Friday, October 31, 2014

Walking the Plank.

I know, this isn't Thursday and I don't normally post two game-used or autographed cards in a row. The reason for me posting this 2008 SP Legendary Cuts Destined for History card of Michael Young isn't a normal reason though.

A couple of weeks back I was trolling through the various blogs linked from some of my regular reading. I came across Bob Walk the Plank. BWP is a great Pirates-oriented blog. I left a comment asking the owner, Matt, to send me his address so I could drop some random Pirates cards on him.

One of the reasons I don't buy a lot of packs is the lack of space to store the non-Rangers teams. I have to keep the other clubs down to a manageable level. Several teams have a bad habit of building up (looking at you Giants) and the Buccos were one of these teams. Any time I can find a good home for the non-Rangers cards I have built up I consider it a win-win. Somebody gets cards of their team and I get that much closer to an excuse to buy some packs. I dumped a small lot of random Pirates on Matt and cheered the new space. I was sure to tell Matt he did not need to return anything.

Matt's definition of not returning anything was a small bubble mailer that arrived in my mailbox within days of him receiving the cards I sent. Inside was this Michael Young along with two more Young game-used, a Hank Blalock game-used, and a Matt Harrison certified autograph. Wow and wow again.

There's no way what I sent Matt called for anything close to what he sent in return. Thanks a ton for your generosity Matt, hopefully I can return it someday.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


For me it always seems the days after the end of the World Series are filled with deafening silence. The season is officially over and the long winter stretches out before us like an endless plain. In some ways it's a relief when the Rangers struggle, next year is that much closer. In other ways it's like taking the first step away from base camp on a thousand mile trek across the silent tundra. The sound of the 2014 season is fading already and 2015 is still so far away. I miss baseball already.

To the Royals fans out there: I'm sorry, truly I am. I was pulling for the boys in blue up until the final out of Game 7. It won't help the disappointment but they played well. Seven games and a one run loss in the final game are nothing to sneeze at. The team looks solid and should be a contender over the next couple of years. Just remember, there's 28 other teams out there that would trade places with the Royals today in a heartbeat.

The off-season for the Rangers is moving slowly along. They promoted Steve Buechele, shown here on a signed 1990 Fleer card, to bench coach. Bu replaces the departed Tim Bogar and has to be viewed as a possible managerial candidate for the Rangers, or someone else, in the future. Can't say how great it is to see Steve succeeding in his post-playing career.

Texas also made an opening offer to Colby Lewis. That's a good thing I think. No need to leave Colby hanging any longer than need be. He wants to stay in Texas and the Rangers need starting pitching. Lewis is not an ace but he is an established Major League pitcher who knows how to win and can eat innings. He can also mentor a young staff and help steady a team in contention. Those things could come in real handy in 2015. Lewis has said he does not want to draw out contract talks. That could mean a relatively short negotiation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

1978 Topps - Toby Harrah.

Toby Harrah, shown here on card 44 of the 1978 Topps set, was coming into his junior year as a third baseman after making the switch from short stop in 1977. He had responded well to the switch in 1977 and the Rangers were hoping he would continue his star performance in 1978.

Harrah played in 139 games in 1978, 20 fewer than the previous season. This was probably due to a trip to the disabled list. 91 of those games and 771.2 innings were at third base. Toby put together a .965 fielding percentage there, eleven points higher than the league average. With Bert Campaneris' struggles, Texas saw a hole opening up at short stop. Harrah got moved back to his old position in 49 games to try to fill the breach. Over the 413 innings he played at short he managed a .988 fielding percentage, 24 points higher than the league average.

Toby also made 547 trips to the plate for the Rangers in 1978. He watched his batting average fall 34 points to .229 and his on-base percentage tumble 44 points to .349. That was his lowest batting average since the team moved to Texas. Harrah's power also dropped as he hit 17 doubles, three triples, and 12 home runs - drops in all three areas from the previous season. He did steal 31 bases while getting caught just eight times. That was four more steals than in 1977 but he also got caught three more times.

Toby Harrah saved the Rangers defensively at short stop and third base but the unexpected offensive dip raised concerns. A shake-up was coming after the Rangers second straight second place finish. Harrah's offensive troubles could put him on the table. Even if they didn't, he needed to figure out a way to get his bat back up to where it had been over the past three or four seasons.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Minor League Monday - Eric McCray, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Eric McCray's first two seasons in pro ball had gone pretty well. One season in Rookie ball followed by one at Single A with success at both levels. Following the 1989 season, McCray was promoted to Double A Tulsa for the 1990 campaign.

McCray, shown here on card 1151 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set, made all 25 of his appearances for the team as a starter. He pitched 141 innings while posting a 4.21 ERA and an 1.589 WHIP. He ended the season with an 8-7 record.

After two successful seasons, Eric McCray's career suffered a setback in 1990. It was back to Single A for the start of the 1991 season. Eric needed to get things back on track and fast. A 10th round draft pick only has so many chances to make good, even if he is a left-hander.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Senators Saturday - Dick Lines, 1967.

Canadian Richard George Lines appears on card 273 of the 1967 Topps set. Dick looks happy about something and he had reason to be when this photo was taken. In 1966 Lines broke into the Majors and led the Senators regulars with his 2.28 ERA. That's not too bad for a rookie season and earned him a shot in 1967 as well.

Solely a reliever for the second straight season in 1967, Lines appeared in 54 games for Washington. Over the 85.2 innings he pitched, Dick compiled a 3.36 ERA and an 1.249 WHIP. Both were significant jumps from the previous season. In 2.2 more innings worked, Lines managed to keep his walk total at 24 - identical to 1966. He raised his strikeout total by five to 54.

Lines had his work cut out for him if he wanted to remain in the Majors in 1968. He started off well in 1966 but the rise in his ERA and WHIP in 1967 was very concerning. The lefty wasn't suffering from extreme wildness, he hit nobody and uncorked just four wild pitches. He must have had some control issues that were keeping him from getting the ball where he did in 1966. Either that or he was still getting the ball there and the league was adjusting. Whatever the problem, Lines needed to get a handle on it if he wanted a shot at making the team in 1968.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Royals and random stuff.

In recognition of the Royals win last night I am posting this signed 1978 Topps Jim Sundberg card. I got this card signed in person at the Rangers FanFest this past spring. Of course, Sunny was also the Royals starting backstop when they won it all in 1985. Hope to see another Royals championship this year as well. Since they didn't win game one the odds aren't with them. Odds don't seem to really bother this KC team though.

Been doing a little work on the trade list over the past week. I now have team names listed in the misc, rookies, and minis categories. Some of the players I am sure everyone knows the teams for but I think it's easier for team collectors to scan for their team rather than for specific players. Also eliminated a player or two from the list. Some of the Pudge game-used are on hold for a possible trade but the rest of the list is still available. Take a look and let me know if you see anything you like. The off-season is rapidly approaching and a few trades would make the long winter a lot easier.

