Tag Archive | "Texas Rangers"

Do You Trust Your Closer?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Do You Trust Your Closer?

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Every position in baseball is important. Every pitch. Every catch. Every play. Once the starting pitcher has exhausted, he counts on his relievers to carry some weight for the rest of the game, and then the final touch must be executed with extreme precision by the closer.

pitchers-mound

The closers role is glamourous yes, but the amount of pressure that lays upon them is intense. They are there for that final inning. They are responsible for finishing a game that the rest of the team has worked long and hard for. They face the final three batters. Well, hopefully just three. The opposing team’s batters have an extra exuberance for one last chance at taking the lead in a game. They have more adrenaline for the last shot at being the hero. Even though every out in every inning matters, the closers seem to have a heavier job to do.

Not every reliever can handle the pressure and stress of this responsibility. A lot of closers get demoted to the set-up guy if they struggle too often. Some even get sent down to the minors to work on their pitches, or even get released.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, was mercifully given another opportunity with the team this year. After initially releasing him to free agency, no other team wanted the veteran on the back-end of their bullpen. He then agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Tigers organization, and was eventually called back up and given another chance to prove he deserves his former closing role.

Last season, Tiger’s fans would cringe when Valverde was given the ball in the 9th. They never knew what would happen. But one thing for sure was that he would make it interesting. At times he would pitch a flawless inning. Three up. Three down. But more often, the 9th inning would seem just as long as the first 8 innings combined. As Tiger’s fans would shake their heads in disgust, Valverde would still be trusted by his skipper and continue to pitch the painful, what should have been, final inning.

But he was not always unreliable. In 2011, he amazed baseball fans everywhere for completing 49 saves out of 49 tries, being one of the best closers in the majors. So, how can someone with such a solid record do so much damage in 2012, and lose the faith of most of the fans?

Closing a game is not easy.

The Tigers see something in Valverde that the fans right now, are not. And they decided to give him another chance at becoming the phenomenal pitcher that he has been before. Tiger’s fans, and maybe some of the players themselves, are now on the edge of their seats, waiting to see which type of pitcher Valverde will be this season. He has 4 saves, and has blown one so far in 2013.

There is a weakened bond between the fans and Valverde, but then there are other closers such as Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has the trust of most of the entire crowd to be able to finish games. His career numbers prove his worth with a career ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 1.01. He has 8 saves so far this season and none blown, but last season he had 4 blown saves which was only one less than Valverde in 2012. But for the fans to have faith in their closer, they want that 1-2-3 final inning. Valverde is not that type of closer. But the difference between a much loved Papelbon and a oh-no-here-he-comes Valverde, is consistency.

Another loved closer is Rangers, Joe Nathan. He has 13 saves already this season and not one blown save yet. He has pitched 17 innings and has 16 strikeouts. Nathan has been highly reliable, finishing last season with 37 saves, an ERA of 2.80 and 78 strikeouts. Much like Papelbon, Nathan is dependable. When he is handed the ball in the 9th, the fans are a little more relaxed. And if he fails, they are more likely to be forgiving. But if a closer gets that reputation for being unpredictable like Valverde, he is likely going to have everyone clenching their jaws until the final out.

Valverde has a chance at gaining back the confidence of the fans. His charismatic off-the-wall personality will help soften hearts, but ultimately it is what he does on the mound that will determine the patience and belief of the crowd.

The fans want their closer to succeed. Not only because they want their team to win, but they want that connection between pitcher and fan. That feeling where they know the team is in good hands, so they can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game. But fans do expect pitchers to mess up sometimes. Every now and again, closers are going to give up hits, runs, or blow a save. That is understandable.

Fans are forgiving as long as they do not have to forgive every single game.

Comments (0)

Triple Play: Matt Moore, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Triple Play: Matt Moore, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright

Posted on 29 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

MattMoore2

Who’s Hot?

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays’ 23-year-old lefty is off to a sensational start in 2013, going 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA and a WHIP of 0.87. If you’re lucky enough to have him on your fantasy team, chances are it is off to a good start as well. He does need to limit his walks (4.2 per 9 inn.), but he is permitting a league-best 3.7 hits per 9 innings. Expecting Moore to sustain that (and his ERA and WHIP by extension) would be foolish; however, there is reason for hope that he will be able to keep them in the 3.30/1.20 range: his swinging strike rate is BELOW the league average. Moore was fifth in the AL with 175 strikeouts in 177 innings pitched in 2012, so he has the ability to whiff hitters. If his swinging strike rate goes up, then he could be even more dominating than he’s been. That should be a scary thought for major-league hitters (and a dream for fantasy owners).

