Tagged: World Series

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.


All I Want Is Some Truth!

Anyone who has listened to the radio, watched television or read a newspaper during an election year knows they’ll see or hear it at least once: the political ad that shows what an uncaring, mean so and so my opponent is because he or she supported or didn’t support this cause during this vote. Needless to say, if one takes some time to take a look at things more in context, they’ll find that maybe that mean uncaring so and so supported or didn’t support that cause because in doing so, they could also be voting for raising the debt ceiling by $5 trillion dollars or voting to downsize the military by three million soldiers.

Sometimes you have to train yourself to look at things in context. It’s easy to take things at face value but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find what the story is.

This happens in baseball all the time. For players and management it happens when a contract goes to arbitration. Management says, “Yeah, he hit.320 for the year, but he only hit a buck-50 with runners on third and less than two outs. He’s a bum I tell ya!” Player’s agent counters with, “That buck-50 doesn’t count as much as the .400 OBP he had in the same situation because of all the intentional walks they gave him!” And on and on it goes.

Here’s a particular load of goods we baseball fans have been subjected to for years: Major League baseball is in decline. It’s only the third most popular professional sport. We buy into it completely, having discussions on sports talk radio about how to save baseball, how to get our kids playing baseball again, etc.

Today I read the headline I was expecting to read sooner or later. It called this year’s World Series between the Tigers and Giants the least-watched World Series and later referred to its “record-low rating.” These headlines have pervaded the conversation for years now.

Yes, the headline is accurate. This year’s World Series averaged a little under 13 million viewers per night. That’s the smallest audience since the folks at Nielsen started their People Meter service in 1987.

World Series Ratings 1984-2012

Let’s take this in context, though. Even with a record low rating, it turns out that four of the nation’s top twenty shows for the past week were either World Series games or the World Series pre-game show. Four of the top twenty shows. That’s pretty good.

What many in the media assume is because the ratings have sunk, the interest in baseball is down as well. Again this is not true.

If interest in baseball was so bad, why are record moneys being paid for the local rights to games? The Rangers start on a new $1 billion contract with Fox Sports Southwest in 2014. The Angels recently signed a huge extension with Fox Sports West.

Look at the stadiums. The year I graduated from college, 1978, a team that drew over 2 million fans was a big deal. Of the 26 teams in MLB that year, the LA Dodgers drew over 3 million fans.  Another 5 teams drew over 2 million. Six teams didn’t even manage to get a million fans through the turnstiles on the season.


In 2012, every team in baseball drew at least 1.5 million fans. 23 out of 30 teams drew over 2 million fans. Nine teams drew over 3 million. Does that sound like diminishing interest to you?

The NFL’s Super Bowl gets monster ratings every year because it’s a one game do or die. It will always outrank the World Series, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals for this reason alone. A one and done will beat a best of seven every time. 

I can think of one other good reason for lower TV ratings for the World Series. Unlike the NFL, which has truly become national in the way every team is presented, baseball is very much a local market sport throughout the regular season. Just about every team has a TV contract that let the home fans view just about every game of the season. The “national” games on Fox aren’t really national. They show different games in different regions of the country. Unlike the NFL, baseball fans want to see “their” team. Once their team is out of contention, they often stop watching. I’ll even admit to not seeing more than three innings total of this year’s World Series myself.

Maybe ratings are in decline. But the Series is still one of television’s most-watched shows every year when it’s on. And the TV ratings do NOT correlate with a diminishing interest in the game. It just ain’t so.

Does Wash Favor The Veterans?

Another game, another night without Mike Olt in the line-up for the Texas Rangers. When this occurred yesterday, I noticed a tweet which set out to prove, in 140 characters or less, that Rangers manager Ron Washington is biased against rookies and refuses to play them in favor of his veterans. The tweet stated that, in Wash’s tenure as manager of the Rangers, the only “first year” players to even get 200 at bats in a season have been Elvis Andrus, Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Mitch Moreland and Justin Smoak.

Is it true? Does Wash favor his veterans at the expense of the rookies? I did a little digging. The answer? Compared to other managers in recent history, Wash actually has used those first year players even more than others!

The person who put forth the tweet merely said first year players. That’s different than players who are still technically rookies. First year simply means the first year they appeared in a Rangers uniform, even if it was a September call-up.

