Image Courtesy of CoxCarpentry.com
by Chris Kautz
How much would you pay for a 30 year old starting pitcher that just gave you a 16-7 record, 223 innings pitched, 206 strikeouts, and a 2.94 ERA? That's the question the Rangers are having to answer when considering resigning C.J. Wilson.
At the base of the situation is the argument of whether or not those are ace numbers that are worthy an ace contract going forward, which is what Wilson is reportedly seeking. For the sake of this comparison we'll exclude National League pitchers since they work under different rules. We'll also throw out the top guy in the American League, since nobody is comparing C.J. to the Cy Young winning Justin Verlander.
Jered Weaver (an undeniable ace, and second in Cy Young voting) had two more wins, 12 more innings pitched, eight fewer strikeouts, but a measureably better ERA at 2.41. James Shields (third in Cy Young voting) went 16-12 with 249 innings pitched, 225 strikeouts, and a 2.84 ERA. CC Sabathia (another undeniable ace, and fourth in Cy Young voting) posted just three more wins, four more innings pitched, 24 more strikeouts, and a .06 higher ERA.
You were just fed more stats in that last paragraph than you may ever be again in one of my articles. The point of that whole exercise was the fact that, despite having remarkable Shields like numbers, C.J. Wilson ended up sixth in Cy Young voting. He was behind Verlander, Weaver, Shields, Jose Valverde (a relief pitcher), and Sabathia.
If you've read much of what I've written you know that I'm not one that believes numbers and awards are the sole criteria by which to judge players. I do, however, think it is telling that the writers voted Wilson three places below Shields despite the very similar numbers. Maybe that's because of the still standing "east coast bias" in sports media. Maybe it's becuase these folks realized Wilson is pitching with one of the league's best defenses behind him. Maybe they also realized that, for a large portion of the season, he also had a very strong bullpen capable of turning even the smallest lead into a win.
The prevailing rumor is that Wilson is looking for a six year contract at $20 million per year. Anybody that has ever bought a car knows that the first offer is far from the best offer. Heck, Jered Weaver (a decidedly better pitcher) recently signed a new deal with the Angels for five years at an average of $17 millon a year. Sabathia was just signed to a new 5 year, $122 million deal. Both of these guys have been doing their thing a lot longer than Wilson. C.J. just wrapped up his second year as a starter. I would prefer a longer track record of success that we've been shown. During his two years starting he's been good, but not the best. To use an analogy from another sport, he's looking to get paid like Brady when he's performed like Romo.
You'll notice that, until now, I have not mentioned Wilson's postseason performance. To be blunt, it's been bad. The reason I've left it out is simple: the playoffs represent a comparitively small sample size to that of the regular season. It is entirely possible that a player can hit a skid going into the postseason. If Wilson had a 4-5 year record of playoff disappointment, it may signal that he's not a big moment guy. He's only had two years as a starter, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I try to be a fair guy. I try to evaluate situations without bias or prejudice. It's not that I don't want C.J. Wilson back in a Rangers uniform; it's just that, based on his asking price, I don't think he'll return for a reasonable amount of money.
As I've said before, I'm not a general manager. I can't give you dollar amount that I would be willing to pay Wilson. I would welcome him back with open arms if it were for a reasonable price that wouldn't jeopardize the club's ability to go after what they need in the future. I just don't think he'll settle for that. I think another team that is desperate will give him more than he deserves. I don't believe C.J. Wilson will wear a Ranger uniform for the 2012 season...and I'm okay with that.
Image courtesy BleacherReport.com
by Peter Ellwood
Who is the Texas Rangers center fielder in 2012? I have found myself pondering this question for a couple of weeks now. In retrospect, this has been a viable question since the 1999 season, when Tom Goodwin last patrolled the outfield at the Ballpark. Since that time, only Gary Matthews Jr. and Gabe Kapler led the team in consecutive seasons in games played in CF (and neither of those players ever felt like permanent fixtures). Every year has seemingly been a new audition for the CF of the future. 2012 will likely be no different.
The good news is that the Rangers have several candidates for the position.
