Saturday, August 30, 2014

Senators Saturday - Frank Kreutzer, 1966.

Frank Kreutzer, shown here on card 211 of the 1966 Topps set, was reaching the end of his chances with the Washington Senators in 1966. Left-handers have a longer shelf life than right-handers but the Senators hadn't been impressed by what they saw from Frank in 1964 and 1965.

Frank just hadn't been able to get his ERA under 4.30 or his WHIP under 1.450. He needed to show some serious improvement in 1966 if he wanted to hang on with the club.

Making six starts in the nine games he appeared in, Kreutzer pitched 31.1 innings with the club in 1966. He managed to drop his WHIP to 1.277 but his ERA climbed to a career high 6.03. The problem was Frank's propensity to cough up the gopher ball. He allowed nine in the small sample, an average of 2.6 homers per nine innings. That was much higher than at any time previous in his career.

The Senators decided to hang on to Kreutzer but he obviously needed work. Off to the triple A Hawaii Islanders he went. He would spend most of 1966 and all of the next two seasons there without showing any dramatic improvement. A four game stint in 1969 in which he got hammered was all Washington needed to see. On May 17, 1969 the Senators sent Frank to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jim Shellenback. Kreutzer spent the rest of the season at Triple A before pulling the plug on his playing days.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lewis goes nine, offense explodes in Seattle.

Colby Lewis, shown here on a signed 2004 Fleer Tradition card, started a rare rubber game against the Seattle Mariners yesterday. It's not been often this season that the Rangers have been set to leave an opposing city with a series tied. To be honest, I didn't figure they really stood a chance of winning yesterday. Most of the starting lineup are unknowns and Adrian Beltre is a big stick standing alone. I probably wasn't the only one wondering where the offense for a possible win would come from.

To my utter shock, the Rangers trounced Seattle 12-4. Lewis turned in a complete game and every player in the lineup scored at least once. Only Michael Choice didn't get a hit. Rougned Odor and Leonys Martin both went deep. Odor's shot was a grand slam. That makes him the youngest player in Rangers history to hit a grand slam.

Nice to see the offense finally show up and Colby get his second complete game. The series win on the road is a bright spot amid this dim season as well. The Rangers record now stands at 52-80 and their magic number at 11. No, they won't be going to the playoffs but if they want to avoid 100 losses this season they have to win 11 more games.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More fun with the DL.

The injury parade continues for the Texas Rangers. Seems like management has gotten to the point they are being extremely cautious with injured, or possibly injured, players. That's not always a bad plan, especially during a season like this one.

Prior to last night's game in Seattle the Rangers put outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, shown here on card 120 of the 2014 Topps Opening Day set, on the Disabled List. Choo has been a bit of a disappointment this season. Perhaps the reasons have to do with his ankle injury and left elbow bone spurs. The ankle needs rest and the elbow needs surgery. Choo will likely undergo the surgery on Friday and the recovery time will give his ankle plenty of rest. Needless to say, his 2014 season is over. Michael Choice was recalled from Triple A Round Rock to fill the gap.

There's also doubt that ace Yu Darvish will pitch again this season. Yu's currently on the DL with elbow inflammation. If the Rangers were in contention he would likely still be pitching. They aren't though so he's not. It seems the club would rather Darvish get good and healthy going into 2015 than rush a 2014 return. Time is running out for a Darvish return this season.

On the other hand, Derek Holland is likely to make a return this year. Dutch has been on the Disabled List all season but is nearing the end of his minor league rehab assignment. Barring a setback he could be returning to the mound for Texas any day now. That would be good because it would give him at least some Big League experience this year.

One bright spot yesterday was the Rangers beating the Mariners 2-0. The win gave Texas their 16th shutout of the season. Not too bad since the team ERA is 4.71. Guess that means when they're on they're on and when they're not they're not.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Clearing out catchers.

With the Rangers ship hard on the rocks this season, Jon Daniels has done surprisingly little load lightening. Aside from the Soria trade, he has stood pat for the most part. Seems JD believes the team will be able to turn things around next year and will need the pieces already in place. Over the past two days he has made a couple of moves though.

On the 23rd Texas sent catcher Chris Gimenez to the Cleveland Indians for future considerations. These kind of deals have always made me wonder, just how do the involved teams decide what is the future considerations? Seems an awful lot like selling somebody a car and agreeing to decide on the price later. I'm guessing there's more to it than that but I don't understand all the fine details. Gimenez did a stint with the Rangers earlier this season but was playing with Triple A Round Rock when he got traded.