That being the parameter, I looked up the history of the following major league managers: Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia. In the case of Scioscia, I’ve gone through his entire managerial career. For Francona and Manuel, I’ve focused on five-year spans in which their teams were contenders to go to the World Series.

Francona won a World Series his first year with the Red Sox in 2004. That year, first-year Kevin Youklis got over 200 AB’s. In the ensuing four seasons, the only players to exceed the magic 200 AB plateau were Dustin Pedroia in 2007 and Jed Lowrie in 2008. Three players in five years.

For Manuel the results are even more striking. Starting in 2007, the year before the Phillies won the World Series, through 2011, there has not been one season in which a first year player received more than 200 at bats. 

Finally, looking at Scioscia’s managerial career from 2000 to 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels, we find that first year players under Scioscia have only fared well in one season. In 2006, three first year players got more than 200 at bats: Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick. In not one of the other 11 seasons Scioscia has managed the Angels has a first year player accrued more than 200 at bats in a season.

Like the Rangers, all three of these other teams have been in what could be considered World Series “windows”, years in which they had a chance to go far in the playoffs or were just a year away from being there. In just six years of managing,  Ron Washington has managed to give more playing time to first-year players than any other.

Wash’s figure of five came very close to being a list of seven, as Julio Borbon and Travis Metcalf both fell less than 15 AB’s away from the magic number of 200.

So does Wash favor his veterans? No more than any other manager in his situation. And maybe even a little less.

Ron Washington, Strategy Anti-Manager Pt. 2

A saber-oriented writer for one of the Rangers fan sites I frequent recently took manager Ron Washington to task recently for some of the moves he made in Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. While his article made sure to point out its author actually likes Wash and thinks he’s a good fit for this team, he advances the same arguments about Wash doing things too much by feel and not enough by “The Book” (the publication that uses advance mathematics to show what the best percentage play is in certain situations).

My last post addressed the way I looked at the specific decisions Wash made that were brought up in the article. Today I want to look at the Game 7 “shortcomings”. There were two in Game 7:

1) The decision to have Elvis Andrus sacrifice Ian Kinsler to second with no outs and a 2-1 count in a 3-2 game in the top of the 5th; and

2) The decision to intentionally walk David Freese in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. Another walk and a hit by pitch later and the Cardinals were up 5-2, en route to a 6-2 win and the World Series Championship.

Again, I don’t fault Wash on either of these decisions.

I know “The Book” is not a fan of the sacrifice bunt. Under almost any circumstances. Apparently giving up an out to advance a runner is not the mathematically correct play. This decision, though, is one in which I think saberists and “The Book” can miss a point- While the sacrifice bunt isn’t the best move in the wide scheme of things, sometimes one has to look at specifically the game that is being played to guide your reasoning. I’ve seen Wash use this same reasoning before. I understand it and I agree with it.

Trailing 3-2, Ian Kinsler led off the top of the fifth with a ground ball single to left field. This was only the Rangers second hit since the first inning. Both of those hits were ground ball singles. In other words, they weren’t hit very hard, they were just placed very well. Other than that, Texas had one fly out, five groundouts and three strikeouts against Chris Carpenter (who also had a walk and a HBP in this time). In other words, the Rangers weren’t hitting the ball very well off Carpenter and Kinsler’s hit didn’t do anything to alter the manager’s thinking that Carpenter had any less stuff. Andrus came to bat with almost as many strikeouts as he had hits in the World Series (8 hits, 7 K’s) and only one extra base hit in the Series. When his team isn’t hitting well, Wash uses things like the sacrifice bunt to try to make something happen. He’ll also use the Rangers speed. In this case, speed wasn’t an option. Yadier Molina pretty much clamped down on the Rangers running game the entire Series, so Wash went with the sacrifice bunt. In this case, it didn’t work. Josh Hamilton proceeded to foul out and Michael Young struck out to end the “threat”.

The intentional walk came in the bottom of the fifth. Scott Feldman had relieved Matt Harrison. Following a groundout to open the frame, Feldman walked Allen Craig and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. After a groundout put runners on second and third with two out, Wash had Feldman intentionally walk David Freese to load the bases. The rest is history. Yadier Molina walked on a pitch that looked like it was well within the lower part of the strike zone to be strike 3. Instead, a run came home. CJ Wilson relieved Feldman and hit Rafael Furcal, bringing home the 5th run of the game and the Series was essentially over at that point.

