9 Up 9 Down

PictureThe Box Score

The Texas Rangers opened the season with a slugfest, pounding Phillies ace Cliff Lee for eight runs on 11 hits in just five innings. The problem? Tanner Scheppers, making his major league starting debut, got lit up for seven runs on eight hits in four innings. The Rangers would end up losing that game 14-10 but rebounded nicely by showing some fight and winning the next two games on dramatic 9th inning walk offs. One thing plaguing the Rangers early on is errors and base running mistakes. The Rangers have made a league high eight errors in just six games for a major league worst .963 fielding percentage. Both Choo and Fielder were thrown out in a rundown between third base and home on base running blunders.


On Deck Circle

The Rangers will need to clean up their defense and base running issues if they want to finish off the road trip with a winning record. The Rangers will visit the defending champion Boston Red Sox for a three game set to start off the week before ending the week at home against the Houston Astros with an off day thrown in between on Thursday. Texas is 22-12 vs Boston since 2010 and 11-7 at Fenway in the same time span outscoring the Sox 204-160. The Rangers are throwing out Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross in Boston, all of whom didn’t make it to the 6th inning of their first starts against the Phillies. I am looking forward to seeing how Scheppers and Ross rebound from their debut starts.


Ranger of the week

This is an absolute no brainer to me. Rookie Nick Martinez, who won the fifth starters job out of spring training, started on Saturday in Tampa Bay and threw six innings giving up just three runs on four hits. Martinez, until Saturday, hadn’t thrown a single pitch about the AA level. While Martinez was what some would call “effectively wild” with his fastball command, he wasn’t particularly sharp with his offspeed stuff. His fastball was all over the strike zone and he missed his spots on several occasions.


Highlight Reel

Elvis Andrus made a bare handed play in the bottom of the 7th Saturday night in Tampa Bay that would have made Ozzie Smith jealous.
(credit @nick_pants for the gif)



Ranger Danger (HOT)Stranger Ranger (COLD)

Ranger Danger – Alex Rios – Rios has started the season 8 for 23 with three extra base hits including a homer and five RBI. Rios leads the team with a .348 average.

Stranger Ranger – Prince Fielder – Fielder has started off the season very slowly getting just one extra base hit in 24 plate appearances. He is hitting .154 with just one RBI and a dismal .231 on base percentage.


Prospect Spotlight

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the Rangers organization, at least to me, is right handed pitcher Cody Buckel. Buckel standing in at 6’1” weighing in at 185, was drafted in the second round of the 2010 first year player draft. Buckel quickly rose through the Rangers system reaching AA Frisco in just his second professional season and was rated as one of the organizations top prospects.

In 2011, Buckel posted a 2.61 ERA in 96 2/3 innings, his first full season as a professional.  Buckel posted solid numbers all around in 2011 with 120 strikeouts and 27 walks, good enough for a nearly 4.5/1 K to BB ratio. Buckel would start 2012 with high A Myrtle Beach and that is when the control problems started to show themselves.

Buckels numbers were still very good in 2012. He shined in High A Myrtle Beach, pitching in 13 games and posting a stellar 1.31 ERA in just over 75 innings while striking out 91 batters. The one thing that stood out however, were his 25 walks. He had as many walks as all of 2011 but in 20 less innings, and the season was only half way over. Despite the walks, his numbers not only earned him a spot on the Carolina League All Star team, but it also earned him a promotion to AA Frisco.

In Frisco, Buckel appeared in 13 games posting a 3.78 ERA in 69 innings while striking out 68 and walking 23. His K rate when down by about two hitters per nine innings pitched but still nothing to really scoff at as he was still just 20 years old. High A to AA is widely considered the largest jump in talent levels in the minor leagues and some regression was anticipated.

2013 started and then it happened. The YIPS happened.

The YIPS are defined as the apparent loss of fine motor skills without apparent explanation, in one of a number of different sports. Athletes affected by the yips demonstrate a sudden, unexplained loss of previous skills.

This is exactly what happened with Buckel. To start the 2013 season, he appeared in just six games tossing 9 1/3 innings. He walked an astonishing 28 batters while striking out just nine. He gave up 27 runs on 10 hits, 21 earned, for a 20.25 ERA. He was quickly pulled from the roster and the Rangers wanted him evaluated before sending him back out on the mound. Once Buckel finally returned, it was for the Arizona rookie league Rangers and he appeared in just two games with no better results. He had seven walks in just 1 1/3 innings giving up four runs and striking out four.

Buckel took some time off during the offseason to clear his mind and get away from the game of baseball for a while.

“This offseason, I took some time away from the game, took a deep breath, forgot about baseball for a month or two, got my ping pong game up to par,” Buckel said. “I returned to a clear mind in my workouts and not fearing failure.”

Buckel made his first start of the season last week for High A Myrtle Beach. He tossed four scoreless innings. He did give up four walks and had just two strikeouts, but the important thing for him was that he didn’t give up any runs and was able to fight through the adversity. Scott Lucas, who is a minor league writer for The Newberg Report, said that Buckel was only throwing two of his six pitches. His fastball command was often poor but he fought through it and his secondary pitches looked okay.

