Tagged: Scott Feldman

The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!

A day later, that’s what it feels like. One reign is over, but now it’s time to pay honor to the new one that takes its place.

After a magnificent three-year run that no other stretch in over 40 years of fanhood even came close to, the end came as more of a thud than a gradual tapering off process. By failing to win more than four games of their last 14 or even one game of their last four, my Texas Rangers no longer have an ALDS playoff match-up to look forward to. No best of five showdown with the Yankees. No shot at finally achieving the ultimate prize that had eluded them in the previous two seasons.

An era has come to an end.

Make no mistake, this probably is the end of this cycle of Rangers vying for the ultimate prize. To be sure, they are far too talented to stumble to a losing record a year from now. There’s plenty of talent in place, more in the pipeline coming up and plenty of money to spend. But will the World Championship window be open a year from now? I tend to doubt it.

English: photo of Josh Hamilton playing.

Is the Josh Hamilton era over in Texas?. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of free agents to be from this year’s Rangers team: Ryan Dempster. Roy Oswalt. Mike Adams. Koji Uehara. Mark Lowe. Oh and two guys by the name of Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton.

Some speculate there is a very real chance the longest-serving Ranger, Michael Young, could be traded or released in the off-season. It’s even more likely Scott Feldman suffers the same fate.

Because of the ignominious way the season ended, there could be turnover on the management side as well. While I think Ron Washington‘s job is safe, it wouldn’t surprise me to see hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh take the fall for the Rangers late-season offensive woes. Baserunning/first base coach Gary Pettis could become a casualty, as the Texas running game became a shell of what it had been the past two seasons. Maybe even bench coach Jackie Moore could be asked to think about retirement so the front office can give Wash a bench coach who more statistically inclined to convince the skipper he’s about to make a foolish move.

A month into the 2012 season, the narrative was “Pay Josh Hamilton whatever money he wants to keep him here”. On October 6th, the narrative has changed to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Josh”. Hamilton received standing ovations in April. He and the nationwide TV audience heard audible boos following his last two meek at bats.

Something changed on this team in 2012. I don’t know whether there was clubhouse discord or whether the stomach virus that swept through the team in May had longer-lasting repercussions than anyone wants to admit. But something changed and by the time the season mercifully came to an end Friday night, it appeared the Rangers offense just flat-out didn’t have anything else to give.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll have plenty to say about what went wrong, the Hamilton situation and what changes I think are in store. For now, I’ll just let it hurt for a day or two, posting my picks for BBA post-season honors, and cheering the AL West champion Oakland A’s in their ALDS against the Detroit Tigers.

The Rangers are dead. Long live the Rangers.

And The Walls Went Tumbling Down

Sure, it’s easy to say the Texas Rangers are in the playoffs as a Wild Card, so the term “collapse” doesn’t really apply. The playoffs don’t matter in this case. All the playoffs do is make the Rangers 4-9 finish and ceding the AL West title to Oakland seem not as bad as the collapse of the Red Sox a year ago.

Honestly, it’s worse than the Red Sox. My last post mentioned the A’s were 13 games behind Texas on June 30th. This makes the Rangers downfall the third largest lead ever given up to a team in baseball history.

On the other hand, one has to hand it to the Oakland A’s. I had them picked as my worst team in the AL at season’s start. Think about this. For the early part of the season, their best starting pitcher was Bartolo Colon. He got suspended for PED use. As soon as he was suspended, here was Brett Anderson coming back. He pitched brilliantly before an oblique strain put him on the shelf for the rest of the season. Brandon McCarthy, the overall ace of the staff, was literally knocked out of the season by a line drive to the head. This was a good starting pitching staff that was getting decimated and every time, someone else just came in and took someone’s place and pitched just as well. Contrast this to Texas, who lost Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz to injury for the season. As replacements, the Rangers tried Roy Oswalt. Then Scott Feldman. They acquired Ryan Dempster. Rookies Martin Perez and Justin Grimm were given brief shots. None of them panned out the way the Rangers hoped. Every one of the A’s did work out. Kudos to Oakland and their coaching staff.