It is difficult to say that Hamilton is still a candidate to play CF, at least not every day. He has the ability to play the position and to play it quite well. In fact, Hamilton playing CF would be the best case scenario, as that would allow David Murphy to play LF every day, and would give the Rangers their most offensively potent OF lineup possible, with Murphy-Hamilton-Cruz. The problem is that Hamilton is too big, too fast, and too brittle for his own good. In the minds of the Rangers braintrust, and evidence points to this, playing Hamilton in CF is an injury waiting to happen. His bat is too valuable to risk losing it for extended periods of the year (even though he hasn’t played a full season since 2008 anyway).
I really love to watch Gentry play baseball. He is a defensive weapon in CF, as his speed and ability to read the ball gives him the opportunity to catch anything. He also has the knack for the outstanding catch. And he is no Juan Pierre out there; he has an impressive throwing arm as well. He is scrappy at the plate, and is the best base stealer on the team. I root for Craig Gentry, and I want him on my team. I can’t say that he is an everyday CF though. He is too much of a liability at the plate to trot him out there with full confidence every day, and will likely be a 4th or 5th outfielder for the entirety of his career. But, he is an excellent 4th or 5th outfielder.
The Cuban defector who the Rangers invested 5 years and $15.5 million in could very well be the CF of the future for the Texas Rangers. Like Gentry, he is a defensive weapon with excellent speed and perhaps an even better arm. Unlike Gentry, he has also flashed the ability to hit the ball with authority. But Martin only has 351 plate appearances since coming to the United States, and is still just 23 years old. There are many who think he will not yet be ready to take the CF reins in 2012, and that would be just fine with me. The Rangers are in a position where they no longer have to rush prospects to the big leagues to put a competitive product on the field. If need be, Martin can stay in AAA a little while longer to develop his fielding, base running, and adjust to the higher quality of pitching seen stateside.
Not mentioned here are Endy Chavez and Julio Borbon, as Chavez has not yet re-signed with the Rangers (and I think would be the 4th-best alternative from this list), and Borbon has so regressed as a baseball player and prospect that it seems his fate is to be cut by the Rangers, or be included as a throw-in on a trade to another team.
If nothing changes from the way the roster is constructed today, it seems the most likely scenario is that we will see a platoon between Hamilton, Gentry, and maybe Martin throughout 2012. I believe the Rangers would receive a worthwhile contribution from the CF position with a full season of such a platoon.
However, if I were a betting man, I would suggest that the Rangers CF solution for 2012 is not yet on the roster. Some possible names that the Rangers may consider trading for would include: Marlon Byrd, Adam Jones, and B.J. Upton. The Rangers have already shown they are interested in adding to their CF alternatives by pursuing Grady Sizemore before he re-signed with Cleveland, as one of only two teams who were going to ask him to play CF, instead of a corner OF position.
I have fond memories of the days of Tom Goodwin, David Hulse, and Oddibe McDowell. But when I look back at their time in Texas, statistically, they were nothing special. I think what I miss is knowing I can depend on one guy to roam CF for my team, and give me confidence that he is going to be out there every day, ready to make every play. Here’s to hoping that in 2012, the Rangers move one step closer to having that kind of confidence in the center field position.
by Patrick Despain
In 2013, MLB will shift the Houston Astros from the now, 6 team NL Central, to the now, 4 team AL West. The right thing to do is to even the divisions. So come 2013 the AL West will look like this: (in alphabetical order)
Los Angeles Angels
MLB, in my opinion, took the easy way out. A total overhaul of the divisions should have taken place, but they simply took a Texas team (in the Central time zone) and moved it west to create a rivalry with another Texas team. The proximity of Houston to Dallas DOES create an in state rivalry, but beyond the great State of Texas, nobody is going to notice. Can it blossom into something more? Yes it can, but it takes something that is not so simple. Both teams have to win, and win consistently.
***I'm not going into what I think MLB should do, because it's too long and too complicated
Right now the Astros aren't very good. However, they have a new owner, a stadium that is current, and a fan base that is die-hard, just like your Rangers. Most fans of MLB that are not Houston fans, don't have the best perspective. When they think of the Astros, they think: Nolan Ryan, Bagwell, Biggio and a team that hasn't had a lot of post-season success.
When I look at the Astros, I see a franchise that has a good fan base, is a large market team, and got rid of a terrible owner. Remember, the Astros have had several trips to the postseason. They went to the World Series in 2005, and were beaten by the eventual World Champs, in 1980, 1981 and 1986. They also have made post-season trips in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2004. Aside from their lone World Series appearance, they have been to the NL Championship Series 4 times. This team has history.
