Texas Rangers: Rangers

I walked out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on this date last year, thankful that I was on the road with the club for that particular portion of the road trip. The Rangers were going to a few cities, but we decided on Baltimore because it was four weekday games and a team that featured a former Ranger manager (Buck Showalter) and a collection of former Rangers (Tommy Hunter, Chris Davis, Darren O'Day).

What no one knew was that Josh Hamilton was going to have one of the greatest games by a hitter in baseball history. As soon as Hamilton hit the third of his three home runs, I was busy writing a news story for ESPN.com. Three homers is certainly a monster game and I was impressed because he'd just hit the third off a reliever. It wasn't as if he simply had starter Jake Arrieta's number. And I knew he would face a different pitcher in his next -- and final -- at-bat.

The next at-bat had the entire stadium buzzing. A visiting stadium, mind you. The game was out of hand, but most of the Oriole fans (it wasn't a huge attendance night anyway) stayed to see what Hamilton might do. When he hit the final homer off O'Day, the Baltimore fans gave him a standing ovation, aware they were seeing history.

It's amazing how different things are today for Hamilton. He comes into the game hitting just .202 with two homers and nine RBIs. He's got a .535 OPS. Last year, he was hitting .376 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs going into the four-homer game. He had a stout 1.138 OPS, tops in the league.

But since that four-homer game, Hamilton has hit just .244. He hasn't been close to the same player and remains in a funk despite a new location. Can he turn it around tonight on the anniversary of his four-homer game?

Nelson Cruz leaves with left elbow contusion

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
11:02
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- What initially appeared to be a ninth-inning defensive switch turned out to be a left elbow contusion for Nelson Cruz stemming from getting hit by a James Shields curveball in the fifth inning.

X-rays were negative and there was no indication from the club regarding Cruz's availability for Wednesday's series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Cruz seemed to actually allow the 2-2 pitch to hit him as he led off the inning. He was clearly stung at the time and was checked out by Rangers head athletic trainer Jamie Reed before making his way to first base. He remained in the game until the top of the ninth when Craig Gentry checked into center field, which moved Josh Hamilton to left and David Murphy into Cruz's spot in right field.

Lineup: Mitch Moreland starts at 1B

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
9:01
PM CT
SEATTLE, Wash. -- We're all set here in Seattle for the first of a three-game set between the Rangers and Mariners. Michael Young shifts back to the designated hitter spot and Mitch Moreland gets the start at first base. Here are the lineups:

Rangers
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton (L)
3B Adrian Beltre
LF David Murphy (L)
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland (L)

Mariners
2B Dustin Ackley (L)
CF Michael Saunders (L)
RF Ichiro Suzuki (L)
3B Kyle Seager (L)
DH Jesus Montero
1B Justin Smoak (S)
C John Jaso (C)
LF Mike Carp (L)
SS Brendan Ryan

Projecting how Yu Darvish will do in Texas

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
8:30
AM CT


Don't we all love projections? Dan Szymborski of the Baseball Think Factory looked into some computer models on how Darvish would do in Texas the next five years (and what he might be worth). Here's a look:

Using his ZiPS projections, Szymborski has Darvish's numbers for 2011-2016:

2012: 13-7, 3.62 ERA with 46 walks, 169 strikeouts and a 4.5 WAR
2013: 13-7, 3.55 ERA with 44 walks, 167 strikeouts and a 4.7 WAR
2014: 13-7, 3.52 ERA with 42 walks, 163 strikeouts and a 4.6 WAR
2015: 12-6, 3.54 ERA with 39 walks, 153 strikeouts and a 4.3 WAR
2016: 11-6, 3.46 ERA with 38 walks, 150 strikeouts and a 4.3 WAR

As for what Darvish might be worth, here's part of Szymborski's column (you can read the entire version here as long as you have an ESPN Insider account):
If we consider that a win costs about $4.7 million on the open market and we assume 3 percent yearly growth, Darvish's performance over the next five years will run you roughly $100 million on the free-agent market. And while Darvish will likely cost more than that to Texas when you factor in the posting fee, he's unlikely to get a contract that large for himself since he can only negotiate with one team.

What makes this particular signing more risky than the average pitcher is simply the amount of uncertainty we have as to projecting Darvish going forward. Even with a dependable and long record of major league stats and full staffs of various trainers, coaches, scouts, and statheads, teams frequently whiff on guessing what a pitcher will do in the future.

Japan's professional league is a very high level of play, somewhere between Triple-A and the majors, but there's still a lot we don't know about how Japanese pitchers will fare in MLB. Going back through history, there are only 21 pitchers that had full-time jobs in Japan who went on to pitch 50 innings in the majors. That's the extent of our knowledge of how Japanese pitchers fare in the majors.

What can conclusions can we draw from 21 pitchers? Unfortunately, not a whole lot, given what a mixed bag the results have been. Some pitchers have been extraordinarily successful in the MLB, such as Hiroki Kuroda or Takashi Saito. Some have been flops, like notorious New York Yankees hurler Kei Igawa. Some are in the middle.

