Money, Money, Money, Mooonnnneeeyyyy!

by Charles Parker on February 5, 2018

If only we could turn back time to the year 2013.  If this were the year 2013 it would be the best rotation in baseball! Unfortunately, this is 2018 and much has changed in 5 years.  The starting pitching put together with a shoe-string and prayer based budget would be the talk of the league!

That means the starting rotation will be Cole Hamels, Martin Perez (injured to start the season), Doug Fister, Mike Minor, and Matt Moore. They plan on stretching out Matt Bush out of the bullpen and give him a shot too.  Hamels missed two months last season and his September numbers are terrible the past couple of seasons. Matt Moore had an ERA of 5.52 last season and was the highest among qualifiers. Perez had the sixth highest ERA at 4.82, and Fister had a 4.88 ERA in 15 starts and 3 relief appearances last year.

Now they have added a 44-year-old right hander Bartolo Colon to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  “Bartolo brings a track record of durability and success in the Major Leagues,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He pounds the strike zone and provides quality competition for our rotation.”  The 44-year-old right-hander will earn $1.75 million plus incentives, according to a source.

According to the website www.baseball-reference.com they have projected 2018 numbers based on past performance. In past years these projects have been very close to actual performance. This is what they show:

  • Doug Fister age 34 7-9 record, a 4.73 ERA with a WHIP of 1.415 and a 2.11 SO/W while only pitching 118 innings.
  • Mike Minor age 30 4-4 record, a 3.52 ERA with a WHIP of 1.188 and a 3.14 SO/W ratio. However they have projected for the bullpen with only 64 innings.
  • Matt Moore age 29 8-12, a 4.88 ERA with a WHIP of 1.422 and a 2.35 SO/W ratio while pitching 166 innings.
  • Martin Perez age 27 10-10 record, a 4.55 ERA with a WHIP of 1.442 and a 1.87 SO/W ratio while pitching 172 innings.
  • Bartolo Colon age 44, 9-10 record, a 5..04 ERA with a WHIP of 1.433 and a 2.78 SO/W ratio while pitching 150 innings.
  • Cole Hamels age 34 10-6 record, a 3.97 ERA with a WHIP of 1.286 and a 2.30 SO/W ratio while pitching 154 innings.

The collective numbers look like this:

48-51 record, and an ERA of 4.54

To put that into perspective on how that stacks up I compared it to the 2011 Rangers and their last World Series appearance. That team had CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Alexi Ogando. Their numbers were incredible!

That staff went 73-39 with an ERA of 3.64.

That is almost one entire run less per 9-innings that this staff is projected to do. The 2018 Rangers will need to score 5 runs a game to overcome a 4.43 ERA. That does not count the fact that last season the bullpen blew a bunch of games. However, the projection is better than the 2017 Rangers staff of Martin Perez, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner, Yu Darvish, Nick Martinez, and AJ Griffin. They managed to go 50-52 with an ERA of 4.51.

I love boring numbers, but I know most of those reading this do not. However, baseball numbers and projections are very real in terms of understanding real production on the field. A staff ERA over 4 is not going to produce a contending team, unless your offense is composed of 9 all-stars and your bullpen is the best in baseball.

John Daniels built this starting rotation on hope and prayer.  Certainly it is cheap. Can Hamels rebound at age 34 and have a full healthy season? Odds are that he will miss some time and his ERA for 2017 was 4.20. Matt Moore is in the second year of returning from Tommy John surgery, and that usually is when players start to get back what they lost. However, his velocity is down, and his ability to get strikeouts are down. Mike Minor had an outstanding year in the Kansas City bullpen after returning from Tommy John. He would make a tremendous addition to the Rangers pen, but as a starter who knows if his arm is ready for that kind of stress. Doug Fister at age 34 has a trend going. His ERA in 2014 was 2.41, 2015 4.19, 2016 4.64, and 2017 4.88. Finally, Martin Perez has a busted elbow on his non-throwing arm. He will most likely be available in May or June, and while he shows consistency at times, his ERA his career ERA is 4.43 in 5 full seasons. At some point you are what you are.