Let's shift gears a bit.
Let me ask you this. Is there are team in the AL West that you absolutely despise? Most of you will say the Angels. In 1996, were you saying that? I doubt it. The AL West does not have a knock down, drag out rivalry. We have no Red Sox/Yankees or Cubs/Cardinals or Giants/Dodgers. Yes, I know, other than Oakland, these are all expansion teams at one point, and those rivalries I mentioned have 100 years history.
If you are a Houston fan, is there a team in the NL Central that you love to hate? I bet you say St. Louis. I also bet that a St. Louis fan doesn't say the Astros when they are asked that question, they say the Cubs. Houston, also does not have a knock down drag out rival in the NL.
My point is this. Moving the Astros to the AL West may do one thing for both teams. Instead of playing for Silver Boot, they could be playing for something more. Neither team has it, both teams need it: A consistent dislike for another team. I would love to see the Rangers and Astros playing for the AL West title in the last week of September in 2016. I hope we see it.
I said at the beginning that MLB took the easy way out, but it may work out in the long run.
by Dan Allsup
Much has been made of Neftali Feliz officially being moved to the rotation. The addition of Joe Nathan was a dual move to free Feliz from the bullpen. With that move, many writers ran to the narrative that Feliz has a lot of history against him, in that he blew a monumental save in Game 6 of the World Series.
They compared Feliz to Byung-Hyun Kim who blew back to back saves in Game 4 and 5 in the 2001 World Series. The Diamondbacks prevailed, in spite of Kim, over the Yankees to win in seven. They claimed that Kim’s career was never the same; all while overlooking that 2002 was Kim’s best season of his career going to his only All-Star Game and posting his highest WAR (wins of replacement) of 3.9.
I just want to bring you the truth. Now, I don’t intend to tell you how well Feliz will pitch next year. I will, however, lay the numbers of comparable pitchers to the situation the Feliz now faces to see what we can draw from it.
Byung-Hyun Kim 4 seasons of relief [279 IP] [347 K] [1.1 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 4.42] [1.37] [W-L 54-60]
Ryan Dempster 4 seasons of relief [253 IP] [229 K] [1.4 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 4.41] [WHIP 1.45] [W-L 112-116]
Vicente Padilla 2 seasons of relief [101 IP] [80 K] [1.5 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 4.31] [WHIP 1.37] [W-L 104-90]
Kelvim Escobar 2 seasons of relief [110.2 IP ] [108 K] [1.4 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 4.15] [WHIP 1.37][ W-L 101-91]
Derek Lowe 5 seasons of relief [484 IP] [370 K] [ 1.2 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 3.94] [WHIP 1.31] [ W-L 166-146]
C.J. Wilson 5 seasons of relief [281 IP] [261 K] [1.4 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 3.60] [WHIP 1.29] [W-L 43-35]
Alexi Ogando 1 season of relief [41 IP] [39 K] [1.1 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 3.08] [WHIP 1.13] [W-L 17-9]
Pedro Martinez 1 season of relief [115 IP] [127 K] [1.2 WHIP] /// Career: [ERA 2.93] [WHIP 1.05] [W-L 219-100]
Neftali Feliz 3 seasons of relief [162.2 IP] [164 K] [.947 WHIP] /// Career: Somewhere between BHK and Pedro
Padilla, Escobar, Dempster, Lowe, C.J. and Pedro were all starters in the minors like Feliz. Ogando and Kim were not brought up as starters. Interestingly Lowe was a reliever for his first five seasons even though he was starter throughout the minors.
Kim’s repertoire never played up well as a starter. Dempster’s relief years were in the middle of his career. He’s been adequate-to-average. Padilla has been a useful starter, even while having a perpetual out-of-the-shower-sweat-fest look.
Escobar was good until injuries caught up to him. Lowe has also been a serviceable pitcher for quite a while but he’s a completely different style of pitcher than Feliz. C.J. has gone from failed reliever to successful starter, somehow. Ogando faded down the stretch. His ability and stamina in the rotation will be further monitored this season.
That leaves just Pedro and Feliz, (thankfully not Pedro Feliz). Feliz somehow reminds me of Pedro, even though Feliz is four inches taller and forty-five pounds stronger. If Kim is the floor, then Pedro is the ceiling for Feliz, right. That’s exciting to know something special could happen every fifth day. The Rangers recent success in converting relievers to All-Star starters provides further optimism.
