Archive for the ‘Ron Washington’ Category

Life, Interrupted

July 1, 2008

Hi there! It’s been a while. Too long, in fact. I hope you missed me, or at least didn’t delete me from your feed reader. Actually, it’s been about six or seven weeks since I last wrote here. I’ve been meaning to, every day I’ve come up with a different idea or theme or something. I just haven’t gotten around to writing them down. And, once the days starting slipping into weeks, it just became easier and easier not to write. Makes Jamey Newberg look like a freaking firehose, doesn’t it?

Fact is, I got a new job in mid-May, and it’s been sucking up all my time and energy. When you go from a job you don’t really care about, to one that you’re passionately interested in, that’ll happen. Is it my dream job? No, probably not, since I don’t get to a) swing a bat, b) kick a ball, or c) dive into a swimming pool full of cash every day. But in terms of what I enjoy doing, which is messing around with software, it’s pretty high up there. It’s with a huge company that you may or may not have heard of, but who I’m not allowed to name since they have rules about blogging. And, although there’s no swimming pool of money involved, I can certainly take off my shoes and splash around in a puddle. Life, right now, is pretty darn good.

And you’d be forgiven for thinking that life is good for the Rangers. One of the things you haven’t missed lately is my dragging down the mood of the party in Arlington. There’s some perception going on that the Rangers are doing well. They are, if you consider that we’re now in July (by 16 minutes as I write) and they haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet. Let’s take a look at a chart:

AL West Race through June 29

You’re probably familiar with this kind of chart. It’s the number of games above or below .500 each team is. The Rangers have, of course, spent the last 40 games or so hanging right around .500. But compare their low point, 9 games below, to where Anaheim was at the time, 5 games up. That’s a 14 game difference. Now, today, the Rangers are one over, and Anaheim is 16 over – a 15 game difference. That’s right, for all that you think the Rangers have been playing well lately, they haven’t gained on the leaders at all. Sure, they haven’t gone into freefall like the Mariners (and like the Rangers usually do), but is there reason for hope?

Cool Standings says that the Rangers have about a 10% chance to make the playoffs right now. Is that reason for hope? The Hardball Times yesterday said that the Rangers are performing above their talent level. Is that reason for hope? In fact, they say they’re about a 73 win team, playing about 85 win baseball. I predicted a 70 to 75 win season at the start of the year, and I see nothing to change that. What’s sad is that they’re hitting the heights of mediocrity, and people are using that as a pointer to them being good, a poor substitute for the reality of being good.

My fear is that ownership is going to be deluded enough, or pressured by the media enough, to do something stupid in a few weeks. Bringing in another Carlos Lee comes to mind. At least let it be a pitcher this time, and yes, I’ve heard the name CC Sabathia bandied about. Boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to see him here? Just think of all the prospects we’d have to throw out to get him.

I would rather the GM do nothing than go get someone like CC, who will be out of here as soon as he can. We have a plan, stick to it, plan on competing in 2010 and just pretend that we’re in it right now, so you can keep Michael Young happy a little longer.

Okay, now to a few other things that have been rolling around in my head for a while:

The tv broadcast lost TAG for a few weeks, and I am very glad to see him back. No offense, but Victor Rojas at times didn’t sound like he knew what was going on with the Rangers this year. Josh Lewin would say something, and Victor would be like “huh?”, and Josh would have to explain. Of course, Josh normally has to explain his jokes, but these were some pretty obvious things (and I can’t think of an example right now).

I emailed the booth tonight to tell them that Josh’s story about Yankees getting pinstripes to make Babe Ruth look thinner is a myth (they first had pinstripes in 1912, he joined the team in 1920). Maybe they’ll mention it tomorrow. There’s been a few cases lately where they’ve irritated me on things enough that I’ve written them. There was another one yesterday, something about stats, that really annoyed me. Again I don’t remember what it was now, I just remember thinking that someone like Josh Lewin really ought to have at least basic knowledge of modern statistical analysis. I don’t necessarily mean the deep stuff that people like me enjoy, but even the simpler ones like OPS proving things. Another that annoyed me tonight was on the radio on the way home, they said someone in the NL was having a bad year because he is something like 2-8, with a 4.20 ERA. Surely by now people realize that a pitcher’s record has little to do with his performance, it’s what happens around him. After all, if there was a guy on the Rangers with a 4.20 ERA they’d think he was a superstar (Padilla has a 4.13, next best is Feldman’s 4.60 among regular starters).

I’m starting to lose patience with Salty. He can’t hit (82 OPS+) and he can’t field. Opponents are 28-5 stealing against him, he has 3 passed balls and 17 wild pitches. He doesn’t seem to be improving. That jackass Ron Washington said the other day he doesn’t care if his catchers hit, he wants them fielding and working with pitchers. First of all, I’ll take a guy who can hit over someone who can’t any day, the numbers prove that hitting is much more important. Second, Ron Washington would say that, because he’s a guy who couldn’t hit the side of a barn in his career, so of course he doesn’t care about numbers. And third, why not give Max Ramirez the same deal that Laird/Salty had, splitting time? Right now, as far as I’m concerned, when Laird comes back, Salty should go to the farm.

Aren’t we glad we didn’t trade Laird during the spring?

Remember how the Rangers lost patience with Jason Botts, because in all those cameos where he barely got to string two games together, he didn’t hit much? Salty is barely hitting better than Botts did, and he’s had about 50% more playing time than Botts so far in their careers. Of course, Botts didn’t have the Teixeira trade on his side, whereas they will keep putting Salty out there until they can justify the deal.

I love Chris Davis. My natural nickname for him is CD. I’d drink some for him, if I could get it here.  Washington said that Davis will go back to the minors when Blalock comes back, no matter what.  I hope Davis can hit about .500 with 20 home runs between now and then, just to make it more difficult for them.  Davis should be playing first every day, and Max Ramirez shouldn’t be there at all.