Also, if you have a card blog yourself and would like it added to my links list, let me know. I'll take a look and see what I can do. I would like to add some more team oriented blogs in particular but any card blog is a good blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big news, Big cards.

So, I got a phone call from Mark the Royals fan last Friday night. He was pretty pumped and had some big news to share. He had tickets to the World Series. One for game one and two each for two, six, and seven. That is some big news. Mark scored the tickets for face value. That's big news as well. The story of getting the tickets was pretty neat but that's Mark's tale to tell. Needless to say, he was really looking forward to heading off to Kaufman and seeing the series. Can't blame him, I would be pretty excited as well. Hopefully he sees a Kansas City title. I'm pulling for the Royals this year and really want to see them come out on top.

During the conversation Mark mentioned he just made a rather large trade with a Mets collector we've both been trying to reach to propose trades. Mark has quite an extensive Royals collection and had a bit of a hard time coming up with enough he needed to round out the trade. He hit my wantlists and filled out the trade with Rangers. He wanted me to know to be expecting a box.

The box arrived Monday and it was big. Well, it had this 1990 Topps Big card #127 featuring Rafael Palmeiro in it. That and about two hundred and fifty other Rangers cards. Mark was right, he hit my wantlists. The box shrank my wantlists by almost four pages and completed ten team sets. That's big. Bigger than anything I have to send in return.

Me not having anything to send in return is probably the biggest thing about this. Mark mentioned the box on Friday night in order to tell me not to send him anything in return. Nothing, just enjoy the cards and cross them off the list. Now that's big. Thanks Mark.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1978 Topps - Mike Hargrove.

Coming into 1978 Mike Hargrove, seen here on #172 of the 1978 Topps set, was looking to build on his successful 1977 season. Hargrove had managed to improve defensively and offensively in 1977. If he could make more improvement he might be able to get back to his 1974 form.

Hargrove appeared in 146 games for the Rangers in 1978. All but six of those games were at first base. Four more were as the Designated Hitter and two were pinch-hit appearances. Over the 1124.2 innings Mike played at first he made 17 errors and ended the season with a .987 fielding percentage. That was a six point drop from 1977 and five points below the league average.

Mike made 616 trips to the plate for Texas and put together a .251 batting average and a .388 on-base percentage. The batting average was a 54 point drop from the previous season and the on-base percentage fell by 32 points. Hargrove's power also deserted him as he hit 24 doubles, one triple, and seven home runs. All were less than in 1977 and the home runs fell by over half. Perhaps the brightest spot offensively for Mike was his league-leading 107 walks.

Well, Hargrove hadn't been able to build on his 1977 success. He was quickly developing a pattern of doing well on odd-numbered years and stumbling on even numbered ones. If the pattern held true then 1979 should be an up year. The question was, would the Rangers have the patience with Mike to give him another year?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Minor League Monday - Felipe Castillo, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Felipe Castillo, shown here on ProCards Tulsa Drillers card 1150, was signed by the Rangers as a free agent at age 19 in 1986. He started his pro career the same year with the Gulf Coast Rangers in Rookie ball.

The four years between the start of Felipe's career and the issuing if this card were not easy ones for Castillo. He got his ERA below 4.25 only once: 2.78 in a 23 game stint with the Low A Gastonia Rangers in 1988. Somehow he kept climbing and ended up with Double A Tulsa for the 1990 season.

Up to 1990, Castillo had been primarily a starter. That obviously wasn't working out well so the Rangers transitioned him to a relief role in 1990. He made 20 appearances out of the bullpen for the Drillers and tossed 46 innings. Felipe posted a career low 2.35 ERA while striking out 39. His 1.457 WHIP was a reason for concern but the improvement with the move to the bullpen had been dramatic. That was good for Castillo because he needed a dramatic improvement to keep his Major League dreams alive.

The improvement was enough to earn Felipe a promotion to Triple A Oklahoma City for the remainder of the 1990 season. He came out of the bullpen 19 times and made one spot start for the 89'ers. Over 28.2 innings he compiled a 3.45 ERA and an 1.744 WHIP. Apparently that was enough for Texas, Castillo would not be back in 1991.

Following the 1990 season is where Castillo's career takes an unusual turn and the lack of minor league information becomes frustrating. It appears he was out of organized baseball for four years. I can't even find any record of him playing in Japan.

In 1995 Felipe re-surfaces at age 28 with the Tulsa Drillers, still a Rangers farm team. This is clearly a comeback attempt, not a spot appearance. He pitched 33 innings over 14 relief appearances and posted a 3.82 ERA and 1.606 WHIP. Not too shabby for a guy missing for four seasons and suddenly jumping back into Double A ball. That's it though. He's gone again after 1995.

Castillo's back again in 2001 though. Still a reliever at age 34, he appears in ten games, evenly split between the independent Fort Worth Cats and the Triple A Mexican League Cordoba Cafeteros. Felipe got hammered over 4.1 innings with the Cats to a tune of a 6.23 ERA and a 2.077 WHIP. He did a little better with the Cafeteros as he posted a 3.18 ERA and an 1.941 WHIP. That was it. He finally hung up the spikes for good after 2001.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Senators Saturday - Frank Howard, 1967.

Frank Howard appears with a bat on card 255 of the 1967 Topps set. Probably an accurate depiction of his career. At the plate is where The Capitol Punisher earned his nickname.

Howard was the Senators starting left fielder in 1967 and appeared in 149 games. 141 of those games included playing left field and three included right field. He also played first base in four games which opened the possibility of moving him to that position sometime in the future. It was the first time Hondo had played first since 1961.

Over the 1086 innings in the outfield (only 3.2 innings were in right field and he saw no action), Howard committed just three errors en route to a .986 fielding percentage. That was ten points higher than the league average and a very pleasant surprise. His range in the outfield was significantly lower than your average American League outfielder though. At first base Frank played 17 innings without a miscue. Once again, his range was limited compared to most first basemen around the league.

Hondo made 585 trips to the plate in 1967, second only to Ken McMullen in plate appearances on the team. He batted a team best .256 and got on base at a .338 clip, also a team high. Frank's .511 slugging percentage was not only a team best, it was 5th in the American League. He hit 20 doubles, two triples, and 36 home runs (team best). He came in third in the American League in home runs. His 89 RBI led the team and was 4th best in the AL. Howard might have had a higher on-base percentage if he wasn't such a free swinger. He struck out a league-leading 155 times.

The Senators got what they were looking for from Frank Howard in 1967. He was hitting for power and that's why they traded for him. If he could cut down on the whiffs it would be nice but Hondo was a free swinger when he arrived from Los Angeles. The above average fielding percentage was an added bonus, Howard was on the roster for his bat. If he could cut down on the strikeouts in 1968 and maintain his defense, he would have a successful season. Due to his size any increase in range in the outfield was not going to happen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rangers roster begins off-season change.

