Tagged: Boston Red Sox

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/5-5/11

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

In a forgettable week, a Ranger who had thus far been having a forgettable season started coming to life again. Elvis Andrus has been a mainstay in the #2 hole for the Rangers for several years now. This year, though, things had gotten so bad with Elvis he’d been moved down towards the bottom of the order. Ground ball out after ground ball out, Elvis slowly saw his average dip to a low of .229 when Ron Washington decided it was time to take some pressure off him. Elvis had a couple of games hitting seventh and a few hitting eighth. He started putting together a few good at bats but his return to #2 in the line-up was more because the players who replaced him didn’t do any better a job. Wash tried the now departed Josh Wilson there. Then Leonys Martin. Then came Michael Choice. Finally Elvis went back to #2 and he’s started hitting again, no more so than during Yu Darvish‘s 8-0 pasting of the Boston Red Sox. In that game Friday night, Elvis became the first Rangers player to get four hits in a game, going 4-5 with a double and three runs scored. Elvis undoubtedly stay back at the top of the order for the foreseeable future.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

The game against the Red Six was no fluke. Overall for the week, Andrus was on fire so he gets both Offensive awards this week. In seven games, Elvis went 11-26 at the plate, with four of those eleven hits going for doubles. The fact he only garnered one RBI and three runs (all in the Friday game) is indicative of how woeful the Texas offensive attack was in the past week.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

If anyone but Yu Darvish got this award for the past week, I’m sure you would have me referred for psychiatric testing. Over the course of seven days, the starting pitching has sucked. EXCEPT for Yu Darvish. The relief staff has had some major hiccups as well. But what Darvish did Friday night against the Red Sox was something to behold, even thoughy I was not able to behold it. Unfortunately, Friday night Rangers games are only available in the Dallas area, so poor little old me had to settle for listening to the game via the radio Play-by-play of this year’s Ford Frick Award winner Eric Nadel. Darvish was dominant early. The line on Darvish is you can beat him if he doesn’t have his fastball command. If he does have it, watch out. He had fastball command Friday night. At one point, Darvish struck out six consecutive Red Sox batters. When Yu has flirted with no-hitters or perfect games, it has mostly been against the Astros. Pitiful as Houston has been these past few years, one could understand an asterisk being placed next to Yu’s name for his performances against them. This, however, was not the Astros. This was Boston, with one of the most potent line-ups in the American League and Darvish carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Through six innings, the Red Sox didn’t even sniff a hit. Even the seventh started out well with a soft fly to center and a groundout. Then David Ortiz hit the bloops to end all bloops. Alex Rios and Rougned Odor went out for the ball. Rios should have had the ball but didn’t call for it. At the last second Odor dove for it but the ball fell between them. The play was ruled an error, which set off a massive Twitter debate as to whether it was a hit or if it would be ruled a hit in any other case besides a no-hitter. Had Darvish finished off the no-no, I’m sure the debate would be continuing today. It was ruled an error, though and hasn’t been changed since. What it did accomplish was getting Darvish to lose some of his mental edge. A walk followed the error before Darvish got Grady Sizemore to fly out for the last out. Darvish gave up another walk to lead off the 8th but got out of the inning unscathed once again. With three outs to go and Darvish running out of gas, he got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to third, then got Shane Voctorino swinging for his 12th and final K of the night. Up strode Ortiz, who slapped a 2-1 fastball past Elvis Andrus, beating the shift and earning Boston’s lone hit of the night. Darvish’s Game Score of 92 is reported to be higher than any no-hitter in baseball history. Yu’s final line was 8.2-1-0-0-2-12. It was the second time Darvish lost a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th inning.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Last week, optimistic me said if the pitching staff settles down, a 4-3 week is realistic and 5-2 is even possible. So much for optimistic me. The Rangers got outscored by a collective 29-5 by the Rockies in the first three games of their 4-game home and home series before finally shutting down the Rockies 5-0 in the series finale. Following Darvish’s bid for baseball history Friday, Texas again stumbled through the rest of the weekend, losing by scores of 8-3 and 5-2. Texas ended the week with a 2-5 record and find themselves starting the week in 4th place in the AL West. Outside of Darvish, Rangers starting pitching was horrible. Martin Perez was hit hard twice, as was Robbie Ross. Colby Lewis got shelled once and Matt Harrison, while not allowing any runs, couldn’t make it through six innings. Adding insult another injury to injury, Perez is headed to the 15-day DL with what the Rangers consider minor elbow inflammation. The good news is that allows the Rangers to bring Nick Tepesch up from AAA, where he’s been dominating at Round Rock. The bad news is it’s to replace Perez instead of Robbie Ross who, despite recovering from a rocky 1st against Boston, hasn’t shown many signs of giving the Rangers more than six innings every start.