And Blalock, well, how insulting is it to the other players that he says he’s going to switch to first to help the team?  It was Catalanotto and Shelton at the time.  Thankfully Blalock can’t get healthy (I don’t mean to insinuate anything, but don’t they say getting injured like this all the time is a sign of steroid use?).  The Rangers began to play well when he got injured, and the longer he stays out, the harder it will be for him to mess things up, like sending CD back down.

Now see, it took me an hour to write all that.  That’s why I haven’t been able to do it much lately.  Not only will I be tired in the morning, but I didn’t get a chance to play any games tonight.  So, no promises when the next one will be, but I hope it won’t be another six weeks.

Correct somewhere between 0 and 100% of the time

May 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to go

April 26, 2008

Thursday I heard fifteen minutes of the game on the radio while driving home. It was a controversial moment, a ball that Josh Hamilton said was interfered with by a fan, but the umpires changed the call to a home run. Washington comes out to discuss it. The guys on the radio said “if he’s ever going to get tossed, it’s going to be now”. At that moment I got home, ran inside and turned on the tv. And they were in commercial. I don’t know if he got tossed, but none of the reports on the game mentioned him being tossed, in fact none of them even mentioned that play.

Tonight, the Rangers finally win after seven losses in a row. They all run out on the field, like they just won the freaking World Series (this is probably about as close as most of them will get), and we see Ron Washington high-five Ben Broussard, then turn around looking for someone else – and there’s no-one there. Eventually a couple of coaches notice he’s been left hanging, and high-five him.

Ron Washington has lost this team.

There was a blog post today saying that the big brass was meeting today (Hicks, Ryan, Daniels), and suggested they were going to fire Washington. I don’t know if that was true or not. Obviously they didn’t, but they should. He’s a tired old man, who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and the players know that.

This is the guy they could have, and should have gotten. Telling quote #1: “Had Hillman laid back and dismissed it as an early mistake in spring training, how could he command his players’ attention in August?” Washington laid back since he got to Texas. Telling quote #2: “If you get somebody who comes to be 10 games better than last year, I’ll show you somebody who’s not very passionate about what they’re doing.” Washington said in spring that the Rangers can be ten games better than last year.

Fire Ron Washington.

Can’t hit, can’t pitch, can’t field. Your Texas Rangers, 2007 edition.

October 1, 2007

Not with a bang, just another whimper in a season full of them. It started by being swept in Anaheim, it ended by being swept in Seattle. In between there were other sweeps, both for and against, there were good days and bad days, there were good months and bad months, but another season ends with the calendar ticking over once more on a postseason-less Rangers team.

The mad rush to output season summaries will now begin. In a few days I hope to run my own version, I plan on doing it position by position, and see where upgrades need to be made. Or I could just do it right here, and say “everywhere”, that way I’ll be in the Ron Washington camp.

Speaking of Ron, here’s his quote: “I always said those guys gave me nine innings every night. Never once did I come into my office after a game and felt those guys laid down on me. That’s a grand quality.” Now, do you believe that? Do you believe him? I don’t have exact quotes to hand, but I’m pretty sure he dogged the team on more than one occasion about lackadaisical play. I know I did, many times, and not just lackadaisical, but downright ugly. I would say that for most of May the Rangers didn’t bother showing up, either with the bat, with the ball, or in the field. And there is more than one blog posting in my archive, and more than one around the blogosphere, that will tell you that not only did the Rangers lay down and die many times, but that Ron Washington was right there with them. He had a reputation as a straight-talker when he got here, but frankly, even though he has given some straight talk at times, he’s more and more been guilty of double-talk. I’m sorry they extended him when they did, because I simply do not trust him to manage the team.

And another one, from the ESPN site: “Asked who was the most improved player this season, Washington said second baseman Ian Kinsler “because of where he was after the first month of the season (hitting .223 on May 17) and the progress he has made on the offensive side. He learned what he can and cannot do.” Kinsler has a .267 average with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs.” Uhh, in April he was .298-9-22. For the rest of the year, .258-11-39. This is improvement? Okay, he did get better towards the end of the year, but how do you say a guy improved when his best month was the first month?

A quote from TR Sullivan on the Rangers site: “This is the first time since 1900 that an American League team has not thrown at least one complete game.” Which is true, since the AL didn’t begin play until 1901.

The Rangers ended up 7th in the majors in runs scored. How is that possible, you ask? After all, they were terrible at the start of the year, couldn’t score to save their lives (yes, I cleaned that line up a little), and didn’t have a single 100 run man or 100 RBI man (first time since 1990). Well, remember that 30 run game? Of course you do. Knock off those runs and the Rangers would fall to 13th, in the middle of the pack. Still higher than I would have expected though. Compare that to their other stats, they should have ended up in the high teens in runs scored. Maybe Sosa really was an RBI machine.

The pitchers ended up 25th in runs conceded, which is a good performance for them, given that they were much worse than that early on. In fact, the 4.75 ERA is surprisingly good – remember back in the day, when they had the worst four pitchers in ERA qualification? Millwood ended up as the only guy qualified for the ERA race, finishing 72nd out of 78 (uhh, didn’t he win it a couple of years ago?). Padilla was fortunate to be injured, otherwise he would have gotten the 40 innings he needed to qualify, and would have been just .05 out of last. Tejeda fell apart too soon, Loe would have been below Millwood, but McCarthy recovered enough that he would have been in the mid-60s. Small blessings.

In terms of fielding, the Rangers ended up with the second most errors. Once again, Ron Washington to thank, as he came over with the coaching reputation that was supposed to solve all those worries.

Overall, I’d give the team a D for this year. Not an F, because they improved a little in the second half when it meant nothing. They might have gotten a C-, but being swept in Seattle meant they ended one game behind Oakland, stuck in last.

75 wins. The mediocrity continues. So will the reviews, so keep on reading.