The Rangers have begun their off-season moves. J.P. Arencibia and Kevin Kouzmanoff already took their free agency rather than start 2015 in the minors. Alex Rios won't be with the team in 2015 either it doesn't look like.

Texas announced on Wednesday morning that they won't be picking up Rios' $14 million option for the 2015 season. Instead the team opted to buy him out for one million and send him on his way as a free agent. As I mentioned in my 2014 season review, this move really doesn't surprise me. Chalk one up for my prediction skills I guess.

Alex didn't have a bad year in 2014, he just didn't have a really good one either. The Rangers figure they can get a decent year from one of their young outfielders at a fraction of the price Rios would have cost. What will be interesting now is how much Rios, seen here on card 85 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set, will get on the free market.

Right now the plan calls for Shin-Soo Choo to move from left to right field to replace Rios. Barring a trade or free agent signing, that will leave Michael Choice, Jake Smolinski, Daniel Robertson, Ryan Rua, and Jim Adduci duking it out for the left field spot. The runner-up will likely end up as the fourth outfielder.

There are some big name free agent outfielders on the market. Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Torii Hunter, Nori Aoki, and former Ranger Nelson Cruz. Since Texas is going to be looking to shore up the pitching staff I really don't look for them to make a play for any of these guys. If they do, Aoki would probably be the only one they would seriously look at.

The Rios move frees up some cash for a possible pitcher signing. I like that. It does take an experienced bat out of the lineup though so it's a bit of a gamble. It's probably the right move though. Texas has a lot of hungry young outfielders right now and can afford to bet at least one of them comes through to replace Alex.

Speaking of replacements, the Rangers announced the replacement for manager Ron Washington yesterday. Like many, I expected bench coach/interim manager Tim Bogar to get the nod. Instead the club went with Pirates bench coach Jeff Bannister. From the outside it seems that Bannister must have really wowed the front office to get the nod over Bogar. Hopefully he can wow the players and fans as well in 2015 and beyond.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Early off-season.

The off-season is trading time. All the teams engage in wheeling and dealing. I know, the off-season doesn't officially start until the World Series is over but we're close enough. I haven't had a trade in awhile and would like to remedy that. Of particular interest would be Rangers game-used and autographs I don't have. They don't have to be stars, ones like this 1996 Leaf Authentic Signatures card of Matt Whiteside would be fine. This section of my collection is a bit thin and I'd like to bulk it up a bit.

Of course, I'm also still trying to knock out the Rangers base team sets. I'm always interested in trading for any cards off my wantlist. Senators are welcome too, especially off the Washington wantlist. I'd even consider a blind team lot trade, if anyone is interested.

Other than the Rangers, I occasionally pick up cards of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and Stan Musial. I'd also consider any Royals parallels or inserts. Mark the Royals fan has most of the base cards already so it doesn't do me much good to pick them up. Of course, if you have anything of Jon Matlack from the Matlack wantlist be sure and let me know.

I've been slowly revamping my tradelist so if you see anything there you might be interested in, now is the time to speak up. Some of the cards listed will be disappearing in the coming weeks. I'd like to trade base for base, vintage for vintage, inserts for inserts, etc. but if you make an offer I'll listen. I'll even look through your tradelist if you see something off mine you like. I also have some Ivan Rodriguez memorabilia not listed on the trade list that I'd like to get traded to a good home so let me know if that catches your interest.

Well, that's my attempt to kick the hot stove season off to an early start. Let me know if we can work a deal.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 in review - Bullpen and Manager.

Going into Spring Training, the relief corps was the big question mark for the Rangers 2014 season. The bullpen turned out to be almost a complete disaster. The fact that this portion of the review covers 19 pitchers is a bad sign. It's worse when you consider that the club traded or released at least four relievers throughout the season and I'm not reviewing them. Like the rest of the team, there were one or two bright spots to help mark the way to 2015. This review is in no particular order.

Injuries and struggles marred Alexi Ogando's season. Alexi, shown here on card 69 of the 2012 Bowman set, was looking for a bounce back year. Instead he ended the year with a horrendous 6.84 ERA and an equally ugly 1.920 WHIP. After 25 innings in 27 appearances Ogando ended the season on the 60-day Disabled List.

Shawn Tolleson made 64 appearances for the Rangers in 2014, all out of the bullpen. He tossed 71.2 innings and ended the season with a 2.71 ERA, and an 1.172 WHIP. Shawn struck out 69 batters while walking 28. He's no closer but provided a little stability for the club in the middle innings.

Neal Cotts was the Rangers bullpen utility man. He served as a long man, lefty specialist, steup man, and spot closer. Neal tossed 66.2 innings in the 73 trips (team high for pitchers) he made out of the bullpen. He wasn't terribly consistent and ended the season with a 4.32 ERA, an 1.335 WHIP, and two saves.

Roman Mendez was a mid-season call-up and logged 33 innings on the mound over 30 relief appearances. He was able to provide some bullpen stability with his 2.18 ERA and 1.121 WHIP. Roman was a nice surprise for the Rangers.

Scott Baker served as long relief and a spot starter when needed. His ability to eat up 80.2 innings aver his 25 appearances (including eight starts) helped off-set his 5.47 ERA and 1.190 WHIP. Not enough to make Scott look like a keeper but enough to make his versatility appreciated.

2014 was a season of frustration for Robbie Ross Jr. He spent time on the disabled list and in the minors as he tried to recover his form and effectiveness. He appeared in 27 games for the Rangers and pitched a total of 80.2 innings. 12 of those 27 appearances were starts. As you can tell by the low number of innings pitched, his 6.20 ERA, and 1.698 WHIP; Ross never was able to get a handle on the season.

Neftali Feliz fought injuries and made a trip to the minors in the course of the season but managed to turn in an impressive campaign. He pitched 31.2 innings over 30 appearances and racked up 13 saves after he moved into the closer role following the departure of Joakim Soria. Nefi put together a 1.99 ERA and an 0.979 WHIP. Seems he was able to find his Rookie of The Year form again.

Aaron Poreda got another shot at the Majors for the first time since 2009. He threw 21.1 innings over 26 games. His 5.91 ERA and 1.734 WHIP were not calculated to amaze.

Phil Klein made his first appearance in the Majors on August 1st. Between then and the end of the season he tossed 19 innings in 17 appearances. Phil put together a workable 2.84 ERA. His 1.105 WHIP was also serviceable.

Alex Claudio turned in mixed success over 12.1 innings in 15 appearances. His 2.92 ERA and 1.459 both need some improvement but show some promise.

Nathan Adcock struggled through ten innings in seven appearances while turning in a 4.50 ERA and an 1.600 WHIP.

