SDI Staff Writers Chris Kautz and Mike McGehee join the podcast for a commentary on Gio Gonzalez, who to extend, and the Rangers farm system.
Image courtesy of www.texasrangers.com
by Dan Allsup
This is the opposite of last off-season. The Rangers went after Cliff Lee, narrowly missed and had to move on to "Plan B", Adrian Beltre, which worked out very nicely. This year, the Rangers won the Yu Darvish bidding, "Plan A", they now have 30 days to hammer out a deal. Everything is likely to be put on hold until Darvish has signed. Once Darvish dons #11 at his press conference in Arlington, the Rangers can move on and further improve the team.
A month ago, I compiled a board of 30 players, whom the Rangers were likely to target. The board is now down to 20, and has been updated. This list is not a most-to-least talented, but rather a priority list, of players that make the most since, dollars and prospects-wise to the Rangers. For example, Yu Darvish is "Plan A" and Juan Carlos Oviedo is the Rangers' "Plan Z-4".
1) Yu Darvish- SP, Nippon-Ham Fighters, 25, free agent with posting fee
"Plan A" BINGO The Rangers won the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish for nearly $52 million.
2) Christopher John Wilson- SP, Texas Rangers, 30, free agent type A
"Plan B" never really got off the ground. The Rangers had all their attention and dollars earmarked for Darvish. C.J. signed with the Angels for a reasonable 5 years and $77.5 million.
3) Prince Fielder- 1B, Milwaukee Brewers, 27, free agent type A
"Plan C": Did you see the offense and defense the Rangers rolled out in the playoffs at first base? But, Nolan Ryan and JD have stated Mitch Moreland is the 2012 first-baseman. However, there’s a mild chance Moreland is dealt for another piece of the puzzle. Michael Young has neither the glove or power for 1B. Mike Napoli is a great asset behind the plate and an average one at 1B. The Rangers could still go hard after Fielder, even after committing big dollars for Darvish.
4) James Shields- SP, Tampa Bay Rays, 29
"Plan D": Shields just got about a $3 million bump in salary from the Rays- that means they’ll be looking to deal him. The Rays however are known to be tough negotiators and will try to hold the Rangers up for their best prospects. Last year the Rangers wanted a deal featuring Derek Holland and others for Matt Garza. The fact that Shields has two more seasons of options after 2012, makes him doubly intriguing.
5) B.J. Upton- CF, Tampa Bay Rays, 27
Upton is due a raise through salary arbitration which might put him on the market with Shields. Upton hits in a pitcher’s park, and has hit well on the road, and hits in a lineup with multiple offensively challenged hitters. If he moved to RBiA and into the Rangers lineup, with plenty of runners on base and protection, oh, and in a contract year, I could see Upton having a huge year in a Rangers uniform in 2012.
6) Matt Cain- SP, San Francisco Giants, 27
The Giants will could be tempted to move Cain now or at the trading deadline. He is due $15 million in 2012, also a contract year. If the right offensive pieces are dangled, the Giants would have to listen. The Rangers have plenty of offense to go around. Problem with Cain is that he is a heavy fly-ball pitcher to the Colby Lewis degree; only, Cain has somehow managed to avoid the long ball. That being said, there is a likelihood he could tank in the AL and in RBiA.
7) Jonathan Papelbon- RP, Boston Red Sox, 30, free agent type A
The Philadelphia Phillies wasted no time in giving Papelbon a terrible contract.
8 ) John Danks- SP, Chicago White Sox, 26
The White Sox are always looking to deal, and even more so after a disappointing season. Danks is one year away from free agency, so the Sox might not see him in their long-term plans. Jon Daniels can redeem himself for dealing away Danks five winters ago.
9) Josh Willingham- OF, Oakland A’s, 32, free agent type A
The Minnesota Twins recently signed Willingham to a 3 year, $21 million contract.
10) Carlos Pena-1B, Chicago Cubs, 33, free agent type B
Yes, Carlos Pena is what the Rangers need. Yes his AVG is always around .200. That’s because he is defenseless against lefties, .210 career AVG. Flip it around and he hits for a .883 OPS against righties. He plays great defense, he is familiar with the Rangers and Wash, and he will probably cost a tenth of what Fielder will get.
