Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mixed bag.

The past few days have been a mixed bag for the Rangers. No deals at the trade deadline but some rumors of an August deal are still afloat. For now it looks like Texas is going to dance with the ones that brought them.

Sounding like Major League Baseball is lowering the boom in the Biogenesis scandal. Nelson Cruz, shown here on card number 148 of the 2011 Bowman set, is one of the more prominent players likely to see their seasons end under suspension. That's going to hurt. With the offense in scuffle mode, every loss of a big bopper hurts. Engle Beltre is likely to get the nod to replace Cruz but it's not likely Beltre's bat will replace Nellie's.

Two straight walk-off wins and gaining a game on the A's over the past two days. If the guys can hold on this evening they will pick up another game and move to four back of Oakland. Good news with the West Coast road trip starting on August second in Oakland. That would be a good time for the team to get hot and close with the A's. Of course, as Mrs. Spiff asked, isn't it concerning to win too many with walk-offs?

On a related note, the bullpen melt-down last night seems a little concerning as well. Texas has had one of the best pens in the Majors so it could be an isolated incident rather than the beginning of a dive.

Neftali Feliz is due to start his minor league rehab assignment tomorrow. He'll be pitching at Double A to start off. Hopefully things will go smoothly and he'll be back in action before the end of the month. Much as I hate to say it, I'm not sure how much impact Feliz will have. What the team needs is some offense.

Part of the reason for the offensive struggles is that Lance Berkman is still on the Disabled List. Apparently he's really struggling with his rehab and had mentioned retirement. No final word yet but it's a reasonable bet Lance won't be back in a Rangers uniform. Kind of bummer even though there were concerns from the start that Lance might not hold up for the whole season.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Senators Saturday - Chuck Hinton, 1964.

After heavy usage the previous two seasons, Chuck Hinton saw his games appeared in drop to 138 in 1964. That was the fewest of the three regular outfielders. Hinton appears a bit uncertain about this development on card 52 of the 1964 Topps set.

In 575 plate appearances Hinton put together a .274 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage. Neither were stand out numbers but both were small improvements over 1963. Chuck also experienced a small drop in his power with fewer home runs and triples but more doubles. He continued to steal bases with 17 successes (a team best for the season) and only six failures.

In the field Hinton spent most of his time in left field, he put in 1134.1 innings there. In 268 chances he committed four errors for a total fielding percentage of .985, ten points higher than the league average.

Ironically, while 1962 and 1963 were better seasons for Hinton, 1964 was the year he would go to the All-Star game.

Unfortunately for Chuck, the impending trade of Claude Osteen was bringing a new outfielder to town. The new arrival would make one of the regular out fielders expendable. That proved to be Hinton. On December 1, 1964 Washington sent him to Cleveland in exchange for Bob Chance and Woodie Held.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Grabbing Garza.

So the Rangers have already made a move in the days leading up to the Trading Deadline. General Manager Jon Daniels sent top prospect Mike Olt and a package of other players including Justin Grimm to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for pitcher Matt Garza. Garza and Olt were the headliners in the deal.

Olt, shown here on Gold card number BDPP65 of the 2011 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects set, was the Rangers #1 draft pick in 2010 and was consistently rated as one of their top prospects. Garza was the Cubs ace and is a former #1 draft pick himself for the Twins in 2005.

So, is this a good deal for Texas? I'm not sure. Garza has some experience in the American League and a proven track record with an ERA under 4.00 since 2007. That indicates he is unlikely to be the disaster that Ryan Dempster was last year. His performance against the Yankees in his Rangers debut seems to bear this out. He's a rental though, a free agent at the end of the season. As far as re-signing him, I doubt it. Texas does not have a good history of re-signing top of the rotation pitchers. Rangers fans should not expect to see Garza back in Arlington in 2014 unless he is pitching when his team visits.

On the flip side, Mike Olt was touted at the Rangers future slugger. Of course he was blocked at third base, his natural position, by Adrian Beltre and his long contract. That created a problem so the Rangers had Mike start trying different positions at Triple A. First base and the corner outfield spots were being looked at as possible new positions. Then came a matter for concern. Earlier this season Olt went on the Disabled List with vision problems. There didn't seem to be a firm diagnosis and I was never clear on what was done to clear things up enough for him to return to action. Maybe that's the medical problem Chicago saw that derailed the first attempt at this deal.

