Rangers Pepper: One For The Road

I’ve been writing about the Texas Rangers for a few years now, and in the 2013 season I put the majority of my thoughts down in the form of “Rangers Pepper”. It allowed me to cover a variety of issues in a single post, and save more lengthy topics for the extended treatment that they deserved.
My musings gained a following, and the fine folks at ShutDownInning.com were among those to take notice. In August I was asked to write for SDI by site co-founder Patrick Despain. I consider that moment to be a blessing and a milestone along my road to breaking into to the sports media business professionally.

If you read anything in this final edition of Rangers Pepper, please let it be the final entry, but if all you want is Rangers ramblings, and have no need for the sappy sentimental stuff, I won’t hold it against you.

If you’re looking for a last second Christmas gift, and I do mean last second, then here’s the perfect item for the baseball nut(s) on your gift list.

Otherwise, here’s the Pepper for one last time:

My Issue With Choo Contract Critics – The signing of any 31, going on 32, year old player to a $130 million contract that will take him into age 39 is going to have detractors.

It’s a near universal agreement that the Shin-Soo Choo acquisition is a slam dunk for the 2014 Rangers, but the contract has it’s fair amount of critics. Dave Cameron is one such naysayer, who not only views the deal as potentially the worst contract given out so far in free agency, but believes Texas would have been far better served signing Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran as the  New York Yankees did; leaving someone else to bite on Choo’s demands.

A few weeks back, the other SDI Dustin wrote in detail how advanced metrics and the value of a win project that a Choo deal worth $142 million would be an overpay of around $12 million per win (in terms of fWAR). The adjusted amount per win for the $130 million contract that Choo finally agreed to is roughly $11 million. That’s if you go with FanGraphs Steamer projections, which seem to be on the conservative side.

For instance, Choo walked to the plate 195 more times in 2012 and 2013 combined than steamer projected. Steamer guessed that Choo’s OBP would regress to .359 in 2013, not just a 14 point drop off of his .373 total of 2012, but a substantial 22 points less than his career average of .381 entering last season. The end result was a whopping 64 point difference between Choo’s 2013 final tally of .423.

So what do the fine folks at Steamer say is in store for Choo in 2014? They project 668 PA and a .382 OBP to be expected from the Rangers new outfielder. Both are totals that I’m hard pressed to pick apart, but I also wouldn’t rule out an OBP closer to .400.

As Mr. Dietz pointed out in his piece, Choo’s realized .423 OBP last season wasn’t a result of a spike in hits. It was a continued trend of more patience at the plate. In fact there is another projection for fWAR that FanGraphs uses called Oliver, and Oliver says Shin-Soo Choo will put up a 4.7 fWAR in 2014. Thanks in large part to a much more forgiving defensive projection.

What will actually happen?

Let’s split the difference and guess that Shin-Soo Choo provides a 4.0 fWAR for Texas in 2014, and then go off of the loss of 0.5 fWAR per season over the course of his deal, as Dustin did.

That brings us to 17.5 fWAR over the life of Choo’s deal, which at $7.4 million per win is in line with today’s estimation of how much money a win is worth. Is 17.5 a likely total? Probably not, but again splitting the difference from the 11.9 that Mr. Dietz came to and my pie-in-the-sky estimation, we come to 14.7 in fWAR. That’s a value of $8.8 million per win, and still a very good return on Texas’ investment.

My other issue with Cameron’s analysis is that it ignores that Jon Daniels and his front office likely passed on McCann because of the expected rise of Jorge Alfaro. That’s the key reason why I didn’t expect the Rangers to spend big coin on McCann in the first place.

Pair that with Texas not having to lose a draft pick in 2014 due to signing two free agents given qualifying offers by their former teams, and I expect the Choo signing to work out just fine by the time it’s concluded at the close of the 2020 season.

Time To Give Wash His Due – The popular notion is that the Shin-Soo Choo signing marks the end of Texas’ name brand shopping spree prior to pitchers and catchers reporting to Surprise in 54 days. I’d gamble that should Masahiro Tanaka be posted that Texas will be in the mix of teams vying for his services, but there is one more move that must be made.

Ron Washington cannot be allowed to enter next season as a lame duck manager, and it would be shocking if that were the case.

Jon Daniels has openly commented that he wants to extend Washington beyond 2014, and while other Daniel’s public statements can be taken at less than face value, there’s no reason to believe there isn’t a contract extension in the future for the winningest manager in club history.

Of the skippers still employed whose teams’ seasons continued after game 162 of last year, only Washington and Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly currently have contracts that are set to expire at the end of the 2014 season without an option for 2015.

Manager contracts are always a year to year proposition.
Even if Wash is handed a multi year extension, a 2014 flameout should trigger a change at the helm moving forward; however, that must not preclude the Rangers’ front office from sending a message that they stand behind their current skipper with a new deal.

My expectation is that once JD and his staff have finalized their major dealings in free agency, hinging on any possible Tanaka negotiations, that they will turn their attention to giving Washington a well deserved new contract.

It’s the right thing to do.

Say Goodbye, Say Hello – I opened this finale of “Rangers Pepper” with a short story of how I got here. Now please allow me to finish up with some thoughts on where I’m headed, and a thank you those who have carried me to this point.

Patrick Despain entrusted me with contributing to his wonderful brand of Texas Rangers coverage down the stretch run of the 2013 campaign, and I’ll forever be honored and humbled by the opportunity.

I imagine he recognized my passion for not just the team that my father introduced me to as a child, but my desire to share my love for covering the world of amateur and professional athletics with the public.

Now it’s time for myself and the rest of the extremely talented group of writers at ShutDown Inning to take a bold step into the future with Agustin Gonzalez’s Paranoid Fan venture.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with this amazing group of sports brains in person or over social media, and I can only hope to live up to the outstanding example that they have laid out before me.

It’s yet to be determined in what capacity I will contribute to Paranoid Fan’s expansion in 2014, but as my role is determined in the coming days, I am comforted that a special group of people will be along for this next journey.

That special group is you, the reader.

The impossibility to express my gratitude to you knows no bounds. Only a few years ago I was limited to spreading my obsession with the athletic arena to coworkers at my 9-to-5 job, while my bosses urged me to direct my focus back towards the next sales call.

It’s extremely rare in today’s hustle and bustle to pay the bills by working in a field that you truly love. I’m a long way from realizing that dream, but I’m far closer to it now because somewhere along the way you decided that the opinions that I put out into the public have value.

I will continue in my efforts to live up to that standard which you have challenged me to meet. Don’t hesitate for a second to let me know when I’ve let you down, and I promise you that I will never falter to meet your expectations.

My family and I are blessed that you have joined us for this incredible journey. Let’s take this next step as one, and show the world the power of a united voice.

Patrick Despain
Patrick is a member of the IBWAA and creator of Shutdown Inning. He was raised him Arlington, Texas and grew up watching games on HSE and listening to Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz on the radio. He is a long time Rangers fan and never achieved his dream of being a bat boy. He know lives in Georgia with dreams of a Texas return.

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