Absence makes the bats go quieter

September 26, 2007

Blogs are funny things. There are about three gazillion of them out there, and apparently most of them die a quick death, last just a post or two, or a month or two, before the owner gets bored and moves their attention elsewhere. I’ve read about there being a tipping point, and I don’t know exactly when it is, but possibly somewhere around six months is where a blog will have either died and been buried, or will end up lasting for years. There aren’t many in-between blogs, is what they say.

This blog is approaching the six month mark now, and early on was getting a daily post, on occasion more than one, but for the last month or so it has certainly fallen off to a trickle. Lately I’ve been writing very sparingly, I think about half a dozen posts in September, which works out to about two a week. You could be forgiven for thinking that I’d given up and gone home, gotten bored with it, or any of a hundred other things. You might be wondering when the day will come that you’ll realize you hadn’t seen anything from me for a while, and assumed it was just another deceased blog amongst millions.

Nope, I’m still alive and kicking. I’m as enthusiastic about the Rangers as ever, about baseball, about the blog, and about all the stuff I’ve done this year. What I’ve gotten into is a sort of terminal phase of the Rangers season. Yes, people will tell you there is a pulse, that they’ve been playing well for a few months, but the patient has been on life-support since April, and they’re about to pull the plug. Heck, we couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to drag ourselves to a game in this last homestand. We talked about it, but ended up going and seeing balloons in Plano instead (having escaped the mile long traffic jam, and parked on the other side of 75 as the balloons flew right over our heads), and after that we didn’t feel like getting out on Sunday to see a ballgame too (especially since they couldn’t even give details of their Fan Appreciation on the website – if they’d said for sure that players would be greeting folks at the gate, and you could run the bases afterwards, we’d probably have been there.  But they didn’t, so we weren’t). I love the Rangers, consider myself a diehard fan (not as diehard as some, but certainly more than most), but I think I’m finally in the fifth stage, that of acceptance that this will just be another sucky season in the Rangers history books. And going through that makes it hard to get motivated every night to write just another little spiel counting down Michael Young, or talking about some other prospect who’s doing okay, or ranting about how bad Ron Washington has been doing things (boy, I could have written a few of those this week!).

But there’s one other thing that has held me back from writing. It’s September. In just a few days, the season will be over for the Rangers, and I’ll be able to look at complete sets of numbers for the season, instead of partial ones. If you’re thinking of Vicente Padilla, as I have been for most of my waking hours this past week, what can you say? Hey, he had a bad year, but did some good at the end? I could have written that a week ago, and then watched him start a fight and get suspended and have arguments with people and be called out by his manager (did Ron Washington really say that stuff about him? About being stuck with him for two more years?). Or, I could wait just a few more days, and maybe he gets that last start in on the last weekend after all, largely invalidating everything I’ve said?

If you read baseball online, and I’m not talking ESPN or the other big places that cover it, but rather the interesting blogs (by which I mean the ones that cover stuff that is interesting to me, not you), you may have noticed that many of them have dropped off in frequency now, and I suspect it is for the same reason, waiting for complete datasets. Just look at the Hardball Times, or Baseball Prospectus, and take a look at their feed history. Even those guys seem to have stopped doing stuff lately. Now, maybe they’re all hooked on the pennant races, which frankly I barely care about since the Rangers aren’t involved, but I doubt it.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying hang in there, I predict an explosion of info and posts from me and from people all around the blogosphere, starting next week. For example, I’ll be doing my season in review of the Rangers, looking position by position, that’ll fill much of October. Then there’s all sorts of deeper analytical stuff I want to get into, that could take much of the winter. And finally, for a couple of years I’ve been writing a multi-part piece about Nolan Ryan, now I have the place to publish it and so it’s time to dust it off, clean it up, and get it out there.

In short review of the Rangers recently and for the next few days:

Michael Young needs three hits in the last four games. He’ll probably get there.

Ron Washington’s brain seems to have melted down, and he’s been trash-talking most of the team. Jamey Newberg wrote a good piece on it a couple of days ago (it’s hard to link to individual pieces on Jamey’s site, but if you search the archives for the piece titled Meddle-Management, dated 9/23/07, you’ll find it).  Basically Ron’s way of motivating people for next year seems to be “you’re not good enough, so we’re looking for someone to replace you”.  To be charitable to Ron, my guess is that’s exactly the motivational speech he heard from his managers every year of his career.

Mark Connor:  “This is the most frustrating season I’ve had as a pitching coach, for sure”.  I can’t imagine that being the case, because he hasn’t done anything to be frustrated about – like coaching.  The irony is that Rudy Jaramillo is the one without a contract this winter, when he’s the only one who’s actually done anything around here.  Connor’s just sat there like a grumpy old geezer, not coaching anyone, not having a clue about what to do with the pitchers, and certainly not having them prepared for the season, or even for a game.  I don’t know who else is out there, but anyone would be better than him, because the players clearly don’t buy into anything he says.

Marlon Byrd had an outstanding June, which pretty much carried him all year since he sucked in July and August, but he’s improved a lot here in September.  I’d like to see him back, but since Washington said he needs two outfielders, Marlon may be the odd man out.  If we don’t keep him, he’ll fit in somewhere.

Galarraga’s start yesterday was ruined by Washington.  Say all you like about wanting to leave him in to get five innings and a shot at the win.  You don’t get a shot at the win if you keep giving up runs.  The guy hadn’t pitched hardly at all in two weeks, and you give him 87 pitches to blow up?  You want something positive, pull him when he’s starting to melt down, not when he’s done.  Now he goes into the off-season (assuming he doesn’t get another start, which might actually be possible) thinking about giving up five runs in an inning, not about having thrown four shutout innings.  Okay, he’s heading to AAA anyway, but you know he’ll be thinking about yesterday when he gets sent down in spring training.

The last time the Rangers didn’t have a 100 run player was 1992, and 100 RBI player was 1990 (excluding strike-shortened 94 and 95).  Right now Kinsler has 93 runs, and Young and Sosa are tied for 90 RBI.  In four games, that’ll be a stretch for any of them to get to 100.