11) Joe Nathan-RP, Minnesota Twins, 36, free agent
BINGO! Nathan was “wowed” by Nolan Ryan into signing a two year $14.5 million pact.
12) Roy Oswalt- SP, Philadelphia Phillies, 34, free agent type A
Two bad things about Oswalt: He’s never pitched in the AL and he only pitched 139 innings last season hampered by injuries. Two good things: He’s familiar with Texas and he is an ace, or at least more of an ace than anyone else available. Weigh them as you will. Oswalt received very little interest when he began the winter by asking for three years, he's now willing to take a one year deal- interest has picked up in acquiring the ol' Astro.
13) Jair Jurrjens- SP, Atlanta Braves, 25
Jurrjens is a native of Curacao, same as Rangers top prospect, Jurickson Profar. Jurrjens has two more arbitration years left and the Braves have a handful of starting pitching options. They already pawned Derek Lowe on the Indians. However Jurrjens limped to the end of the season with knee injuries. The Braves would like to acquire some of the Rangers offense in this scenario. But the cat’s out of the bag with Jurrjens- stat-wise, he’s not very good, not enough strike-outs, too much pitching to contact.
14) Joakim Soria- RP, Kansas City Royals, 27
Soria is under team control for three more seasons. The Royals could be looking to expedite their rebuilding process with the Ranger’s prospect jewels. Actually the Royals will take any former Rangers (Jeff Francoeur, Luis Mendoza, Greg Golson, Robinson Tejada, Max Ramirez, John Wittleman, to name six) If the Royals are talking high-end prospects, the Rangers would want Soria.
15) Gio Gonzalez- SP, Oakland A’s, 26
Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill got extensions from the A’s. Gio did not. The A’s are another team lacking in offense, with surplus in pitching. There could be something to work with here. Although, its been suggested that Martin Perez, the Rangers top pitching prospect, would undoubtedly be included in any deal for Gio. I'm on-board if it's just Gio for Perez, straight-up, although Beane would likely want even more.
16) Grady Sizemore-OF, Cleveland Indians, 29, free agent
Sizemore resigned with the Indians to a one year, $5 million base salary contract.
17) Carlos Quentin-OF, Chicago White Sox, 29
Quentin is expected to be one of the biggest bats available in the trade market this winter. Like Danks, Quentin is a free agent after 2012.
18) Edwin Jackson- SP, St. Louis Cardinals, 28, free agent type B
Free agent starting pitchers, under 30 are always attractive options, or maybe there’s a reason he’s been traded six times.
19) Ricky Nolasco- SP, Miami Marlins, 28
The Marlins tout themselves as big fish now they’re in Miami. Maybe they’ve already gone over budget and realize they owe $20 million to Nolasco, who has tons of potential, but has been pedestrian. The Rangers would like to be the ones to unlock that potential.
20) Andrew Bailey- RP, Oakland A’s, 27
Billy Beane has traded away every closer he’s ever had, only to replace them with a more economical option. Bailey should get a bump in salary. Question is, will Beane settle for just the planet Jupiter, or will he need Mars, too.
21) Ryan Doumit- C, 1B, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 30, free agent type B
Doumit signed a one year, $3 million deal with the Twins.
22) Tyler Clippard- RP, Washington Nationals, 26
2011 was a watershed year for Clippard, he set career highs in just about every statistical category and made the All-Star team. The Nats have been on the lookout for a CF for a while now. The Rangers may not have the best CF available but they do have the largest selection: Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, Engel Beltre, Leonys Martin.
23) Carlos Marmol-RP, Chicago Cubs, 29
Theo Epstein is in town now. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him attempt to rid the Cubs of Marmol, even after trading Sean Marshall to the Reds.
24) Marlon Byrd-OF, Chicago Cubs, 34
Byrd is entering his walk year in the deal he signed after resurrecting his career in the RBiA. I don’t think Byrd would mind having another contract year in the ballpark.
25) Nick Markakis- OF, Baltimore Orioles, 27
Markakis is owed $44 million through 2014. Ouch. He’s not much for power, but the guy gets on base regularly. Adding another regular lefty bat to the everyday lineup might not be a bad idea. He could likely play some 1B for the Rangers too.
26) Heath Bell- RP, San Diego Padres, 34,
Bell signed with the Miami Marlins for three years at $9 million a year.
27) Huston Street- RP, Colorado Rockies, 28
Street was traded to the San Diego Padres for salary relief.
