Will the Calvary Arrive in Time?

by Charles Parker on May 27, 2015

Calvalry ChargeAs the Rangers struggle and fight to bounce back from one of the most historic horrible April performances in franchise history, there might be reason for a glimmer to be extremely cautiously optimistic.

Josh Hamilton officially has made his return to the team, and while nobody has a clue what that actually means, if he even performs to last year’s level with the Angels, that might be an upgrade to what we have seen so far in the outfield. There are three scenarios that many others seem to be discussing with regard to Josh. One, he is injured quickly and makes no impact. Two, he becomes the Mike Napoli of this year’s team, hitting around .230 with 15-18 home runs, and 50 RBI. Three, he hits around .270, hits 20 out, and knocks in 70 to 80 RBI in the last 120 games or so. At this point all but option 1, would be a blessing.

However, suddenly, a batting lineup of Choo (who seems to be finally coming around), Fielder, Beltre, Moreland, and the emerging DeShields is a much scarier lineup in consideration of adding Hamilton. While Carlos Corporon and Robinson Chirinos, may or may not ever pass the Mendoza line in batting, they are doing a brilliant job working with pitchers, and their defense has been stellar. The combination of speed and power should finally begin to produce the kind of offense Ranger fans have grown to expect. It also, produces a much deeper bench than the original 25-man group that started the season.

The bullpen has begun to dig its way out of a complete disaster, and that started with the demotion of Neftali Feliz in the role of closer. He clearly has some sort of health issue, officially listed as an abscess on the right side, but at least this gives him opportunity to go work on his mechanics and get better. Meanwhile, S. Tolleson has moved to the closer role and so far so good. Manager Jeff Banister and company have done a fabulous job piecing this puzzle together.

The other good news is that currently the starting rotation is ranked in the top six in the American League. Gallardo, Lewis, Martinez, and Rodriguez have been solid; maybe not dominate as a group but solid in consistent performance. Another piece of good news is that the team has the highest batting average in the American League for the month of May and 3rd in all of MLB. They are tied for the most Home Runs in all of MLB for the month of May too.

The interesting part of going forward as the team returns to the .500 winning percentage mark, something most everyone considered impossible just a couple of weeks ago, is that the team may have more help coming. Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison both are still in extended spring training, and both seem to progressing well. Even the consideration that Harrison could return is very exciting. It seems likely that one or both, baring no setbacks could move to the minors to test that progress soon. Derek Holland is not supposed to throw for 4-6 weeks, and that dates back to 4/10, which means theoretically he could begin rehab assignment in the next 2-3 weeks. There is no rush on these guys, as the franchise has a lot of money invested in each of them, but it is possible one or more of them could return after the All-Star break. Meanwhile, others like Kyle Blanks, Ryan Rua, Ross Detwiler could also return possibly later in the year.

That all sounds great, but in most people’s view the biggest problem still facing this team is up the middle between Shortstop and Second base. Elvis Andrus has been a disappointment, his error rate is horrible, and his hitting has not been there either. He is a great clubhouse guy, and maybe he can turn it around, but so far, his play has been inconsistent. Roughned Odor, suffered the sophomore slump and was sent to the minors to work it out, and in stepped Thomas Field. Field has been better at the plate, and in the field than Odor, but nothing spectacular. One idea being floated is that Delino DeShields originally was at 2B, and then moved the outfield, it is at least a consideration that he might be able to still play at second. Somehow, a line from the movie Money Ball comes to mind when Billy Beane was trying to convince the guy to play 1B. He said, “First Base is easy”, and then the character representing Ron Washington when asked to agree says, “It is incredibly hard”. It would be great if DeShields could play second though, and he is quickly becoming a fan favorite!

The bottom line is that somehow the team has crawled and clawed their way out of the cellar, and seems to be improving. There might be pitching help coming, there are still issues, and nobody knows if the cavalry will show up in time, or if the team can continue to drive through adversity and develop a team of character. A quarter of the season is over, there are many questions remaining, but for those of us living in our Pollyanna worlds, there is reason for extreme, cautious, optimism. May has certainly been better than April has, and the team has to be better than their 6-13 home record if things are to continue improving. In the meantime, based on the past couple of weeks it seems like someone has sounded the “Boots and Saddles”, and the team is kicking it in gear!

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Spending Vs. Winning

by Charles Parker on May 20, 2015

Spending money on a major league baseball team does not always equal winning on the field, but it can help.. The Texas Rangers currently have the 8th highest payroll in all of MLB at $142,346,873, as the Angels, Nationals, Tigers, Giants, Red Sox, and Yankees all spend more money. Yet, currently in the American League West the first place, team is the Houston Astros with a mere $69,139,200 in payroll spending.