Our season of discontent is almost over.  I say that like it’s an odd thing for Rangers fans to be discontented.  There are positive signs and there are negative signs around this team.  You can choose for yourself which it is, when I say I’m going to be posting for a long time to come.

Switching on a lightbulb

September 8, 2007

Before you get carried away by Edinson Volquez’s two games this year (and yes, it is Edinson with an N in the middle, not Edison as half the media outlets would have you believe), remember that it is just two starts, just eleven innings. Having said that, he’s had an excellent 2007, from being demoted to A ball and working his way back to the bigs. One minor disciplinary misstep a few weeks ago, but otherwise he’s doing well. A few weeks ago I talked about the Rangers’ 2008 rotation, and in it I put Volquez in the “not yet” category, and said he’s a year or more away. Well, I don’t mind admitting I’m wrong, but with the caveat of just eleven major league innings this year, I think he might be a candidate for the last slot in the rotation. There are other stronger contenders, but if he goes on to have a good September, does everything well in spring training, and doesn’t have any more troubles off the field, he might just make it. At worst he’ll be starting in AAA, waiting for whichever of the rotation breaks down first next year. He could also be a long man in the bullpen, but you’d think someone like Rheinecker would be ahead of him for that job too.

Even with just the two starts, and two wins this year, I thought I’d take a look at how he’s been pitching in Gameday. For a guy with a career 1-10 record (who was rushed to the majors and potentially ruined two years ago), he’s been doing some interesting stuff. Here’s how he charts, these are all the pitches he threw in both games (9-1 at Anaheim and 9-7 vs Oakland):

Volquez Speed HV

Three pitches, and actually with the fastball (in blue) I was on the verge of deciding there were actually two pitches in there when I was looking at the other charts my program generates, but finally decided to leave it at one (at least until I have more evidence). The three are the fastball (blue), curve (green), and change (red). A clear and distinct gap between the fastball and the others in terms of speed. His fastball is from 90-96, averaging about 93, but a little high vertically at about 9.2. The other two pitches are very close together, from 77 to 85 mph, but note that the change breaks left while the curve breaks right (the horizontal is the darker color of each pair).

Overall from Gameday I have 107 fastballs, 52 changeups and 21 curves, so he’s not trusting the curve very much at the moment. The fastball is of course his bread and butter pitch, throwing about 60% of them, which you’d expect since he throws it 95. In the first game he threw 94 pitches, 60 strikes, in the second game he had 87 pitches with 52 strikes. Right around 60% of strikes in both games. The pleasing thing is that with 94 pitches in Anaheim he got through five innings, but with seven fewer pitches today, he got an extra inning. He was apparently pulled because of a blister on his thumb, which the Rangers experienced earlier this year with McCarthy, and (I have to get a dig in here) perhaps with a better pitching coach we wouldn’t have to deal with that kind of thing, because the pitchers would be better prepared.

There is one little worry that popped up in the charts I ran. Take a look at his release points:

Volquez Release Point

We saw this pattern once before, with Millwood when he was being pounded earlier in the year (I haven’t checked recently to see if that has changed at all). In this case, he is throwing the changeup from a point below the other two pitches, in this case about half a foot below the others, and that is something that major league scouts and hitters will pick up on. Again, something for a pitching coach to work on, or at least to be aware of. Again, it will be interesting to see how this changes over time.

So another nice start and another win for Volquez. He was helped in a big way by Frankie Cat, who was pulled in a very surprising move by Ron Washington. Postgame quote from big Ron: “I was only concerned about winning the ballgame.” Ron, you have to look at the big picture. Your team has a 3 run lead in the bottom of the 8th. You bring out Sammy Sosa to lead off, the thought being that it was a lefty and Cat doesn’t hit against lefties (10 at-bats this year) while Sosa does. But that’s not the big picture. The big picture is that you had 22,000 fans in the ballpark tonight, best crowd for a while (I believe yesterday it was 17,000, second worst crowd since 2000), and you could have made them very happy, as well as all the folks like myself watching on tv. You could have gotten a little exposure for the team on the news, instead of us having to watch 10 minutes of high school football and something about some Cowboy being injured.

And more importantly, to steal an idea from Gregg Easterbrook, you’re a 66-74 team! You’re not going to make the playoffs! Do something that you wouldn’t normally do! Remember back when Scott Sheldon got to play all nine positions, because Johnny Oates thought it would be something fun for the team? Yes, wins are nice, but Cat could have entered the exclusive club whose membership is just Oddibe McDowell and Mark Teixeira, and given this team something good to talk about. C’mon, Ron, break the mold, stop being a push-button manager and think about what you’re doing, and what your position is.

As it was, CJ tried to throw it away again. I’ve been saying that he should get the one run games and Benoit should get the rest, because CJ is too intense to pitch with a multi run lead (in this case five runs). I think now that Jack should be the closer, and CJ should be used in the earlier innings when the game is on the line. There’s a lot of debate online about when your best pitcher should be used, in the 9th to end the game or earlier, say in the 7th when there’s trouble. CJ would be a perfect guy to try this on, use him when he’s most needed, and save steady Jack for the 9th.

Finally, I reported less than a month ago that this blog had hit 1,000 page views (not counting feed readers), and I was happy about that. I’m even happier to report I just hit 2,000, doubling the views in under a month. A large part of that was due to a mention in an article in Slate, but it’s very gratifying to know that people are reading. There’s an old saying that it’s better for people to think bad of you than not to think of you at all. I’m pleased you all are reading, and hopefully you don’t think bad of me. Either way, I’ll keep writing it, so you can keep reading it.