Who’s Not?

Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

CarGo is the poster child for the Rockies’ slump. Although Gonzalez has 4 HR, 12 RBI and 4 SB in the season’s first four weeks, Gonzalez is hitting a paltry .111 with three singles in his past six games. He has not hit a home run in his past 10 games. The slump is severe enough that Rockies manager Walt Weiss gave Gonzalez the day off Sunday. While it’s obviously too early to get too concerned about the kind of season CarGo will have, it may not be too early to wonder if the Rockies’ hold on first place in the NL West is already slippling away. With Gonzalez slumping, the timing of Troy Tulowitzki’s shoulder injury might be enough to push the Rockies out of first place in the division. And once they’re out of first, the chances of them getting back there aren’t good. If you own Gonzalez, you really have no choice other than to ride out this slump.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .271/.326/.365, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 11 runs, 4 SB
Player B: .286/.307/.514, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB

Both of the players listed here batted cleanup for their teams on Saturday night. Player A is the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Player B is Yuniesky Betancourt. Yes, you read that correctly. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke actually did this. I know Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez are both on the disabled list. I know Rickie Weeks is slumping horribly. But, still, really? A guy with a career OPS+ of 83 hitting cleanup? Naturally, of course, Betancourt would go 2-for-5 with an RBI. This means it will likely happen again (although it didn’t repeat itself on Sunday). I can’t actually bring myself to suggest that a fantasy owner pick up Yuni, so I’ll just say this instead: all fantasy stats count, regardless of who accumulates them. He would be an easy drop once the inevitable regression back to his usual terrible self happens.

Player A: 0-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 4 saves
Player B: 2-0, 0.81 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 6 saves

Player A is Edward Mujica, the Cardinals’ current closer. Player B is Jim Henderson, the closer for the Brewers after John Axford’s implosion. Mujica replaced Mitchell Boggs, who had replaced Jason Motte. A fellow owner in my NL-only league mentioned Mujica as soon as Motte’s elbow injury became public knowledge. He had the foresight to pick up him. I, on the other hand, figured that young flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal would become the closer. While that may still happen, Mujica has done an excellent job closing games. Henderson, meanwhile, may not give the job back at all. He is 6-for-6 in save chances and I would not put much stock in manager Ron Roenicke’s concern about Henderson throwing too many pitches as the closer. Axford may have had a few scoreless innings of late, but he has proven repeatedly that he cannot handle the ninth-inning pressure on a regular basis. Yanking Henderson from the job would be a terrible decision. Then again, Roenicke has shown a flair for terrible choices before (see Yuniesky Betancourt above).

Random Thoughts

  • Any questions about whether Adam Wainwright is “all the way back” from Tommy John surgery? Through five starts, the man they call “Waino” is averaging more than 7 innings per start, with a 37/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. One walk in five starts. Lots of pitchers can’t get through five innings without issuing a free pass.
  • Conversely, the Cardinals’ bullpen is a hot mess right now. While it’s so frustrating to watch the bullpen ruin two decent starts over the weekend from Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller, it is still April. Here’s hoping that general manager John Mozeliak stays true to his history and does not make a knee-jerk trade in response. It would be easy to deal a useful player like Matt Carpenter for a fungible setup man or middle reliever.
  • Doug Fister has hit eight batters already in 2013. Good thing he didn’t plunk Carlos Quentin that night or it might be him on the DL.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has already been hit by pitches 10 times this season.
  • Nelson Cruz is on another one of his carry-the-team-on-his-back hot streaks: 3 HR, 13 RBI, 6 runs scored, along with a hitting line of .440/.533/.840 over the past week.
  • Hilarious on-pace stat of the year so far: Mike Napoli is on pace to drive in 190 runs for the Red Sox.
  • Seriously, though, I don’t think Boston misses Adrian Gonzalez so far this year.
  • In the same at-bat versus Albert Pujols last week, Yu Darvish threw a 97 mph heater and a 64 mph curveball. Proving that he is human, Pujols struck out.
  • Going into Sunday’s games, Justin Upton and Allen Craig had each driven in 18 runs for their teams. The difference? Upton has 12 home runs and Craig has none.
  • Most of the hype among the game’s youngest players goes to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, but don’t overlook 20-year-old Manny Machado in Baltimore. Machado is on a seven-game hitting streak, during which time he has compiled a .433 average, 5 RBI, 5 runs scored and two steals.
  •  Which one of these statements is true? Edinson Volquez pitched seven consecutive innings without walking a batter last week. Petco Park was sold out.
  • Believe it or not, it’s Volquez. Someone call Ripley.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Comments (0)

