Heading into 2010, the year the Texas Rangers first went to the World Series, if there was one position the front office wasn’t worried about for the present and the future, it was catcher. Texas enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in the catching department. At the major league level, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be the every day catcher for the first time. Backing him up would be University of Texas phenom Taylor Teagarden, who would supply some needed power. Down on the farm, Max Ramirez was the emergency guy at AAA Round Rock and coming up in the system was well-regarded Jose Felix in AA Frisco.
Saltalamacchia lasted for all of two games and five at bats. He had the game winning hit in the season opener but suffered an injury and didn’t tell manager Ron Washington about it. When it came up after Game 2, Salty went on the DL, Wash publicly chastised him for not speaking up and added he had a lot of growing up to do. Saltalamacchia never returned to the Rangers. During rehab, he developed a case of the “yips”, causing his throws back to the pitcher to sail. He got sent off to the Red Sox in the trade that netted Texas Chris McGuiness and Roman Mendez.
Meanwhile, it didn’t take long before the Rangers determined Teagarden, for all his power potential, wasn’t able to hit consistently. His long swing led to 34 strikeouts in just 85 at bats. Five of his 11 hits went for extra bases but a .155 average was all he could muster. Before anyone knew what hit them, Teagarden got sent down, Ramirez came up and the Rangers’ starting catcher was someone they picked up at the end of training camp, Matt Treanor, who turned into a godsend. Treanor wasn’t any great shakes, but he gave Texas quality at bats and handled the pitching staff well for 82 games, until the Rangers picked up Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants to handle the heavy work down the stretch.
Since that 2010 season, the Rangers have gone through Yorvit Torrealba, Mike Napoli, Teagarden, Treanor, Geovany Soto, Luis Martinez, A.J. Pierzynski, J.P. Arencibia, Chris Giminez, Tomas Telis and Robinson Chirinos and there’s still no true starting catcher in sight for 2015.
Phenom Jorge Alfaro is still at least a year away. In the meantime, the Rangers enter 2015 with the aforementioned Telis and Giminez at AAA Round Rock, if something happens to Chirinos or new arrival Carlos Corporan.
Chirinos was as much a godsend for the Rangers in 2014 as Treanor was in 2010. With Rangers hitting the DL almost every other day, including Soto in pre-season and Arencibia hitting a pitiful .133 on May 16th, Chirinos came up big time, posting a slash line of .239/.290/.415 with 13 HR and 40 RBI. Adding to his importance was his defense. Chirinos came out of nowhere to lead the American League in throwing out would-be base stealers at 40%. His 2.4 WAR ranked 5th among AL catchers. Chirinos’ performance earned Soto a trade to the A’s once he returned from the disabled list.
This year, Chirinos enters the season as the clear #1, although there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to match any of his 2014 numbers. Last year was his first full season in the majors and his performance could go in either direction. The plan is for Chirinos to catch about 100 games, just a few more than he caught a year ago. Injuries aside, his expected back-up for the other 62 games will be Carlos Corporan, who comes over from the Houston Astros.
Jon Daniels told the crowd at FanFest that they did due diligence on Corporan, talking to a number of Astros pitchers about him. One of them, former Ranger Scott Feldman, praised Corporan and credited him for elevating his game in 2014.
The Rangers aren’t looking for great offense from the catcher position. The top priority is catchers who work well with the pitching staff. Still, Corporan has a little pop in his bat and if the Rangers get a combined 3.0 WAR out of the two of them, they’ll be happy.
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.
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.
- Unflappable Koji nets ALCS MVP honors (mlb.mlb.com)
- HBT: Koji Uehara is your ALCS MVP (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Koji Uehara Receives Champagne Shower During Red Sox’ Celebration After Advancing to World Series (Video) (nesn.com)
Things haven’t been going to well in Texas Rangers land of late. Since Ian Kinsler went on the disabled list, the club has gone 11-13. Now they were a pretty decent 9-7 until Mitch Moreland joined Kinsler on the walking wounded list. With both players out, Texas has gone 2-6 in its last eight games.
So the heck with losing streaks and disabled players (Kinsler should be back Monday!). Let’s talk about beards!
I may be old but I’m not a prude. There are many beards I like. There’s this one:
OK, that makes me seem even older than I really am. From a show business angle, there’s certainly no beating these beards:
So I’m not against beards per se. I am, however, enough years past my hippie days to feel like today’s era of major league ball players are taking the beard thing a little too far.