After Adcock, the list of relievers gets into the less than ten innings pitched territory. The list includes Spencer Patton (0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings), Ben Rowen (4.15 ERA in 8.2 innings), Jon Edwards (4.32 ERA in 8.1 innings), Ryan Feierabend (6.14 ERA in 7.1 innings), Michael Kirkman (1.59 ERA in 5.2 innings), Matt West (6.75 ERA in 4 innings), and Seth Rosin (6.75 ERA in 4 innings). Pedro Figueroa (4.00 ERA in 9 innings) is also included on the list. He ended the season on the 60-day DL after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The 2015 bullpen is going to be a roll of the dice. Neftali Felix is positioned to resume his old role as closer, if he can carry over his 2014 performance. Roman Mendez also likely has a spot and Michael Kirkman drew some attention at the end of 2014. Figueroa won't be in the mix since he'll still be in recovery. The rest of the spots will probably be decided in Spring Training with roster and non-roster players duking it out. There could also be considerable turnover during the season, even if the team finds itself in a bounce-back year.

That wraps up the players but there was one more area of upheaval for the club, manager. On September 5th Ron Washington suddenly announced his resignation as manager. After almost eight years at the helm, he was gone over night. Some fools suggested he had been forced out by GM Jon Daniels. A press conference on September 17th revealed that Wash resigned of his own volition due to marital infidelity. Bench coach Tim Bogar was named as interim manager and led the team to a hot finish as they went 14-8 to complete the season.

Bogar is definitely a candidate for the manager's job on a permanent basis. The club has also interviewed pitching coach Mike Maddux and Triple-A manager Steve Buechele along with five candidates from outside the organization. General Manager Jon Daniels hopes to have a manager named by the end of October. Whoever it turns out to be will have some big shoes to fill.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1978 Topps - Tom Grieve.

Taking a short break from the 2014 season in review series today. I'll finish it up tomorrow. Going to have another installment in the 1978 team today.

Looking at card number 337 of the 1978 Topps set brings back some memories. Just over Tom Grieve's left shoulder is a sign for Brut cologne. Anybody else remember that brand? I haven't seen it since I was a kid.

Anyway, on to Tom Grieve. After failing to impress in 1976, Grieve was once again relegated to a backup role in 1977. His bat was missing in action and he was out of chances in Texas.

In December of 1977 Tom was included in a huge 4-team trade. As part of the trade, the Rangers sent Grieve to the New York Mets along with a player to be named later. Ken Henderson filled that role in March of 1978.

After the trade, Grieve spent one season in New York before being traded to the Cardinals. A partial season in St. Louis and a May 9, 1979 release ended his Major League career. The Rangers re-signed their former number one draft pick as a free agent on May 21, 1979 but Tom never again appeared in a MLB game. His playing days over, it was time for the next step in TAG's career - the front office.

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 in review - Starting Rotation.

If I reviewed all 40 pitchers who took the hill for the Rangers in 2014, this series would easily reach into the 2015 season. Three of the 40 were position players J.P. Arencibia, Mitch Moreland, and Chris Gimenez. I'm going to skip their short outings. 

Needless to say, the pitching staff was a mess and the turnover was unreal. Injuries were the main culprit but the team did move a few arms in other ways. Jason Frasor, Joakim Soria, and Justin Germano were traded. Hector Noesi and Jerome Williams moved on to other teams via waivers. Daniel McCutchen, Joe Saunders, and Phil Irwin were outright released.

I'm not going to review those guys no longer with the club. By my count that takes us down to 29 pitchers who appeared in 2014 and are still with the team in some form or other. I'm going to break the pitching staff up between starters and relievers but be warned, there was a lot of crossover.

The Rangers had ten pitchers who started games in the majority of their appearances in 2014. I'm going to cover those ten under the category of starters. A few other guys made spot starts but spent most of their time coming out of the bullpen. They'll be covered under relievers.

Yu Darvish was the ace of the rotation for 2014 even before the 2013 season ended. He came into the 2014 season in the same role in spite of missing his Opening Day start due to neck stiffness. Darvish made 22 starts for the club and posted a 10-7 record, the only winning pitcher to make a significant number of starts. It wasn't the most starts on the team though and was a drop from the previous two seasons. That drop was attributable to two trips to the DL during the course of the season including one that ended the year. Yu's innings pitched dropped as well to 144.1. His ERA tallied to 3.06 and his WHIP to 1.261. He was selected to the All-Star game but didn't play due to injury.

Derek Holland was supposed to be the number two punch behind Darvish in 2014. He fell on some stairs while playing with his dog during the off-season. The resulting knee injury required surgery and Dutch spent the majority of the year on the Disabled List and in rehab assignments. He did return late in the season and made five starts and one relief appearance (on the last day of the season). His 1.46 ERA and 1.054 WHIP over the 37 innings he pitched were a glimpse of what was lost by his injury.

Matt Harrison was slated to be number two in the rotation once Holland injured his knee. Matt lost most of the 2013 season due to back surgery and hopes were high that he would return to his pre-surgery form. He made just four starts and tossed only 17.1 innings before experiencing more back pain. That's probably what caused his 4.15 ERA and 1.846 WHIP. Harry underwent a second back surgery (spinal fusion) and missed most of the season for the second year in a row.

Martin Perez was looking for a breakout season in 2014. Instead he made eight starts and pitched 51.1 innings while compiling a 4.38 ERA and an 1.344 WHIP. His season ended with Tommy John surgery. He is expected to start throwing again in November.

Colby Lewis, shown above on card 163 of the 2002 Absolute Memorabila set (576/1000), was a question mark headed into Spring Training. He was recovering from hip replacement and flexor tendon surgery. His chances of a full return were not good. Partially due to Holland's injury, Lewis made the team. To much amazement, Colby pitched the whole season without any time lost to the DL. He made a team high 29 starts and his 170.1 innings pitched were also a team high. Lewis' 5.18 ERA and 1.521 were high and accounted for his 10-14 record. At least he was there and pitching though. That's much more than a lot of other guys covered in this review.

Nick Martinez was supposed to get a look in Spring Training and maybe a few spot starts to ease him into things. Instead he made 24 starts in 29 appearances and pitched a total of 140.1 innings. Early struggles led to his 4.55 ERA and 1.461 WHIP but he showed much improvement in the latter part of the season.

Nick Tepesch got some starts in 2013 with mixed success. He was viewed as a possible fifth starter or maybe a swing man. The decimated pitching staff dictated otherwise and Tepesch made 22 starts in 23 appearances with 126 innings pitched. He was a bit up and down as shown by his 4.36 ERA and 1.365 WHIP. Like Martinez, Nick showed improvement late in the season and ended the year on an upswing.

Miles Mikolas was a mid-season arrival and made ten starts for the Rangers. He threw 57.1 innings in the process. While Miles had a few bright moments, he struggled overall while getting tagged with a 6.44 ERA and an 1.430 WHIP.

Lisalverto Bonilla came up in September and made two appearances out of the bullpen before making three starts to finish out the season. He created excitement in the 20.2 innings he pitched by winning his first three starts – the first time in Rangers history that's happened. On his way to that record Bonilla put together a respectable 3.05 ERA and an 1.210 WHIP.