If there’s any week in May for Texas to right the ship somewhat, this would be the week. The Rangers travel to Houston for three games with the Astros. After a day off Thursday, it’s back home for a 3-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Astros have played a little better lately and gotten some decent pitching, even though they’re coming off series losses to the Tigers and the Orioles. The Blue Jays are problematic. They have a history of hitting well against Texas pitching. The rotation is getting realigned thanks to the off day. Tepesch will be making the start originally scheduled for Perez while Ross will skip his next turn in the rotation to the off day. Thus the Astros get Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Darvish, while the Blue Jays will face Tepesch, Lewis and Harrison. After being so optimistic a week ago, I will be anything but this week. At this point, I think I’d be happy for a 3-3 record, which I find really sad.


Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/28-5/4

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

After the 3-game debacle that was the home series against the Oakland A’s, it was beginning to look doubtful the Rangers would have ANY Star Players of the Week in ANY department. The offense wasn’t hitting, the defense wasn’t playing well and the pitching was woeful. Then the Rangers took to the road to play the Los Angeles Angels and all was right with the world again. In taking two of three from the Angels, the Rangers not only got back on the winning track, the offense showed a few signs of life again. Even J.P. Arencibia got into the act Sunday with a two-hit performance that raised his batting average up to a whopping .116 (his OPS went from .271 to .420 in the game). Still the Single Game Star of the Week goes to one of the rookies in the line-up, Michael Choice. In Sunday’s 14-3 pasting of the Angels, Choice led a balanced offensive attack with two hits in five at bats, including a 3-run blast to left center that broke the game wide open. Choice ended the day with 4 RBI, giving him 12 for the season. The two honorable mentions for the week came from the same game as Choice’s winner. Prince Fielder had his first 3-hit game as a Ranger, with two doubles and 3 RBI. And the aforementioned Arencibia came within an eyelash of hitting a grand slam his first time up, only to have the ball caught in a leaping grab at the fence. Had that one cleared, the Rangers catcher would have sat on a 3-hit, 2-home run, 6 RBI game. Baseball is a game of inches, though, and seeing as that first ball was inches short, Choice gets the award by inches.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

In the series at Oakland, Shin-Soo Choo went down with a badly sprained ankle trying to beat out an infield hit and proceeded to miss the next six games. What Choo has done since returning to the Rangers line-up is nothing short of sensational. In the just-completed series with the Angels, Choo came to the plate 15 times and reached base 12 of those 15 times. That’s an On Base Percentage of .800 over a 3-game stretch. For the week, Choo went 8-16 at the plate with a home run and 3 RBI. He also walked six times, two of those intentionally, was hit by a pitch twice, stole a base and scored four runs. For the week, Choo hit .500 with a .667 OBP and an OPS (On-Base plus Slugging Percentage) of 1.354. If The 2-3-4 hitters in the Rangers order (Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder) start producing the way they have in the past, this Rangers line-up will be plenty dangerous in the weeks and months to come.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

