Archive for the ‘Texas Rangers’ category

Will the Baltimore Orioles Finally Dump Chris Davis?

August 8, 2019

News out of Charm City is that Chris Davis had to be restrained from going after manager Brandon Hyde today after being pinch hit for in the bottom of the 5th inning.  You know what?  You don’t get to cop an attitude when you’re an aging slugger with a .589 OPS in August.  Not now, not ever.

If I were the Orioles’ General Manager, or whomever holds the real power in the Orioles’ organization, I’d release Chris Davis tomorrow and eat the remaining $69M+ on his contract.  When a player is playing as far as Davis is playing below replacement, you just have to eat the contract and hope somebody else is willing to pay him the major league minimum — the same cost to the O’s as the replacement level player they should be able to find to replace him.  A team can’t afford to accept attitude from a worse-than-marginal player no matter how much he is being paid.

It’s uncertain if Hyde will last beyond the end of the 2019 season, but that’s beside the point.  Even if Hyde is proving he’s no better as a manager than Davis is a 1B/DH, you can’t hold onto a player who isn’t performing now and isn’t likely to perform in the future.  Hyde’s record as a manager would certainly be better if word wasn’t coming from somewhere higher that he has to keep playing Davis solely because of all the money the O’s committed to Davis.

Just admit that a mistake was made, and move on.  The Orioles are so bad that it is certain that no matter how much of a comeback Davis could potentially make going forward, he won’t be good enough to make the Orioles a post-season contending team.  Find that replacement-level player now, and try to develop a real star for 2020 or 2021 or 2022 and on.

Chris Davis’ contract is yet another reason why teams have gotten a whole lot stingier on free agents thanks to sabrmetrics than they once were.  Hope springs eternal, but the objective data says that free agents are way overpaid when they ought to be merely overpaid.  For every Chris Davis and Albert Pujols, there is a Nelson Cruz, but those aren’t great odds.  And teams have been generally stingy with their contracts to Cruz since his PED positive test to their great benefit.

The objective lesson is treat ’em all like Nelson Cruz and then some.  The Mariners gave Cruz a four-year $57M deal going into this age 34 season, so even in Cruz’s case, the team took some risk.  Teams collectively only benefit by holding the line on free agent salaries, and superstar players will still get paid because many teams still believe and will likely continue to believe that they are only one or two free agents away from contention.

If Davis gets the axe in Baltimore, it will be interesting see if another team signs him to a major league contract, even at the MLB minimum salary.   If Davis can’t hit playing half his games in Baltimore, is a change of scenery really going to make a difference.  Maybe the Rangers would sign him to play at the major league level — Davis is from Texas, and there’s no better place to hit in the Junior Circuit than the Ballpark at Arlington (or whatever it is now called).  The O’s should let the Rangers give Davis a shot.

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Atlanta Braves Acquire Reliever Chris Martin for Kolby Allard

July 31, 2019

It has been a remarkably quite trade deadline this year with no big stars yet changing teams.  However, the Texas Rangers traded right-handed reliever Chris Martin for 21 minor league starter Kolby Allard.  This move interests me for a couple of reasons.

First, Chris Martin is a pitcher who turned himself into an MLB major leaguer by going to Japan’s NPB for a couple of seasons, where he pitched great and played a higher level of competition than he’d have faced at AAA in front of major league sized crowds.  The Rangers signed Martin for a two-year contract at a modest $4 million guarantee with modest performance bonuses.  Fangraphs says that Martin’s performance as a Ranger for the last 1.65 seasons has been worth $9.2M.

Now, for the last two+ months of Martin’s contract, the Rangers have turned him into a 21 year old AAA starter who was the 14th overall selection of the 2015 Draft.  Kolby Allard was indeed a heavy price for the Choppers to pay for two months of Chris Martin.

Allard isn’t pitching as well this year as he did in 2018, when a strong AAA performance earned him a major league cup of coffee.  His ERA at AAA is a buck and half higher than it was last year, but there’s a lot more offense in the International League this year than in years past and Allard’s strikeout rate has improved — he has 98 Ks in 110 IP so far this year.

Allard is listed as 6’1″ and 190 lbs and he pitched 150 innings in 2017 at age 19, which really wasn’t a good idea.  Thus, the Braves may have concerned about his ability to stay healthy, although his improved strikeout rate in his second go-’round at AAA is a positive sign on the arm health front.

I assume we will find out in short order why the Braves were willing to give up Allard on a rental of Chris Martin.  Still, it seems like a steal for the Rangers.

An NPB pitcher I have my eye on for a return to MLB as soon as 2020 is former SF Giants’ right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson.  After 40 relief appearances this year for the Hanshin Tigers, he has 28 holds in 30 opportunities and 0.90 ERA.  His pitching line is currently 40 IP, 24 hits, zero HRs and nine BBs allowed and 57 Ks.

Johnson had an ugly 5.56 ERA for the Giants as a 27 year old rookie in 2018 but his peripheral numbers were better.  His command appears to have improved dramatically this season, and he looks like he’d be a good sign for an MLB major league team this off-season, at least if he stays healthy and can keep performing in Japan at something close to his current level.

Did the Texas Rangers Get Lucky Or Is It Just One of Those Things that Makes Baseball Fun

July 12, 2019

Lance Lynn won today’s only game, an MLB-best 12th win against MLB’s 3rd best team.  The three-year $30M deal the Rangers gave Lynn this past off-season looked like an over-pay, given that free agent contracts are down and Lynn had had to settle for a one-year $12M deal for 2018.

