9 Up 9 Down – Week 4
The start of the first West Coast road trip of the season got off to sweeping good start as the Rangers swept division rival Oakland A’s in a three game series at O.co Coliseum to begin the week. It was the first sweep in Oakland since August of 2011. Texas had a pair of one run victories, both of the comeback variety, and a complete game shutout from Martin Perez in the finale. The Rangers, as some would say, had a little bit of that “A’s Magic” as they got to Oakland closer Luke Gregerson for two runs in the ninth with two outs to win 5-4 Tuesday night. The rest of the road trip, well, not so much. The Rangers dropped two of three in Seattle, including blowing a five run lead yesterday. Alexi Ogando gave up three runs in the eighth inning on a Kyle Seager three run blast to give the M’s the series victory. Kyle F’N Seager. The weekend wasn’t all lost however, as Matt Harrison made his return to the diamond and he looked good. Harrison tossed six innings allowing just three hits and two runs while striking out four and walking two. The bullpen lost the game however, allowing 4 runs in the final two innings.
Texas will open a quick three game homestand starting tonight against the A’s, tied for first place, before heading back out to the West Coast for their first meeting with the Anaheim Angels as we begin the second month of the season. The Rangers will see Oakland’s top three starters in Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez who have a combined ERA against the Rangers of 3.76 in 107.2 career innings. Texas then renews its rivalry with the Angels whom they are 24-14 against over the last two seasons by just 10-8 at the Big A. The Rangers are finally getting healthy again as they got back Adrian Beltre and Matt Harrison from the DL, although they lost Kevin Kouzmanoff to a herniated disk and he could miss significant time. It looks as if Shin-Soo Choo may avoid the DL with his sprained ankle, although Michael Choice is doing a very fine job filling in at the leadoff spot. He has RBI in every game he has been there, five straight.
Martin Perez is this weeks Lone Ranger. Perez extended his scoreless innings streak to 26 innings, 5th best in Rangers history, while tossing his second consecutive complete game shutout. Perez became just the second pitcher since 1914 in to toss back to back complete game shutouts while allowing three hits or fewer. (stat credit goes to @kazuto_yamazaki). Perez also is the first Rangers player to throw back to back complete game shutouts since Derek Holland did it in 2011. Perez lowered his ERA to 1.42. The amazing thing about this run that Perez is on – he hasn’t allowed a runner to past second base during the streak. This kid is maturing before our very eyes.
Matt Harrison made his return to the mound for the first time since April of 2013 and he looked good. This was a site for sore eyes for Rangers fans as the starting rotation to begin the season looked a little dreadful. If Matty Ice can return to his 2011 form, the Rangers could be looking at an incredible rotation of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland (once healthy) and Colby Lewis heading down the stretch in August and September. That, my friends, is what we want to see. Take a look at Harrison’s start from yesterday.
This is normally where I add the video of the Highlight, but MLB has decided not to include an embed link for the video of Matt Harrison’s start yesterday, so if you would like to see a quick recap of his start, please click here. (it will open in a new window.)
Ranger Danger – Martin Perez – Perez is in some kind of groove to start the season. Over his last five starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 0.92 WHIP with 23 strikeouts and just nine walks. Opponents are hitting a paltry .203. He has thrown 38 out of a possible 45 innings and given up just six total hits over his last two starts. He is being particularly effective too, throwing 109 pitches in each of his last two complete games.
Stranger Ranger – Elvis Andrus – While Andrus isn’t hurting to team by grounding into double plays or doing his best JP Arencibia impression, Andrus has struggled a bit as of late. He is just three for his last 22 for a .136 average but he does have five walks and a stolen base during the same time frame. Some have wondered whether or not he would be better a little farther down the lineup? Alex Rios in the two hole anyone?
This week are you going to take a look at the big power hitting third basemen Joey Gallo. Gallo, 6’-5” 205, is a big third basemen with ++power and a ++arm but below average glove and overall hit tool. Gallo set an Arizona Rookie League record with 18 home runs in 43 games leading the Rangers to the Rookie League Championship. Gallo then followed that up with a 40 homer season in 2013 to lead all minor leaguers. There has never been any doubt that the kid has light tower power, but what he doesn’t have, at least not yet, is a good hit tool. He struck out nearly once every three at bats in 2012 and then had 172 punch-outs in 111 games in 2013.
Gallo hasn’t helped himself, or the criticism, with this inability to be patient at the plate and draw walks. His K/BB ration in 2012 was roughly 2:1 and in 2013 it over 3:1. Gallo had just 50 walks in 411 at bats compared to 172 strikeouts.
Gallo has apparently done some offseason work because he is absolutely lighting up the Carolina league so far this season. He already has 19 walks and just 24 strikeouts 22 games. Whats even more impressive his Gallo’s stat line so far; .351/.464/.824/1.288. THAT my friends, is insane. Gallo already has nine home runs and 22 RBI to go along with four doubles and two triples. I know it’s early, but if Gallo can continue to improve his hit tool like he has so far this season, Rangers fans will get to see him before the end of the summer. No, not in a Rangers uniform, but in Frisco because he will definitely earn a promotion to AA, which will be the real test. The jump from High A to AA is often considered the biggest jump in talent and is often when prospects are challenged the most.