After the Oakland series it was doubtful the Pitching Star of the Week was going to come from the starting rotation. Yu Darvish had the shortest outing of his MLB career on Monday and started his second start of the week against the Angels by giving up solo home runs to two of the first three hitters he faced. Previous 2-time winner Martin Perez came down to earth by a patient A’s line-up that ballooned his ERA northward by over a run in a single outing. Robbie Ross Jr. had his second consecutive poor outing. Colby Lewis did prove pretty effective against the Angels but Matt Harrison laid an egg in his second start off the DL Saturday. The Rangers bullpen had to do an awful lot on the week, accounting for almost half of all the innings pitched for the week. Which brings us to another rookie making a name for himself with Texas: Nick Martinez. Coming into the season, Martinez had pitched only 32 innings as high as the AA level when he earned a starting nod in the Rangers’ 5th game of the season. He returned to AA Frisco after the start, pitched two games and less than ten innings, then returned to the Rangers to fill in as the long reliever, at least until Joe Saunders returned from the DL. After the last week, the question is does Saunders have a place with the Rangers when he’s ready to come off the disabled list? In two games this week against the A’s and the Angels, Martinez threw 7.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only four hits and three walks while striking out four batters. The first game was especially welcome to Ron Washington. Yu Darvish had only gone three and a third against the A’s in the first of a 3-game set. Any bullpen breakdown would put the Rangers at a major disadvantage for the rest of the series. After Aaron Poreda finished off the fourth inning for Darvish, Martinez came on and took care of the last five innings of work, allowing the A’s only two hits. He followed that up by again relieving Darvish yesterday and taking care of the last two and a third, falling an out short of qualifying for the rare 3-inning save. Martinez could still find himself back in Frisco soon as the Rangers may prefer he get regular work instead of the inconsistent role of the middle reliever. For now, though, Martinez gets his time in the spotlight here.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Ending the week at 2-4 is probably more than most of us fans expected after Oakland decimated the Rangers in Arlington, outscoring the guys in the white hats (well, actually the red and sometimes blue caps) by a combined 25-4 score. In Arlington, no less. Texas then went on the road and righted the ship somewhat, taking two of three from the Angels to end the week in second place in the AL West, two games behind the A’s. Had the Rangers lost Sunday’s finale against the Angels, they would have fallen to third place, but a 14-3 smackdown ensured second place for at least another day.

This week just about everyone in MLB plays their “rivalry” interleague series. For the Rangers, this year’s rivalry is with the Colorado Rockies. Texas plays two games in Denver, followed by two games in Arlington. The week ends with three games at home against the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, including former Rangers Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and A.J. Pierzynski.

The Rockies are a surprising 19-14 on the season and have a lot of offensive fireworks in their line-up, including Troy Tulowitski, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Morneau and Charlie Blackmon. The Rangers also will have no DH in the first two games, relegating Mitch Moreland and Michael Choice to the bench. If there’s a bright spot, I really like the way Wash had the starting rotation set up to enter this series. The games in Denver features starts by Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, Jr., two pitchers who get a lot of ground ball outs. In the rarefied air of Coors Field, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish would find pitching at Coors more problematic. In terms of pitching, the rotation is set up for more success in Colorado. Lewis and Matt Harrison will face the Rockies in Arlington. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will have to face both Darvish and Perez. A 4-3 record or even a 5-2 record on the week is possible if the rotation is as successful as they’ve been set up for.

Elsewhere in the division, the A’s are at home all week against the Mariners and Washington Nationals, the Angels have three at home against the Yankees followed by a 3-game set in Toronto, the Mariners travel to Oakland for 4 then return home for another 4-game set against the Royals, while the lowly Astros take to the road all week with four in Detroit and a 3-game set in Baltimore.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/7-4/13

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

 Robinson Chirinos is making a claim to start most of the games as catcher while Geovany Soto is on the mend.While this award is for a single game, Chirinos actually had two outstanding games during the week. In Tuesday’s 10-7 win over the Boston Red Sox, Chirinos led off the third with a towering home run over the Green Monster to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. It was the start of a 5-run uprising in the inning. Chirinos also added the last RBI of the inning when he walked with the bases loaded. In the fifth, with Texas up 8-1, Chirinos led off with a double and later scored the ninth run of the game. That’s the OFFICIAL game Chirinos gets Star of the Week for. As an honorable mention, Friday’s and Sunday’s twin 1-0 wins over the Astros both featured Chirinos prominently. In Friday’s 12-inning nail biter, Chirinos provided the 12th-inning single that plated the only run of the game in walk-off fashion. Sunday it was time for his defense to shine, as the Rangers catcher threw out two would-be Houston base stealers, helping Martin Perez earn his second win of the season. Below is Chirinos’ home run in the Boston game:

