9 Up 9 Down – Week 8
“Never give up. Don’t ever give up.”
Last week most people, media and fans alike, were writing off the Texas Rangers even though it was only mid-May. The week didn’t start off very well and that fueled the fire, but then Detroit happened, and just like that, the Rangers are .500 again and just five games back of Oakland and just a game and a half back in the Wild Card. They split a short two gamer with Seattle and then started what I referred to as a “Season Defining Road Trip,” by taking three of four in Detroit with three of those games being day games. The Rangers have really been playing well during the day this year, something they haven’t had a whole lot of luck with in years past. Texas put a pretty good dent into that infamous “run differential” stat by outscoring the Tigers by 20 runs in the four game series.
Texas will continue the crucial road trip this week with a four game set in Minnesota and then finishing up the trip with a visit to the nation’s capital Washington D.C. to battle the Nationals in some interleague action. The good news about this trip is that the Rangers will play four more day games to just three night games. That, at least right now, bodes well for the Rangers offense, who apparently loves hitting during the day now. The trip to Minnesota will be an important series as the Twins sit just a half game back of the Rangers in the Wild Card standings. Yes, I know it’s only the end of May but again, every game matters. Just ask the Rangers at the end of September back in 2012 if some random game in May matters.
Ranger Danger – Adrian Beltre – Beltre was reportedly the leader in what amounted to a players only meeting and since then he has led by example. Beltre slashed .522/.593/.826/1.419 with two homers, six RBI. He led the team or was tied for the team lead in hits, home runs, RBI, batting average, and finished second in runs and slugging percentage. He has stepped it up.
Stranger Ranger – Michael Choice – Many people have been clamoring for Choice to be sent back to AAA to get more seasoning but the Rangers feel they don’t have anyone ready to call up and replace him as the fourth outfielder. Choice hit just .143/.182 and added five strikeouts in 21 at bats to top it all off. Choice did show some signs of breaking out of his slump late in the weekend though. Let’s see if he can take it into Minnesota with him.
Let’s take a look at a guy by the name of Alec Asher, a guy who has drawn considerable interest by many within the organization. Asher, a 22 year old right handed power pitcher, was originally drafted in 2010 but didn’t sign because of a lingering elbow chip problem and did have Tommy John surgery at the ripe young age of 14.
Asher has an above average fastball that can reach the upper 90’s and will routinely sit in the 92-93 MPH range. He throws a curve and a slider to compliment his fastball, both of which are average pitches but he tends to lean more on the curve than the slider. He has good control and command and struck out 139 hitters in 133.1 innings of work last year in Myrtle Beach. Asher was pretty consistent in Myrtle last year, having three months under a 3.05 ERA, including the final month of the season when he posted a 1.19 ERA. Asher ended the 2013 season with 21 consecutive scoreless innings.
Asher currently is in Frisco with the RoughRiders and is having himself a fine season. He is 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 games. A couple of things to keep an eye on, he’s given up nine long balls in just 58.1 innings and struck out 50. Asher has three starts this year where he threw seven innings and has five starts of giving up two earned runs or fewer in his 10 games this year.
Asher could develop into a #3 or #4 guy in the big league rotation, possibly as soon as 2015, depending on if he can fine tune his breaking pitches. With the lack of pitching depth for the Rangers, especially this year, Asher could be an intriguing name to keep an eye on come later in the season or in Spring Training next year.
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Myrtle Beach had a pretty good week last week taking two of three from the Frederick Aces and taking two out three in a four game set against Carolina. The Pelicans still lead their division by 5.5 games and have an elimination number of 16 for the first half division crown. They continue to be road warriors with a 20-7 record away from home and just a 12-10 at the Beach. Our weekly Joey Gallo update shows us that the big man is struggling just a bit. In his last five games he’s just 2-13 with no homers, one RBI, eight strikeouts and seven walks. The good news is that he is still walking more than he is striking out and I’ve heard rumblings that it’s only a matter of weeks before Rangers fans can get their first glimpse of Gallo in Frisco.
Frisco sits in first place in the Texas League South division with a three game lead over Oakland A’s double A team Midland Rockhounds. The RoughRiders are 10 games over .500 but still have a long ways to go to capture that first half division crown as their magic numbers sits at 18. Frisco rebounded nicely after losing three of four to Midland to end last week to take two of three from Tulsa and then two of three from the Springfield Cardinals. Frisco is now 18-10 at home and 12-10 on the road as they begin a six game roadie to Tulsa and Springfield, Tulsa of which is the North League division leader. Catcher Tomas Telis is a guy to keep your eyes on as the 22 year old repeats the AA level but has improved every aspect of his game this year and is now slashing .346/.381/.472 on the season.