Dear JD

August 31, 2007

Jon Daniels, please stop reading my blog.  I’m one of those people you don’t like, one of the naysayers about the team.  Every time I say something, you do the opposite, just to spite me.  That’s not the way to run a team (if it is, then let me just say that you, Ron Washington, Mark Connor should all have lifetime contracts, and Tom Hicks should never sell the team).  Honestly, I was mad when I heard today that you’d picked up Ron Washington’s option for 2009, just a couple of days after I said how bad he has been as a manager.  And watching your performance on tv during the game tonight, I felt like you were talking directly about me all the time, about how you were showing all those people who’d been saying bad things about the team.  Guess what?  We’re not all going to be lovey-dovey about the Rangers all the time, especially when they’re playing badly.  You’re the GM, you’ll be here what, another two or three years maybe?  Assuming Hicks has more patience with you than he has had with anyone else, that is.  We’re in it for the long haul, as the saying goes, we love the uniform, not the people inside.  We’ll be Rangers fans in twenty years, thirty years, forty if we’re lucky, and maybe by then we’ll have won a World Series.  By that time you’ll have been long forgotten, just another name in the history books.  Yes, you have a chance to do good things now, but for sure if you only listen to the yes-men and ignore what everyone else is saying, you’ll be in exactly the same trap as every GM before you (with the exception of Doug Melvin, who did a good job before Hicks came along).  If you try and dismiss us out of hand like you did tonight, then the day you’re packing your bags you’ll be hearing our told you so’s loud and clear.

You said yourself in your quotes today that Ron Washington “is a teacher at heart”, and that’s something I totally agree with.  I’m not sure I made this point clear a couple of days ago, but I think he is a great coach.  He got all those fielders in Oakland believing in him, after all.  We’ll just ignore the fact that the Rangers don’t even seem to understand the fundamentals of baseball this year, won’t we?  But it is clear to me, if not to yourself, that while Washington is a good coach he is a terrible manager, he has no idea of the tactics that even old-time managers use (heck, Earl Weaver knew to play for three-run homers, why couldn’t Wash play under him instead of some of the people he did?).  As I said the other day, he runs the team like he played, he has ignored all the lessons of the last twenty or so years.  I mean, bunting in the first inning?  A bunt is a one-run strategy, and if you think you’ll get a run in the first and make it hold up, well, I’ve got a bunch of Rangers pitchers to sell you.  The suggestion that the Rangers have been playing well the last couple of months is crazy, yes, they have a decent record (the quote was 38-30 since mid-June) but it’s mostly been smoke and mirrors, basically a lot of luck swinging back after disappearing early in the season, pitching that has far outperformed the true value (even tonight you all were saying that Kam Loe is back to being on the edge, whereas just a month or two ago you were singing his praises like he was the second coming of Cy Young), and hitting that has stumbled and bumbled most of the way.  The Rangers are, as said above, fundamentally bad, they have a large number of players who would never make it on a championship team (go on, tell me how many of these Rangers would make the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the Angels – I’d say Benoit and CJ, and very few of the rest, including Michael Young), and they don’t look like getting better.  Now, granted, the extension of Ron Washington may be a surrender flag, a sign that you’re accepting you won’t win for a couple of years so why not keep the teacher in to get some of these guys trained better.  But while he’s sitting in the manager’s seat, how much training is he doing?

Remember Trey Hillman, who was a candidate for the job but stayed in Japan after winning the Japan Series last year? His team has a three game lead in their division this year.  Think he’ll still be available in 2010?

Someone ought to start a Michael Young watch, in his pursuit of 200 hits.  He needs 40 more, and has 29 games to do it.  He’s going to need to step it up a little, he needs a couple of multi-hit games to get back on pace.  And he should get a little education, too:  “I think we have a ways to go,” Young said. “I have no idea what players we have in the Minor Leagues, but I would imagine extending Wash would be a step in the right direction.”  He has no idea who’s in the minors?  But wasn’t he just recently talking about all these guys coming up, and how he didn’t want to rebuild?

The poll on Rangers.com today:  Who is the single most formidable opposing player for the Rangers?  Choices are Vlad, Jeter, David Ortiz, Ichiro and Frank Thomas.  Uhh, what about Thome?  Are there any records on most times on base against opponents in a season?  If so, he must be close to the top, since he reached base pretty much every time he came up this year.

Notes today tell us Salty is hitting like a thousand when he’s a catcher and nothing when playing first.  Maybe he likes being a catcher?  I’ve always wondered why catchers don’t hit better, since they see a hundred pitches a game, shouldn’t they get some better sort of perspective on it?  You know, all those studies that say hitters hit pitchers better after three or four at-bats against them in a game.  Is it just because they’re seeing their own pitcher, instead of the opponent?

John Danks was probably a little better than expected today, he got his share of strikeouts (against a team that loves to strike out), but also gave up a home run, and lost because of four errors in one inning.  Something there to like for pretty much everyone, huh?  Especially the Rangers, because they won.

Somewhere around there’s got to be a transcript of JD’s comments tonight during the game.  He came across as a little arrogant, as I said earlier it was a lot of “I know everything and you all know nothing”.  Maybe that’s a good thing, but he hasn’t built a track record yet (well, not a winning one, anyway).  If he believes in Ron Washington so much, it’s doubtful he ever will.

You can’t teach an old manager

August 28, 2007

Here’s a question for you: how did the Rangers get Ron Washington as their manager? After all, he’d been a coach for the team for a decade, was seen as a strong candidate the last couple of times they were looking for a new manager, and this article says that Washington was the first, best and only choice the A’s could make last October. So how, just a few weeks later, did he get the Rangers job? In fact, it was only a couple of weeks after letting Washington go to a division rival that they promoted bench coach Bob Geren to be manager. Surely they knew plenty about the two of them, and could almost certainly have had their choice, so why let Washington go to a division rival?

Moneyball, the book by Michael Lewis about the A’s 2002 season and the way the team was run, has a couple of interesting parts about Washington. Perhaps the most critical line though, is the one where Washington is quoted saying “Somebody on this team runs and get his ass thrown out and you got all kinds of gurus who tell you that you just took yourself out of the inning.” This tells you enough about him to know that he had a fundamental difference with Billy Beane, that difference being that Beane was emphasizing skills like OBP while Washington believed in speed. My guess is that was the seed (or at least one of the seeds, there were probably others we’ll never know about, but this was the most public) that made Beane know that he could never let Ron Washington run his team, because Ron Washington didn’t think the way Beane wants his managers to think.