I suppose the good news on adding Colon would be in having a true veteran to help the younger guys.  Then again, he brings a lot of baggage with him.

If only we could turn back time, or if these guys can somehow reinvent themselves this could be decent. However, in my years of observation numbers always tell the tale. The good news is that this will be a competitive team, and I think it easily projects to a solid 75-78 wins.  The bad news is that you normally get what you pay for.  This team is all about biding time until the big contracts go away.  Just like in the Eddie Money hit song, Money, Money, Money, Mooonnneeeyyyy, this team is built on the cheap, and that usually does not work out well.

{ 0 comments }

Turf Wars!

by Charles Parker on January 24, 2018

synthetic_vs_naturalThere are times when ownership and management end up at cross-purposes. It is entirely possible that the Texas Rangers franchise and ownership are experiencing it now.

The Rangers as a baseball team have well documented needs. The starting pitching being at the top of the list, but the farm system is bottom end loaded. That situation happened because the team was trying to win now every year since 2010. Seven years of trades to upgrade players in an attempt to find a piece or two that could put the team over the top have seen a multitude of potentially awesome players leave. The result is a host of different pitchers that are playing for someone else other than the Rangers, and those players should have been the Rangers future.

That win now mentality, combined with some playoff appearances, along with a couple of trips to the World Series helped promote passage of a bond package that Arlington residence loved and voted to approve for a brand new stadium. They loved it because the team has been successful, and they are tired of sweltering in the summer heat at the ballpark.

Jeff Wilson recently wrote an article on how ownership wants to consider artificial turf for the new stadium. You see management wants this to be an entertainment venue to make money year round, instead of just the 81 home games that the Rangers play each season. An entertainment venue could see year round revenue and ownership believes that making money is good.

As Wilson points out in his article, all you have to do is look at Toronto and the number of players that have no trade clauses to go there to see the effect of artificial turf on being able to attract players to your venue. Players have injury concerns with turf, and so prefer to play on grass. It is also clear, because baseball tracks every kind of statistics imaginable that players perform differently on one versus the other.

I get it! Management wants to make money and a new ballpark will generate excitement and put butts in seats no matter how the team performs. The more that attend games, the more money ownership will make, and that is a good thing!

The concern begins to arise when management starts looking at all of the different ways to make money through a venue. Management knows it will make money from a new stadium, and they know that the money will come regardless of the performance on the field as long as the team is not pitiful. To management that means we can invest less money in our entertainers if the results are going to be the same. Jerry Jones has mastered this with the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T Stadium.

Every major event in this part of the world takes place at JerryWorld. It is monstrous venue to hold concerts, sport events, and much more. As long as his Dallas Cowboys team can go 8-8, and he can cultivate the hopes and dreams of fans he fills the stadium. Jerry makes money, a lot of money from his team but more importantly from the venue. It is good for taxpayers in Arlington too, because of all that additional tax money generated. It is truly a win/win situation, except for on the field. There is no urgency to win it all, because from a revenue point of view a title is nice to have, but not necessary to put butts in seats, sell more tickets, or to provide fans with anything more than entertainment.

The Rangers ownership group knows Jerry Jones, and they have seen this model work. They assume that they can do this too!

I highly suspect that is why payroll was cut this year and they are not reinvesting that money into acquiring players that can take the team to the next level. After all why invest $100 million more to win, and make the playoffs, when we can still draw 2.5 million fans to see a mediocre team. If we cut the payroll now, can be close to a .500 ball club and reduce our expenses we will make even more money may be their thinking.

The Rangers payroll is down by about $45-$50 million this year from last year. To acquire top flight pitching, they could spend that with just two pitchers. Instead, they have chosen to go with some guys who are past their prime, and hope that they can get 75-80 wins from the team. That amount of wins is doable with what they have acquired. Ownership thinks that if the team can do better than that it is a bonus! If not, we still make money while we wait for the new ballpark to be completed.