28) Jonathan Sanchez-SP, San Francisco Giants, 28
Sanchez was traded to the Royals for Melky Cabrera.
29) Kevin Youkilis- 1B,3B, DH, Boston Red Sox, 32
The Red Sox just might squeeze Youkilis out of the line-up much like they did to Mike Lowell a few years a go. The Rangers could probably fine at-bats for the ‘Greek God of Walks‘. Only problem, the right side of the infield may be unavailable late September, for Rosh Hashanah. Ian Kinsler and Youk are both Jewish. It is unknown to me how a Jewish guy becomes a Greek god.
30)Leo Nunez or Juan Carlos Oviedo-RP, Miami Marlins, 28 or ??
"Plan Z-4": It is unknown whether Oviedo is going to be able to play in America in 2012. It is unknown whether he is even in his 20’s anymore. It is unknown if either of the above names are actually his. However, it is known, that I spent too many words on a reliever that the Rangers are known not to be targeting.
Image courtesy of Dallasnews.com
by Peter Ellwood
This is the greatest time period in Texas Rangers history, and especially the greatest time to be a fan of this team. The Rangers are in a whole new paradigm. Paradigm is a two-dollar word which means “Example, pattern; especially: an outstandingly clear or typical example”. The old Rangers paradigm, or pattern, generated frustration and futility. Now, we see that the new Rangers paradigm has proven to be one that produces power and success.
I have been a sold-out fan of the Texas Rangers my entire life. I was born and raised in the Dallas area, so there has never been another team to whom I have devoted my fandom. I have fond childhood memories of the days of Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, and Rusty Greer. Despite romanticizing the memories of those players as I have grown older, I still have never been more confident in and more proud to be a fan of the Texas Rangers franchise than I am today.
Never before have the Rangers been such a masterfully crafted mosaic of talent, devotion, and commitment to excellence. For example:
When you put all of these pieces of the puzzle together, the Rangers are now one of the premier model franchises in Major League Baseball. After wallowing through the days of Tom Hicks, Buck Showalter, and John Hart, it is an incredible fait accompli to be able to say that.
You can see the actions and position of this franchise reflected in the attitudes of its fans. Today’s Rangers fan has total confidence that this ballclub is headed in the right direction. We are all riding together with one unified goal in mind, and we have the right vehicle to get there, with the best people behind the wheel.
Buckle up. And welcome to the new paradigm.
by Dan Allsup
Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels said. "We said all along that if we could upgrade our club we would do so, and this gives us a few more pieces to play with." Daniels continued, "We have a lot of respect for the Angels and the other clubs in the division, we're not taking anything for granted.”
"He'll make every one of our pitchers better," Ron Washington said. "Today is a great day for the Texas Rangers organization." He added, "I was surprised, the Yankees were in the bidding, and when you're in the bidding with the New York Yankees, you don't usually win.”
"It was a watershed moment for the franchise," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.
The Rangers were in the chase the entire time, and they had a shot, but once it was open for business- a favorite emerged. And it wasn’t the Rangers. A few weeks passed and all the talk was about the favorite, and how the Rangers will try, but likely fall just short.
Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Manny Lawson and Josh Lueke brought swagger, confidence and more talent to the Rangers through the Cliff Lee trade.
There were a few “imminent” and “close” deals for the Mariners to mull over, but alas it was Justin Smoak, the Rangers top prospect, who Seattle was holding out for.
You probably remember where you were when the Rangers landed Cliff Lee, and you will also remember where you were at when the Rangers won the bidding for Yu Darvish.
When the news reached to the clubhouse, that the Rangers acquired Lee, everyone erupted to a state of celebration, likely higher than they had celebrated some wins that year.
It was a defining moment, everyone knew that Cliff Lee was the post-season slayer and he would get the Rangers to the “Promised Land”, which at that time was just October baseball. It ended up much more, much sweeter.
We blinked, and Lee raced out of our lives, to Philadelphia. But, we all have a special place in our hearts for where Cliff took us, that fall.
The Yu Darvish winning bid is very different and it is very much the same. Yu is 25, Cliff was 32. Darvish doesn’t have a firm grip on the English language. Cliff is fluent. Yu will likely be here for 5-6 years. Cliff was here for 5-6 months.
“This gives us a few more pieces to play with."