So although he gets the Rangers job, was he even really in the running in Oakland? Or was it just a smokescreen, and Oakland was happy that he went somewhere else, with the belief that he would do the bad things that Oakland avoids with another team, and in this case he would hurt a division rival?

Now I’ve got to tell you, in case you haven’t realized from reading this blog, that I believe in statistical analysis. Yes, scouts have their place, but numbers don’t lie like scouts do. They may not lie intentionally, but they see a very small sample of someone and believe they can judge them. I, like many or most sabermetricians, look at a small sample of numbers and ask what it is telling me, and what it is not telling me. So when I look at the Rangers, and Ron Washington, I judge them through that lens, the belief that things like bunting and speed and so on are not nearly as useful as you might think.

Ron Washington, on the other hand, grew up with speed and defense, and never hit much. His career stats show he was a middle infielder, who played for several teams but mostly Minnesota in the 80s, never hit much (career OPS+ of 78, means his offense was worth 78% of the average ballplayer), had hardly any power (20 HR in 1500 AB), not much speed (career 28 steals and 18 caught stealing), and surprisingly enough didn’t field very well (his career fielding percentage was below the league average and his range factor was way below the league), considering he was renowned for teaching fielding in Oakland.

Another section in the Moneyball book quotes him as telling the author he stole 57 bases in one season, and fellow coach Thad Bosley stole 90. This has been ridiculed in various places online, since as noted above he only stole 28 bases in his career. However, looking at his minor league stats, he was probably talking about 1974, when he stole 51 bases in A ball, and I don’t begrudge him being slightly off (it’s also possible the author got the number wrong). That same site does not list Bosley’s minor league record, but Wikipedia says he did steal 90 in the minors, so that part is true. Either way, it does appear he ran quite a bit in the minors but very little in the majors.

The book Management by Baseball, by Jeff Angus (which incidentally has a very interesting blog, check it out if you haven’t already), opens with an introduction about Maury Wills. Basically it says that when managing Seattle, Wills had slow slugger Jeff Burroughs try and steal, to no avail. Wills had been an exceptional base stealer during his career, and tried to translate that to his team when managing. He considered the things he did best to be the most worthy things to do, and wanted others to do them too. This has already become apparent with Ron Washington in Texas, in that he is doing just the things he did best while playing, and ignoring the players he has and what they can do. The team is bunting and stealing much more than in the past, flying in the face of all the latest statistical analysis.

A particular incident stands out, since it was from just a day ago, but it could be taken from many other places this year. On Sunday, Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the game, and with the next batter up, Brad Wilkerson, the Rangers bunted. Admittedly, this was a successful bunt, but it gave up an out for little gain, and it was noticeable when two batters later Sammy Sosa hit a home run, scoring Kinsler, but Wilkerson was sitting in the dugout having followed his managers instructions to bunt, instead of potentially rounding the bases with the others. Now, of course, Wilkerson could have done any number of things if he hadn’t bunted, including hitting into a double play, but the Rangers went for the low percentage chance. There are various tables online showing run probabilities, but using this one you can see that with a runner on first and nobody out, a team will on average score 0.88 runs. A runner on second and one out (as in after the bunt), they will score 0.69 runs. So by choosing to bunt, the Rangers give up the chance of 0.19 runs, not much you say but over time it adds up to quite a lot. As a matter of fact the Rangers have sacrificed 47 times this year, and although not all will be in this same situation, using it as a proxy gives us about 9 runs given up, or almost one whole win based on the 10 runs for a win theory. Yes, there is a time and place for bunting (not least to keep the other team on their toes), but in the bottom of the first, why are you playing for a single run, when you should be trying to establish a big lead?

The Rangers have stolen more this year too, and pretty successfully, currently standing at 70-17 for stolen bases-caught stealing. That’s about an 80% clip, fairly well above the 70% which sabermetricians tend to accept as the break-even point, but with the small numbers involved it would only take a couple of steals to get right back to average. Again, using something that Washington supposedly excelled at, speed, he tries to model the team after himself and ignores current and future realities.

According to Jon Daniels they had a couple of great interviews with Washington, and immediately decided to hire him. I’m assuming they got into detailed information about how he would run a team, specific situations, because otherwise the only things that came out were all touchy-feely things about how he is a people person, and they were looking for that after the Buck Showalter regime went too far the other way. What did Washington tell them about managing a game, about when he would bunt, or steal, or pinch hit, or pull pitchers from the game, or how he would specifically run things? Did they hear any of that? Does Jon Daniels (or Tom Hicks) have a philosophy about running the team, or do they leave that up to the manager? JD does not have a long history in baseball, coming out of college as a management type, so it’s possible he thinks he needs to let the manager choose the philosophy on the field, and his job is just to get him players. If that’s the case, he’s going to be a weak GM, not allowing the team to reflect what he wants it to. Yes, the manager should have input, but I believe that the GM should give him a direction to head in, and if he won’t follow it then he should move on.

When Mark Teixeira left a few weeks ago, you have to wonder what he was thinking. Thanks to this recent interview with Michael Young, we know some of it.  In it, Young says that Tex can’t say enough good things about Bobby Cox.  Now, we know that Tex and Washington had a run-in, where their screaming at each other was heard outside of the manager’s office, and we know that Washington was telling Tex to do things his way.  Obviously Tex is a very good player, who knows what he is doing with a bat, and the implication seemed to be that Washington didn’t think he knew what he was doing.  How much of Tex’s decision to turn down $140 million and be traded was down to Washington?  100%?  No, not even close.  Probably not even 10%, maybe just 1% of Tex’s thought was “I don’t want to play with this guy”.  But if that’s the case, and if the same is happening with others, then Ron Washington and by extension the Rangers have a problem.  Yes, he was lauded in Oakland for his ways with the players, but he was a coach there and he is the manager here.  What’s the difference?