Again, here’s what I don’t understand. Countless times in countless ballgames, you will see a similar situation come up. Sometimes they pitch to the guy with runners on second and third and sometimes they walk the guy, intentionally or unintentionally-intentionally, in order to set up a force at any base. Most of the time in the latter cases, it’s because the batter is a particularly dangerous one, capable of doing severe damage with one swing of the bat. David Freese would seem to qualify on that count, seeing as he was named the World Series MVP. Admittedly, I’ve never read “The Book”, so I don’t know why this is such a bad percentage play, but I think I’d much rather face Molina with the bases loaded than Freese with two on. Just as Wash did.

I’m under no illusions. I know Wash makes some real head-scratching decisions at times. It just seems to me some folks get way too nit-picky in pointing out flaws in a manager’s logic. It’s possible to disagree without going to extra lengths to “prove” someone wrong. All it does is make guys like me write lengthy posts to “prove” he was right!

Ron Washington: Strategic Anti-Manager

If there’s one thing one can discern from visiting Texas Rangers fan sites, it is this: Ron Washington is not good at in-game management. Saberists on a daily basis are pretty quick to point out every case in which Wash didn’t do things by “The Book”. Not the Bible, not the Baseball Rule Book. “The Book” by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, in which the authors make eloquent saber-based arguments for the best percentage plays in certain game circumstances. Even if fans disregarded “The Book”, they would find plenty of other Wash sins of omission or commission during the course of a game. Sometimes, I think some of them are just making things up to let their distaste for the manager be known.

One can only imagine, then, the number of fans ready to pillory Washington for some of his moves during Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. I understand the feeling. These two losses rank up there as the most painful losses in Texas Rangers history. We as fans also like to look for scapegoats when losses occur, find someone to blame. The manager, of course, is first on the firing line.

I really didn’t want to revisit the last two games of the 2011 World Series. The wound is still pretty fresh to me. To some, this post might come too long after the fact to keep your interest. I understand that, too, but I feel the need to talk about it after reading one article on one of the sites I read on a regular basis.

The author, a saber-oriented guy who also says he likes Wash, wrote he was still bugged about the moves he made in Games 6 & 7. I don’t totally disagree with every single one of them, but feel strongly enough about the main ones that I wanted to put it out there and see what anyone else thought.

Here are the Wash criticisms he had in Game 6:

1) Not hitting for Colby Lewis with the bases loaded in the 5th inning.

2) Bringing in Alexi Ogando with the sacks jammed in the 6th.

3) Replacing Neftali Feliz with Darren Oliver in the 10th.

4) Pinch-hitting Esteban German for Scott Feldman in the 11th and bringing Mark Lowe in.

The first item is the biggest for me. Even Tim McCarver was saying the same thing on the national broadcast: you’ve GOT to pinch-hit for Lewis in this situation. And yet I disagree with the contention. In fact,I thought this non-move by Wash was what very nearly won the Rangers the World Series. At the time, Texas was up 4-3 on the Cards. The Cards had tied the game at 3 in the 4th, but this is what should also have been noted at the time: Lewis had not given up a hit since the 1st inning! The Cards went three up and three down in the 2nd and 3rd and scored their run in the 4th without benefit of a hit on an error, a walk and two groundouts. Lewis was hardly struggling massively at this time. By not pinch-hitting for Lewis, the Rangers may have lowered their scoring chances in the 5th, but they also ended up getting almost two more innings of work out of Lewis, including a 1-2-3 fifth. Looking at what the bullpen subsequently did, in retrospect it was the right move as well.

Item 2: I understand the contention about bringing Ogando in, only because Alexi did not have a good World Series. I don’t believe he even had one good game, except for his Game 7 one pitch outing.

Item 3: Again, I have no earthly idea why this was such a controversial decision on Wash’s part. Sure, Feliz is your closer, but he also had just finished giving up two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. How many relievers get the chance to go out for another inning after they’d already blown the save once? Some could argue maybe this is so, but Wash should have brought in Mike Gonzalez instead of Darren Oliver because Gonzalez throws harder. I might agree, except this was potentially the clinching game of the World Series. I would want my most experienced guy out there, the one whose nerves are probably the least on edge. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong choice, as Oliver picked a terrible time to have a bad game.