Landing Darvish, means the Rangers, surrendered no draft picks and no prospects- just yen, lots and lots of yen. This cannot be understated. If you have the choice of possessing lack of payroll flexibility or lack of prospects; every time you work with lack of funds, and milk the prospects.
“Work with lack of funds, and milk prospects”, that sounds like the 2010 Rangers. The same Rangers that were willing to give up extra prospects, to take less payroll, because they were on baseball welfare.
"We have a lot of respect for the Angels; we're not taking anything for granted.”
The 2012 Rangers won’t be on baseball welfare, they’ll be tighter with money, but they won’t be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Southern California of the West Coast. No. They won’t be those Angels.
Every move JD makes is calculated and each ripple effect measured. Yu Darvish would be a Blue Jay if it was going to upset the ability to contend for championships going forward.
Whatever number JD set for the bid was the right one. If he lost, it was the right bid. If they won, it was the right bid.
“Today is a great day for the Texas Rangers organization”
The Rangers will have guaranteed sell-outs every fifth day, for Darvish starts. They will become a global team, and the posting fee will quickly be out of the red.
Roster-wise, Alexi Ogando is the man that is likely to be sent to the bullpen. Structurally, he is a risk to breaking down over 200 innings, if he can make it that long. He has a violent delivery, which just screams ‘put me in the bullpen, or call Dr. James Andrews’. I would assume the Rangers would rather make the first call- to the pen.
Financially, it would be assumed that the Rangers won’t make a push for Prince Fielder. That’s not say they won’t still be connected to Fielder, until he signs elsewhere. No one knows what JD’s next move is, he could be interested in Fielder, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did sign him. Furthermore, Scott Boras, Fielder’s agent will be drumming up interest for every possible team, including the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, if they got the coin.
JD’s ability is like Josh Hamilton's in batting practice, you are amazed, but you’re never surprised by what he can do.
The Rangers have been looking at locking-up the ’core’ of the team, its unknown how this will affect future negotiations, but surely it will bring more reservations with each deal, particularly pitchers like Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. There isn’t as much pressure now, but there’s also not as much money now.
I doubt Darvish will pitch Opening Day, I assume that will be Colby Lewis’ job to lose in Surprise, Arizona. However, I don’t think it’s out of the question for him to be the Game 1 starter, taking us to new places, unfamiliar to Rangers fans.
"A watershed moment for the franchise."
by Chris Kautz
I've seen and heard quite a bit of talk about the Rangers looming need to lock up members of their "core" to long term deals. Aside from forcing me to consider the possibility of guys I'd like to have around leaving, it also sent me into a thought process that's been quite long and wandering about just who exactly is considered to be part of the core of the Texas Rangers.
I started with a strict definition of what I thought it meant to be part of the core of a team. I figured that a core player would have to be established enough to have developed a track record, but young enough to be productive for the future as well as the present. They also would have to be either signed to a long term deal, or projected to stay with the team when free agency rolls around. Finally, and most obviously, they would have to be one of the top players for the team. When I really started to apply those criteria, I realized that they excluded guys I instinctively considered to be key players for now and the future. That led me to abandon my scientific approach and do this the old fashioned way...by gut feeling.
The following is what I consider to be the core of the Texas Rangers:
Ian Kinsler--If my core could only consist of one player, it would be Kinsler. That's not to say that I think he is the best player on the team, or even my favorite, just that he fits my undefined definition of "core player" the best. He's established himself as being reliable, and he's young enough that I feel he'll continue to be so for the foreseeable future. He's here for at least two more years (assuming his club option is picked up for 2013), but I feel confident he'll be signed to an extension before his current deal expires.
Adrian Beltre--Beltre is a wizard with the glove, has amazing power at the plate (even from one knee), and is here through 2015, with an option for 2016. While I can't expect that he'll produce as well as he did the past season in the closing years of the contract, I'm still very excited that he's a Texas Ranger.
Elvis Andrus--Andrus is here through 2014. His occasional lack of focus is more than made up for by his exceptional talent. I have no reason to believe that he won't continue to improve, both defensively and with his bat. When you add the fact that his speed requires a healthy percentage of the opposing pitcher's attention, thus helping out whoever is at the plate, Elvis is definitely part of the core.