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Kevin Kouzmanoff was the last man NOT to make the Texas Rangers 25-man squad out of Spring Training. The only reason he didn’t make the team was because he was strictly a corner infielder, while Texas needed someone like Josh Wilson, who could play three infield positions. When Adrian Beltre went down with a tight quadriceps muscle in Tuesday’s win over the Red Sox, Texas summoned Kouzmanoff from AAA Round Rock in a hurry. Despite not having played in the majors in almost three years, Kouzmanoff got off to a quick start for the Rangers, getting hits in each of his first four games with Texas. Kooz actually has a six game big-league hitting streak going now, with a 900+ day gap between games two and three of the streak! For the week, he hit .417 with a double and RBI. With Sunday’s announcement of Beltre going on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday 4/9, Kouzmanoff will be the Rangers starting third baseman for the next week and a half minimum. If he continues to play the way he has the first four games, not only does it help the Rangers short-term, it will make it hard for Jon Daniels to send him back to Round Rock once Beltre is back.


Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Originally, Yu Darvish was my winner for the second consecutive week for his dominant effort against the Astros, where he threw one-hit ball at the Astros over eight innings, striking out nine. Then along came Martin Perez on Sunday. To be sure, Darvish had a “better” game than Perez but the 23-year-old was just as spectacular against a woeful offensive attack from Houston. Plus, unlike Darvish, Perez got credited with the win. In his third start of the season, Perez went eight strong innings, giving up no runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. The young lefty also started resembling southpaws who have come before him over the past few years in Texas, Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson. Both were among the league leaders in getting hitters to ground into double plays. Over his past two starts, Perez has induced nine double plays including four by the Astros in Sunday’s game. Add in the two caught stealing by Robinson Chirinos and Perez never allowed an Astros baserunner to get into scoring position. Click here to see highlights of the Perez win.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Texas went 3-3 the second week, treading water while dealing with their injury woes. Texas went 1-2 in Boston against the Red Sox, while winning two of three from the Astros at home. The offense has struggled mightily since Beltre went down as shown by the two 1-0 games against the lowly Astros. With no Beltre, Houston intentionally walked Prince Fielder three times over the weekend. Fielder has yet to hit a home run as a Rangers player, though he stung the ball hard both Saturday and Sunday. The once-feared Rangers power attack has only managed five home runs in the first 12 games. That HAS to improve or treading water will soon become an extended losing streak, no matter how great the pitching.

The Rangers are at home all week with four games against division-rival Seattle and three against the Chicago White Sox.  The biggest highlight of the week is Wednesday night’s game, when Yu Darvish squares off against Felix Hernandez. Darvish has thrown 15 scoreless innings thus far (15 innings in which the Rangers have not scored a run for him either), while Hernandez has struck out 30 batters in his first 21 1/3 innings. Also on tap: the return of Colby Lewis, who throws the opener against the Mariners tonight. Lewis hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 18th, 2012. He’s not only coming back from elbow surgery but also a hip resurfacing procedure. Nobody knows whether Lewis will have the stamina to go every fifth day for the rest of the season, let alone if he can still pitch effectively in the big leagues. Nobody has ever tried coming back from hip resurfacing in baseball before. What we do know is, based on how he performed in the World Series years for Texas, Globe Life Park will be rocking tonight and Lewis is sure to get an incredible reception from the fans when he strides to the mound in the top of the first.

Oddity of the Week

Elvis Andrus got ejected from Sunday’s game for arguing a called third strike at the end of the third inning. As a result, from the top of the fourth until the top of the ninth, when Alexi Ogando came in to record the save, Texas for the first time fielded a line-up containing NO players from the Rangers’ 2011 World Series team.

Bad Moon Rising

Adrian Beltre 2Just when it looked like things were settling down for the Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre shakes everything up again. As Michael Corleone famously said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Everything was going swimmingly well for the Rangers Tuesday night. The offense was churning out hits and scoring runs at will against the Red Sox, even with a different type of line-up for Ron Washington. Michael Choice got the start in center field, leaving Leonys Martin on the bench. Mitch Moreland also got the night off against the left-hander. Wash had both ends of the second base platoon, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy, in the game and had Beltre occupy Moreland’s DH slot. So of course, on a night when he doesn’t have to play the field to save wear and tear on his body, one of Adrian’s quads tightens up and he pulled himself from the game in the fifth inning. Beltre won’t play today’s finale, either. He’s already jetted back to Texas to get examined by the Rangers’ team doctor.