Yeah, Brian Wilson of the Giants (not the Beach Boys one who had a pretty impressive beard at one time in his day) really started the trend of ball players beards behaving badly.
Since then, we have been treated to chin after chin of hair that is not only unshaved but really unkempt as well. I don’t mind a nice trim beard like Scott Feldman has. Sure he looks like he’d fit in to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise“, but at least it’s neat.
The Rangers aren’t immune to the Hatfield and McCoy look. Recently recalled Kyle McClellan has a prodigious red goatee that is even more horrific than this photo shows:
Did I mention I don’t like this Neanderthal look? Seriously, what if Rangers management decided they were going to emulate today’s players? Can you imagine what they’d look like?
Fortunately, you don’t have to. I’m here to show you. I may not be a Photoshop expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Thanks to that, I can show you what Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore would look like with a Jonny Gomes beard:
And if Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided Brian Wilson was right all along? We’d be wondering if Fidel Castro had defected to the United States:
And what if Mike Maddux…
You know, never mind. Even guys can appreciate how much Maddux rocks that look.
As a fan, I urge today’s MLB players to start trimming back on the facial hair. If you don’t do it for me, think of the endorsement fees you’re probably missing out on looking like a troglodyte. In the meantime, my beloved Rangers, you think you could start winning a couple of games now and then?
I’ll start this out by saying what I’ve said in these pages many a time before: I’m NOT a major proponent of WAR. I understand the concept of it, I just don’t totally agree with it because of the subjectivity of the defensive metrics. I don’t “speak” sabermetrics, but a great sabermetric argument for the way I feel was published today, as a free article, on Baseball Prospectus.
A way I can use WAR, though, would be as a comparison tool that doesn’t involve delving into a lot of different stats. I thought it would be interesting to see, at the 1/4 point of the season, how the Texas Rangers might look, record-wise, had they decided to keep everyone from last year’s Rangers team, instead of adding the pieces they added. To do that, I examined the respective WAR of the departed Rangers to their counterparts from this year’s team.
For this study, I’m using essentially the Texas Rangers team that essentially comprised the Rangers following the July 31st trading deadline.
Here’s how the former Rangers are faring so far in 2013, based on bWAR (via Baseball Reference.com):
Mike Adams (Philadelphia) 0.4
Ryan Dempster (Boston) 0.5
Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs) 0.8
Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels) -0.6
Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Angels) -0.3
Mike Napoli (Boston) 1.0
Koji Uehara (Boston) 0.5
Michael Young (Philadelphia) 0.3
Now let’s look at this year’s Texas Rangers counterparts:
Jeff Baker 0.7
Lance Berkman 0.6
Jason Frasor 0.0
Leury Garcia 0.1
Derek Lowe 0.0
Leonys Martin 0.7
Joe Ortiz 0.0
A.J. Pierzynski 0.6
Nick Tepesch 0.0
The two biggest things that jump out at me: Leonys Martin‘s defense (the subjective part) has led to a much higher WAR figure than I thought, while, of the former Rangers, Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman have both far exceeded what I most Rangers fans would have expected of them. Overall, the former Rangers out-WAR the current Rangers, but only by .2. If you’d like to extrapolate that to an actual record, WAR suggests the Rangers would be just where they are, at 24-14 or maybe one game better at 25-13, had they just stood pat with last year’s team. Of course, they’d have that record for a significantly higher payroll than they currently have, which would be a discussion for another day.
The Rangers looked horrible against the lowly Chicago Cubs last night. Former Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman made Texas batters look silly and only the woeful Cubs bullpen prevented the Rangers from being shut out for the game.
As terrible as the Rangers looked, I can forgive them this game. Originally, the Rangers were to have Monday off, so they scheduled one of their big charity benefits for Sunday evening after the afternoon game with the Red Sox. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, a game with the Cubs got rained out a couple of weeks ago and Monday was chosen as the make-up date. Late flight out of Texas, late arrival in Chicago, tired team overall. I get that.
Except for Nick Tepesch. The rookie pitcher wasn’t part of the benefit. Since he was the scheduled starter, he got a head start in going to the Windy City. He had a good night’s sleep. He took the hill and had his worst start of his young career. Tepesch gave up a 5-spot in the fourth inning, putting his team down 6-0 and the Rangers never recovered.