My personal opinion, having watched Ron Washington for just five months, is that he is not cut out to be a big league manager.  He was very successful as a coach (and oddly, when he came on board in Texas, said he looked forward to working with Blalock on his fielding, which is not something a manager should be doing, it’s the infield coach’s job).  But he seems to have ignored, willfully or not, the lessons he should have learned in a decade in Oakland.  Maybe it’s the result of being third base coach, where he doesn’t get to sit in the dugout with the manager and discuss or hear the thought processes.  Or maybe he thinks he knows it all from when he was playing, and that is the way he will always play the game.  He has little if any tactical ability, his decisions on pulling pitchers is terrible (backed by a poor pitching coach), he seems to pinch-hit at random, he clearly plays favorites and rubs some players the wrong way (my bet is that Gerald Laird will be gone by Opening Day next year), and as for the other Moneyball quote, where everything out of his mouth is something that should be in Bartlett’s Quotations, well, I haven’t heard a single thing yet.  I had little clue who he was when he was first mentioned for the Rangers job, I had to look him up online like most other people, and frankly I have little clue who he is today.

I believe he has a two year contract, which is ridiculous, it’s telling people that you don’t have much faith in someone as soon as you hire them.  That means that this winter one of three things will happen:  the Rangers will fire him (saying they didn’t see anything changing), they’ll extend him (with a bunch of platitudes about the ship moving in the right direction), or they’ll do nothing, and he’ll spend a year being a lame duck.  I will tell you right now that I think it’s 50-50 he is still the manager on Opening Day 2008, and in my opinion he is almost certainly not there on Opening Day 2009.  At this point I’m supposed to suggest an alternative, and I think Art Howe was hired as bench coach with the plan that he would take over if and when Washington failed.  He will either be interim manager at some point next season, or a strong contender for the job this offseason.

The little I’ve seen of Washington, I just can’t get into him.  He doesn’t seem to be a very warm person.  He doesn’t seem particularly managerial.  Of course I wish things could work out for him in Texas (in fact, the Showalter curse suggested we should be winning the World Series this year).  He just doesn’t seem to have a plan, or at least to communicate a plan, which means he always seems to be a step behind where we think he should be.

Runs, we need runs

August 25, 2007

Here’s an amusing little chart I just made:

Moving Average Runs

It’s a seven game moving average of the Rangers runs scored (blue) and conceded (red) this season. Click on it to enlarge. What’s the obvious thing you see? Of course, it’s the giant spike at the right hand end, showing what a freak show the 30 run game was, how much it affected things. It was a crazy score, something you will almost certainly never see again in your lifetime, something even my two year old will probably never see again. It was a once in a century score. And with moving average, we see just how far out of whack with the rest of the Rangers games this season it was. If I waited until the end of the season to show this, you would see that line drop way back down again, an extreme spike in an otherwise moribund year.

But we can use this chart educationally, to look at just how the Rangers have been doing. Using a moving average eliminates much of the jaggedness of the chart, giving slightly lower peaks and valleys, allowing you to see trends more easily. Now, comparing runs for and against, you can kind of follow along with the season. Long periods where the blue is below the red are the losing times, and where blue is above are winning times. If they run fairly even, the team should be about .500. You can see for most of the first half of the season, the Rangers were below, for a short time they were above, and then back to even and below again. You’d expect to see that reflected in winning, and in general you do.

There are however a few interesting things that the moving average does not eliminate, which includes excessive wins. Obviously the 30 run win obscures a lot of bad stuff around it, you can see the Rangers were falling into a hole approaching the worst of the season when they exploded (and everyone knows they’d been bad in the previous two games). Ignoring that though, May immediately sticks out to me. Remember May? It was the worst of times. The Rangers sucked hard in May, going 9-20 on the month, but looking at the chart they almost seemed decent. What’s going on? In May they scored 145 and conceded 160, which Pythagorean wins would show as a 13-16 month, not 9-20. In fact in May they had three wins of more than 10 runs, and apart from a 9 run loss their next biggest loss was by 6 runs. Those three big wins accounted for 42 of their runs for and 7 runs against, which is a huge margin in just three games. Take them out and you see they’re down to 103-157, which moves them back to a Pythag of 9-17, much closer to what they truly were. For May, they didn’t lose big, they just lost a lot of little games and the three big wins masked the trouble more than they should have.

Looking a little earlier, April was another bad month, barely above water all the way. You can in fact show that through mid-June, the Rangers averaged about 5 runs for and 6 runs against, which is a deadly combination when you’re trying to kick off your season (the actual averages through June 15 were 4.94 for and 5.86 against). At that point it’s even hard to decide who to blame. The offense seems decent at 5 runs per game, pitching is of course bad near 6, but even then I remember complaining a lot about how the offense was struggling. I suspect it is consistency that is the key, meaning that they never got in a stretch where you felt they would get five runs every night, but more a week of two or three runs then one game of 15 to balance it out, as they did in May. At least the pitching was consistently bad.

The high point of the year was late June to late July, a period when they went 23-14 and things seemed to be working. The chart shows the second half of June as being the best of times, when the offense was much the best of the year, and the pitching was running well too. That two to three run gap turned into a lot of wins, but was unfortunately a very short streak. While the pitching kept going well through July, the offense fell away to the same level, leading to a 14-12 July in which the team was outscored by 15 runs. Slow increases on both sides ended up with the pitching going higher and hitting going lower in August, leaving the team (and it’s fans) flat once again. Interestingly, as a whole, both the Rangers and their opponents combined have scored a lot fewer runs per game in the second half. 10.8 runs per game through June 30, 8.3 from July 1 to August 21 (just over 9 through today, which again shows the large impact of 30 runs in one game, it raised the average for two months by 0.7 runs per game). Everyone always says the Rangers start well but fall apart when it gets hot, is this a sign of that? Not just on the Rangers, but their opponents too, scoring 2.5 runs per game fewer between them. Good pitching and bad hitting, something you would never expect to hear about a Rangers team.