Oakland’s offense outperformed the vaunted Rangers offense throughout the second half of the season. Look at the overall offensive stats and almost everything  indicates the Rangers had the superior offensive team. Here’s where statistics can lie to you, though. Texas led the American League in most innings scoring five runs or more. They’d also follow-up these monster games with spans where the offense would flat-out disappear for three and four game stretches. It was a testament to the most consistent starters, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, that the Rangers avoided long losing streaks during these offensive swoons (their longest streak was 5).

Rangers primary logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once the Rangers season is officially over, which could very well be Friday night, this space will list the “whys” in order of importance. For now, a hearty congratulations to the Oakland A’s for their accomplishment, for it wasn’t entirely a collapse to end the Rangers regular season. The A’s didn’t back in because of the Rangers. They drove straight in by their own right. They earned the title.

Texas will host  the Baltimore Orioles Friday night for the right to play a 5-game set with the New York Yankees. The Rangers will be the favorite Friday, playing at home with Yu Darvish on the mound. But if anything has been proven over the last two weeks of the regular season, it’s that favorites don’t always come out on top, much as you might want them to.

The Running Game (Or Lack Thereof)

Texas Rangers fan that I am, I cheer my guys on through thick and thin. Many a time, I get my brains twisted all out of sorts when I read fellow Rangers fans who are overly critical of the moves Ron Washington makes, the failures at the plate of Michael Young and the like.

This does not make me immune from criticizing my favorite team. I’ve taken my own shots here in this corner of the Internet universe, including but not necessarily inclusive of: wanting less playing time for Michael Young; the two-month disappearance of Josh Hamilton‘s offense; Scott Feldman‘s pitching; and Ian Kinsler‘s defense.

After splitting the first two games of their four game set with the second-place Oakland A’s, I could easily choose to go after the moribund Rangers offense, which has managed all of two hits with runners in scoring position over the past five games. But I won’t. I will temporarily give credit to the pitching staffs of the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s here. Both teams have good pitching and even the best offenses will struggle against good pitching.

What is more unforgivable in my book is the nature of the Rangers’ running game throughout the 2012 season, both offensively and defensively. If Texas doesn’t make it back to the Fall Classic, I will put a lot of the blame on this category.

Defensively, Texas is ahead of only Minnesota in the percentage of runners caught stealing at a mere 20%. Rangers catchers have only nailed 17 runners attempting to steal all season, while allowing 103 to swipe a base successfully. A years ago, that figure was 35% caught stealing and only 85 successful steals. With eight games to go in the regular season, that means the Rangers have already given up 18 bases more in 2012 than a season ago.

As for the offense, the figures are even worse. A year ago, Texas swiped 143 bases on the year and were caught 45 times, a success rate of 76%.  This year? Only 90 steals while being caught 44 times, a 67% success rate. Rangers runners have been caught just one time less than a year ago, while stealing 53 less bases! A year ago, Rangers baserunners were picked off base 22 times. This year, 28 pick-offs,  including three times in the last two games against the A’s.

 

David Murphy becomes 1 of the 28 Rangers picked off in 2012.

Elvis Andrus: 5 picks and 37 steals in 2011, 8 pick-offs and only 20 steals in 2012. Ian Kinsler: 30 steals and 7 pick-offs in 2011, 21 and 8 in 2012. Craig Gentry was 18 for 18 in steal attempts and wasn’t picked off once in 2011. This year? Only 13 of 20 stealing while getting picked off three times.

As potent as the Rangers offense has been the past few years, it flat-out hasn’t been as good as it was the past two seasons. Batting average, On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage are all down from a year ago, but no category is as extreme as the base running statistics.

Is this just a case of a team playing just a little more tired because of playing 33 extra games over the past two seasons? Maybe. I’m more inclined to say it’s more mental fatigue than physical. Texas is making more mental errors than I’ve seen them make in years. As much as I want them to go all the way and claim their first World Championship, my fear is these mental errors are going to catch up with them in the post-season this year.

I sure hope I’m wrong.

