9 Up 9 Down – Week 7

9up9down
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The Box Score

I step away for two weeks and the damn wheels have fallen off. What is going on here? The Rangers lost a series to Houston for the first time in six years! They lose two of three to the Blue Jays, at home, after the Jays swept a four game set in Arlington last season. The Rangers, despite their win yesterday, have now lost six of their last eight, are 6-10 in May and sit seven games out of first place in the AL West. Martin Perez is having Tommy John surgery, Prince Fielder has a herniated disc in his neck and MIGHT avoid the DL, Matt Harrison’s career is likely over and the offense STILL can’t score runs for Yu Darvish. At least they got their advertising campaign right, THIS IS Real Texas Baseball.


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The On Deck Circle

The Rangers will finish out this home-stand with a short two game set with the Mariners before embarking on a, what I believe to be, a season defining road trip that starts with the Ian Kinsler led Detroit Tigers. Texas is 4-3 against Seattle this year including taking three of four from the M’s in early April at Globe Life Park. Let’s face it though; everyone is looking forward to the Rangers playing the Tigers so we can see what Ian Kinsler is going to do against his former team. Will be get picked off? How many times will he pop up? Will he go absolutely nuts against Texas? That is what we all want to see. The Rangers have played pretty well against the Tigers in recent years going 20-15 since 2010 including a decisive ALCS victory over the Motown Men in 2011, however they are just 8-8 in Comerica Park, a park that for several years they simply could not win at.


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The Lone Ranger

Oy Vey. Is there a Lone Ranger Star this week? Yu Darvish? Yu Darvish. Darvish continues to baffle hitters and dominate teams, yet the Rangers offense still continues to give him no run support. Literally. In his eight starts this season, the Rangers have scored zero runs for him three times already, and he had four starts last year when they scored zero runs as well. In his last start against the Blue Jays, he fanned 11 while giving up five hits over eight innings of work. He has back to back double digit strikeout games and has given up just three extra base hits in his last 23 innings of work.


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The Highlight Reel

At just 20 years of age, Rangers top prospect Rougned Odor got the call up to The Show about a week and a half ago. He struggled out of the gate, but finally was able have himself a game against Houston last Monday night. He got his first big league RBI, made a couple of defensive gems, hit his first big league home run and even got a ball stuck in shirt. Welcome to the Big Leagues young man.


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Ranger Danger – Stranger Ranger

Ranger Danger – Yu Darvish – Since the shortest outing of his career back on April 28th against Oakland, Darvish has been virtually unhittable. He has gone 23 innings, allowing just three earned runs, given up 14 hits and striking out 34 would be hitters. He threw a near perfect game against Boston but still carried a no-hitter into the 9th inning, which he lost with two outs. That is the second time Darvish has taken a no hitter to within the last out and lost it on a single.

Stranger Ranger – Shin-Soo Choo – We all knew Choo would cool off at some point right? What we didn’t know is that he would go absolutely ice cold.  Choo is hitting just .208 over his last six games, but even worse, his OBP is just .269 AND he has nine strikeouts! He did go 2-3 yesterday with an RBI and a walk batting in the three hole due to Prince Fielder being out a few days with a herniated disc in his neck.


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Prospect Spotlight

Today we are going to take a quick look at the Rangers 5th ranked prospect, and often overlooked prospect, Nick Williams. Williams is a 6’3” left handed hitting outfielder who might have the best all-around consistent tools of any of the top Rangers prospects. Williams has a slightly above average hit tool, speed and glove while having average power and an average arm.

Williams was drafted in the second round of the 2012 amateur draft and has moved level for level with teammate Joey Gallo. Williams won a championship with the “Baby Rangers” in the 2012 Arizona Fall League, proceeded to hit .293/.337/.543 with 17 homers and 60 RBI in his first year with the Hickory Crawdads. So far this season, Williams is slashing, .287/.337/.460 with four homers and 27 RBI in 150 at bats.

Williams profiles as a middle of the order guy who can hit for power and for average but needs to be able to walk more and strikeout less. He doesn’t strikeout a ton but when you have just seven walks and 45 strikeouts on the season, that isn’t exactly the kind of split you want to see from a middle of the order kind of guy.

Williams projects to be in the  big leagues by 2016 but with Martin, Choo and Choice all locked up long term, it’s hard to see Williams being anything more than a 4th outfielder unless Choice just doesn’t pan out like the Rangers are hoping. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a package at the trade deadline if the Rangers feel like they still have a shot to make the playoffs.


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Minor League Roundup

This is the place to come for all your minor league updates. News, notes, records and updates, all in once place – right here. Be sure to click the team logo to visit their team page for more detailed information. (Team page will open in a new window)


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Spokane Indians (short season class A) 0-0

Season starts soon!


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Hickory Crawdads (Low A) 19-23

The Crawdads split a four game series with Augusta, took two of three from Charlestown and have split the first two games of a four game set with Kannapolis. Hickory did have ANOTHER rain out and doubleheader this past week, that now makes six on the season already. Eighteen-year-old Jairo Beras continues to struggle in Low A with a .192/.242/.198 slash line with only two extra base hits in 121 at-bats over 36 games.


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Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High A) 27-15

The Pelicans went 5-2 last week to maintain their first place standing and now have a four game lead over the Salem Red Sox. Myrtle Beach swept Winston Salem at home to run their home record above .500 at 12-10 and then split a four gamer with Potomac. Joey Gallo, who continues to tear the cover off the baseball, had his second three homer night last week and now leads all of professional baseball with 18 long balls. He also has 33 walks and just 44 strikeouts in 146 at bats over 42 games. I’m going to write about him until someone else gives me a reason to write about them.