Using the simplest regression technique, linear regression, comes up with an r-squared of 0.08. What this means, in layman's terms, is that only 8 percent of the differences between ERAs in Japan explains the differences between ERAs in the U.S. The rest of the difference in performance are things that we can't really quantify with such a small sample size.

In terms of Darvish, it means that there is a sizeable amount of risk. While it's unlikely that Darvish would pitch as poorly in the U.S. as Igawa has, Daisuke Matsuzaka, generally believed to be a disappointment, is a better pitcher than Darvish's downside.

But the news isn't all gloomy. Even with the risk associated with signing a Japanese pitcher, the chances are very good that the Rangers will be getting a star pitcher for years to come. In Darvish's favor is that he's been more successful in Japan than any other migrated hurler. Despite only being 25 and pitching in NPB since age 19, Darvish has a career 1.99 ERA in Japan at ages when most pitchers are still learning their craft. Matsuzaka was a star in Japan as well, with the lowest Japanese ERA of any starter to come over, but even his 2.95 ERA in Japan pales in comparison.

That's, obviously, just one man's opinion. But I found it interesting and thought I'd pass it along. We'll file this away and see how close these projections are in a few years.

Trade talk: Ubaldo Jimenez

July, 28, 2011
7/28/11
11:13
AM CT
There's been a lot of talk the past few days about the Rockies discussing Ubaldo Jimenez with teams prior to the deadline.

That's intriguing because Jimenez is a top-flight rotation guy who is not a rental. He's 27 years old, has stuff good enough to win 19 games last year and is under team control for two more years at $9.95 million combined. The question is how you define his value. If you consider him a No. 2 guy, that impacts what you're willing to give up.

He's just the type of guy the Rangers would have interest in, but the Rockies are wanting to hit a grand slam here. They would a huge package of prospects and Jason Stark said that includes a pitcher ready to step into the rotation by mid-season 2012. The Rangers have prospects, but do they want to part with Martin Perez or even a Derek Holland (I'm just throwing out names of pitchers that could be ready in that timeframe) and a few others to get Jimenez? Is there another package that might work? Tough to say since other teams are interested and might be willing to pay the price the Rockies set and because bullpen help remains Texas' top priority.

Colorado is in a good spot here. They can sit back, hang a hefty price tag on Jimenez and sell only if they get their price. If they don't, they'll keep him and either entertain offers at a later date or let him remain a top-flight guy in their rotation.

It's tempting to think about Jimenez in that Rangers rotation. It would make it better immediately. But Jimenez is not Cliff Lee. And if that's the type of package the Rockies want, I think the Rangers in a position where they can stick with the rotation they've got now (after all, all five guys have at least eight wins). Don't forget that GM Jon Daniels' job is to balance winning now and keeping a window of winning open for as long as he can. That means knowing when to go "all in" and when not to. Jimenez would be a great addition. But he's not the impact starter Lee was for this team in 2010. Just my opinion.

What would you be willing to give up for Jimenez? Is he worth shipping off Perez and others?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michael Young reiterated Tuesday that he wasn't concerned he didn't get a chance to hit for the cycle Monday.

Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted that he didn't know Young was homer shy of the cycle. He figured the DH had two doubles, but instead Young had a triple as he prepared for his final at-bat. Washington put Mike Napoli in as a pinch hitter.

Young said after Monday's game he didn't care and made the point for a bunch of TV cameras and reporters again Tuesday when asked about it.

Washington felt bad about denying Young a second chance at the cycle in Monday's blowout victory over Baltimore.

Washington pinch-hit for Young in the eighth inning of the 13-4 game because he mistook Young's triple for another double. Young came up a home run short of the cycle.

Young, who has seven homers on the season, didn't think getting pulled for Mike Napoli was a big deal.

"It's not like I had a single to go," Young said. "I had a homer to go. It's not like I can sit and walk up there and go deep. If I could do that, trust me, I wouldn't have seven homers this season. I like the fact that Wash wanted to get Nap an at-bat."

That's typical Young. He's not worried about that kind of individual honor. He was just glad his team got a win. Young had three hits again on Tuesday and how has 13 games with at least three hits on the season, second-most in the American League. He was selected by the players to his seventh All-Star Game.

Rangers minor leaguer suspended

July, 20, 2010
7/20/10
5:35
PM CT
Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Rangers minor league outfielder Cristian Santana, who is playing for Class A Hickory, has received a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Formestane, a performance-enhancing substance. That is is violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program.

The suspension is effective immediately, according to the MLB news release.

"We're disappointed," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "We educate our players on the drug policy and make sure they know they can talk to trainers about any over the counter substances to make sure they are in line with Major League Baseball's rules. We will get him all the education he needs and make sure he's back on his feet and doing things right."

Levine said Santana did appeal the decision, but the suspension stands.

Santana, signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, is batting .260 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs in 75 games (273 at-bats) for Hickory this season. He spent last season in Hickory as well.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Yu Darvish
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.88 154 122
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Beltre .325
HRA. Beltre 14
RBIA. Beltre 53
RA. Beltre 52
OPSA. Beltre .889
ERAY. Darvish 2.88
SOY. Darvish 154