Round Rock has struggled lately losing six of their last 10 ballgames to fall below .500 and two games back of the division lead to the Nashville Sound. The Express, unlike to lower affiliates do not play for a first half division winner as they follow the normal major league procedure for the playoffs so their elimination number is something that isn’t even being discussed at the moment. The Express have seen about all they want to see of the Iowa Cubs as they have played them in back to back four game series’ going 4-4 against them in that span. Brad Snyder, a big left handed outfielder, has clubbed 13 home runs and driven in 36 runs in his 47 games in AAA. He is slashing .268/.343/.531 to go along with six doubles, a triple, and three stolen bases.
xFIP – Expected Fielding Independent Pitching – is a regressed version of FIP, developed by Dave Studeman from The Hardball Times. It’s calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed. This estimate is calculated by taking the league-average home run to fly ball rate (~9-10% depending on the year) and multiplying it by a pitcher’s fly ball rate.
Home run rates are generally unstable over time and fluctuate around league-average, so by estimating a pitcher’s home run total, xFIP attempts to isolate a player’s ability level. A pitcher may allow home runs on 12% of their flyballs one year, then turn around and only allow 7% the next year. HR/FB ratios can be very difficult to predict, so xFIP attempts to correct for that.
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. League-average home run per fly ball rate varies on a yearly basis, but you can find those values here on the FanGraphs leaderboards.
Along with FIP, xFIP is one of the best metrics at predicting a pitcher’s future performance. Since it was created, though, there have been some studies that suggest certain pitchers can post lower-than-average HR/FB rates over time. For more information on this, see the statistic SIERA.
Please note that the following chart is meant as an estimate, and that league-average xFIP varies on a year-by-year basis so that it is always the same as league-average ERA. To see the league-average xFIP for every year from 1901 to the present, check the FanGraphs leaderboards.
For example, say the Rays have a 45% chance of winning before Ben Zobrist comes to the plate. During his at-bat, Zobrist hits a home run, pushing the Rays’ win expectancy jumps to 75%. That difference in win expectancy (in decimal form, +.30) from the beginning of the play to the end is Ben Zobrist’s WPA for that play. If Zobrist strikes out during his next at bat and lowers his team’s win expectancy by 5%, his overall WPA for the game so far would be +.30 – .05 = +.25, as WPA is a counting statistic and is additive.
Technically, WPA values for events that contribute positively to a win can range from about 2% (.02 WPA) to 95% (.95 WPA). The extreme swings in WPA are not terribly common, just as walk-off home runs are exciting events we don’t see every day.
Cumulatively, season-long WPA is not predictive, making it an ineffective number for projections of a player’s talent. However, it is a good describer of what happened in the game and how a win was achieved. And since +1 WPA equals 100% in win expectancy, +1 WPA is the equivalent of one win.
For MLB regulars, here’s a quick breakdown on season-long WPA scores:
We go to work and we expect things. We expect paid holidays, vacation days, cost of living raises, and we expect a safe work environment. As a matter of fact, if we don’t get these things, we complain – to the government.
Those men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis, they don’t expect anything in return. They do what they do because as they would tell you, “I’m just doing my job.” They do it when its 140 degrees, they do it when it’s raining, they do it when there is 60 MPH wind, they do it when its freezing outside, and yet, they never once complain.
“I’m just doing my job.”
These people end up with things like missing limbs, mental disorders, heart conditions, and even cancer but without hesitation would tell you that they would do it again. They wouldn’t change one thing about what they have done.
“I was just doing my job.”
Thousands of these men and women selflessly risked EVERYTHING they had, EVERYTHING that they were taught – for you and me. They did it without hesitation, without expecting anything in return, without even being asked to do it.
And they would do it again.
These men and women are what I call Heroes.
Freedom isn’t free. Somewhere that Soldier has a family that is missing him or her dearly. Somewhere that Soldier has friends that leave an open seat at the poker table. Somewhere that Soldier has a husband who is playing dress up with their daughter and having a tea party that that little girl was supposed to have with her mommy. She promised they’d have one when she came home.
Why? Why isn’t Mommy or Daddy coming home?
Because your Mommy and/or Daddy gave their life to protect yours.
That is Memorial Day.