The comparable dominant relievers to Feliz are Kim, Ogando and Pedro. The other pitchers were just not as successful as these four in relief. Kim was a submarine pitcher, which hitters just needed time to figure out. Feliz throws over the top, and very hard, very easily. Neftali Feliz is not and will not be Byung-Hyun Kim.
That leaves Ogando and Pedro as the closest comparisons. Ogando had never been a starter before and was thrust into the role the Rangers had saved for Feliz. Feliz was moved back to the ‘pen because Mark Lowe was incompetent. Ogando was seen a fill-in for a few weeks until Tommy Hunter would return. Ogando was a last resort, and he went to the All-Star Game. Ogando could be even better with time to prepare and a year of experience in his arm.
Some want to conclude the rest of Feliz’s career over one inning (which would have ended triumphantly if Nelson Cruz would’ve got there in time). I’d rather look at the whole body of work if I’m going to conclude something.
Feliz was brought up as a starter and was dominant as a closer. Other relief pitchers who made the same crossover as Feliz will do in 2012, did so will varying degrees of success. Feliz was better than all of the comparable relievers. He could be better than all of them as starters. And the Rangers have successfully moved C.J. and Ogando to the rotation. This all enhances the likelihood that Feliz will have a successful season in 2012.
There may be one dark cloud looming over Feliz’s career now; but further ahead it’s all sunshine and daffodils for Feliz and the Rangers.
by Danny Fowler
Hello friends of the program, it has been a long time since I put pen to paper for the SDI team and for that I apologize. I needed some time to recover from what was, to say the least, a heart wrenching loss in the World Series to a St. Louis team that had half the talent and twice the luck of our beloved Texas Rangers. I’m not going to give you a breakdown of rosters or trade possibilities because to be honest I’m not well enough versed on possible moves and second I don’t really care.
Let’s be honest I love the product and I do love watching the Rangers day in and day out, I would like to see them get a first baseman and a very expensive pitcher from the far east but I can’t truly tell you what our chances are with any of those moves. I am however still caught up in the loss and how let down I am that we were a difficult but manageable catch away from being the World Series champions. Baseball is full of what ifs and unfortunately this series will always be a “what if” to this fan base. What if Nelly made the catch? What if Josh didn’t have incredible pain in his man areas? What if C.J. Wilson wasn’t a super douche who is as big game prepared as “wide right” Scott Norwood for the Buffalo Bills?
I will no doubt on opening day ‘12 start to move on from my pessimistic attitude towards last years’ debacle but for millennia to come I will be “what iffing” in my head regardless of what my mouth says. Sports hell is lined with teams that got there but couldn’t finish and I’m hoping from the bottom of my heart that John Daniels has the magic to put together the missing pieces that will allow us to return to the World Series. We have had two trips in a row and that is all you can wish for as a fan of a sports team, asking for three in a row is downright ridiculous. We can all hope that baseball God will allow us a third trip but chances are we may have to wait a while. What can I say?
With all the crazy stuff that goes through my tiny brain you’d think I would just say that we will be there next year but I have to draw the line somewhere. Come April 1st I will completely ditch this rational train of thought and be all in the “Series or Bust mentality” but I wanted to take this morning to throw out the one rational thought this column may ever provide.
by Peter Ellwood
Going into the 2011 season, the Texas Rangers bullpen looked like this:
Closer – Neftali Feliz
Set Up – Darren O’Day
Set Up – Arthur Rhodes
Middle Reliever – Mark Lowe
Middle Reliever – Darren Oliver
Middle Reliever – Pedro Strop
Middle Reliever – Mason Tobin
Long Reliever – Dave Bush
Only three of those eight pitchers finished the season on the Rangers active roster, and with good reason. O’Day couldn’t ever get healthy, Tobin had a season-ending injury (and was not very useful prior to it), and Rhodes, Strop, Tobin, and Bush were all incredibly ineffective in their time off the mound.
Beyond this initial group of relievers, the Rangers also rolled out the likes of Ryan Tucker, Cody Eppley, Michael Kirkman, and Brett Tomko to try to patch up the back end of games at the beginning of the 2011 season. And I’m not including Mark Hamburger and Merkin Valdez, because they were expanded September roster additions, and weren’t relied on for meaningful innings like these other names were.