Tanner Scheppers was supposed to make the move from the bullpen to the rotation in 2014. Things looked good in Spring Training. Tanner even made the Opening Day start when Yu Darvish wasn't ready due to a sore neck. The transition didn't work out well and Scheppers ended the season on the 60-day DL after making four starts in eight appearances. He got hammered to the tune of a 9.00 ERA and an 1.783 WHIP and lasted just 23 innings before his season ended.

As you can see, the starting rotation was a real mess in 2014. Nothing seemed to work out the way it was supposed to. Barring a major problem, Yu Darvish and Derek Holland will be back at the top of the rotation in 2015. If Darvish can stay on track and Dutch continues his late-season record, they will be a formidable 1-2 punch. Things could get a little sketchy after that. Martin Perez is not expected back until at least June of 2015 and Matt Harrison may never pitch again. Colby Lewis is wanting to return to the Rangers and approached General Manager Jon Daniels about a contract before the 2014 season even ended. That's a good sign but Colby is probably a steady number four at this point in his career. If Texas can re-sign him reasonably they should do so. It's likely that Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch, and Lisalverto Bonilla will duke it out for the remaining spots in the rotation. Miles Mikolas might make a case but he's got some catching up to do to get back in the mix. Scheppers is probably headed back to the bullpen or the minors in 2015. There's always the possibility that somebody might make the move from the bullpen to starting rotation or another young gun might come out of the minors. Based on the word from the front office, a big name free agent signing is unlikely so the Texas will likely be riding with what they got. How the rotation works out for 2015 will be key to the Rangers chances for a bounce-back season.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 in review - Outfield.

On to the outfield in the review of the Rangers 2014 season. Texas used eight guys regularly in the outfield in 2014 along with spot appearances by several other players. I'm not going to attempt to break the outfield down by position but will simply review the eight players who got regular time. Unlike the infield, all these guys are still with the team in some capacity or another and might be on the field for Texas in 2015.

Shin-Soo Choo was the second major off-season pickup for the Rangers after the Fielder/Kinsler trade. While they traded for Prince Fielder, they signed Choo as a free agent to help replace the departing Nelson Cruz. Choo was envisioned as a high on-base percentage leadoff hitter with some pop to take Ian Kinsler's spot in the lineup. Primarily a left fielder, Choo did appear a few times in right for Texas in the 123 games he played for Texas in 2014. Over 529 plate appearances Choo compiled a .242 batting average and a .340 on-base percentage. Both were significant drops from his 2013 performance as was his .374 slugging percentage. His speed on the bases also dropped off as he stole just three bases. Shin-Soo was a puzzle and frustration for most Ranger fans. The answer to the puzzle might be the awkward landing on first base he made early in the season. Choo attempted to play through the resulting injury but it didn't work. His season ended on the disabled list following ankle surgery and surgery on his left elbow to remove bone chips.

Leonys Martin, shown here on card 203 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set, was in center field for Texas in all but two of the 155 games he appeared in. Those 155 games were the second most appearances on the team and made him the rock of the outfield. Leonys seemed to get better defensively as time went on and made a couple of outstanding throws late in the season to nail runners trying to score. He did lead the league in errors in center field but he also led the league in putouts in center and in assists by a center fielder. Martin went to the plate 583 times in 2014 and put together a .274 batting average and a .325 on-base percentage along with a .364 slugging percentage. The slugging percentage is explained by Martin relying more on his speed than power. He bunted for hits regularly and stole 31 bases to lead to club in that category. Late in the season Martin moved into the lead-off spot and did a fine job in that role. Leonys ended the season as the last man standing from the Rangers Opening Day outfield.

Alex Rios was supposed to be a big asset to the team in 2014 and more pressure was put on him as other players went down. He didn't deliver in the way many thought he could have. Some of that may be due to nagging injuries and some due to him not being used to being on center stage. Primarily a right fielder, Rios appeared in 131 games before being shut down in the last couple of weeks due to a thumb injury. He made 521 trips to the plate and reproduced the same .280 batting average he delivered following his mid-season trade to Texas last year. His .311 on-base percentage was a slight drop from his post-trade performance in 2013 and his .398 slugging percentage was a big drop. His 17 stolen bases were just one more than he delivered in 47 games with the Rangers in 2013.

When the Rangers traded Craig Gentry to the Oakland A's during the off-season for Michael Choice it appeared to be speed in exchange for power. Choice was supposed to be the fourth outfielder and occasional DH in 2014 while he got adjusted to the Majors. Instead injuries forced him to play more than was planned and he struggled offensively. The Rangers finally sent him to the minors to help him regain his confidence. When the injury bug continued to bite, Choice was brought back up. He seemed be a bit better than before but his season ended with a hamstring injury just as he appeared to be putting it together. All told Michael had 280 plate appearances over 86 games for the Rangers. He hit just .182 with an on-base percentage of .250 and a slugging percentage of .320. In spite of the low slugging percentage, Choice did show some flashes of power as he hit 9 home runs.

Jim Adduci got the call up from the minors to help replace Choice when he got sent down. This was Jim's time to shine as Choice was gone and Choo needed relief. It didn't go the way Adduci or the Rangers hoped. On either side of a trip to the concussion list, Jim got 114 plate appearances in 44 games for Texas. His .168 batting average, .239 on-base percentage and .228 slugging percentage tell the sad tale.

Daniel Robertson made his debut in April shortly after the Rangers purchased his minor league contract from the Padres. He was widely viewed as a fill-in for a season that already looked dark. At around five and a half feet and under 175 pounds he looks more like a middle infielder than an outfielder. He can play though. Appearing in all three outfield positions over the course of the 70 games he played in, Daniel made 197 trips to the plate. He compiled a .271 batting average and a .333 on-base percentage. As might be expected, he did not hit much for power with just a .333 slugging percentage. Even that was due to his nine doubles and one triple since he didn't homer at all. Robertson's season appeared to come undone when he broke his face while colliding with a fellow outfielder. He returned after missing just a couple of games and played with a plastic face mask until the fractures healed.

Jake Smolinski's story is the story of the Rangers season. A corner outfielder, Jake got the the call up from the minors in early July. He started off well and seemed to be poised to make a statement. A trip to the DL just as he began to hammer the ball sidetracked his season until his return late in the year. By the end of the season he had just 24 games and 92 plate appearances under his belt. He made good use of those plate appearances by compiling a .349 batting average, a .391 on-base percentage, and a .512 slugging percentage.

Ryan Rua's Major League debut occurred on August 29th as the reserves began to run thin. Rua played a game at third base and a few at first base but mostly appeared in left field to help fill in after Shin-Soo Choo went under the knife. By the time Ryan took the field, the Rangers were staggering towards the end of the season and nobody expected much. Ryan was a pleasant surprise during the 109 times he came to the plate in 28 games. He put together a .295 batting average, a .321 on-base percentage, and a .419 slugging percentage.