Item 4: Lastly there was the decision to pinch-hit for Feldman in the top of the 11th. Geez, first they take Wash to task for not pinch-hitting for the pitcher, then he gets it for pinch-hitting for the pitcher! Actually, I’m pretty sure the only reason Wash pinch-hit for his long reliever was because Nelson Cruz’ groin injury was enough to take him out of the game. I think Wash was hoping German could provide some offense to help put Texas on top again and get it over with quickly because he really didn’t have a decent right fielder if the game were to go on for a lot of innings. It was a calculated gamble that failed. As for bringing Lowe in for the 11th, it was either him or Gonzalez. There was no one else left in the bullpen.

Honestly, the Rangers didn’t lose Game 6 because of Wash. They lost it because in three distinct situations during the game, one of the Rangers made a poor decision in the field, a decision every single one of those players make correctly 999 times out of 1,000. Michael Young thought about going to second base instead of getting the sure out at first,  bobbled the ball as a result of his indecision and failed to get anyone out; Elvis Andrus passed up a throw for a force-out at second to throw Matt Holliday out at first and Holliday beat the throw; and Nelson Cruz either misjudged the flight of the ball or where the wall was on David Freese’s game tying ninth inning triple. I don’t blame Wash at all for the Game 6 loss. I thought all in all, he managed the game pretty well.

Wash may not always make decisions by “The Book”, but I think he also has a much better grasp on what’s going on in the game than a lot of people give him credit for. I don’t agree with every decision Wash makes (for example, I would’ve let Mike Adams start the 9th inning. He pitched a solid 8th and it would’ve taken some of the pressure off Feliz), but I’ve also come to understand the whys of some of the decisions he does make and find myself agreeing with his reasons more often than not.

This post is getting extremely long, so I’ll give my follow-up on the Game 7 decisions this weekend.

Denied. Again. Cardinals 6, Rangers 2

Anger. Disappointment. Frustration.

I admit it. Mere minutes after watching my beloved Rangers drop Game 7 of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, I can’t help but feel negative thoughts about this great group of 25 young men who came within an eyelash of being World Champions themselves. Anger at watching the offense once again fall victim to a finesse pitcher who looked very hittable in every one of the six plus innings he pitched. Disappointment in a pitching staff who looked more like they were trying to keep from losing than actually confidently going for a win. Frustration in knowing in my heart that my team was the better team but once again fell short of the prize they had worked all year for.

I’ve cited one Ron Washington before and I’ll cite him again. Wash always says it’s not about who has the best team but who plays the best baseball. In the case of this World Series, maybe that’s not even correct. The Cardinals didn’t play the best baseball, they played better baseball. Neither team played their best, really.

I hated seeing Chris Carpenter throw an assortment of junk and baffling the Rangers hitters, while at the same time thinking he probably deserves to be the Series MVP.

It’s hard watching a team celebrate their well-earned victory while knowing that, with the exception of the first baseman, I don’t know if they have any position players I’d rather have than their current Rangers counterpart (I really love Yadier Molina, though. Just wouldn’t swap him for Napoli considering the year he had this year.). I felt the same way about the Giants last year. Offensively, the Rangers have been the superior team going into the Series two years in a row. Two years in a row, the opposition’s offense found more ways to do the job, while their pitching staff figured out how to slow the Rangers down. Incredibly frustrating.

Nobody wants to believe this. I don’t want to believe it, but it’s time for American League folks to realize the National League has superior pitching. The Giants had it last year. The Cardinals had it this year. It sometimes seems baffling, because I see pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, who’ve been hit around when they were in the American League, resurrect their careers in the National League. In fact, four of the Cardinals pitchers were pitching in the American League earlier this season. One of them, Arthur Rhodes, pitched for the Rangers and did so poorly they had to release him. Naturally, he pitched well in the Series against Texas.