Michael Young--Young is one of the guys that would have been excluded by my original, strict criteria. He's no spring chicken, but he is here through the 2013 season. Even though he's been known to demand a trade, I don't see another team taking on his salary. While his defense is nothing to speak of, you can't deny how reliable he is at the plate. By all accounts he's also a terrific clubhouse guy. Some folks discount the value of that, but I think it's important to have someone other than the manager around that players can look to for guidance.
That wraps up what I consider the core of the team. I considered others, but couldn't bring myself to include them. Hamilton and Cruz are tempting, but are too injury prone to consider reliable. I really, really wanted to include a pitcher, but didn't find one that seemed appropriate. I did, however, come up with a few possibles that may be part of the core if the cards fall in their favor. Those are:
Derek Holland--The Dutch Oven has shown signs of being a tremendous talent. He's also shown signs of being a head case that can't be counted on. If he can get his act together and pitch to his talent level, he will cement himself into the core of the team.
Mike Napoli--Napoli was a huge part of the success of the 2011 Texas Rangers. Enough of a part, in fact, that the only thing keeping me from including him is his contract situation. Napoli is only locked up through next season. If he's signed to an extension, he moves onto the list.
I'm sure many, if not most, of you reading this would compile a different list. There's nothing wrong with that. Heck, arguing things like this is half the fun of baseball for me. If my list doesn't sound right, let me know what you'd change. I love a good discussion.
Image courtesy of BleacherReport.com
by Peter Ellwood
It’s finally getting to me. The long winter, the mass quantity of hot stove talk and rumors; it’s all finally getting to me. Up until this point, I’ve let most of these rumors roll off my back. I know that it’s almost 100% speculation on the part of the national writers, or a whisper they heard from a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy. Rarely are they talking to decision-makers for ballclubs and getting an intimate view at team strategy for them to tweet to the world.
I don’t know if it’s because the Rangers haven’t yet made a major move this offseason, or because the Angels have made two, but lately I have been taking these rumors and whispers a little more seriously, probably too seriously.
For example, recently Jim Bowden said that he expects the Rangers to be the favorites to trade for Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics. Ken Rosenthal added that the Rangers are pursuing both Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey from the A’s. Jon Heyman adds that the A’s are looking for a huge return from trading Gio. Buster Olney then goes into a little more detail, stating that if the Rangers lose out on Yu Darvish, a strong plan B would be to trade for Gonzalez, but that Martin Perez would most certainly have to be included in such a trade.
And that was when my stomach started getting twisted. Martin Perez is and has been the Rangers top prospect in a deep farm system for the last 2 years. He is a 21 year old, left-handed starting pitcher with 3 plus pitches. He is likely not going to be a major player in the 2012 Rangers season (he still has plenty of growing to do in AAA), but many believe that one day he can lead a rotation.
Gio Gonzalez is a very good pitcher. The last two seasons he has posted 200+ IP, and sub-3.25 ERAs. But, he is not a ground ball pitcher, is only 6’0” (meaning the ball comes in on a flatter plane than with a taller pitcher), and has a career ERA of 4.29 in the Rangers ballpark while allowing 2.1 HR/9. In the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum, his ERA drops to 3.65 with a HR rate of 0.9 HR/9. That makes me nervous.
As I said on the Shutdown Inning podcast last week, prospects are good for two things. One is obviously to grow, develop, and play at the major league level. The other is to be used as valuable pieces in impact trades. The Rangers have a deep farm system, and the whole league knows it. Couple that with the fact that Oakland is in our division, and it is plain to see why Oakland would expect a king’s ransom in exchange for Gonzalez.
I am 100% on board with trading prospects when it is the right situation. I don’t suffer from falling too in love with prospects to where I never want to see them go. But, for a prospect of the caliber of Martin Perez, or Mike Olt, or Jurickson Profar, or Neil Ramirez, the return better be worth it. I’d like to keep those prospects in our pocket until we can be certain that we’re getting back an Ace to lead our rotation. I don’t think Gio Gonzalez is that.
So if you can, please spare me a grain or two of salt.
by Lincoln Floyd
Something has been weighing on my mind recently so I thought I would take time to address this nagging question: How do we as fans choose which players on our team to root for over others? The obvious answer is performance. If a player performs well on the field, the fan base is likely to favor him over another who is under achieving. The problem is it isn’t that simple. We are human and we let issues unrelated to baseball influence who our favorite players are. I’m not saying this is wrong, I’m simply stating it is a fact we can’t deny.