25 random thoughts

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 random thoughts

Posted on 10 January 2013 by Chris Caylor

The hot stove has been anything but for the past couple of weeks and spring training is still over a month away. To help tide you over, here are 25 random thoughts about baseball:

ToriiHunter

  1. I am still shaking my head at the Hall of Fame voters. You sanctimonious, self-important knuckleheads.
  2. Speaking of knuckleheads, don’t you just feel bad for poor Torii Hunter? He gets misquoted and taken out of context more than any athlete in history. To be on the safe side, maybe he ought to just shut up.
  3. The Orioles’ 2012 season = the Arizona Cardinals’ Super Bowl run in 2008.
  4. What do you suppose Kevin Youkilis’ reaction would have been at this time last year if you suggested he’d be playing for the Yankees in 2013?
  5.  “Dear Michael Young: the grass isn’t always greener.” – Nomar Garciaparra.
  6. Listen up, people: the Stephen Strasburg and Robert Griffin situations are completely different. Strasburg was not injured; Griffin was. Apples and oranges. Guys like Jon Heyman, who droned on and on about how smart the Nationals were to shut Strasburg down, seem to lose sight of that fact. The Nationals were three outs away from the NLCS without Strasburg; where might they have ended up with him? World Series victories don’t grow on trees.
  7. Although I don’t see it happening, the vision of Michael Bourn and a healthy Rafael Furcal at the top of the Cardinals’ lineup greatly intrigues me.
  8. Although if they did sign Bourn, the Cards could use Jon Jay as part of a package to acquire Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians. Cabrera could play 2B and slide over to SS when (note: not if) Furcal ends up on the DL, then take over SS full-time after Furcal’s contract expires next year.
  9. If the Cardinals were to end up trading some of their young pitchers as part of a Cabrera deal, I wonder if they would reconsider their stance on Kyle Lohse, who has got to be frustrated watching Edwin Jackson get $52 million from the Cubs while his phone sits silent.
  10. Here’s an idea: Lohse to the Pirates. If Francisco Liriano’s deal indeed falls through due to his non-throwing arm injury, adding Lohse would fortify the rotation in front of James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez.
  11. Nobody asked me, but here are some things that would improve the watchability of a baseball game:
  12. Forbid the players from stepping out of the batter’s box after every pitch. You do not need to adjust your batting gloves (or spit on them and smack your hands together) after you watch a ball bounce in the dirt, you anal retentive jocks.
  13. Automatically award a ball against every pitcher who takes longer than 30 seconds to come set and throw a pitch. You want to put that stupid little slingshot that shoots t-shirts into the stands between innings? Use it to drill Josh Beckett with a water balloon next time he takes 15 minutes between pitches. Throw the bleeping ball already.
  14. A 4th umpire in a replay booth to review close plays on the bases, fair/foul calls and questionable home runs. Come on, Bud. It’s time. Don’t be as obstinate and out of touch as Roger Goodell.
  15. Get rid of umpires like Bob Davidson and Joe West. A Walking Dead zombie could do a better job than these chumps. Seriously. Nobody goes to a game to see the Ump Show. Now then, moving on to other things…
  16. Football fans who call baseball boring need to really look at all the down time between plays of a football game. Truth be told, it’s nearly equal, particularly when you factor in all the officiating delays in a football game.
  17. I still believe Justin Upton is the Rangers’ starting right fielder on Opening Day.
  18. Speaking of the Rangers, I presume that Lance Berkman’s signing means that Nolan Ryan has gotten over that World Series Game 6 thing.
  19. At the risk of blaspheming, I have accepted that the DH likely is coming to the National League. Watching pitchers try to bunt – or even swing a bat – is often excruciating.
  20. In fact, with interleague play becoming an everyday part of the baseball schedule, it may as well be sooner rather than later. Just give each team an extra bench spot. The players union ought to be pleased with the 30 new jobs, no?
  21. Not counting teams that have deliberately blown themselves up (coughMARLINScough), is there a team that has done less to improve itself during the offseason than the Rockies? It’s
  22. Player A: .244/.333/.344, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB in 453 PA. Player B: .263/.299.504, 20 HR, 57 RBI in 398 PA, 2.0 WAR. Player A is the Giants’ Gregor Blanco, who was considered by some baseball writers to be their most underrated player in 2012. Player B is free agent Scott Hairston. He shouldn’t be used too much against righties, but teams needing an outfielder could do a lot worse.
  23. For you Mets fans hoping the team will sign a free agent to upgrade your team’s outfield, here’s what remains out there besides Bourn and Hairston: Grady Sizemore, Delmon Young, Nyjer Morgan, Rick Ankiel, Travis Buck.  YEESH.
  24. Anyone surprised that no one has taken an interest in Roy Oswalt after he whined and pouted his way through that “comeback” in Texas? Me either. Don’t call us, Roy, we’ll call you.
  25. I end with one of my favorite quotes, by Rogers Hornsby: “People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do: I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Follow me on Twitter @ccaylor10

Comments (2)

10 Bargains in the Playoffs

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Bargains in the Playoffs

Posted on 04 October 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Cha-ching!