I’d love to say this is a precautionary measure and Beltre will be back in the line-up Friday night when the Astros come to town. After all, he’s dealt with bad hamstrings the last two seasons and stayed on the field. Going back further, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody tougher than Beltre, as described in a pre-season article on ESPN.com:

Years before Beltre headed north, Welke discovered how tough the slugger could be when he visited him in the Dominican Republic shortly after an offseason gone awry prior to the 2001 campaign.

“His appendix burst and he nearly died,” Welke said.

The wound from the surgery done in the Dominican Republic also didn’t heal properly. He had to have a second surgery during spring training that year to close it, and he lost about 30 pounds. Yet he was determined to return to the field as soon as possible.

“He tried to play games with a colostomy bag attached to him under his uniform,” Welke said. “Can you imagine? That’s how badly the guy wanted to play.”

That’s what makes this early departure troublesome. Maybe it is just one of those, “We’re just two weeks into the season, let’s make sure he’s ready for everything to come” type of deals. The pessimistic me says, “Nope. This is something more.” After all, Adrian Beltre wants to play baseball. He loves to play baseball. If Wash schedules him for a day off, the odds are better than 50-50 Adrian will talk him out of it and he’ll play. This time, however, he pulled himself from the line-up in the middle of the game and apparently agreed pretty quickly to go get it checked out in Texas. That tells me this is something Adrian is REALLY worried about.

If Beltre goes on the DL, there are no really good options for Texas. Kevin Kouzmanoff had a good spring and could be brought up to replace him but face it: Nobody can replace Beltre’s defense on the field and not many can provide his offense either. A Kouzmanoff MIGHT prove adequate for a 15-day DL stint but not much more than that. Without Beltre, there’s not a lot of protection for Prince Fielder in the line-up. I can see Alex Rios moving from fifth to fourth and that will help somewhat. It will also make the bottom half of the Rangers order even weaker.

Texas pitching is on a three-week trajectory to settling down. Colby Lewis returns Saturday, Matt Harrison is about three weeks away from a return himself. The last thing the Rangers need is troubles on the offense (and defense). Losing Adrian Beltre for any amount of time could be disastrous for the Rangers chances in 2014.

What If Koji Uehara…?

In 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, Koji Uehara threw 47 innings, allowing only 25 hits, walked a mere 8 batters and struck out 62. He allowed only 9 earned runs and had a 1.72 ERA.

In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.

In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.

In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.


Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.

Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.

The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.

If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.

If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.

Post-Season Hardware

After your team’s eliminated, it sure is hard getting back to evenings with no Rangers baseball to watch. Sure I follow the playoffs and football is always there as a distraction, but night-to-night living is completely different. Fortunately there are still things like the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season awards to think about and write about to take some of the edge off.


There are five awards announced annually by the BBA and, being a blogger about an American League team, that is the only league for me to vote. Just as well, because I really don’t know enough about the season in the NL to vote with certainty. I would, however, feel strongly that Clint Hurdle should get honored for his work with the Pirates and Paul Goldschmidt, being a Texas boy, has at least staked a claim as the league’s best player this year. But enough about things I know not nearly enough about. Here are my picks for the American League honors.


English: Connie Mack, in ballpark grandstand, ...

Connie Mack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Connie Mack Award (Manager)

