Slap Hits

Cruz
Normally when I write, I like to focus on one topic and fully explore it to the best of my abilities. I think that is a healthy model, particularly for this site. When you come to this site, we expect that you have a base level knowledge of baseball, and the Rangers. Rarely do we dumb things down to tell you exactly what is happening on the field, because there is a built-in assumption that 1) you can tell for yourself, or 2) get your fill of that elsewhere, or 3) you’re here for something meatier than that. This particular piece won’t be quite such a deep-dive, but instead will touch on several current topics of interest for the Rangers. This was an introductory paragraph, which is now plenty long enough, so let’s get to the interesting part of these words.
Mitch Moreland

I already wrote about Mitch Moreland this week here, and Eddie added on to thathere, so this is just a quick update. Moreland’s current hot streak is almost identical to what he did last year. Compare:

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This year’s hot streak has stood out far more than last year’s, mainly because Moreland is now hitting lefties this year (which he’s never done before), and because last year at the same time Josh Hamilton was posting a 1.190 OPS and 12 home runs and was being crowned MVP and Triple Crown winner and was saving up all those #paytheman hashtags that he can cash in now.

Joe Nathan

There are really two sides to how you can look at Joe Nathan right now. The first side says he has a 2.40 ERA; 15 strikeouts in 15 innings; 12 saves in 12 opportunities (making Texas the only remaining team without a blown save this year); and is allowing a .618 OPS (down from .769 after 14.2 innings in 2012, and .631 for the full year in 2012). That’s all really good stuff.

The other side of Joe Nathan says that his average fastball velocity has dropped more than 2 MPH from 94.5 last year to 92.2 this year; has allowed all six runners he has inherited to score; is throwing almost 3% fewer strikes this year; has already walked six batters in 15 innings after only walking 13 batters all last year in 64.1 innings; and has only faced the minimum number of hitters in five out of 16 appearances this year.

Nathan is 38 years old, and is now three years removed from Tommy John surgery. While the results have been excellent, the warning signs are there that it’s going to be a lot harder for Nathan to sustain them this year than he did last year.

Nelson Cruz

It’s been a weird year for Cruz. He’s been dreadful defensively, but then yesterday he does this:

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He is also coming off of a streak of 10 games in which he was 6-of-37 (.162 AVG), but four of those six hits were home runs, giving him a .500 SLG in that period.

It’s all about timing with Cruz, both in his swing and in when you can expect his contributions.

Back of the Bullpen

The premier relievers for the Rangers are Joe Nathan, Tanner Scheppers (oohhhh Tanner Scheppers, how good you look so far), and Robbie Ross. Beyond that, it’s difficult to trust anyone else. Joseph Ortiz has worn down (or is suffering from being called Joseph instead of Joe – jury is still out), Michael Kirkman should be a dentist (it’s a watching-him-is-like-pulling-teeth joke), Jason Frasor looks like Roy Oswalt in far too many ways, and Derek Lowe is exactly who we thought he was – a guy you give a minor-league deal to halfway through Spring Training.

Hopefully, this quartet will get a facelift soon, with the impending returns from injury of Colby Lewis, Martin Perez, and Joakim Soria causing some shake-ups. Additionally, the solid work of Josh Lindblom and Neal Cotts in Triple-A are about to bust down the door that lands them on the 25-man roster. Lindblom has a 2.08 ERA in 43.1 IP with 33 SO and 11 BB. Cotts has a 0.86 ERA in 21 IP with 37 SO and 5 BB, and he is humiliating left-handed hitters – he’s faced 27 lefties, and struck out 19 of them without giving up a hit.

Falling (Fallen?) Angels

At some point in this season, it will no longer be fun to see the Angels completely floundering. Mostly because at some point, they will actually start playing like a real baseball team. Today is not that day.

The Angels were humiliated in Kansas City last night. They’re currently the third-worst team in baseball, only ahead of Miami and Houston in both record and run differential. They’re 11 games out of first in the AL West. They were never that far back in 2012.

Their farm system is the worst in baseball, their big-time free agent signings are all failing, and seemingly everyone who leaves LA is instantly better. Just this year, Vernon Wells, Jean Segura, and Ervin Santana have combined for 4.5 rWAR. The entire Angels roster (batters and pitchers) have been worth 4.6 rWAR.

Just the Segura-for-Greinke deal. Man.

The Angels only hope to fix their current situation is to throw more money at it. Their terrible farm system will leave them struggling to have impact call-ups or impact trades. They don’t even have a 1st round pick this year.

Virtually all of the Angels position players are under contract or under team control in 2014. And the same is true except for Alberto Callaspo in 2015. If they keep getting older and more injured, their current problems will only get worse.

Darvish vs. Verlander

This happens tonight. I would pay to watch this on TV like a prize fight between heavyweights. Appointment baseball with my two favorite pitchers, and two of the best pitchers going in the AL right now, pitching for two of the best teams in the AL. Call it a potential playoff preview, or whatever you like, just don’t miss it.


Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM

Peter Ellwood

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