Gallo still has some work to do with this glove though. His career .917 fielding percentage at third base will force the Rangers to look at other potential positions for him to play. One position could be first base but many believe that would be a waste of his ++arm strength so there have been rumblings about a possible switch to a corner outfield spot. Nothing seems imminent as Gallo has played nothing but third and DH so far in his early career. Again, while it’s still early, Gallo is posting his best year defensively in 2014 with a .957 fielding percentage. 2014 could be the breakout year for Joey Gallo, if he can continue the upward trend with his defense and overall hit tool, he could be everything that the Rangers and their fans have envisioned, and then some. Let’s just hope that Gallo cuts down on the strikeouts and makes more contact because the comparison of him to Adam Dunn doesn’t really tickle my fancy.
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The game of baseball is evolving into plethora of analytics and advanced stats. As fans, casual and hardcore alike, we need to stay abreast of the new terminology that is being used by analysts, experts and even the players themselves. Here are two Sabermetric terms to get us on the evolving path.
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching – measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. Back in the early 2000s, research by Voros McCracken revealed that the amount of balls that fall in for hits against pitchers do not correlate well across seasons. In other words, pitchers have little control over balls in play. McCracken outlined a better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level by looking at results a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and homeruns.
A walk is not as harmful as a homerun and a strikeout has less impact than both. FIP accounts for these kinds of differences, presenting the results on the same scale as ERA. It has been shown to be more effective than ERA in terms of predicting future performance and has become a mainstay in sabermetric analysis.
For those curious, here’s the formula for FIP:
FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant
The constant is solely to bring FIP onto an ERA scale and is generally around 3.20. You can find historical FIP constant values here, or you can derive the constant by taking league-average FIP and subtracting that from league-average ERA.
Please note that the following chart is meant as an estimate, and that league-average FIP varies on a year-by-year basis so that it is always the same as league-average ERA. To see the league-average FIP for every year from 1901 to the present, check the FanGraphs leaderboards.
If you want to get serious about evaluating a pitcher’s ability level at preventing baserunners, look instead at their walk rate, BABIP, and batted ball profile. Pitchers do control their walk rates, but their hit rates reside largely outside their control and are prone to fluctuations.
Great pitchers will typically have lower WHIPs, and questionable pitchers will have higher WHIPs. However, since hit rates vary depending upon a pitcher’s BABIP, WHIP values are also prone to fluctuating.
Please note that the following chart is meant as an estimate, and that league-average WHIP varies on a year-by-year basis. To see the league-average WHIP for every year from 1901 to the present, check the FanGraphs leaderboards.
It happens every game, somewhere in the major leagues – a team has runners on 2nd and 3rd with less than two outs and they fail to score or they have bases loaded with zero or one out(s) and again, they fail to score. Local media and fans alike have a conniption fit over the “lack of ability to score with runners in scoring position.” They go on this rant is if hitting with runners in scoring position is a skill.
As my good buddy, and former SDI writer, Dustin Dietz once said, “Hitting with runners in scoring positions is neither predictable nor repeatable”
He’s right, it is not a skill and it cannot be predicted or repeated.
What people fail to realize is that there is another team out there that is trying to prevent your team from scoring in those exact types of situations. People, fans and media alike, act as if hitting with RISP is something that determines whether or not you make the playoffs.
If you believe that teams have to have a very high average with runners in scoring position in order to win ballgames, let me present to you the World Champion San Francisco Giants (twice in three years even). In 2012, the Giants finished 13th in the league with a .259 avg with runners in scoring position compared to the Tigers who finished 1st with a .286 average and yet the Giants defeated the Tigers to win their second title in three years. In 2010 the Giants finished 24th with an average of .248 while the Minnesota Twins finished 1st hitting .285.
Let’s take a look at how the Rangers have fared over the last three seasons.
2010: 4th-.276 w/RISP, 1st in regular season avg .276, 1st in hits with 1556, 6th.338 OBP
2011: 2nd – .285 w/RISP, 1st in regular season avg .283, 2nd in hits with 1599(one hit short of finishing 1st), 5th .340 OBP
2012: 4th – .275 w/RISP, 3rd in regular season avg .273, tie for 1st with 1526, 4th .334 OBP
2014: 20th – .249 w/RISP, 7th in regular season avg .262, 7th in hits with 1465, 10th .323 OBP
As you can see the Rangers were one of the best hitting teams in three of the last four years and one of the best in getting on base. It’s simple logic and statistics. The more you get on base, the more you will leave on base. Leaving men on base should be a testament as to how good a team’s offense is, not how poorly they are at driving them in.
Did you know that in 2013 four of the top 10 teams in average with RISP didn’t even make the playoffs? In 2012, six of the top 10 teams, in 2011 that number was five of the top 10 and in 2010 it was six of the top 10.
In that same time span, the Kansas City Royals finished in the top 10 all four years. As a matter of fact, in three of the last four years, the Royal have finished 5th or better and they haven’t even come close to making the playoffs. That right there should prove the point.
So next time the Rangers don’t score with RISP and less than two outs, just sit back and relax because it doesn’t mean they suck nor does it mean they will miss the playoffs. And when the Rangers get out of a bases loaded no outs jam while not allowing a run to score, remember that there is a fan base on the other side doing the same thing you were doing when the Rangers didn’t score.