This almost turned into a season review kind of thing, which was not what I intended. I was simply trying to show how far out the 30 run game could throw things. I ought to just copy and paste most of this once we get round to October and I do a real review. Now I’ll have to think of something else to say.

Hey, something I haven’t researched, but I’d be willing to bet that the 29 hits the Rangers got on Wednesday is a record for a team that was no-hit in the same season (certainly in the modern era, can’t guarantee those pre-1900 teams). If I had a good database, I could find this out, but a cursory look shows that the D-Backs were no-hit last year and also had a 20 hit game. 29 is of course much more rare than 20, but even that goes to show that a no-hitter is another kind of fluke. Now the Rangers have been close to being no-hit a couple of other times this year, which would make the 29 hit game even more improbable, if that’s possible.

Some comments on other things going on lately, specifically Ron Washington. He (and presumably Mark Connor) have badly mismanaged the team this week. I was shocked that Millwood went out for the 9th inning tonight, he had clearly hit a limit, and in fact ended up giving up an insurance run that took the wind out of the sails. He lost a quality start, his Game Score fell from 51 to 43, all of the positives we could have taken out of it were blown away simply because they wanted to get him a complete game. What’s the benefit of a complete game loss? Especially when you have just one strikeout, and 13 hits, to show for it. Millwood was not on today, but struggled throughout, and to keep him out in the 9th was kind of like putting a nail in the coffin. The unfortunate thing for Millwood is that he’s had no run support lately, he’s been pitching well but has nothing to show for it.

The other one was yesterday, Kam Loe’s start. Remembering that Loe has just spent time on the DL, and had just one game back where he only went five innings, how long do you think he should be left in? You’d start at five innings, but you might want to go to six if his pitch count isn’t too high. You’d certainly be aware of keeping a close eye on him when you hit five innings, wouldn’t you? In fact, in the middle of the 6th, when he gives up a leadoff homer, then loads the bases with one out, you’d have someone ready in the bullpen to come in and save the day, especially with a 3-2 lead. On the other hand, you’ve got the 8 and 9 hitters up, and even though he’s thrown 89 pitches already, you want to take another positive out of it. When Jose Lopez singles to make it 3-3, you think about pulling the pitcher again. Even when Betancourt pops out to the catcher, you think about it, because now you’ve got a tired pitcher, bases loaded, and Ichiro coming up. What do you think will happen? I’ll tell you what will happen, in fact I said it right before the at-bat began. Ichiro isn’t going to hit a home run, because he doesn’t have good power, but I predicted he would double and clear the bases, and sure enough he doubled and cleared the bases. Then what happens? You bring in Mike Wood, and he serves up a home run to Vidro on the first pitch. Boom, game gone, anything positive for the pitcher gone.

This would probably be my primary criticism of Ron Washington this year. He leaves pitchers in too long. Is it Mark Connor’s fault? Yes, at least some of it, because it’s his job to tell Ron when it’s time to get the guy out of there. Of course, Connor looks clueless every time you see him, so if you’re trusting in him you’re already in trouble. But ultimately it’s down to Washington, and with all his experience he hasn’t learned when to get a pitcher out of the game. In mitigation, he spent his coaching years in Oakland where they rode their horses into the ground (Hudson, Mulder, Zito), but if he can’t recognize that our pitchers are not of that quality then he has even more issues than knowing when to pull them.

One of the things I don’t have, and am not sure where to find (without creating it myself) is a database of how pitchers performed against their last batter faced in a game, or in the last inning. I’m sure it’s horrendous, since that’s why they’re pulled, but it would be interesting to compare pitchers and/or teams and see how the results stack up. I’d be willing to bet there’s a lot of cases where Washington has allowed people to get into bad situations before getting them out of the game. One method would be to look at ERA by inning for starters, but that doesn’t really tell how far down they got right at the end of their outing. Another would be to see where they were when they left the game, but again doesn’t tell the whole story. If you knew just the numbers on Kam Loe when he left the game yesterday, you’d see that he left with two out in the 6th, runner on 2nd and down by 3. That doesn’t tell you if he is down 0-3, 7-4, or 30-27. It doesn’t tell you if he gave up three runs in the first, then pitched a no-hitter until giving up a double in the 6th and being pulled. Or alternatively if he no-hit them for 5.2 innings, then fell apart. More detailed analysis might help. In particular I’d like to look at the comparison between the start of the last inning pitched, and when he was pulled. In this case, he’d be at 1 run, 6 hits, 4 k’s, in 5 innings, a pretty decent outing. Comparing perhaps the win probability of the start of the inning to when the pitcher was pulled, and see just how much that changed. Then compare that across pitchers, teams, managers, and see just how Washington compares to other teams. That’s a long project, I think, but it’ll go in my list of things to do.

Willie Eyre is going to have Tommy John surgery, and will miss all of 2008, at least. From the start of the season through June 24, he had a 3.00 ERA in 36 innings. On June 26 he had a spot start, and from that point on his ERA was 7.59 in 32 innings. Pretty clear what the two halves of his year were, huh? I won’t say the spot start did him in, he pitched 4.2 innings in that game (69 pitches), on five occasions before that he’d gone at least 3 innings, once even throwing 71 pitches. I remember that for a month before that game I had said he ought to be considered for a start (we were crying out for pitching at that time). I don’t know if it was the workload in that one game, or in the games after, but he had been struggling. He had a second start on August 4, giving up 7 runs in 2.1 innings, which would appear to be a much more likely indicator of trouble. Sorry to see him go, but ultimately the long man spot in the bullpen is one that you can fill easily and cheaply.

The team is in a funk again and so am I. Every game report you read for the next week or two (possibly even the rest of the season) will mention the 30 run game, usually along the lines of “the Rangers haven’t done anything since they scored a record 30 runs”. The chart I started with shows they’ve not been doing anything for almost two months now. I don’t have a clue what to do to get them going. I don’t think they have a clue either.

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?