Yesterday, during the team's 3-1 win over the first place Kansas City Royals, the club announced another deal. Geovany Soto, shown here on card 241 of the 2013 Topps Heritage set, went to the Oakland A's for a reported $1000,000 in cash considerations. Normally you wouldn't expect to see a player with the potential for any impact dealt within the same division. That means one of two things, either Jon Daniels doesn't think Soto will have any impact or he doesn't figure the A's will hang on to him after this season. It's unlikely Daniels is completely discounting Soto. What seems more apparent is that Oakland will not have Geo in 2015. He's a free agent at the end of this season and the A's have a poor record of late when it comes to re-signing free agents.

These two trades clear the way for the Rangers to work Robinson Chirinos behind the plate for the rest of the season and get a look at long-time farm hand Tomas Telis to see what he can do at the Major League level. The team called Telis up from Triple A to replace Soto on the roster. That move opens up a promotion opportunity for top catching prospect Jorge Alfaro. He may get some time at Round Rock this year. Between Chirinos, Telis, and Alfaro the Rangers will have some tough decisions behind the plate in the next year or so.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Senators Saturday - Ken McMullen, 1966.

In 1966 Ken McMullen, shown here on card 401 of the 1966 Topps set, was coming into his second season with the Washington Senators. His first season, in 1965, had been a success. He was second on the team in home runs with 24 and also knocked in 84 runs that year. For the offense starved Senators it was like a sudden flood with Ken and Frank Howard arriving in the same trade. McMullen also took over at third for Washington and promised to be an answer to the long search for a good third sacker.

Things continued well in 1966 at third for Ken. He played eight innings in right field and 61 innings at first base but the vast majority of his playing time was at third base. Over the 1167.1 innings he played there he posted a .951 fielding percentage. That was three points under the league average but McMullen was well over the league average in range. Some of the errors he committed might have been on balls other third basemen would have not tried to get.

At the plate Ken had a down year. He made 582 plate appearances, second only to Ed Brinkman over at shortstop. McMullen managed a .233 batting average and a .289 on-base percentage. Neither were pretty numbers and his power dipped as well. He watched his home runs drop to 13 (still tied for third best on the club) and his triples to four. He managed one more double with 19 but that didn't keep his slugging percentage from tumbling. It did tie him with Frank Howard for the most doubles on the team in 1966.

The Senators had confidence in Ken McMullen. In spite of his struggles at the plate they kept running him out there. He played in 147 games for the club in 1966, second only to Ed Brinkman's 158. The fact that the club carried no other third baseman on the roster that season clearly indicated they considered Ken to be the solution at third. If he could get his offensive numbers up and maintain the defense it looked like Washington fans would be seeing a lot of Ken McMullen at third base in 1967 and beyond.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1978 Topps - Adrian Devine.

Adrian Devine, shown here on card 92 of the 1978 Topps set, had an unusual career. He played for just two teams. That's not altogether odd but the fact that he did two stints with each team catches the eye.

Adrian started his career with the Atlanta Braves and broke into the Majors with them in 1973. He was up and down from the minors in 1974 and 1975 but did see decent action in 1976. On December 9, 1976 the Braves sent Adrian to the Rangers as part of a package of players given for Jeff Burroughs.

Devine spent the 1977 season with Texas and pitched acceptably for them during their unsuccessful run for the pennant. In 105.2 innings over the course of 52 games Adrian compiled a 3.58 ERA and an 1.259 WHIP. Not too bad but not enough to keep him off the bargaining table as the Rangers attempted to improve enough to make the final hurdle to the post-season.

Devine's 1977 performance must have convinced the Braves they missed him. On December 8, 1977 he made the trip back to Atlanta in the four team trade that brought Nelson Norman, Al Oliver, and Jon Matlack to Texas. Just two years later Adrian found himself headed back to Texas. That trade, and his second stint with the Rangers, will have to wait for his 1981 Topps card.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Minor League Monday - Thayer Swain, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Thayer Swain, shown here on card #30 of the 1990 Charlotte Rangers set, is a bit of a mystery. He was initially drafted by the San Franciso Giants in the third round of the 1986 draft. He didn't sign and stayed another year at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas. Not sure if that was to try to improve his draft ranking or to work on his degree. Hopefully it was to work on his degree.