Spending big money on player contracts comes with no guarantee of success or even an assurance that the money will be well spent.  In some cases going big pays off (see “Yankees”), and for some teams the “less is more approach” pays off just as well (see “Athletics”).  Regardless of how much a team spends or how it distributes the spending, every team that makes the playoffs has at least 1 player turning in a big money performance for a fraction of the cost.  So, here I pay tribute to those who overproduce despite being underpaid.  Here are 10 of the “Biggest Bangs for Your Buck” players.

New York Yankees – $209,792,900 total payroll commitments.  For a lot of teams a $10M deal for a single season represents a huge chunk, but the Yankees do not fall into the category of “a lot of teams”.  The team certainly must appreciate the production from big money guys like C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano, but they fall well short of Hiroki Kuroda in the “biggest bang for your buck” (BBFYB) category.  Kuroda has given the team a 3.34 ERA over 32 starts which works out to $2M per 1 WAR.  In Bronx Bomber terminology, Kuroda gives them a Sabathia season at less than half the cost of Sabathia.

Detroit Tigers – $133,475,000.  It might be difficult to stand out with Justin Verlander on the roster, but Austin Jackson sticks out like a sore thumb this season.  Giving a team a .298/.376/.476/.852 line with 16 HR, 65 RBI, a 130 OPS+, and outstanding defense at the same time will do that for a guy.  A 5.2 WAR season for just $500K?  Definitely.

Texas Rangers – $120,836,000.  Tempted to think of David Murphy or Alexi Ogando for this one?  Sure, but the unsung hero for the Rangers has been Craig Gentry.  Gentry’s career year at age 30 this season certainly has helped keep the team in contention.  His line of .302/.379/.479/.858 with 15 HR and 59 RBI comes with an extremely reasonable price tag of $484.3K.

Baltimore Orioles – $84,102,333.  Matt Wieters deserves this recognition both for his performance and his handling of the pitching staff.  Consider it a small miracle that the Orioles have a staff ERA of 3.89 in baseball’s most competitive division.  Producing 3.2 WAR for $500K would be sufficient to win the BBFYB award, though.

Oakland A’s – $52,873,000.  You might think it difficult to pick out a BBFYB winner on a team full of underpaid talent.  Josh Reddick makes the decision quite easy, though.  4.5 WAR for $485K makes it a no-brainer, and I’m all about not using more brain power than necessary.

San Francisco Giants – $131,355,298.  Buster Posey definitely belongs in the MVP conversation, but he already owns the BBFYB title for the Giants.  He leads the NL with 7.2 WAR for a measly $615K.  Too bad for the Giants he reaches arbitration eligibility after this season, because that salary number should increase an awful lot.  With a substantial raise, Posey will likely lose that BBFYB title, but that is a good problem to have.

St Louis Cardinals – $111,858,500.  Up until a few weeks ago, the reigning World Series MVP, David Freese, had the Biggest Bang for your Buck title sewn up.  Then Pete Kozma happened.  Kozma has given the Cardinals 1.1 WAR in just 25 games (79 PAs).  Considering that he makes the minimum and wasn’t expected to contribute at a Major League level this season, he edges out Freese just slightly.

Atlanta Braves – $93,529,667.  The Braves have at least 3 legitimate candidates in this race.  Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel are worthy, but Kris Medlen has just been unreal.  Going 10-1 merits attention in just about any situation, but doing so over the 2nd half of the season when some teams fall of the pace is like a jolt of adrenaline.  From his 1.57 ERA to his 4.2 WAR, Medlen has proven himself to be worth far more than the $490K he’s getting paid.

Cincinnati Reds – $87,826,167.  Flip and coin between Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart.  You really can’t go wrong with either one.  Frazier provides the Reds with pretty good corner infield bat.  Cozart gives them a decent bat but a plus defender at shortstop.  Cozart gets the BBFYB nod for being a better all-around player, but both are really good deals at $480K a year.

Most of the aforementioned players get enough media attention that casual fans have probably at least heard of them, but I thought it worth pointing out just how much they produced without breaking the bank.