The most important thing for Buckel is that he was able to get back on the mound and face professional hitters with confidence. The results were a tad shaky but there seems to be some confidence building and hopefully a return to the form that made him a top prospect in the Rangers organization.


Minor League Round Up

Each week we will take a dive into the Rangers Farm System and see how each of the young Rangers are doing. We will give a weekly recap of each of the affiliates so you can stay up to date with all of your Texas Rangers players. Be sure to click the team logo on the left to visit their team page to get up to date scores, news, stats and roster information.


Spokane Indians (Short Season Class A) 0-0
Season does not start until June. The short season starts in early June and runs through the end of August. Click the team logo on the left to visit the Indians website for the roster, stats and more.


Hickory Crawdads (Low A) 3-1
The Crawdads are absolutely stacked with young talent. Nomar Mazara, Travis Demeritte, Ronald Guzman, Jairo Beras, Lewis Brinson and Colin Wiles are just a few of the young studs that the Rangers are very high on. The ‘Dads opened the season taking 3 of 4 from the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Hickory will host the 2014 Sally League All Star Game.


Myrtle Beach Pelicans (High A) 0-4
The Pelicans are loaded with talent, starting the season with the likes of Joey Gallo, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Chi Chi Gonzales and Cody Buckel. All that talent didn’t help the Pelicans from beginning the season by getting swept in a four game series at home.


Frisco RoughRiders (AA) 1-3
The RoughRiders had an interesting start to the season as the home opener was postponed due to severe storms and a possible tornado sighting. The RoughRiders should compete for the Texas League title with the talent level on the roster. Luke Jackson, Nick Martinez, Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor make up a very talented AA squad.


Round Rock Express (AAA) 2-2
The Express started the season splitting a four game series against the Oklahoma Redhawks at home. Round Rock was hammered in the finale 9-1 yesterday as Colby Lewis went five innings giving up four runs , two earned, four hits and three walks. Lewis threw 98 pitches and appears to be on track to return to Texas.


Sabermetric Terms

The game of baseball is evolving into a 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. Each week I will provide you with two terms to get us educated on the new statistical side of baseball. Here are two Sabermetric terms to get us on the evolving path.

WAR –  Wins Above Replacement is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.

WAR is available in two places: FanGraphs (fWAR) and Baseball-Reference (rWAR). Both statistics use the same framework and calculate replacement level the same, but use different ways of calculating offensive, defensive, and pitching value, so their results differ slightly. All the information provided on these pages refers to fWAR, unless otherwise specified.

BABIP – Batting Average on Balls In Play measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits. While typically around 30% of all balls in play fall for hits, there are three main variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players: defense, luck, change in talent level.

If a player has a very high or very low BABIP, it means that whatever the reason for the spike (whether it’s defense, luck, or slight skill), that player will regress back to their career BABIP rate. BABIP rates are flaky and prone to vary wildly from year to year, so we should always take any extreme BABIP rates with a grain of salt.

(Sabermetric terms courtesy of www.fangraphs.com)



Casey At Bat

The health of the Texas Rangers, especially the pitching staff, has been the biggest discussion of the season so far. Many fans seem to be under the impression that the guys in the rotation now, are the guys that will be in the rotation come May and June. Those same fans are using this pitching staff, and this week worth of results, to determine the outcome of the season already.

Just stop.

The Rangers pitching staff will look drastically different this week, not to mention what it will look like in two months. The Rangers got Yu Darvish back yesterday while optioning Nick Martinez back to Frisco, as expected.  The Rangers will have a decision to make on Colby Lewis this week. He started for AAA Round Rock yesterday and threw 5 inning and 98 pitches. The results aren’t what the Rangers would like but he got through the start healthy and feeling good. Lewis has a clause in his contract that allows him to ask for his release if he is not on the big league roster by Wednesday April 10th. After pitching yesterday, Lewis could join the rotation Thursday and start against Houston. That would likely mean Joe Saunders would either be released, sent to the DL or sent to the bullpen as the long man and the rotation would consist of Darvish, Scheppers, Perez, Ross and Lewis.

In about two weeks, Matt Harrison should be ready to come off the DL and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News believes that Harrison will make his season debut April 23rd in Oakland. If that holds true, that would mean one of Scheppers or Ross would move back to the bullpen. Worst case scenario is that Lewis’ hip doesn’t hold up and he gets shelled in his starts and Harrison replaces Lewis. For arguments sake, let’s say that Lewis is pitching fine. At the end of April, the rotation would be Darvish, Scheppers, Perez, Harrison and Lewis. (assuming Ross is the one selected to go back to the bullpen) You then go through the month of May with those five guys and hopefully, come June 1st, Derek Holland is ready and he would likely replace Scheppers unless Harrison or Lewis aren’t performing like they should be.

So all in all, you get a handful of starts out of Saunders, Ross and Martinez in the first month of the season. That is not as bad as everyone is making it out to be. The injuries hit at once at the end of the spring and it made it seem worse than it really was. If the Rangers offense can keep them in games and they can tread water in the standings, the Rangers will win more than then 80 games that two scouts in Arizona allegedly predicted. So, take a step off the ledge fans, the rotation is going to be just fine and so will the Rangers season.

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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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