Rookie pitchers are going to take their lumps, even rookies like Tepesch, whose first three starts were outstanding. Now, though, he’s started getting knocked around his last couple of times out. Why is this important?
There’s a guy getting started on rehab right now in Arizona by the name of Colby Lewis. It may still be more than a month away, but Lewis will be returning soon. When he does, someone is going to have to go, and that someone will be either Tepesch or Justin Grimm. As much as you’d like to just write it off as one (or two) bad starts, if you’re a GM like Jon Daniels, you’re looking at every start a player makes. Add in that this a team with playoff aspirations and you’re faced with a real “win or go home” attitude. Tepesch needs to step it up in his next couple of starts or he’s got a date with AAA Round Rock in his future. His competition to continue in the Rangers’ rotation, Justin Grimm, now has a leg up, as he hasn’t gotten pummeled yet. If he continues to pitch well, there’s little Tepesch can do to change the decision.
After non-tendering and then re-signing Geovany Soto, Texas basically has one “proven” catcher to go with into Spring Training. Pardon me for being singularly underwhelmed. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays seem to be skirting Security and Exchange Commission rules by trying to corner the market on catchers, having now stockpiled JP Arencibia, John Buck, Travis D’Arnaud and Eli Whiteside. I’m pretty sure they’ve got about four more on their AAA roster as well for safekeeping.
I was hoping Naps would return to the Rangers but it was not to be. We still don’t know if Josh Hamilton will return to the fold or not. Also out there from the Rangers roster are Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe.
But enough about who could be departing. Let’s talk about who I’d love to see arriving via the free agent route. I’d planned this article a month ago but the rigors of the “real job” got in the way. As a result, one of my prime free agent picks was snatched up, when the Giants re-signed Jeremy Affeldt to a 3-year deal. Texas never would’ve gone for three years on a reliever so c’est la vie.
BJ Upton may have gone on the list as well (though I’m not 100% sure of that), but Atlanta snatched him up. There are still quite a few out there, so here are the free agents on my Rangers wish list, starting with the obvious:
1) Zack Greinke: Well why not? He’s the prime pitcher in this year’s free agent class. The Dodgers are said to be the favorite at this point, which I can grudgingly accept. I do NOT want him returning to the Angels. I would LOVE to see Greinke in a Rangers uniform. He’s just the right age, he has playoff experience and his social anxiety issues have nothing to do with him pitching. MLB Radio this morning kept talking about how the “band box” in Arlington would not be good for Greinke, which goes to show how hard reputations die. Rangers pitchers have more than held their own at RBiA the last three years and additional construction in the 2011 off-season actually lessened the famous summer jet stream in 2012. I would love to see a Darvish-Greinke-Harrison Top 3.
2) Adam LaRoche: Put LaRoche at first base and all of a sudden Texas has one of the best defensive infields in baseball. Add in the production which certainly tops Mitch Moreland‘s the past two seasons and you’ve got a good recipe for success, whether Hamilton comes back or not. LaRoche certainly isn’t the top tier in first basemen but he’s at the top of the middle tier.
3) Eric Chavez: Hear me out on this one. Chavez did a great job in a utility role for the Yankees and, unfortunately, will probably re-sign with them now that the Bombers know A-Rod will be out for 4-6 months. Chavez is close to Rangers manager Ron Washington and credited Wash for his Gold Glove in Oakland. As overplayed as the Rangers were and as many nicks that Adrian Beltre got during the 2012 season, a proven guy like Chavez would fit right in with the Rangers.
4) Kyle Farnsworth: The bullpen has to be rebuilt and Farnsworth would be a good addition as a late inning guy. He’s closed and set up for the Rays and he could fill a variety of roles with the Rangers, spelling Joe Nathan when he’s pitched a couple of games in a row and setting up otherwise. Plus he’s one bad-ass martial arts dude.
Beyond that, I think the Rangers will look to improve more via the trade route than free agency. I also don’t expect them to get much done during the Winter Meetings. They don’t have a big history of splashy moves during this time.
This is a team in flux. I can’t wait to see what moves Jon Daniels has in store over the next two months.
The rebuilding of the Texas Rangers is about to begin. How much rebuilding will happen is anyone’s guess at this point.