After looking at those names again, it’s a little shocking just how bad the Rangers bullpen was during April – June of 2011. The combined ERAs of those nine players I’ve just mentioned in 2011 was 5.76. The scary part is that they were asked to pitch 31% of the innings pitched by the Rangers bullpen in 2011.
Going into the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers will look like this:
Closer – Joe Nathan
Set Up – Mike Adams
Set Up – Koji Uehara
Middle Reliever – Darren Oliver (not yet signed – my guess)
Middle Reliever – Mark Lowe
Middle Reliever – Michael Gonzalez (not yet signed – my guess)
Middle Reliever – Yoshi Tateyama
Long Reliever – Scott Feldman
***The 2nd Set Up role I penciled in as Uehara, but it all depends on how he performs in Spring Training and the start of 2012, after his poor 2011 postseason performance. He could very easily rotate with Lowe, Gonzalez, or Oliver between the Set Up and Middle Relief position.
The contrast between the 2011 and 2012 bullpen is incredible. The 2011 bullpen was filled with inexperience and journeyman. The 2012 bullpen is being constructed with a purpose, methodically, and with talent.
Perhaps the greatest part about the current construction of the 2012 bullpen is that it is November, and we only have two real question marks about roles to be filled. November. Not March 30th like in 2011.
There are a lot of things changing in baseball with the new CBA in regards to talent acquisition and roster management, as others have discussed already on this site. One thing that is important to reiterate is that the Rangers front office, led by Jon Daniels, is among the best of the business. And we can trust that they will continue to steer this ship in the right direction.
Look at that. I made it through a whole article without any jokes involving hashtags about the current state of the bullpen. But, let’s just say it’s growing very strong.
by Dan Allsup
There's always next year.
I'm not referring to the 162 game season, but the offseason. There's a possibility the Rangers "lose" out on everyone this winter. No Fielder, Pujols, Darvish, C.J. or Buerhle is somewhere between possibility and reality.
It seems the Rangers front office is reluctant to alter the composition and chemistry of a team that was painstakingly close to winning it all. It would be reasonable for them to make just a few tweaks here and there. Even more so I believe the Rangers' philosophy is wait. Wait for the right opportunity to pounce, which I believe is next offseason when Zack Greinke will be 29 years young, and a free agent for all.
The Rangers went hard after Greinke via trade last offseason. The Royals wanted a King's ransom for Greinke, particularly if they were going to trade him in the same league. The Royals eventually traded him to the Brewers for what was perceived as a lesser deal than what the Rangers had offered. No team will stand in the Rangers way of Greinke next winter, if they are so inclined.
Speaking of next year's free agents- it's littered with Rangers. Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis and Ian Kinsler has an option for 2013 at $10 million. "If it was time" 2011, its now time to pay 2013 with the future free agent crop. Building a winner is tough, keeping it together is even harder.
The Rangers are weighing the options of each extension, trade or free agent signing. Which is why, it's likely nothing major will get done this offseason, the team is already great and many players should continue improving like Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland and Leonys Martin.
Its tough for fans to swallow, they want immediate improvements to ensure a World Series victory. Nothing is insured in the winter. It never works that way, the Phillies and Red Sox "won" last winter, but never truly won anything during the season, but huge contracts (Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee). It will be quite alright with me if the Rangers "lose" again this winter.
by Chris Kautz
MLB recently announced a new 5 year collective bargaining agreement. The good news is that Major League Baseball will continue uninterrupted by labor issues for at least five more years. The bad news is that a major tool has been taken away from the Rangers in the process.
To be more fair, the tool hasn't been taken away; it's use has just been severely limited. For the past few years, Jon Daniels and crew have stocked the Rangers farm system with international talent. Their operations in The Dominican Republic and Venezuela have been stepped up, and they have produced more talent for the Rangers from those countries than probably any other major league team. That's not to mention the harvesting that was recently done from Cuba. The past year the Rangers payed out $17.6 million in bonuses to intertional free agents.
Going forward, the new CBA will cap that amount at $2.9 million. It's entirely possible that the Rangers knew this restriction was in the works and wanted to do as much as they could before it took effect. Whatever the case, a tactic that JD and his staff have invested significant time, personnel, and money in is no longer as viable as it once was. Fortunately, everyone else will be limited in the same way. The front office has proved to be extrememly resourceful, and I have large amounts of faith in their ability to adapt to the new restrictions.
