A’s faced 237 pitches and the Rangers 225? It possibly could be. If you start not getting those calls, you may start swinging at pitches that would normally be balls, with potentially bad results. I have not yet looked at the pitches swung at in this game to see if there is any kind of difference. But I do know that twenty-one strikeouts is an excessive amount, even for a bad team.

Let’s look at some positives though. The Rangers did battle back from being down 7-0 to tie the game. Rheinecker did give up six runs in the first, but managed to get through five innings (shades of previous comments I’ve made about Rangers pitchers not being prepared to start the game). Ironically I had bought The Book a few weeks ago, but only over the weekend did I flip through a few chapters, one of them being the one about pitchers giving up a lot of runs early, and if you should pull them quickly or let them work through it.  In this case we’re glad Ron let Rheinecker work through it, but on the other hand he might have almost been forced to do so, given the burn rate of the bullpen recently and the upcoming games.  However, in another irony, he ended up having to use the bullpen extensively today, to get through 13 innings, and Willie Eyre ended up throwing the gasoline on the fire, like he did in his emergency start on Saturday.  The only saving grace is that Oakland had to go through their bullpen too, if Rheinecker had gone in the first, we’d have been toasted for the rest of the week, but this way they took a hit too.  You never want to burn the bullpen in the opening game of the series, but as long as both teams do it might balance out.  We better hope for Kason Gabbard to be on tomorrow, to give them a little rest.

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?

Young man, you’re an All-Star again

July 2, 2007

Michael Young is the Rangers’ only All-Star, and that’s probably a good thing.  Yes, Tex would have been it if he was healthy.  Yes, Sosa got to 600 and is among the leaders in RBI (which just points to opportunities).  Yes, Aki and Gagne have been largely lights-out.  But since Young is the face of the team, he gets the nod.  He’s also put a slow start behind him to get close to .300.  No-one would seriously have wanted Sosa to be the Rangers’ rep, would they?  And Aki and Gagne haven’t pitched that much, and there are also relievers on teams that deserve All-Stars.  If the Rangers got more than one All-Star, wouldn’t you be asking questions if you were any other team?  After all, if A-Rod can’t be an MVP because the team finished last, they can’t be having multiple All-Stars either.

Interesting to note that Coco gets in, that Carlos Lee gets in, and that Chris Young gets to be in the fan run-off.  Vote for him, just to show Jon Daniels what you think.  Very happy to note that Pudge gets in again, yet another brilliant decision by the Rangers brain-trust those several years ago.

The Rangers ended June 14-12, after going 9-20 in May and 11-15 in April.  Yes, the schedule played it’s part, but frankly I have been surprised by them these last few days.  Maybe the mental game is more than you think.  A week ago I said they would go about 3-8 in the next three series, against Detroit, Boston and Anaheim.  They’re already 4-2 with one rainout, so even if they lost the rest they would be ahead of my prediction.  I could certainly see them splitting these last four to make it six out of ten.  I guess I should stop making predictions, huh?

Whatever Kam Loe did while he was down, he has to share it with everybody else.

Today by the way marks the halfway point in the Rangers schedule.  I’m trying to get a little analysis done to project a full season, and compare it to years past.  I noted a few days ago where the Rangers were in runs scored and conceded, now I want to take a look by position and see what has been hurting us most.  The loss of Pudge appears to be the main factor, since he was far and away above an average catcher.  Would he have done the same in a Rangers uniform?  We’ll never know, but as I pointed out above, all we can do is speculate about the bonehead move that ownership made to let him go.

If the Angels go .500 the rest of the way (they’re at .622 right now), they will have 91 wins.  To tie them, the Rangers would have to go 57-24, or .704.  They’ve gone 8-3, or .727, in their last eleven games, so they’d virtually have to keep that up for the rest of the year and hope that Anaheim fall apart.  Detroit currently holds the wildcard, but still 13.5 games ahead of the Rangers (with seven other teams in between).  I still say that the playoffs are probably unlikely for the Rangers this year.

Rangers’ manager fired!  Oh, just Jerry Narron, from the Reds.  Can you believe it was 2002 when he was fired from the Rangers?

Brandon McCarthy tomorrow.  He spent a rehab start in AAA, maybe the Loe minor league magic can work on him too?  Of course, he’s been pitching pretty well for the last month or so, he just needs to avoid getting blisters.

Why are these guys even here?

June 30, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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