To prove my point I want to do a blind comparison of 2 player’s stats from last year. (Note that I will not use “Wins” as a statistic because it is in fact a team statistic and a poor representation of the actual pitcher’s performance.) :
ERA = Earned Run Average WHIP = Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched
ERA+ = Adjusted ERA. Its earned run average adjusted for the ballpark and the league average.
WAR = Wins above replacement player.
FIP = measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.
The numbers are quite similar, aren’t they? There is no doubt both of these young pitchers are very good. Now what if I told you that “Player A” is beloved by his fan base, while the accomplishments of “Player B” go largely undetected by his fan base?
There are a few more similarities between these 2 players. They are both hard throwing left handed pitchers who showed significant improvement in 2011. Both players have had inconsistent careers to this point. It gets better. Both players play for the same team
Player A aka Derek Holland
Player B aka Matt Harrison
Yet in my opinion, Player A has a much more favorable public opinion than Player B.
There is one more trait these players share: Awful, unforgivable, terrible facial hair. Most of you probably know who I am talking about: Derek Holland (aka Player A) and Matt Harrison (aka Player B).
I wanted to do this little exercise because I am convinced we as Ranger fans don’t appreciate how good BOTH of these pitchers are. I am not saying one is better than the other. I am just saying they are both very good.
Now obviously Derek has more personality than Harrison. I highly doubt I will ever hear Matt Harrison on the Ben & Skin show doing his best Larry the Cable guy impersonation (even though judging by his voice, I imagine it would be AWESOME). But we as fans need to separate personality traits we admire or find endearing from the actual performance on the field.
With speculation running rampant that the Rangers are trying to acquire another starting pitcher, people are asking “Which pitcher do you take out of the rotation?” Two answers dominate the discussion when that question is asked: Alexi Ogando or Matt Harrison. Not one time have I see a person answer with “Derek Holland”. I am not advocating that Derek Holland be removed from the rotation in the event that the Rangers acquire another starting pitcher. I am just pointing out that our perception does not always meet reality.
I have said it many times before, but baseball is the most cerebral sport on the planet. Very intelligent people like Bill James, Rob Neyer and many, many others have worked countless hours looking at and analyzing numbers to help us better understand the game we all love so much. The amazing thing about baseball is there are ways to study and learn about the game above and beyond what we can see on the field. Advanced statistics are nothing more than tools to help you understand the game. Never stop watching the product on the field, but know that perception does not always equal reality.
by Peter Ellwood
Today, we think of Cliff Lee as the Ace pitcher who never walks anyone, eats up innings, is a perennial Cy Young candidate, and is one of a select group of pitchers you’d first choose to hand the ball to in Game 1 of a playoff series. But, just 6 years ago, Cliff Lee was a hard-throwing prospect with plus stuff who had erratic command, bouncing between flashing brilliance and earning a demotion to AAA.
I have been saying for the last year and a half, to whoever would listen to me (which is predominantly my sweet wife – sorry honey), that it would not at all surprise me to see Derek Holland’s career path follow that of Cliff Lee. I’ve drawn these comparisons before for several reasons:
They both came into the league with a mid-90s fastball + three quality offspeed pitches.
They were inconsistent early in their career.
They both have those smooth mechanics that make pitching look easy, even when popping the mitt at 96mph.
In fact, if we were to compare these two players after what amounts to two full seasons of pitching in the major leagues, they are eerily similar:
(If you take a second look at those numbers, you’ll see that surprisingly, Holland actually has better strikeout and K/BB rates than Lee - who posted a 10.28 K/BB ratio in 2010 - did after the same amount of major league experience)
Derek Holland is at a similar point in his career now as Lee was at the end of the 2005 season. For a starter who threw four complete game shutouts in 2011, the “Dutch Oven” still managed to provoke fans to demand he be traded or demoted. This is one of the Rangers top prospects, who has shown that he has the stuff to succeed at the big level. Yet, still there is an element of instability that causes many to wonder if he’ll ever put it all together and take that next step.
Obviously, it takes more than 380-390 innings of a sample size to say that Holland will absolutely turn his career into what Cliff Lee has. Lee made significant adjustments in his approach to pitching in order to improve his command and presence on the mound. Not every pitcher makes those adjustments – just look at Oliver Perez, Rick Ankiel, Dontrelle Willis, or A.J. Burnett.