Heck, they've earned my trust in just about anything they decide to do.
by Dan Allsup
Rangers GM Jon Daniels made a move to avoid being "held hostage" by the market. In the off-season the dominoes fall in certain order. Sometimes you miss opportunities, like Cliff Lee. Sometimes the dominoes fall in a sublime order, like when Angels former GM Tony Reagins passed along Mike Napoli to Toronto, only for him to be a Ranger three days later. Joe Nathan has jumped aboard the two-time AL champion ship, signing for two years at $14.5 million. Joe Nathan will likely not be a sublime move, nor as good as the Napoli move. Does it need to be? Feliz himself wasn't as good as the 2010 Feliz and the overall result was the same, World Series loss. I have found nowhere that the Rangers have made Nathan the unequivocal closer for the 2012 season. I did see that before Nathan signed he was preferring a team where he could close. Two and two equals, Nathan as closer. Mike Adams will get save opportunities at some point in 2012, he may even be 'the guy', who knows. Concrete roster decisions are made at the end of March not November. Adding Nathan to the bullpen, should strengthen the quality of Adams performance. Much like when Adams arrived and Neftali Feliz suddenly got locked in. Competition is good, assigning positions and roles negates some incentive to play well to keep your job. Adams and Nathan should play well off of each other, while looking over each other's shoulders. Would Nathan still be here if Feliz hammered the last nail in the coffin, in Game 6? Would Nathan be here if Adams would've been more dominant in the playoffs? The Rangers wanted Feliz in the rotation for 2012, irregardless of what happened in the postseason. However, if Adams would've been better in the playoffs (2.04 WHIP), I do not think the Rangers would've spent $14.5 million dollars on another option at closer. They still would've added someone to fill a role in the 'pen, but it would've been at a much smaller amount and smaller role. This is a double-sided move: Nathan in at closer, Feliz into the rotation. Last season the Rangers failed to acquire anyone to be an adequate arm to close games, thus Feliz was cast to be the closer again. Feliz had a good showing in Spring Training 2010, but with no one solidifying a role at the end of the bullpen, the Rangers hand was forced. I do not find it a coincidence that this is the first move made by JD. Not getting another closer sooner than late July (Adams), is something he probably regrets of the 2011 season. JD is not getting pressed into a situation, instead he's pressing the issue- making Nathan a closer, making Feliz a starter, and making C.J. Wilson all-but-gone. Bob Garber, Wilson's agent, has some work to do because he now has nominal leverage with the Rangers to work with. The Rangers don't need C.J. and don't have a spot for him either. I see no scenario where C.J. is a Ranger going forward. We know C.J. is looking for around $100 million. Feliz will earn less than $1 million in 2012, and he could very well be better than C.J. in 2012. I'm not sure how straight-edge Feliz is, or how left-handed he is, or if he can #throwstrikes better than C.J. I do know that he isn't worth $100 million to the Rangers anymore though. Comparatively, Feliz will be worth exponentially more than the million or so he'll take to the bank. That leaves us with several months to talk about how Feliz will/won't be awesome this year as a starter. And as far as pitching goes, it's unlikely there will be anymore big splashes. Even JD acknowledged the Rangers were sitting pretty with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and Scott Feldman in the rotation. The bullpen will feature Nathan, Adams, Koji Uehara and possibly lefty Mike Gonzalez, who is a free agent himself. That basically leaves just the mid-reliever/spare parts-reliever roles open, hardly anything big on the horizon there. That doesn't mean JD will be skipping the winter meetings, which is December, 5th-8th in Dallas. No, as always JD will be working the phones and we will all have no idea what he is going to do. JD & Co. are silent assassins, the media never has a whiff of what they are doing, nobody leaks anything from that front office. Did anybody hear about Joe Nathan until it was nearly done, nope. They will be fast at work, seeing if there's anyway to improve upon a team that was utterly close to a championship. They will not be adding another starter unless he is better than what they can run out there right now. They will likely bring some non-roster invitees to Spring Training who could help in a pinch, similar to Dave Bush and Brett Tomko last season. No one will be added unless it's a front-line starter though, something that many are predicting not to be available this winter. Yu Darvish, it would seem, is still on the Rangers radar; as he would be seen as an upgrade in the rotation if they are willing to meet the asking price. Overall, signing Joe Nathan is an excellent move, specifically for the timing. Feliz gets all off-season to work-out and mentally prepare to be a starter. The Rangers have no pressure to sign C.J. or Darvish. JD is spending more time this off-season dictating the market rather than being "held hostage".
by Dan Allsup
Yu Darvish is half Iranian, half Japanese and half of what I’ve spent my time thinking about over the past few days. The general media wants to put young Yu in a Japanese box. Problem is, Darvish is six foot five, and doesn’t fit the Japanese pitcher mold.