I don’t hate honoring a manager, but I do hate the game that’s played for that honor. Face it, the manager who receives this award annually is more often than not the man whose team had either a surprising year or they had the biggest turnaround of the year. Thus managers like Joe Girardi or Ron Washington, whose teams have been consistently good for several years, will seldom get any recognition and when they do, such as when Ron Gardenhire won it for the Twins in 2010, it really should have gone to someone more deserving (Wash should have won in 2010). I voted for Girardi a couple of years ago because of how well the Yankees did despite several key injuries. I think Washington should get strong consideration this year for his work with the Rangers, considering the injuries to the pitching staff and how much weaker they were offensively due to no fault of his own. Through all that, he still managed Texas to 91 wins and within an eyelash of the official playoffs. Still, as much as I love the Rangers and as much as I respect Ron Washington, there’s no doubt who will win, and probably should win this year. It’s the Red Sox’ John Farrell. While he was once pitching coach for the Sox, this was his first season as a manager and he turned Boston from worst to first in one year’s time. Maybe that’s a sign of how bad a fit Bobby Valentine was a year ago, but I’m willing to give Farrell his due. Terry Francona gets an honorable mention along with Wash, not because of the overall turnaround for the Indians, but the fact he did it with a starting rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir, two pitchers who were on the verge of being put on the junk heap a year ago.

WINNER: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

Willie Mays Award (Rookie)

This was not the strongest rookie class in the world. Offensively, there wasn’t a rookie in the AL who topped 60 RBI. Only one scored as many as 60 runs. Fourteen home runs was the top power number and 18 steals was the tops in the speed department. Most rookies considered for a top honor will put up numbers in one of those categories that resembles a fulltime starter. This year’s class had numbers befitting platoon players at best. So instead of Wil Myers or Nick Franklin, I’m looking at pitching this year. There I see two more deserving candidates: Dan Straily of the Oakland A’s and Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers. Both players won ten games for their clubs, tops among all rookies. Both were pretty even in ERA: Straily at 3.96, Perez at 3.62. The edge, though, goes to the guy who had a better WHIP (1.24 vs. 1.33) and led all rookies in innings pitched. Rangers fan that I am, reluctantly that means the guy with Oakland.

WINNER: Dan Straily, Oakland A’s

Goose Gossage Award (Reliever)

I’m going to concede the odds are long that the guy I vote for here is going to win. That’s because I’m going strictly on stats for this one. The guy who most likely is going to win had a great year in 2013. It was also his last year before retirement, so I suspect a lot of people are going to vote for him as a goodbye honor, kind of a Lifetime Achievement Award that will last the five years it takes before he’s enshrined in Cooperstown. The thing is, I don’t like Lifetime Achievement Awards like this. The Hall of Fame will be award enough. Fact is, the best reliever this year didn’t play in the Bronx. He played in the worst possible market to play in in the American League. We’re talking Kansas City here, folks. Greg Holland was filthy good for the Royals this year. 47 Saves, better than everybody except one. A 1.21 ERA. I thought Joe Nathan was outstanding for Texas with a 1.39, but Holland outdid him. Then you add in 103 strikeouts in only 67 innings of work, a 0.87 WHIP, and only 40 hits allowed. That is one ornery closer my friends. Mariano Rivera deserves all kinds of accolades for the career he had, as well as the way he came back in 2013 from a serious injury to post the numbers he posted. They don’t top what Holland did for the Royals, though and Holland shouldn’t get penalized because a guy who didn’t match his numbers is retiring.

WINNER: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)

Wins don’t mean anything. That’s what the SABR crowd says. They’re probably right. After all, all kinds of great pitchers get tagged for losses they don’t deserve. Yu Darvish lost four games this year 1-0. They also get credited with wins they don’t deserve. When you give up six runs in five innings but your teammates put up nine, you may have gotten the win but you won’t necessarily sleep well because of it. A couple of months ago, the debate was already beginning to form because the numbers of Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and even Yu Darvish were right up there with Max Scherzer, but Max was the guy with all those W’s on his ledger compared to the other guys. The thing is, the other three guys all started having their problems shortly after the debate started. Hernandez in particular got shelled by the Rangers to the tune of nine runs (8 earned) in only three innings of a late August start. From August 17 on, King Felix was a pedestrian 0-5, 6.46. Darvish was only 1-4 over that span but with a decidedly better 3.38 ERA. Chris Sale was 3-3 with a 4.02 the last month and a half. And Scherzer? He closed out with a 4-2, 3.08. There may have been a debate in mid-August, but only one of the four players in the debate made it count down the stretch. In this case, the guys with the most wins gets the award AND he deserves it too.