I had to watch a Game 6 in which both teams made really unnecessary and ugly errors, but it was the ones my team made that came at the most critical juncture of the game. I could live with the errors if they were honest ones. The ones Texas made late in the game came out of bad decisions, something I’ve rarely seen this team do: Elvis Andrus not throwing to second for a force-out, only to see Matt Holliday beat his throw to first; Michael Young thinking for a split second about throwing to second, then bobbling the ball and not even getting the out at first; Nelson Cruz apparently misjudging either how far away the wall was or where the ball was, resulting in David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th inning. I saw our starting pitchers, so good in the regular season, struggle night in and night out, with one glaring exception in Derek Holland. In Game 7, I could sense the fear in Matt Harrison’s eyes.

For two games, I got incredibly tired of the Cardinals scoring runs while hearing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver say “without a ball leaving the infield.” A World Series record number of walks. Not to mention the hit batters. Not pretty at all.

I’ve just heard David Freese announced as the MVP. Just as deserving as Carpenter, I suppose, but my goodness, that boy needs to work on his defense.

The good news for Texas is most of this team will be back in 2012. CJ Wilson may or may not be back, but he’s about the only critical piece. I just read today that pitching coach Mike Maddux may be considered for the Red Sox managing job. I hope that doesn’t happen. He’s been the best pitching coach in the history of the franchise.

One year ago, it was good to be there. Losing to the Giants in 5 games wasn’t fun, but for fans like me who’d never experienced it before, we were proud of our boys. This year, there were real expectations, and they almost came to fruition. One strike away. Twice. Like every other fan, and like every Rangers player, I’ll get over it soon enough. When late February comes around, I’ll have that same sense of optimism when the boys head to Surprise, Arizona for Spring Training. I also fully expect the Texas Rangers to be right back in the World Series hunt and maybe this time, they’ll get that final strike to put it away.

At this moment in time, though, this hurts. This hurts a lot. As much as it pains me to do so, in all sincerity I say congratulations St. Louis Cardinals. You deserved it. You really did.

Ginger Ale On Hold: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9

One strike away. Twice.

Disappointment reigns. All the signs pointed to the Rangers walking off the field as World Champions tonight yet, in the end, it was an exuberant Cardinals crowd cheering an extra innings victory on a David Freese home run.

Early on, it was a game nobody seemed to want to win. With fielding straight out of Little League, the unearned runs piled up as leads changed hands and ties were attained. The Rangers started out on top. The Cards would come back. The Rangers would retake the lead. The Cardinals would come back. First the runs scored on miscues by fielders. Then they started scoring on longballs. There was Adrian Beltre going yard. The Nelson Cruz made it back to back jacks. But here came the Cardinals, down to their last strike in the 9th, getting a 2-run triple when Cruz thought he was closer to the right field wall than he was and missed the catch, plating the tying runs.

An inning later, there was Josh Hamilton, going yard for the first time in the entire playoffs and putting the Rangers back up by two. But then there was Lance Berkman, tying the game with a single on a two-out, two-strike pitch, sending it to yet another extra frame and frustrating the Texas faithful.

Finally it was Freese, hitting a lead-off walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th to tie the Series at 3 games apiece and sending a drained Rangers fandom to bed with dreams of “What If’ dancing in their heads.

There were victims on both sides as well. Matt Holliday left the game with a severely jammed finger. Nelson Cruz looks like he tweaked his ever-problematic hamstring in the last inning, which probably accounted for Ron Washington’s strange decision to pinch-hit for Scott Feldman, his only long reliever. Mike Napoli almost went down when he twisted his ankle badly early in the game.

All night long, I felt confident this was the night. It kept looking that way. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan chastised me for starting a countdown in the 7th inning of outs needed to win it all. I was not deterred. Fans have their own superstitions. The countdown has usually been one of mine, but I trusted it was going to happen and I know this loss had nothing to do with my tweeting a countdown. Hey, I was wearing the same Rangers shirt I’ve worn for every win this Series tonight (now THAT was a superstition) and it didn’t work like a charm the way it did in games 2, 4 and 5. So, in a further slap int he face of superstitions, I’ll wear a different Rangers shirt for the decisive game Friday night.

More power to the Cards. They refused to die, just as the Rangers refused to die. I drink the Wash Kool-Aid now. I know exactly what he’s going to say at the post-game press conference. “We didn’t do it tonight. We’ll put it behind us, get a good night’s sleep and go do it again tomorrow and see if it works out better for us.”

The Rangers to a man believe that. I still believe it will, too.