Somehow most everyone has disregarded the notion that Darvish, may just be cut from a different cloth (Iranian). The central theme with Darvish is that he will be a bust and break down like the Japanese imports before him; thus he will never reach the insurmountable hype of his arrival in the states.
You see, in the states we have a tendency to over-value the unknown. Hence, every Japanese pitcher is better than the last. Darvish is considered better than Dice-K. Dice-K was regarded higher than Kei Igawa and Hideki Irabu. Irabu more than Hideki Nomo. See the trend. So who is better than Yu Darvish? These imports keep getting better every year I guess, maybe Darvish can meet his expectations, or maybe we should just lower ours.
As I stated earlier, Darvish is 6-5. All other prominent Japanese pitchers who have gave MLB a whirl, were all six foot to six-one. The exception was Hideki Irabu, who was 6-4. Irabu, we will ignore for comparison sakes, because he was never dominant in the Japan or in America.
Kei Igawa is the utmost cautionary tale in signing pitchers out of Japan. He was posted at age 27 after averaging around 200 innings for six seasons. His ERA ranged from 2.49 to 3.86 in those seasons. Igawa fetched a cool $26 million for the Hanshin Tigers, then proceeded to obtain a $20 million pact over five seasons from the Yankees. He has fallen right on his face: 71 innings with a hellish 6.66 ERA. He is now biding his time in AAA; and has been for the past two seasons with marginal results.
Darvish will not be Igawa because his body his far more physical to handle the riggers of shorter rest. Darvish was used like a MLB pitcher in the second half of his season and showed now signs of wear. In Japan they typically get five to six days off, as opposed to four in the states. Overall Darvish is far more polished than Igawa. Igawa is not even the floor in what to expect from Darvish, he’s more like the basement.
Daisuke Matsusaka never had an ERA below two in his eight seasons with the Seibu Lions. Yu Darvish hasn’t posted an ERA above two since he was a teenager. Darvish is now 25. Dice-K netted the Lions more than $51 million through the posting process. Since Dice-K has returned little on the Red Sox’s investment, it has been widely speculated than Darvish will get a lower posting fee. Count me in, lower cost, better pitcher.
The Red Sox spoiled Dice-K at every turn to smooth his transition to the states. He compiled 61 starts in his first two seasons before succumbing to injuries; and now will have an abbreviated sixth season as he is going through Tommy John surgery. Injuries are always apart of the free agent risk.
Tell me, who is more likely to stay injury free for the next four seasons, C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish? Both are high risks, but Darvish is six years younger and more likely to obtain “ace” status.
Hiroki Kuroda is unique to other Japanese pitchers. First, he’s never missed huge portions of seasons due to injuries. Secondly, he doesn’t have overpowering pitches, which typically relegates you to the bullpen. Kuroda has had continued success in MLB because he assimilated himself into American culture. Front office executives say that embracing the world around them, has helped the transition for Japanese ballplayers. Darvish is a media darling in Japan, so he isn’t likely to become a hermit crab all of a sudden. Also, Kuroda was excellent in Japan, but Darvish has been even better.
The holy grail of Japanese pitchers, Hideo Nomo.
Nomo was comparable to Dice-K in his five seasons with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, averaging 234 innings pitched in his first four seasons. Nomo amassed 1678 innings pitched when he crumbled at age 29, only to resurface at age 33 again with the Dodgers. He finished career with 3024 innings pitched total in Japan and MLB. He had career 4.24 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in the states.
Some may disagree that Nomo was the best Japanese pitcher to cross the sea. But, the fact that he tanked and fought to get back to the level he once was at, says a lot about him. Nomo is probably the ceiling for Darvish.
The technology, stats, nutrition and accommodations today along with Darvish’s size and ability give him the utmost ability to break out of the “Japanese box” and put his ceiling through the roof past Nomo and into the attic.