The first salvo occurred Tuesday, when the Rangers decided not to pick up the options of Scott Feldman and Yoshinori Tateyama. Really no big surprises there. Tateyama, who pitched pretty effectively for Texas in 2011 (2-0, 4.50 ERA in 39 games) was a disaster in 2012 (1-0, 9.00 ERA in 14 games). Feldman, expected to fill the long relief/spot starter role, became a fulltime starting service after Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz were lost for the year with injuries and Roy Oswalt failed to do well as a starter. The biggest surprise of Feldman’s season is that his 6-11 record and 5.09 ERA was good enough to earn a 0.0 WAR. In other words, 6-11, 5.09 must be considered a replacement level starter. Wow.
The only potential minus here is if Feldman just needed longer to get over microfracture knee surgery in 2011 and posts a great 2013 for someone else. For all the good Jon Daniels has done as GM, this past season saw at least five Rangers cast-offs who performed credible jobs for their new teams: Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day for Baltimore, Cody Eppely and Clay Rapada for the Yankees. Constructing a pitching staff is so often a crap shoot, with many relievers having an awesome year, following up with two terrible seasons, then suddenly finding lightning again. Many teams’ fortunes rise and fall on these variables. If those castaways had been able to put together those seasons for the Rangers, it might have been a post-season difference maker.
So we know Feldman and Tateyama won’t return, unless they re-up with Texas at a major discount. The next step is the free agent process.
Josh Hamilton will get the league standard $13.3 million dollar offer to stay in Texas for another year. He will turn it down and if he signs elsewhere, Texas gets a supplemental draft pick. More unknown is whether the Rangers will make the same offer to catcher Mike Napoli. Because he had a down year, Naps could accept a $13.3 million offer for another year, hoping to turn it around in 2013 and get even bigger bucks and a multi-year deal a year from now. If no offer is received, then we’ll know Texas has committed to totally overhauling the catching.
The Blue Jays are stockpiling catchers, having picked up Yorvit Torrealba after Texas let him go and, just last week, inking Bobby Wilson after his release by the Angels. Since they already had two well-regarded home-grown catchers, it’s a good bet the Blue Jays will deal some of their catching in the off-season. The Rangers have expressed interest in both J.P. Arencibia and Travis D’Arnaud.
Other Rangers getting ready to test the free agent waters include Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster. Of that group, Oswalt is most certainly gone. Since Adams’ year ended prematurely to injury, the hope is he’ll be willing to sign again with Texas, as he might not now command the dollars he could have. I’d love to see them resign Uehara as well. Down the stretch, he was one of Texas’ most effective pitchers. Texas will allow Lowe to leave and I doubt there’s much interest in getting Dempster to come back, though that could depend on other factors.
If Texas lets both Hamilton and Napoli walk, we could be seeing a pretty big revamping of the offense. There’s a lot of power that would need replacing. That’s why, with Hamilton likely to go elsewhere, I think Texas will do what they can to at least keep Napoli.
I expect Texas to go hard after Zack Greinke in the free agent market, while the Angels will go all out to try to keep his services. If Greinke doesn’t materialize, Texas could pursue a trade with Tampa Bay for David Price.
Another reason to re-sign Napoli: to keep him for a first base platoon with Mitch Moreland. Moreland can hit the ball a long way and is an adequate defender, but at best is a streaky hitter with hot spells that don’t last long enough to off-set the cold snaps. And that’s just against right handed pitchers. Against lefties, Moreland is cold and colder.
There are several directions the Rangers could go this off-season. What’s definite is they’ll make more moves between now and Spring Training than they did the past two years combined. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.
GOLD GLOVE AWARDS: For the second straight year, Adrian Beltre nabbed the AL Gold Glove Award for his defensive play at third base. The other two Rangers up for Gold Gloves, David Murphy and Elvis Andrus, didn’t receive the honor. Beltre was an easy choice. That’s easy to say, but judging by the actual award winners, it’s hard to back up. On the one hand, sometimes they give the award to people just because they committed so few errors, despite not having the range of other players at the position. Case in point: JJ Hardy of the Orioles. While I love Elvis, the winner probably should have been Brendan Ryan of the Mariners, who had range and only nine errors. On the other hand, some players win because of past reputation alone. Case in point: Adam Jones of the Orioles, who’s won the award before but had six errors in the field this year, a high number for an outfielder. In other words, there’s no set criteria for winning Gold Gloves. That’s why I’m happy Beltre won. With no set criteria, there was no guarantee he would.