The Rangers are going to have Shin-Soo Choo in their starting outfield in 2015 unless there are some major complications in his recovery from surgery. Leonys Martin has the center field job to lose as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see the club not exercise their contract option on Alex Rios and let him walk. That's an option with the group of hungry young players who got a taste of Major League time in 2014 and would free up some salary room for other signings. Michael Choice won't have anything handed to him and will have to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. He's likely to be competing against at least Jake Smolinski, Daniel Robertson, and Ryan Rua. Robertson probably has the inside track of that group. Jim Adduci may get a non-roster invite to Spring Training but is going to have a lot of ground to make up on the pack if he wants to avoid a trade or another season in the minors.

Friday, October 10, 2014

2014 in review - Shortstop and Third Base.

Going to take on the left side of the infield today. Thanks to Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, shown here on 2012 Topps Archive #131, things were pretty stable in those areas.

Shortstop was pretty simple during the 2014 season. Elvis Andrus showed up for work with a smile most all year. Luis Sardinas got some work at the position as did a few others but they were backups to Elvis.

Andrus' 157 games were a team high as were his 685 plate appearances. He batted .263 with a .314 on-base percentage. Both were dips from 2013. His stolen bases were also down from 42 to 27. He hit 35 doubles though as compared to 17 in 2013 so that probably ate up some of the theft chances. In 153 games and 1309.1 innings at second, Elvis posted a .971 fielding percentage. That's two points below the league average and a significant dip from last season. Some of that's probably due to the increased pressure of playing with a constantly changing cast around him and the sometimes suspect defense at first base.

Elvis is still the front-runner for the Rangers starting job at short in 2015 but he needs to get back into his old form quickly. Luis Sardinas would be glad to take the starting shortstop gig and Jurickson Profar would rather have it than spend 2015 in the minors. There's a lot of pressure in the middle infield right now for Texas. Andrus is the veteran and is in the driver's seat but he's going to have to work to stay there.

Third base was a bright spot for the Rangers in 2014. Adrian Beltre was the rock the team rested on most of the season. He did do a short stint on the disabled list but Kevin Kouzmanoff ably filled in until his return. A few other players appeared at third but, like at short, they were fill-ins or backups for Beltre or Kouzmanoff.

Adrian Beltre continued to be outstanding at third and at the plate in 2014. With practically no support in the lineup, he made a serious run at a batting title. Manager Ron Washington was asked how that could happen. “Bad ball hitter.” We all know what Ron meant but any ball hitter is more accurate. Adrian played in 136 games at third base during 2014. He posted a .967 fielding percentage in the course of the 1171.1 innings he played there. That 11 points over the league average. Beltre also made 614 trips to the plate – second highest on the team. He tallied a .324 batting average, a .388 on-base percentage and a .492 slugging percentage. He had 33 doubles (second highest on the team), one triple, and 19 home runs (team best). All in all another solid season from the old man on the team.

Kevin Kouzmanoff was a feel good story with a bad ending. After two seasons out of the Majors, he got called up to fill in for Beltre during a short DL stint. Kouz put in 108 innings over 13 games at the hot corner and posted a .909 fielding percentage. That's barely acceptable even for a replacement. At the plate though is where Kevin kept the Rangers from missing Beltre too much. In 51 plate appearances Kouzmanoff put together a .362 batting average, a .412 on-base percentage, and a .617 slugging percentage. Back surgery ended his season just before Beltre came off the DL.

Look for Beltre to be back at third for the Rangers in 2015. Kouzmanoff is a real question mark. He just got out-righted to Triple A and will likely take his free agency. That will remove him from the equation since it's highly unlikely the Rangers re-sign him.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pre-LCS musings.

No playoff games yesterday or today thanks to sweeps and 3-1 wins in the Division Championship Series. The Royals, Orioles, Cardinals, and Giants waiting the kick-off of the ALCS tomorrow and the NLCS the day after.

Since I really don't have any game-used cards relating to the playoffs I decided to go with this 2003 Leaf Hard Hats card of Ivan Rodriguez. It's numbered 18/100. What's really interesting about it is that it has a bit of one of Pudge's batting helmets embedded in it. I don't think I've ever seen another card with a piece of a batting helmet in it. Makes it pretty unique in my opinion and one of my favorite game-used cards.

As far as favorites in the LCS, the NLCS is easy, Cards. I know a lot of Rangers fans hold 2011 against St Louis but I don't. The Rangers beat themselves in that series. Besides, the Cards were my backup team before that and still are. Mostly due to my grandfather being a Redbird fan before the Rangers moved to Texas and my Dad being a big fan of the 1960's St Louis teams. Besides, Brian Sabean, weed, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, and It Gets Better have overcome any soft spot Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, and Will Clark might have created for the Giants. Really hoping to see the Cards win it with a sweep.

The ALCS is a bit harder. Both the Orioles and the Royals have been out of the World Series for a long time. Both have compelling stories. The Orioles have been able to overcome the richest division in baseball and that's worth something. I rooted for the Royals in 1985 though, the first World Series I remember watching. Of course my Dad and Grandfather were pulling for the Cardinals. I was living in Kansas though and the excitement of the home team coupled with Jim Sundberg being on the team won out. Those memories have some sway and I really don't have that kind of connection with the O's. Sorry Baltimore, going to have to root for KC in this one.

However it turns out, the series both have the potential to be great. I would like to see a re-creation of the 1985 I-70 series but any match-up that doesn't include the Giants would work. Of course, if the Giants make it I'll have a clear favorite to win.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 in review - Second Base.

Over to second base in the 2014 Rangers season review.

The Rangers decided to do with Jurickson Profar at second base in 2014 what they did with Elvis Andrus at short stop in 2010. Profar, shown here on card 275 of the 2013 Prizm set, got a look at the end of the 2013 season and was named the starting second baseman for 2014 before Spring Training even started. The decision, even though not yet announced, freed up Ian Kinsler to be traded to Detroit. 

Middle infield prospects Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas got a look early in Spring Training but both got cut and sent to the minors for more seasoning. Then Profar came up injured shortly before the start of the season. He was supposed to be out for several weeks and the team started the year with a tandem of Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson at second and backup middle infield. That tandem kind of worked until Murphy got hurt and Profar re-injured himself, ending any chance he might have to come back before the end of the season. Sardinas got the call in late April and Wilson went down shortly after with an injury. Odor came up in early May and Texas found their answer. Murphy was released in June and Wilson was assigned to the minors. Odor and Sardinas platooned for awhile but Odor eventually got the starting job nailed down. Sardinas got another stint in the minors for regular playing time when Adam Rosales was called up to handle the backup duties for Odor. Sardinas came back up when the rosters expanded and ended the season with the team. Guilder Rodriguez got a few innings in as a September call-up towards the end of the season.

Murphy's no longer with the team and won't be a factor in 2015. I doubt that Guilder Rodriguez will either. He was called up mainly because there was room and the club wanted to reward his long minor league service. Primarily a utility player, he put in 18 innings at second over two games without an error. His .167 batting average and being 30 years old will likely remove him from the equation.