That would seem to suggest that spending does not equal winning, but then again the Astros are a team much like the Rangers were back in 2010 with a ton of young homegrown talent and not many super stars.

The thing that sticks out with the Ranger payroll situation is that the number of injuries that are still on the disabled list or not currently with the team.

Matt Harrison $13.2 million
Yu Darvish $10 million
Derek Holland $7.4 million
Martin Perez $1 million
Kyuji Fujikawa $1 million
Antoan Richardson $600k
Nick Tepesch $517k
Jurickson Profar $509k
Lisalverto Bonilla $509k
Ross Detwiler $3.45 million

The grand total of salaries on the disabled list comes to $38,696 million of $142 million or 27% of the entire payroll is unable to perform. Additionally, only two of those on the DL are not pitchers. Yet surprisingly the Rangers rank only #20 in all of the MLB in ERA, as the starters overall have performed at or above expectations. It is the bullpen where there have been troubles, and it is pretty clear that the batting silence in April have been contributing factors to the poor start. As of today, the Rangers are 9.5 games out of first place and 7 games below .500. That it makes it a pretty good stretch to be thinking of stretch runs in the back half of the season, when the team is struggling now.

While things have improved, this is clearly a team trying to find an identity and find a way to win some games. The other good news is that a few of the guys on the DL may be back by the All-Star break or shortly after that, which could provide a needed boost for a stretch run. That is if the team does not fall too far behind the leaders before then.

The reality for this team seems to be that the injury bug has caused the team to overspend on starting pitching, and probably at the expense of the bullpen. However, that does not excuse the mental mistakes in the field, nor does it excuse, poor at bats, base running mistakes, and all the little intangible things that good teams and championship teams do. Some might call those the fundamentals of baseball, and as you watch the games it is clear that all those little things start adding up over time. The reality is that all of the money in the world is not a substitute for playing fundamentally sound baseball.

A good youth league baseball coach teaches his kids that baseball is a thinking man’s game built on situational awareness. There is a lot of time between pitches, and between batters, which means that players have time to think and should know what to do. A good example might be with a runner on second when you are leading in the game, a base hit to left field that is fairly short, the LF should throw the ball to 2B, and not try to get the runner at home. By doing that, yes, you allow the run to score, but you prevent the other runner from getting into scoring position. Throwing home is a low percentage play unless that is the tying or go-ahead run late in the game, it is usually best to play the percentages, and prevent the big inning. Another good example is the 8-pitch at bat: If players forced a pitcher to throw them a minimum, of 8 pitches, that raises the count for that pitcher and if done early in the game can force an early exit for that pitcher. The odds of getting on base increase the longer you are at the plate; it gives the batter the advantage in timing, and forces the pitcher to use his entire repertoire of pitches. Pretty soon the pitcher is just forced to throw fastballs or risk leaving an off-speed pitch up which could end up in the upper deck of the outfield. Consider this; if all 9-batters forced the pitcher to throw 8-pitches, after just 9 batters, he would have a pitch count of 72. What a team has to try to avoid are innings where a pitcher gets out of the inning with fewer than 12 pitches. Extending at bats is the key for a player to get to see the pitch that he really wants to hit.

Now that is a lot for most players to think about, but that is why these guys are considered professionals and get the big bucks. It is also, why so many have a hard time understanding how a team with the 8th highest payroll in all of baseball seems lost in terms of fundamentals. The Rangers are not eliminated but they certainly need to thinking about fundamentals if they are going to do more than what they have done so far. Payroll has no impact on knowing how to play the game.

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We Need You Texas Rangers Fans!

May 15, 2015

The Ranger Report has been run essentially by me for a long time. There has been help from several friends over the years, but it has been me and now Charles for most of the existence of the site. I greatly enjoy writing about the Texas Rangers and I hope you enjoy reading about them, […]

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Are Changes Coming?

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The first managerial firing of the baseball season has happened at game number 25. The Milwaukee Brewers fired Ron Roenicke, as the team’s record was only 7-18 under his leadership. This probably had more to do with last season’s collapse in the final 56 games, which he lost 40 of those. Yes, the team has […]

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Texas Rangers April in Review

May 2, 2015

April was not kind to the Texas Rangers, not by a long shot. They already started the season without their number one starter Yu Darvish, and then the new number one starter Derek Holland has to leave the beginning of his first start of the year and will most likely be gone until the all […]

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