WINNER: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)

One year ago, another traditional vs. new era debate raged and it concerned the top player in the league. Traditionalists loved Miguel Cabrera, who was the first to win the AL’s Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960’s. On the SABR side was the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout who, according to WAR, had one of the best seasons anyone in baseball history has ever had. Cabrera won the vote of the sportswriters so the traditional won out. In the blogosphere, however, Trout was the decisive winner over Cabrera in the BBA vote. So what happened in 2013? Cabrera had an even better batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage than he had a year ago. Trout nearly doubled his walks from a year ago from 67 to 110. He also had a higher on base percentage and OPS. Then there was a new guy in the mix: Chris Davis of the Orioles, who exploded for 53 home runs. There was also a bit of love for the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, who had a torrid July and August and helped ease the loss of the suspended Nelson Cruz. A year ago I voted for Cabrera myself because I like my top player playing for a contender, plus Cabrera had a much stronger September than Trout did and that counts for something. So let’s compare Septembers for my top four in 2013:

Cabrera: .278 BA  1 HR  7 RBI

Trout: .281 BA  4 HR  15 RBI

Davis: .216 BA  6 HR  16 RBI

Beltre: .262  2 HR  10 RBI

Cabrera was battling injuries the last month, Beltre’s hamstring issues caused him to lose his power stroke in the late stages, Davis hit for power but not much average. That leaves the guy who missed out in the sportswriters vote a year ago. Yeah, he still wasn’t playing for a contender but he was a big part of a late surge that nearly brought the Angels back to .500 with a lousy pitching staff, no Albert Pujols and a mostly ineffective Josh Hamilton. I’m not as conflicted this year as I was a year ago.

WINNER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

There you have it. I may be a homer when it comes to the games, but none of my Rangers quite measured up in the end for the post-season hardware. As 29 teams always say on the last day of their seasons, there’s always next year!

The logo for the American League.

The End Comes Too Soon

I had modest hopes. To me, a World Series appearance wasn’t in the cards for the Texas Rangers in 2013, but entering the extended regular season finale, I had hopes my boys would be able to extend their winning streak to nine to get a shot at the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. David Price put in a gutty performance and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Rangers’ season at 163 games.

Still, it was a helluva year. Who would have thought the Rangers would be capable of winning 91 games in a season where:

1) Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli departed, replaced by Leonys Martin, AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman.

2) Berkman was a bust and the team’s best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, got suspended for the last 50 games of the year.

3) David Murphy and Mitch Moreland performed under expectations by a wide margin.

4) #2 starter Matt Harrison only managed two ineffective starts before going down to injury for the year.

5) The Rangers had a starting rotation at one point that consisted of Josh Lindblom, Ross Wolf, Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Derek Holland.

6) The big pitching acquisition, Matt Garza, had many more poor performances than good ones.

The Rangers handled all this adversity and still won 91 games. They did it with a new infusion of youth that will only get better in the next few years, particularly Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, who all showed signs of being major contributors.

Meanwhile, there are some players who won’t return for another round in 2014. David Murphy will most certainly be allowed to leave via free agency. Adam Rosales will also go. The pitching staff may say goodbye to Jason Frasor and even Joe Nathan leaving is a possibility.

Nelson Cruz

Gone? Nelson Cruz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others are iffy. Nelson Cruz will be a free agent. He has stated often over the years he wants to stay in Texas, yet management never saw fit to make him an offer these past three years. Still, they may relent and bring him back as the team’s designated hitter because this team desperately needs some power. I’d love to see utility man Jeff Baker return. AJ Pierzynski could be gone as the Rangers keep getting linked to a free agency pursuit of Brian McCann. After his year ended so poorly, I can’t see Mitch Moreland as part of the plan for 2014. Whether that means Texas will ask Ian Kinsler to move to first (which also opens up second base for Jurickson Profar) or they pursue a free agent like James Loney remains to be seen. And, of course, there could be trades in the future that could see others leave the organization. Maybe the aforementioned David Price could come Texas’ way via trade.

This off-season I expect the Rangers to address their offensive needs as there are only a couple of modifications needed for the pitching staff. Four starters and at least five bullpen pieces are already set. Then I expect Texas will be a better team than they were in 2013. The window isn’t closed yet. It still has a few good years of being open left.