For a talented pitcher, the biggest step to becoming an Ace seems to take place between the ears. One obstacle makes it tough to project that Holland can take that step – he’s a total goofball. From the wacky mustache, to the terrible impersonations, to the sporadic t-shirts, he does not emit the fortitude and mindset of an Ace. But, I think it is obvious that on the mound, the Dutch Oven is growing up. His 2011 World Series Game 4 performance alone is more than enough encouragement to display that something is there. Beyond that, Holland is incredibly active in the community and has embraced the D/FW area as his home, so even though he is nutty, he’s not a screw-up.
The bad news is that after that 2005 season, Cliff Lee struggled in 2006 and especially in 2007, when he was actually sent to the minor leagues for half of the season. We may not yet see Holland make that jump to a top of the rotation kind of pitcher for a couple more years. We may never see him make that jump. However, in 2008, Cliff Lee became an Ace. He won his first Cy Young and has never looked back. This is not unlike the path that Roy Halladay had to take as well.
The Rangers are engaging in contract negotiations with the 25-year old Holland to lock him up in Texas for the next 5+ years. Now is the time to make that kind of move, and invest in this young pitcher’s future, with the hopes that one day he will be that something special. The ingredients are there. After learning directly from Cliff Lee for a half season, C.J. Wilson for a full year, and now an organization with Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, and Mike Maddux, this could be a young pitcher headed for an Ace career.
by Mike McGehee
The entire world sits with bated breath waiting for the bidding results of the Yu Darvish sweepstakes.
Well, maybe just baseball fans.
It is plain to see that for Texas Rangers fans, Yu Darvish and Prince Fielder have dominated the free agent discussion since the winter meetings and the blockbuster signings by the LA Angels. Many Rangers fans want a swift and powerful counterpunch after the rival in West landed two of the biggest names on the market.
There are many reasons the Rangers spent the majority of the season ahead of the Angels last year, not the least of which is a guy who can generate more power from one knee than Erick Aybar can with a full swing. The same guy made one of the most spectacular catches in the first inning of Game 4 of the World Series, a catch that settled Derek Holland down and allowed him to pitch his masterpiece.
Adrian Beltre was a signing that many saw as an afterthought last year when the team fell short of signing Cliff Lee. Inked to a five year/ $80 million deal, Beltre hit his way into the hearts of many Ranger fans when his first home run of the year came with the bases loaded, putting the game out of reach.
Beltre immediately fit into a clubhouse ready to embrace him. They bonded so well that he didn’t fly into a rage every time someone touched his head after a big hit (something that not every club can claim).
He flashed some incredible leather throughout the year, making gravity defying throws to first on slow rollers in the infield. He hit .296/.331/.561 while driving 105 RBI and crushing 32 home runs during his debut season as a Texas Ranger.
And some said he only hit in contract years.
If Beltre hadn’t gone down for almost six weeks with a hamstring injury, his numbers could have far eclipsed anything he had ever accomplished in a major league uniform. And he’s been in the big leagues since 1998. This team showed an incredible ability to pick up the hole left in the offense without him, but they certainly know they perform better with him.
When the Rangers clinched the number two seed in the American League on the night of game 162, there was no bigger smile in the clubhouse.
Through all the champagne and smiles, it was easy to see a man driven to help his team succeed. And Beltre would get his chance to shine during Game 4 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay.
On October 4th, 2011, the Ranger would have the chance to close out the Rays and move on for a chance to repeat as AL Champs. After being dominated in Game One by rookie Matt Moore, the Rangers had rattled off back to back wins. When the chance to put the Rays away came, Beltre would be ready.
He made four plate appearances that day. Three times he hit the ball out of the park.
Beltre slotted his name next to Babe Ruth in the record books for what he did that day, but all he cared about was the chance to go with his teammates to the next round. The teammates who had rallied around each other all year, stepped up for each other all year, and cheered for each other all year.
In fact, in one game against the LA Angels, a field microphone that was left a little too close to the Rangers dugout caught one such example of Beltre cheering for his teammates as they crushed home runs against their rival.
SDI Staff Writers Peter Ellwood and Lincoln Floyd join the podcast for a discussion on Yu Darvish, Prince Fielder and the Rangers starting staff.