So, should Texas have traded the future for now? If the team makes the post-season and wins at least one series the answer would seem to be yes. If they fail to get that far this trade is not going to look good no matter how well Garza pitches. That brings me to my primary concern with the deal, does Texas have the horses to make a run at the A's? At this point I'm not sure they do. Garza may solidify the pitching staff but he's not going to swing a very big bat or replace Nelson Cruz if he ends up suspended. That's what makes me question this deal. Garza fills a hole but there appears to be at least one other big gap left. Big enough to sink the season in spite of the trade. If that happens and Olt develops the way he is projected to this deal will look very poor indeed. Of course if Mike's vision problems return nobody will even remember the trade, even if the team doesn't make the post-season at all.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Senators Saturday - Don Zimmer, 1964.

Don Zimmer shows up on card 134 of the 1964 Topps set for this edition of Senators Saturday. Looking at the picture on this card it becomes apparent where Don got his nickname "The Gerbil".

1964 was Zim's first full season with Washington since coming over from the Dodgers mid-way through 1963.

Don't let the front of Don's card fool you. Third base was the position he appeared at most in 1964 (87 games, 636 innings). However, he also showed up at second base (one game, seven innings), right field (three games, 19 innings), left field (two games, eight innings), and as catcher (two games, three innings). He was kind of a jack-of-all-trades for Washington.

Since Zimmer played most of the time at the hot corner it's only fair to consider his fielding numbers there. In his 636 innings in the field Don saw 221 chances and committed 10 errors. That gave him a fielding percentage of .955, exactly on par with the league average. Zimmer didn't quite have the range most other third sackers had though so he probably let through a few hits that might have been outs or errors on a player with more range.

Don would make 370 plate appearances in 121 games in 1964. He would compile a .246 batting average and a .302 on-base percentage. When he hit he really hit with 12 home runs, 16 doubles, and two triples accounting for 30 of his 84 hits.

While Don's offensive numbers weren't anything to write home about he did hit better than several other regulars on the Senators roster. That probably gave him more playing time than he would have otherwise had - not because he was fearsome with the lumber but because he was the best among bad options.

Young John Kennedy wasn't going to nail down third base but Zimmer wasn't the answer either. Those two were the only players to see significant time at the position. For the time being Washington was in flux at third. At 33 Zimmer was trying to prolong his career. So long as a permanent solution evaded the Senators Don would be able to evade retirement.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Back to baseball.

One last random All-Star card before the break officially ends tonight. Today we see Pete Incaviglia on card number 29 of the 1987 Topps All-Star set.

Coming out of the break tonight the Rangers are hosting the Orioles in Arlington. Derek Holland goes to the mound to try and get the team off on the right foot.

Dutch should have a little more help from the offense than he was getting. Craig Gentry and Jeff Baker have been activated from the Disabled List and will be on the roster for tonight's game. Robinson Chirinos and Wilmer Font are headed back to Triple A as a result.

Still no firm word on Lance Berkman. He's not been activated and there doesn't seem to be a lot on information floating around as to his recovery. On the other hand, Yu Darvish is still slated to be activated and pitch on Monday. Ross Wolf (tomorrow) and Martin Perez (Sunday) will bridge the gap between Holland and Darvish.

Alexi Ogando says he is ready to go as well. Ogando has made three rehab starts at Triple A. The last start was yesterday. Alexi went seven innings while giving up two runs. After the game he said he felt good and was ready to go. If he is that would be great. Getting a full-strength Ogando back could really put some gas in the club's tank.

Quick footnote: One-time Ranger Derek Lowe is retiring from being an active player after 17 years in the Majors. Lowe was with the Red Sox when they broke the curse and won the 2004 World Series. He also tossed a no-hitter in 2002.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Second half questions.

Saw part of the All-Star game Tuesday and actually thought it wasn't a bad game. At least what I saw. Glad the American League won even though I doubt the Rangers have the horses to take advantage of the win.

Nellie Cruz made it into the game but didn't make any standout plays. Joe Nathan got the save. I don't have a signed card of Joe, in fact I have no Rangers cards of him. You'll have to make do with this signed 1984 Fleer card of former Ranger All-Star Charlie Hough.

Going to be an intriguing second half of the season in Texas. The case of the A's continues. Anyone's guess how that dog fight will come out.

Manny Ramirez continues to be Manny with the Round Rock Express. Nolan Ryan says Manny might be an option but other sources say there are no current plans for a call-up. Not sure I like the idea of Manny in Arlington.