The Rangers snagged Swain in the 33rd round of the 1987 draft. Perhaps his signability issues with the Giants dropped him lower in the draft. Instead of starting his pro career right away as usual, Swain played the 1988 season with the San Jacinto Gators. I'm not sure if he delayed his entrance into pro ball due to academics or sports. Thayer was one of the best position players to come through the school and still holds the single season records in hits and on-base percentage. He's in the top five for home runs, runs scored and batting average.

Kicking off his pro career, Swain started in Rookie Ball with the Butte Copper Kings in 1988. He did well there and earned a promotion to Single A Gastonia for the 1989 season. A promotion to A+ Charlotte for the 1990 campaign followed.

In 105 games for Charlotte, Thayer made 375 trips to the plate. He posted a .245 and a .331 on-base percentage for the season. Both were significant drops from his tour with Gastonia but he also played in 45 more games and was making the adjustment to a longer season as well as to better pitching.

Swain committed just two errors in 204 chances in the outfield for a .990 fielding percentage.

It appeared Thayer Swain had some potential. His defense was pretty solid and he had a foundation to build on offensively. A little more power would be nice (he hit no home runs in 1990) but it looks like he might have been able to adjust and continue to develop. That's what makes the end of his pro career after the 1990 season a complete mystery. Barring a major injury, I can see no reason why he would have hung up the spikes at 23 years of age and still on his way up. He did though and that was the end of the line.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Senators Saturday - Jim Hannan, 1965.

Jim Hannan was a yo-yo in the sixties with the Washington Senators. He broke into the Majors in 1962 with most of the season spent in Washington. Back to Triple A for most of the 1963 season. All of 1964 with the Senators.

Continuing the trend, Jim appeared in just four games with Washington in 1965 while spending most of the season at Triple A.

Primarily a reliever up to this time, Hannan made one start and three relief appearances for the Senators that season. Over the 14.2 innings he pitched he allowed eight earned runs for a 4.91 ERA. His 1.636 WHIP undoubtedly contributed to those numbers. Another troubling trend was Jim's propensity to walk opposing batters. He issued six free passes in his brief time with the Senators while striking out just five.

Most of 1965 Jim wore a Triple A Hawaii Islanders uniform. He made 30 appearances for the Islanders, all starts. Apparently the days of Jim Hannan the reliever were over. Jim pitched 210 innings for Hawaii and posted a respectable 3.26 ERA en route to a 12-7 season. His 1.300 WHIP was a bit high but he seemed to make progress in the walk area as he allowed 68 walks while striking out 134.

Jim Hannan seemed to have made the transition to starter. His next challenge was making the transition to Major League regular. 1966 was going to be an up year, the the trend held. Hannan needed to stay up after that though or he was in danger of developing a reputation as a Quad A player - good enough to get out of Triple A but not good enough to stick in The Majors.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Couple of great days with the Rangers.

Had a great couple of days enjoying being a Rangers fan yesterday and the day before.

Got to head off to the Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday to catch the Rangers - Rays game. Since I missed going with the family a couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Spiff suggested we make it up. I had the day off and it was Pudge Rodriguez bobblehead day so we decided to catch a late lunch and get to the park early. We actually got there before the parking lots opened. Don't think I have ever been that early before.

Got parked and into line. Had to wait about 45 minutes or so for the gates to open but we had that calculated in so it wasn't an issue. Got it and got everyone's bobbleheads. Spiff Jr was impressed with all of Ivan's Gold Gloves. The sisters more with the bobble.

Since we were so early, Mrs. Spiff mentioned letting Spiff Jr troll for autographs again. I decided to join him. I struck out but he managed to pick up a Miles Mikolas signature. The kid isn't bad at asking for autographs and may soon get a decent collection going.

The games ended up going 14 innings. We were in the third deck with some shade and breeze so it wasn't so bad. The score was low with it tied 2-2 going into extras and there were a few really good defensive plays. This was my first live extra innings affair so I was really enjoying it. Gator petered out towards the end of nine but did get up to dance during the 14th inning stretch. In the bottom of the 14th Texas managed to load the bases and sent Adam Rosales to the plate. He worked a rare walk-off walk to end the game with a 3-2 Rangers win. Any day at the ballpark is a good one. A win makes it better.

First thing yesterday we got everyone loaded up and headed over to a Whataburger not too far from home. Not that we wanted hamburgers; Rangers outfielder Jim Adduci was scheduled to make an appearance there to sign autographs. The line was limited to the first 225 and to my surprise there were 105 folks in line when we arrived 20 minutes early. I think it might have reached capacity before it was all over. Adduci arrived on time and was pleasant with everyone so far as I could see. He chatted with folks and asked Spiff Jr if we waited very long for him to show up. Spiff Jr answered that it wasn't very long and asked him to sign a 2014 Topps for him. Adduci did so and thanked us for coming. He neatly signed the 2014 Topps Heritage card shown above for me.