As mentioned previously, Adam Rosales finished the 2014 season at first base. He'll probably get a shot at making the team in 2015 as a utility player.

In the time he was with the team, Josh Wilson played 19 games and 132.2 innings at second. He also played a smattering of games at shortstop and third base. Josh's play at second was flawless. He hit .239 with an on-base percentage of .271. Neither is very impressive and he had no power to go with it. Unless he can get something worked out with his bat I doubt he makes the team in 2015.

Rougned Odor was not supposed to see Major League action in 2014 outside a possible September call-up. Instead, the player Ron Washington referred to as “rough” in Spring Training became the everyday second baseman for the club. He hit some bumps in the road but made dramatic improvements almost daily. “Rougie” played 110 games and 933 innings at second and only one game anywhere else - DH. He ended the season with a .981 fielding percentage. That's about three points below the league average but acceptable for a 20 year old who started the season in the minors with the assignment of working on his defense. Odor hit .259 in 417 trips to the plate and put together a .297 on-base percentage. He needs to raise both those numbers but his .402 slugging percentage was nice to see. That came from his 14 doubles, seven triples, and nine home runs. The kid's got some power and his offense improved greatly throughout the season. As the youngest player in the majors, he's got some time to improve.

Luis Sardinas used his time in the Majors to show that Odor and Profar aren't the only prospects Texas has in the middle infield. Primarily used as a backup, he played 19 games and 141.1 innings at second base. He committed no errors there. Luis compiled a .261 batting average and .303 on-base percentage in his 125 plate appearances. Both are slightly better than Odor but Sardinas didn't display quite the power Odor did. His six doubles had to work alone to bring his slugging percentage up to .313. When the Rangers sent him back to the minors they were quick to state he was being sent back only for the increased playing time.

So, what about second base in 2015? Well, Rougned Odor put forward a convincing case in 2014 that he should be the Rangers starting second baseman in 2015. Luis Sardinas seems to have earned a look as well but he's facing an uphill battle at this point and may well be facing another season in the minors to get some seasoning. He's about ready though. If anything happens to Odor or Andrus, look for Sardinas to get some serious consideration. Profar? Well, things have certainly changed for him in one season. From one of the top prospects in baseball he's now in danger of being “Wally Pipped” as a friend of mine says. He's probably expendable at this point but his injuries have dimmed his trade value. The Rangers will have him in Spring Training but he's going to have to blow the doors off to unseat Odor. If he can't unseat Odor look for him to be used as a utility player or sent to the minors to rebuild his trade value.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 in review - First Base.

Time to continue the 2014 season in review by moving down to first base.

First base was even a bigger carousel than catcher for the Rangers in 2014. Nothing is more indicative of this than the fact that Prince Fielder's 39 games at the position were enough to qualify him as the most-used first baseman on the team. After Fielder left the stage with season-ending neck surgery, the ride started. It included appearances by Mitch Moreland, Brad Snyder, Carlos Pena, Mike Carp, Ryan Rua, J.P. Arencibia, and Adam Rosales.

Snyder and Pena are no longer with the team. Since neither made any significant impact I am going to take a pass on examining their seasons.

Prince Fielder, shown here on card 132 in the 2014 Topps Opening Day set, came to Texas in the Ian Kinsler trade during the off-season. Fans and management alike held high hopes for the established slugger. Didn't take long to determine something was wrong. In 42 games, Fielder hit an un-Prince like .247 with a dismal .360 slugging percentage. The three long balls indicated a problem. There was one and Fielder underwent season-ending neck surgery to repair a herniated disc.

That gave Mitch Moreland a chance to re-claim his former role as the everyday first baseman. Mitch had been relegated to a Designated Hitter role with Fielder's arrival in town. Mitch made 184 plate appearances over 54 games before his season ended with ankle reconstruction surgery. He put together a .246 batting average with a .297 on-base percentage. He also hit nine doubles, one triple, and two home runs. In 22 games at first he compiled a .989 fielding percentage in 193.2 innings. That's just under the league average.

Following Moreland's surgery, the madness really began with various players tried here and there. None seemed to be a long-term solution. Snyder and Pena were first and hardly hung around long enough to make any noise.

Mike Carp's defense was below average but acceptable over the 79.2 innings he played first. Mike's problem was his bat. In his time with the Rangers, Carp came up to the plate 46 times and batted just .125. His on-base percentage was .217 with no extra base hits. He got designated for assignment on August 31st and finished the year in the minors.

Adam Rosales started the season as a utility infielder but ended it by playing first base every day. He batted .262 over 181 plate appearances in 56 games. He also tallied a .328 on-base percentage but didn't hit for much power with a slugging percentage of just .378. Seven doubles and four home runs. Adam was the second most used player at first base with 252 innings played there over 32 games. His above average defense was a pleasant surprise coming from a player who hasn't regularly played first in the past.

J.P. Arencibia moved over to first after he lost out on the catching job. He ended up playing just as many games at first base as he did behind the plate. His offensive struggles were outlined previously. In the 22 games he played at first he logged 179.1 innings in the field and compiled a .987 fielding percentage. That's five points below the league average but it must be kept in mind that Arencibia has never played first base in his professional career and was trying to learn the position on the fly.

Ryan Rua did his part to fill the breach by playing 77 flawless innings in nine games. Since he is primarily an outfielder his offensive production will be covered in that post.

If everything goes according to plan, the Rangers will see Prince Fielder back at first base in 2015. For him to regain something close to his old form and reliability would be the best scenario. Mitch Moreland could fill in from time to time if needed and serve as a DH some of the rest of the time. Barring more disasters, I don't see Mike Carp returning to Arlington. Adam Rosales will likely be in Spring Training with a chance to make the team as a utility player. Arencibia might polish his skills at first over the off-season to increase his versatility and value. It might get him a second look if the competition behind the plate is intense. Ryan Rua will be looking to make the team as an outfielder and is likely hoping his time at first base is in the past.

Monday, October 6, 2014


So, I've been following the post-season and rooting for some teams (way to go O's) and against others (maybe the Giants will stumble). I can't say I've been hanging on every pitch. Well, not most of the time. The Kansas City Royals extra innings wins in their first three games had me hooked late in each game. I knew heading into last night that it was due or die for the geographically challenged Angels. That's why the text message I got from Mark the Royals fan surprised me.

"Why is C.J. Wilson so bad in the postseason?"

That's a good question. Not one that I would have expected from Mark though. After all, he was at the Royals/Angels game. He should have been paying attention to the game, not asking esoteric questions.