Week 24 In Review

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 3-3

Overall: 90-62 (1st Place AL West) (+4)

Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Mike Napoli .417/.500/1.000  1 2b  2 HR  3 RBI

Raspa Cold (Offense): Elvis Andrus .167/.167/.250

Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Scott Feldman  0.00 ERA  5 K in 3 IP

Joe Nathan   0.00 ERA,  2 Saves 3K in 3 IP

Raspa Cold (Pitching): Ryan Dempster   1-1,  6.30 ERA, 7 ER in 10 IP

In what could have been a better week, the Rangers were 3-3, taking two of three on the road at Los Angeles, but then losing two of three to Seattle, including a 1-0 heartbreaker on Saturday. The Rangers did put another game of space between themselves and the second place A’s, who were 2-4 for the week, but a 5 game lead was definitely attainable if not for the moribund offense. The Angels gained a game in the standings, thanks to their weekend sweep of the White Sox, but it would take a miracle for the Angels to win the West at this point. A Wild Card bid is their best hope and they have a bit of ground to make up in their last nine games to get there.

Tonight the Rangers can start putting the West away. Seven games await at home this week: three this weekend with the Angels and a 4-game set starting tonight with Oakland. Normally, I would lay out the games behind scenario from worst to best and say after Thursday night’s game, the Rangers lead will be 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8. Now there are magic numbers involved, so I’ll do the reverse. After the series conclusion on Tuesday, the Rangers magic number will be 7, 5, 3, 1 or 0. Win three of four of the set and they’ve clinched at least a tie with 6 games to go. Get a 4-game sweep and it’s all over.

Josh Hamilton returns to the line-up tonight, after missing the last four games due to vision problems. Hamilton originally thought it was due to sinus issues. Turns out he’s been hitting the sodas and energy drinks too hard. The caffeine OD has caused his blurred vision due to causing his corneas to dry up. Yet another thing for Hamilton to have to give up.

10 games remain. The first goal is in sight. I think it will be attained by week’s end.

 

Week 23 In Review

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 4-2

Overall: 87-59 (1st Place AL West) (+3)

Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Adrian Beltre .368/.478/.842  3 HR,  4 RBI,  4 Walks,  8 Runs Scored

Michael Young (Believe It Or Not!) .500/.583/.600  2 Doubles,  3 RBI,  4 Walks

Raspa Cold (Offense): Geovany Soto  .077/.188/.154 (But Walked Twice and had 3 RBI!)

Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Yu Darvish 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 9 K’s in 7 IP, 0.57 WHIP

Matt Harrison  2-0, 1.88 ERA,  1.05 WHIP,  11 K’s in 14.1 IP

Raspa Cold (Pitching): Scott Feldman  20.25 ERA, 3.38 WHIP,  6 ER in 2.2 IP

Coming home for a week against the Indiands and Mariners, the Rangers went a respectable 4-2, although Joe Nathan‘s first blown save since April kept them from being 5-1. That allowed the still hot A’s to pick up half a game on the week when they went 5-2 against the Angels and Orioles. Los Angeles is still officially in the race, but if Texas were to go .500 the rest of the way, the Angels would have to finish 15-0 just to tie for the Division title. The best the Angels can hope for now would be a Wild Card spot. There’s no doubt if the Rangers are to win the West a third straight time, they will have earned it. Only 16 games remain on the schedule: 3 against the Mariners, 6 against the Angels and 7 against the A’s. This week it’s Los Angeles and Seattle on the road for three games each. After the Rangers series, the Angels host the White Sox for 3 games. Meanwhile the A’s hit the road all week, facing the Tigers and the Yankees. The schedule this week favors the Rangers.

 

Deadline Day Pt. 2

As much attention as the July 31st trade deadline receives, today’s trade deadline is just as important. That’s because any player acquired after August 31st CAN’T be on a team’s playoff roster. In other words, if the Rangers are going to acquire proven major league help for their post-season push, today is the last day to do it.

The August 31st deadline is what the whole revocable waivers is all about. We’ve heard Roy Oswalt cleared revocable waivers, so Texas could trade him to anyone today if they so desired. Other players have probably been put on revocable waivers by the Rangers as well, and probably have cleared as well. If a player is put on revocable waivers and a claim is put in for that player, the team can either take the player back off the table (the revocable part) or work out a deal with the claiming team within something like 48 hours.