Meanwhile, ownership will consider adding turf instead of grass because they figure they will sell out the stadium anyway, plus will make even more money off the venue. The revenue from the venue will meet or exceed the baseball profits they believe. As profits grow, they can invest less in the product on the field. In their minds, 8-8 is good enough for Jerry, it is good enough for us, and Cowboys fans still love the team.

There are some differences though, and ownership needs to think cautiously. Texas is a football state; Josh Hamilton was right about that. Small towns across this state still roll up the sidewalks on Friday night when the local team plays. Texans love the game, and support it in every way possible. Baseball is an acquired taste to many, and has not been America’s past time since the 1970’s. There are many of us who love the game and follow it still, but the numbers show that the fan base has dwindled due to the popularity of other sports. Players do not like turf, but that is one issue.

Another issue is that for years, the Rangers could not sign free agent pitchers because the perception of it being a hitter friendly ballpark, and players did not want to play in the Texas heat. When the team started winning that all changed, along with a structural modification of home plate that drastically cut the jet stream to right field. For the past half-decade, players have wanted to play in Texas because of the great clubhouse environment led by Adrian Beltre and to be with a winning organization.

If ownership wants a venue for entertainment to make a lot more money, they will get that. However, if ownership wants to follow Jerry Jones’s path, that might not be a good thing for baseball operations.

My contention is that ownership wants a team for less than $100 million in payroll, and their new ballpark. They are on the path to moving that direction, and all signs point to that. Can baseball teams win with that small of a payroll? Yes, but not consistently and all you need to do is look at the Oakland A’s to see that model.

The bottom line is that the reason that Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Andrew Cashner, Lance Lynn, or Alex Cobb, the top free agent starters on the market, have not already signed with the Rangers is money. Is the money not there because they do not see these guys as long term options for the club? Is it because ownership sees more money down the road without having to spend it now? Typically, in business you have to spend money to make money. They are spending money on a stadium, but not investing in the product on the field. Those are two issues are diametrically different things.

My take is that management wants to win, and if ownership would allow them, they would go buy the players they need. Conversely, ownership wants to make money, and they do not believe that spending money on free agents is going to add more money. When ownership and management disagree, ownership wins every time. After all, the people who write the payroll checks make the rules.

Laying down turf or grass is one of the last things done before the new ballpark actually opens. If turf is the final ownership choice then baseball will lose and it is all about the money. If they put down grass, that means that ownership wants to win baseball games! If they put down turf then it is all about the money and not about baseball.  Maybe I am wrong, but for a team with this much talent not to be in contention because they chose to sign pitchers past their prime instead of upgrading the talent shows all of those signs that I am right.

Turf or grass, when we see the final answer we will know if ownership cares about baseball.

{ 0 comments }

Lorenzo Cain, Because the Rangers Need Pitching

January 6, 2018

The Rangers have ramped up their interest on free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain acording to mulitple sources. That makes perfect sense since the Rangers already have five outfielders and desperatly need pitching. The thirty-something year old Cain has been good, not great. He would be a nice right handed bat to add to the […]

Read the full article →

Rangers Positions: Short Stop

January 5, 2018

Elvis Andrus had a career year in 2017, quite the opposite of Rougned Odor. Andrus hit .297/.337/.471 with 20 home runs and 88 RBI. He pulled in a career high 44 doubles, and he stole 25 bases. On the field Andrus was pretty good as well, comitting 17 errors and turning 107 double plays.Elvis has […]

Read the full article →

Rangers Positions: Second Base

January 4, 2018

Rougned Odor had a bad season. He hit .204 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI. He struck out 162 times, walked only 32 times. He comitted 19 errors on the field. He is also only 23 years old. Rougned will learn over time there is more to batting than just swinging for the fences […]

Read the full article →