There may be no need for Manny if the players returning from the Disabled List can hit the ground running. Lance Berkman and Jeff Baker could combine to block him. The pitching needs to come back strong as well. Chance the second half rotation looks better than the first half.

Of course a big question will be if Texas is a buyer, seller, or sits out the trade deadline frenzy. There's already rumors of a possible trade for Matt Garza. Not sure what to think of that. If the team was close to a World Series appearance it might be worth it. Not sure how close they are though. Hate to see the future go for a first-round playoff appearance.

Monday, July 15, 2013

All-Star Break.

Time for the 2013 All-Star break. Taking a look at Ivan Rodriguez's 1997 Upper Deck card number 211 which commemorates his selection to the 1996 Midsummer Classic.

Nelson Cruz and Joe Nathan are heading to New York to play in the All-Star game. Yu Darvish is tagging along but he won't play since he's on the Disabled List. Derek Holland may get a last minute nod as well.

The rest of the team will be taking a much needed rest. After struggling recently, Texas is headed into the break two games behind Oakland in the American League West. That's not entirely surprising but still not good news. Hopefully a few days off will mitigate some of the aches and pains and help the team get back into contention form. There might also be re-enforcements on the way.

Darvish should be back shortly after the break with no rehab needed. It's a short stint for him with a mild muscle strain. Jeff Baker also looks to be on target to be back coming off the break. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off and give the offense a much-needed lift. Craig Gentry is scheduled for a post-break return from his hand break. He will probably need a rehab assignment. Lance Berkman, and Nick Tepesch will be eligible to come off the DL early next week.

Colby Lewis is throwing batting practices. That's good news and may signal a late July return. Also looking at a late July return is Alexi Ogando. Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz are slated for August. If all four can come in looking good it will be like having a whole new rotation down the stretch.

Joakim Soria has only made three appearances since his return from the DL but seems to be doing well. Would be nice if that continues after the break.

Lot of injuries. The key now for Texas is to keep the current players healthy and have these near-future returns come back strong and in form. If that happens overtaking Oakland is a real possibility.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Odd Moments: Witt arrives.

In 1986 Bobby Witt was a highly touted prospect in the Rangers farm system. Texas took Witt, shown here on a signed 1986 Topps card, in the first round of the 1985 draft. By the beginning of the 1986 season the powers that be felt the 21-year-old was ready for the big time.

On April 10, 1986 Witt arrived in Arlington with his Major League debut. Bobby lasted just 3.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. He allowed 5 earned runs on five hits, six walks, and one wild pitch. He still managed to slide by with a no-decision.

The April 10th start might have been chalked up to nerves. Witt got a second chance a week later against the Brewers in Milwaukee. That's where things got crazy.

On April 17, 1986 Bobby Witt took the mound for the second time in a Major League game. He was probably glad to have the first start behind him and ready to lower his huge ERA. He would go five innings while giving up just two runs. That might be considered a normal bounce-back game for a rookie but the numbers were amazing. Witt launched four wild pitches, walked 8, and struck out 10. He didn't allow a hit. Amazingly he didn't hit anyone. That was probably the Brewers' main concern though and likely led to several of the whiffs. How bizarre is that stat line?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Ok, after a week of dealing with some move side effects and fighting with computers and scanners I am finally back. The computer/scanner issue is not fully resolved but I have a solution in place that enables me to do in four steps what I could do in one before. Technology rocks.

The Rangers have also been rocking. Up to 15 games over .500 with their win against Baltimore last night. Also touting the best on road record in team history at this point.

Ian Kinsler, shown here on card number 185 of the 2011 Topps Lineage set, is a big part of the reason Texas is only half a game behind Oakland in the standings. He was also a big part of last night's win.

The offense seemed to come alive last night with four Rangers having two-hit nights and an additional four getting one hit each. Leonys Martin was the only Texas player to not get a hit. Kinsler went 2-for-5 with a double and four RBI.

On the mound Derek Holland lasted 6.2 innings before giving way to the bullpen. The three runs the Orioles scored off Holland were the only three they got. Opposite Dutch was former Ranger Scott Feldman. His night didn't go so well as he coughed up seven runs in 5.1 innings.

Hopefully the Rangers can keep up the winning even with losing Lance Berkman and Nick Tepesch to the Disabled List. Half a game isn't an impossible hill to climb but when the A's are at the top you better not trip.