Julio Borbon

Julio Borbon: Trade Bait? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also entering into the equation at this time are players in the minors who have no options left after this season. They could become part of a trade package. Two of those for the Rangers are Julio Borbon and Brandon Snyder. I’ve been thinking all year Borbon was going to become part of a package but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s had three big league seasons under his belt and while he hasn’t fulfilled the promise he showed in his first year, 2009, he’s had a good season at AAA Round Rock, hitting over .300 with speed and some pop in his bat.

Snyder started the season with the Rangers but was sent down to make room for Mike Olt on the roster. Snyder made some good contributions to the Rangers earlier in the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as part of  a package either.

That said, who would the Rangers want in return? Here are the possibilities:

1) A back-up catcher: Geovany Soto has done a decent job since coming over from the Cubs. His back-up, Luis Martinez has been your prototypical replacement player. The fact is, nobody knows how much longer Mike Napoli is going to be out. Because we don’t know, I’d want a better option to back up Soto. Maybe try to get Jerrod Saltalamacchia back from the Red Sox or see if the Blue Jays would allow JP Arencibia to be pried from their hands.

2) Utility Infielder: Rangers fans are not thrilled with the idea that Michael Young is currently the back-up shortstop to Elvis Andrus. Another Blue Jay and former Ranger Omar Vizquel would be a nice little pick-up to head down the stretch with.

3) Bullpen: I’m actually pretty OK with the bullpen as it’s constituted, but if there’s one slot that’s worrisome, it would be the role currently filled by Michael Kirkman. Kirkman’s had glimpses of being very good this year, but the consistency still isn’t there. I don’t know what southpaw might be available out there, but an acquisition here is a distinct possibility.

4) Starting Pitcher: This is very unlikely to happen and maybe it doesn’t really need to. Still, I do have some trepidation about Texas heading into the post-season with a starting four of Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Dempster. The thing is, I don’t think an August 31st deal is going to be able to land any kind of an upgrade here. At best, it might get you an innings-eater that will allow the Rangers to bypass Scott Feldman in the rotation in September, but not much beyond that.

Texas could be busy today. Or Jon Daniels could just say this is the team we’re rolling with into the 2012 post-season. Neither outcome would surprise me in the least.

LAST DAY!!!

If you haven’t entered, today is the last day to submit your entry for a chance to win the 4-DVD set of the Essential Games of the Texas Rangers from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. The set contains the complete games of Nolan Ryan‘s 7th No-Hitter, the Rangers first ever playoff win against the Yankees in 1996 and the Rangers two AL Championship clinching wins in 2010 and 2011.

To enter, just submit the form below. Entry deadline is Friday 8/31/12. Winners will be drawn Tuesday 9/4/12. FIVE WINNERS IN ALL, so enter today! Only 1 entry per e-mail address please.

Week 20 In Review

Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 3-4

Overall: 75-52 (1st Place AL West) (+5.5)

Jalapeno Hot (Offense): Adrian Beltre .433/.433/1.100  3 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 9 RBI (Should be AL Player of the Week)

Raspa Cold (Offense): Michael Young .231/.286/.308 0 RBI (but he became a new daddy Friday!)

Jalapeno Hot (Pitching): Matt Harrison  1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP (2nd week in a row Jalapeno Hot)

Raspa Cold (Pitching): Scott Feldman  0-2, 7.59 ERA, 1.78 WHIP (could he be replaced by Oswalt in rotation?)

It would have been nice to get more, but Texas added a half game of space between themselves and the second place A’s, while the disappointing Angels are now 9 1/2 games out, with the Rangers now having a Magic Number of 26 to eliminate them from the Division Title race. Texas ends their string of 20 games in 20 days (10-7 thus far) with three home games in a potential playoff preview with the Tampa Bay Rays. Following a day off Thursday, it’s on to Cleveland for three with the fast fading Tribe. Oakland is in Cleveland for four, followed by three home games against the now depleted Red Sox. The Angels have three at home against the Bosox followed by three in Seattle against the surging Mariners.  If the Angels and A’s are to gain ground, the next four days would be the time to do it.