All in all I was pretty impressed. A morning signing in a fast food joint the day after an extra innings game would be enough to put most folks out. Not Jim Adduci. He seemed tired but glad to be there and was pleasant with young and old.

While Spiff Jr, Sis, and I waited in line for autographs, Bug and Gator hung out with Mrs. Spiff at the edge of the crowd. Rangers Captain found them though and delighted both girls with his antics. He even kissed Gator's hand and she talked about it for quite awhile afterwards. We managed to get a picture with all four kids and Captain before leaving. Thanks to Jim Adduci and Captain, the time we spent getting out for this relatively small event was well spent.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Minor League Monday - Kyle Spencer, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Kyle Spencer, shown here on card 27 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set, was the 26th round draft pick for Texas in the 1988 draft. After two seasons Kyle had worked his way up through Rookie and Single A ball. He would spend the 1990 season at A+ ball with the Charlotte Rangers.

Working strictly out of the bullpen, Spencer tossed 83 innings in 43 appearances for Charlotte. He posted an impressive 1.63 ERA but his WHIP rose from the previous season to 1.229. The rise Kyle's WHIP could be attributed to the better batting eyes of the A+ batters. He managed to drop his hits per nine innings by over a hit a game but his walks rose by 17 to 52 total even though he pitched two fewer innings than the year previous. Batters were also striking out less. Spencer's 78 whiffs reflected a drop of 27 from the year before.

All in all 1990 was a mixed year for Kyle Spencer. On the surface he appeared to have made the adjustment to A+ ball well. His 8-2 record, lowered ERA, and fewer hits allowed looked good at first glance. A little digging showed some reasons for concern though with his rising WHIP, more walks, and fewer strikeouts. The Rangers did the digging and decided to take a wait and see approach with Kyle. He was assigned to stay with Charlotte for the start of the 1991 season.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Catching up and looking for trades.

So I am sure the vast majority of my readers have been wondering where I've been the past week or so. For those two folks, the Spiff household had company for most of last week and I've been working some odd shifts at work the first part of this week.

Mark the Royals fan and his family came for a visit last week. We had a good time and did some trading. The families went to the Rangers game on the 27th. I couldn't get off work that day but they had a good time and Mark's wife donated her Rangers giveaway fedora to my collection. Spiff Jr was actually able to get a couple of autographs before the game. Jerome Williams is a good one but probably not from a long-term Ranger. Nick Martinez is another matter and I am thinking Spiff Jr will be glad he got the signature when he did.

Last Wednesday Mark, Spiff Jr, and I made the trek over to Duane's Sportscards in Arlington. I filled several more gaps in my Senators team sets and picked up a few Rangers. This 2007 Upper Deck Exquisite autograph card of former Ranger Chris Stewart was one of them. Hard to see in the scan but it's numbered 123/150. Spiff Jr picked up quite a few Rangers cards as well. Mark managed to find some Royals and a few cards from his set wantlists. He pronounced himself impressed with the shop.

Since the trip to the shop I've gotten my want and trade lists updated. Looking to get back to regular posting and maybe even some trades. If you're interested, drop me a line. Mark's got me cleaned out of Royals but I've got a few other cards listed to trade.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Minor League Monday - Fred Samson, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Fred Samson appears today on card 26 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set. Looks like he's practicing the pivot on a double play.

The Rangers signed Samson as an undrafted free agent in July of 1986. By 1990 he had made his way up the chain to Single A Charlotte. In 1988 and 1989 Fred bounced back and forth between Charlotte and Double A Tulsa. For some reason he just couldn't get his bat going with the Drillers.

Samson spent the entire 1990 season with Charlotte. He played mostly third base (72 games) but did play some shortstop also (11 games).

Fred made 413 trips to the plate for Charlotte in 1990. He managed a .286 batting average and a .376 on-base percentage. The 51 walks he worked contributed to the difference between the batting average and on-base percentage. Samson wasn't a slugger but he did have a little bit of pop in his bat. He hit 21 doubles, one triple, and five home runs in the course of the season.

Overall Fred Samson managed to put together a decent year with Charlotte in 1990. Not quite as good as some years but good enough to buy him another look at Double A in 1991. Now he had to take advantage of the opportunity. His chances weren't unlimited and a third strike might just be the last.