Wait. Surely the Angels didn't start Wilson. I had been in church and missed the start of the game. On came the radio. 5-1 Royals. The announcers mentioned C.J. getting chased after just 2/3 of an inning. The Angels DID start Wilson?!? WHAT is wrong with Mike Scioscia? Was he trying to throw the series? Somebody call Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

Look, C.J. Wilson, shown here on card number 207 of the 2011 Topps Heritage set, is a nice guy. He's a great number two or maybe three during the season who will win you a lot of games and get you into the post-season. It ends there. As Rangers fans well know, C.J. Wilson cannot win a big game. Period. It's not in his makeup. He means well but he can't do it. I hadn't seen Wilson in the first couple of games in the series so I figured the Halos were with the program and left him off the roster for the ALDS. Instead they slate him to start in a win or go home game. That's the definition of a big game and one that Wilson won't win. No wonder it didn't go into extras.

Anyway, congratulations to the Royals. 29 years and there's life at Kaufman Stadium in October again. Mark, I'm sorry you only got to one game rather than the two you had tickets for but a sweep is best. Glad you got to be in on the party after all the years of waiting.

Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 in review - Intro and Catchers.

Ok, here's the season review I've been working on. It's kept growing so I'm going to break it up into installments. Here's the first.

2014 was probably the most disappointing season the the history of the Texas Rangers franchise. Several off-season moves leading into the campaign seemed to set the stage for a return to serious contention and possibly even the top of the division. Injuries ensured that would not be the case.

At times the team looked more like a battalion fresh from the Western Front rather than a member of the American League West. The club used the Disabled List a Major League high 26 times en route to suiting up a MLB record-setting 64 players throughout the season. 23 of those players were rookies. 40 different pitchers took the hill for Texas during the campaign. 12 players ended the season on the 60-day DL. Additionally, the club also endured a sudden managerial change late in the year that took the players and front office by surprise.

No team can survive that kind of onslaught and be competitive in the least. The Rangers ended the season in AL West cellar with a 67-95 record. They just barely missed being the worst team in baseball. The much-heralded 2014 season completely imploded.

This is a look back at the 2014 season and a look forward to 2015. As odd as it may seem, there were some bright points amid the gloom and reasons to think next year will be better. Perhaps a position by position approach will be the best. If things aren't broken down somehow the carnage becomes overwhelming. Going to start at catcher and work our way around the starting position players before tackling the bloodbath on the pitching staff.

The Rangers announced during the off-season that Geovany Soto would be their first-string catcher for 2014. J.P. Arencibia, shown here on card 232 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set, came on board as a free agent signing in December of 2013 to serve as backup. That settled the catching duties for the year. The team didn't get out of Spring Training before things got unsettled. Soto ended up on the Disabled List for most of the season and got traded to Oakland after just ten games with Texas. The result was a three-way tussle for his job between Arencibia, Robinson Chirinos, and Chris Gimenez. Tomas Telis took Gimenez's spot in the fight after Chris was traded to the Indians. The season ended with Chirinos in the driver's seat and Telis getting some playing time as the second man. Arencibia lost out and got moved over to first to try and fill the gaping hole there.

Since Soto and Gimenez are gone, there's not much point in looking at their numbers.

Robinson Chirinos appeared in a career-high 93 games for the Rangers and made 338 trips to the plate. He managed a .239 batting average and a .290 on-base percentage. Those numbers aren't the best but Robinson was making progress as he got more playing time. His .415 slugging percentage with 15 doubles and 13 home runs looks more promising. It's a measure of the team's season that Chirinos tied for the second most long balls on the team. He needs plate discipline – 71 whiffs to 17 walks, but there seems to be offensive potential there. Defensively Robinson seemed to be getting better as the season went on. He ended the year with a .994 fielding percentage (about average for the league) in 784 innings caught. He also threw out 40% of runners trying to steal on him. That is an outstanding figure and second best in the American League. Robinson's biggest problem may be his age. At 30 he's about where you expect catchers to be established, not starting out.

Tomas Telis got a late August call up following the Soto and Gimenez trades. He didn't even get enough playing time to lose his rookie status. In 18 games Tomas made 71 plate appearances and put together a .250 batting average and a .271 on-base percentage. He didn't show a lot of power with just two doubles. He also needs plate discipline. His ten strikeouts and one walk make Chirinos look like an extremely disciplined hitter. Telis also had some difficulty with thieves – just a 6% caught stealing rate in the limited sample. Tomas' ability to switch hit does make most followers of the game want to see what he could do with some more time. At 23 years old he needs to make a go of it if he's going to.

J.P. Arencibia played the roles of starting catcher, backup, minor-leaguer, odd man out behind the plate, and emergency pitcher in 2014. He appeared in 63 games for Texas and made 222 trips to the plate. His .177 batting average and .239 on-base percentage are why he kept losing his spot. Even his 9 doubles and ten home runs couldn't overcome his 62 strikeouts (compared to ten walks) and general inability to get on base. J.P. caught 182.1 innings in the 22 games he appeared in as a catcher. His .988 fielding percentage was six points lower than Chirinos and five under the league average. He caught 25% of runners attempting to steal on him. Arencibia's got parts of five seasons in the Majors and his performance has been declining. At 28 years old it seems unlikely he'll make a resurgence.

I'm guessing the Rangers will try to move J.P. Arencibia. It looks like the starting catcher's job is Robinson Chirinos' to lose in 2015. If they can't move Arencibia they may use him as a backup to give Tomas Telis and prospect Jorge Alfaro some more seasoning in the minors. It's always a possibility the club just releases Arencibia and tries to sign somebody else to a one year deal. If that happens, Chirinos could find himself in a platoon unless he can really blow the doors off or the other half stumbles.

Long term I am a little more optimistic about the catching future than I was at the start of 2014. Alfaro is the big name in the system right now for backstops but I am always uneasy about putting all the eggs in one basket. 2014 showed there may be more than one basket available.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Royal rumblings.

Last night Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City saw post-season baseball for the first time in 29 years. The Royals hosted the Oakland A's in the American League Wildcard game.

I was a little conflicted about this game. I have a brother who is an A's fan but a good friend lives and dies with the Royals. He's also got tickets to games three and four of the ALDS if the Royals get that far. Of course, I'm also a sucker for teams making a run who've had a hard time in recent years. The Royals match that description.

As I pondered who to pull for in the game, a package arrived on my porch from Mark the Royals fan. I hadn't made any recent trades with Mark or even sent him anything. Apparently he decided now was a good time to off-load some Rangers goodies on me. The package included a 300 piece Rangers jigsaw puzzle shaped like a pennant, a 1993 Sports Card Price Guide Monthly magazine with then Ranger Jose Canseco on the cover, and a small stack of Rangers cards including this 1995 Upper Deck Special Edition card of Nolan Ryan. Magazine, puzzle, and Rangers cards off my wantlists? All right! Go Royals!

By the eighth inning I was about to send my condolences to Mark. 7-3 A's. Then the comeback and extra innings. Another A's lead and another comeback in extras then the Royals walk-off in the 12th. Amazing game and an awesome start to the 2014 post-season. The Royals have served notice to the rest of the American League that they are not going to die easily. Hopefully they can keep the magic as they start their series with the Angels tomorrow. No bribery needed there - I'm all in for KC against the Halos.