Comments (0)

dickey3

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who’s Hot: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets’ Ace

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Chris Caylor

Clint Eastwood has been a popular topic of discussion the past several days. Must be because of that new “baseball” movie he has coming out soon. That’s got to be it. Otherwise, he sure has kept a low profile lately. Speaking of Eastwood, doesn’t it seem far more realistic for him to be playing a crusty old football coach? Leather helmets, three yards and a cloud of dust, and all that? Even at 82, he could probably whoop Mark Sanchez with one arm tied behind his back. What’s that? Oh, right, sorry. Back to the topic at hand: for this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not, I feel inclined to do a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” theme. Off we go:

The Good: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets – The Last Knuckleballer is back in a groove again. He crafted a complete-game shutout of the Miami Marlins in his most recent start. For the season, Dickey sits in the top three in the following categories: wins (17; first), innings (191 1/3; second), strikeouts (190; second), ERA (2.63; third), WHIP (1.01; first) and complete games (4; first). The strikeouts and WHIP stats illustrate just how dominant Dickey has been while throwing the game’s most unpredictable pitch. Here are two more: 1) in so-called “high leverage” situations, opposing batters are hitting just .184 against Dickey in 2012; 2) in those same situations, he is generating ground balls over 51% of the time. Batters simply have not been able to make good contact against Dickey when it counts the most. As an aside, if you haven’t R.A. Dickey’s book (Wherever I Wind Up), get on it. Compelling read, as well as a perfect example of a man who knows his limitations and learned to thrive anyway. He’s just one of many Cy Young candidates in the National League, but he is far and away the sentimental favorite. What a great story it would be for a 37-year-old knuckleballer to win the award over younger power pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Matt Cain, AJ Burnett or Gio Gonzalez. Dickey has been a gift for his fantasy owners as well. If you drafted him or scooped him up off the waiver wire, you’ve been feeling lucky all season long.

The Good: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – The Rangers’ third baseman has been tearing the rawhide off the baseball, going 23 for his last 54, with an eye-popping OPS of 1.633. In the past two weeks, Beltre has bashed 8 homers, driven in 16, and scored 12 runs. That’s a good MONTH for a lot of players. Mixed in this scorched-earth streak (“hot” just doesn’t seem to do it justice), Beltre enjoyed his first career three-homer game and hit for the cycle for the second time in his career. He does have a tendency to cluster his hits together: four hits one night, none the next, three more hits the day after that. In the “neat, but does it really matter?” department, Beltre became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in the same ballpark as a visiting player and a home player. For the season, Beltre has 28 HR, 85 RBI and 79 runs scored, making him one of the top five fantasy performers at the position. He’s been worth 5.0 WAR so far in 2012. He doesn’t steal bases any more, but when he’s racking up stats like this in the other four categories, that’s a small nit to pick.

The Bad: Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals – Zimmermann endured the worst outing of his career Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Worse, he’s in a slump at the worst possible time for the Nationals. After 21 consecutive starts of at least six innings, Zimmermann has been unable to go six innings in 5 of his past 6 starts. With the Strasburg Shutdown now in sight, Washington can’t afford to have one of their remaining starters getting knocked around every five days. In the past two weeks, Zimmermann’s K/BB ratio is at a season-worst 1.50 with a 1.96 WHIP. Worst of all for the Nats (and fantasy owners), Zimmermann was pushed back in the rotation a few weeks ago due to shoulder tightness. There haven’t been any other issues reported, but Zimmermann has a history of injuries in his short career. The Nats need need him to stay healthy and get back on track. They have John Lannan to plug into the rotation in Strasburg’s place, and a man with no name after that. If they have to go into October without two of their top three starters, it may be a short trip to the playoffs.

The Ugly: Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians – I didn’t just pick Ubaldo for the Ugly category for the alliteration; his pitching has been an eyesore, particularly since the All-Star break. In 52 innings pitched since the break (which is awful in itself, since he has made 10 starts), the former Rockies ace has been surrendered 72 hits and 26 walks. Fantasy owners can point to the 10.5 K/9 ratio he compiled in August, but it is completely canceled out by the atrocious 1.80 WHIP and 7.67 ERA. Both of those numbers are roto pitching-staff killers. Jimenez’s home run to fly ball ratio is the worst of his career (13.1%; worst at Coors Field was 11.5% in 2007) and his fastball velocity is the lowest it has ever been (92.7 mph). You have to believe the Indians would like a do-over with this trade. Regardless of how bad Drew Pomeranz and Alex White might struggle, it would have to be more pleasant than watching Jimenez deteriorate into a right-handed Oliver Perez.

Follow me on Twitter @chriscaylor….and get off my lawn.

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here