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Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA) 26-17

After a torrid start to the season, Frisco has cooled off going 10-10 over their last 20 games. Some of that can be contributed to the loss of their middle infield Roogie Odor and Luis Sardinas to the big league club. Frisco’s bullpen has not been very good and neither has their defense. Third basemen Ryan Rua continues to impress slashing .308/.396/.521 on the season with seven homers and 21 RBI. The RoughRiders could be getting some big powerful reinforcements soon as Joey Gallo really has nothing left to prove down at Myrtle Beach.


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Round Rock Express (Class AAA) 21-21

Round Rock sits 1.5 games out of first place on the season despite their .500 record. Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz, who continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery, blew a save giving up four runs on three hits, two homers and a walk. He did strikeout the side though. Feliz also took the loss and now sports a 5.18 ERA in AAA; not very encouraging. Round Rock is struggling at the moment having split a four game series with the Iowa Cubs and losing three of four to the Memphis Redbirds last week.


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Sabermetric Terms

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.

OPS – On Base Plus Slugging is exactly what it sounds like: the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and their slugging percentage. Many saberists don’t like OPS because it treats OBP as equal in value with SLG%, while OBP has been proven to be roughly twice as important as SLG% in scoring runs (x1.8 to be exact). However, OPS has value as a metric because it is the only widely accepted statistic that accounts for all the different aspects of offense: contact, patience, and power. You can find OPS on baseball cards and in broadcasts, and it’s a simple statistic for regular baseball fans to understand.

Context:

Please note that the following chart is meant as an estimate, and that league-average OPS varies on a year-by-year basis. To see the league-average OPS for every year from 1901 to the present, check the FanGraphs leaderboards.

League-average OPS+ is always 100.


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Things to Remember:

● If you’re looking to evaluate a player’s offense, OPS is a better metric to use than batting average, but should always be used in conjunction with other statistics as well. It’s a good gateway statistic to get people thinking beyond the traditional statistics.

● If you have the choice, use Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) instead of OPS. OPS weighs both OBP and SLG% the same, while wOBA accounts for the fact that OBP is actually more valuable.

● Since it provides context and adjusts for park and league effects, OPS+ is better to use than straight OPS, especially if you’re comparing statistics between seasons.

Plate Discipline statistics – tell us how patient a player is at the plate, and how good they are at making contact with pitches. There are a wide number of these stats:

O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.
F-Strike%: The percentage of first pitch strikes.
SwStr%: Percentage of total pitches a better swings and misses on.

FanGraphs carries plate discipline statistics based on both Baseball Info. Solutions (BIS) data as well as Pitch f/x data. There are some minor differences between the two systems. The Pitch f/x section presents raw Pitch f/x data broken down according to defined baselines, while the BIS section takes the Pitch F/x data and uses human scorers to modify classifications.

Here are the batter plate discipline leaderboards according to BIS data, and here are the same leaderboards according to PITCHf/x data.

Context:

Please note that the following chart is meant as an estimate, and that league-average for all of these stats varies on a year-by-year basis. To see the league-average plate discipline stats for every year from 2002 to the present, check the FanGraphs leaderboards.

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(Sabermetric terms courtesy of www.fangraphs.com)

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Casey At Bat

Welcome back to reality Rangers fans. We knew the ride at the top wouldn’t last forever and it seems to, at the moment, come to a screeching halt. Fans seem to be taking this a bit harsher than I anticipated based on the team’s lack of success for the majority of its existence.

Have we gotten so spoiled by the last three years? Really by just the 2010 and 2011 seasons because we all know the Wild Card Game from 2012, while MLB says it’s a playoff game, doesn’t really count. At least to most fans it doesn’t. Have we as fans taken the entire thing for granted? It’s been so long since any team in DFW won anything, minus the Mavericks title run in 2011, that the fans seemed to be clinging onto whatever they could.

But, as quickly as it came, it appears to be gone, at least for the time being. Remember what it was like to be a fan of the Rangers back in the 2000s? The 70 win seasons, the .500 teams, the powerful offenses and no pitching, and then turning your attention to the Cowboys come August? Well, it appears those days could be back, at least for most fans. Not us die-hard fans though. We will ride this train to derailment and then hang on for dear life.

But make no mistake about it, this is what baseball is. This is how it works. You win, you lose, you win and you lose. It wasn’t fair to fathom that the Rangers would sustain their road of success when they lose the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler all over the course of three off seasons.

But fear not, baseball friends, the Rangers will be back. Their window might be barely cracked open right now because of injuries, under-performing talent, or just plain lack of talent but there is reason to believe that that window will open back up soon, and it will open wide. With the likes of Joey Gallo, Luke Jackson, Jorge Alfaro, Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas and Nick Martinez all on the horizon, this team is primed for another run. Don’t let the failure of what could have been in 2011 skew your perspective. The goal is still the same – win a championship. The goal will always be the same. Jon Daniels will make sure that the eyes and direction of the team are always focused on that goal.

Nolan Ryan may have implemented some value and work ethics in this team, but Jon Daniels built this team and Jon Daniels is the one that rescued this team from obscurity. Nolan Ryan certainly had a big hand in purchasing the team from deadbeat owner Tom Hicks, and that allowed the team to increase payroll, but that share can be divided amongst a few other people as well as Ryan. Daniels has put together one of the best international scouting teams in all of Major League Baseball, he has developed an incredible minor league scouting team as well as the Rangers minor league farm system.

So don’t get it twisted Rangers fans, this team will be back, it may not be this year, but they will be back. This is just the reality of baseball. You won’t win every year, it’s just not possible. You take the good with the bad, you never take for granted the winning talent you have and you most certainly never take for granted making the playoffs and getting to the World Series. THAT is what will eat at you. THAT is what will cause you to be a stressed out fan. You cherish those moments and you never forget those moments, because in the blink of an eye, it can all be an afterthought.

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

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