It’s probably safe to say that the 2018 deal was too stingy and the 2019-2021 deal was too generous, at least until Lynn pitched in 2019 like he was worth the whole $30M (fangraphs.com says he’s been worth $31.8M so far in 2019).  Lynn wasn’t great in 2018, at least until the Twins traded him to the Yankees, so the 2017-2018 off-season lack of interest seemed to be an accurate reflection of his likely future value.

It seems likely that teams have been overvaluing the draft pick loss that comes with the qualifying offer (which the Cards had extended Lynn), although free agent frugality always benefits the teams on average.  Free agents have been overvalued in terms of where MLB is currently; there isn’t much doubt of that.  MLB sorely needs another round of expansion to let the superstars stand out and to keep the oldsters starring for another season or three.

Teams don’t err by erring on the side of frugality with free agents.  Still, one of the things that keeps baseball interesting is that the future can’t accurately be predicted in all circumstance.  Sometimes the Lance Lynns of baseball will make the apparent overpays look like strokes of pure genius.

I don’t think the Rangers’ management really knew something nobody else did.  I suspect that Lynn’s great 2019 (so far) was a lot of good luck, possibly but not necessarily favored by some good forecasting.

All of that said, the Rangers still need to make the play-offs this season.  At age 32 this season and listed 6’5″ and 280 lbs, it’s hard to imagine that Lynn can continue to be great even only as far into the future as 2020 and 2021.  I will admit, however, that I never suspected that CC Sabathia, all 6’6″ and 300 lbs of him, could still be pitching effectively on the eve of his 39th birthday.  In my mind that’s nothing short of a modern-day baseball miracle.

What Will Cody Bellinger End Up Batting in 2019?

May 18, 2019

After today’s game in Cincinnati, Cody Bellinger is batting a lusty .404 46 games into the 2019 Dodgers’ season.  What might he end up hitting when the year is out?

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Bellinger won’t hit .380 this season, let alone .400.  The last player to hit .380 in a season was Tony Gwynn in 1994 when Gwynn batted .394, the closest any player has come to .400 since Ted Williams last did it in 1941.  Since 1941, only three other players have batted .380 in a season: Ted Williams batted .388 in 1957, Rod Carew batted .388 in 1977 and George Brett batted .390 in 1980.

By my calculation, Bellinger would have to bat .372 for the rest of the season (assuming that Bellinger stays healthy) in order to hit .380 for the season.  Seems unlikely.

The last player to bat .370 or better in a season was Ichiro when he hit .372 in 2004.  While a great season and a great hitter, Barry Bonds had hit .370 in 2002 and both Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton had batted .372 in 2000.

To hit .370 for the season, Bellinger would need to hit about .356 the rest of the way.  Certainly doable, but I’d think certainly less likely than not.

The last player to bat .360 or better in a season was Joe Mauer when he batted .365 in 2009.  As with Ichiro’s 2004, Mauer’s 2009 was not wildly better than other batting leaders of the previous few seasons:  Chipper Jones had batted .364 in 2008, and Magglio Ordonez had batted .363 in 2007.

To bat .360 on the season, Bellinger would need to hit .344 the rest of the way.  That certainly seems doable, given Bellinger’s talent level and the facts that he is a left-handed hitter who runs extremely well.

The last player to bat .350 in a season was Josh Hamilton, who batted .359 in 2010.  To hit .350 for the season, Bellinger would only need to hit .328 the rest of the way.  I’d be willing to bet even money on Bellinger hitting at least .350 this season if he can stay healthy.

Tim Lincecum’s and Jake Peavy’s Hall of Fame Chances

May 5, 2019

Jake Peavy officially retired today although he hadn’t actually pitched professionally since 2016.  Peavy and Tim Lincecum had very similar major league careers, and it got me thinking about their respective Hall of Fame chances.  After Lincecum’s failed comeback in the Rangers’ organization last year, it’s pretty clear Timmy’s professional career is over too.

I don’t think either has a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.  Both pitchers were the National League’s best for roughly four or five years, but were basically back-of-the-rotation starters for the second halves of their respective careers when injuries wore them down.  Peavy lasted long enough to finish with a career record of 152-126, while Lincecum finished a modest 110-89.

Lincecum won two Cy Young Awards to Peavy’s one, Lincecum pitched for three World Series winners to Peavy’s two, and Lincecum pitched two no-hitters while Peavy threw none.  But, as noted above, Peavy won 42 more games.

In my mind, pitchers with career highs of a Jake Peavy or Tim Lincecum still need to win at least 190 games in today’s MLB to be realistic Hall of Fame contenders.  Another similar, if even better short-time ace, Johan Santana (career 139-78 record), hasn’t received much love from Hall of Fame voters.  In his first and only year of HOF eligibility, Santana received so few votes (10 or 2.4%) that he was dropped from the HOF ballot the next year 2019.

Given where the game is going, I think that Santana will get more love from future Veterans’ Committees and could eventually make the HOF.  I don’t think either Lincecum or Peavy will, however.  At least both Lincecum and Peavy won a lot of awards, multiple World Series rings, and made a boatload of money.  They’ll never forget Lincecum in San Francisco or Peavy in San Diego, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2019

April 3, 2019

Shohei Ohtani has ended any debate about the best hitting pitcher in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.  He won’t be pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery but is expected to return as a designated hitter in May.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be to a great hitting major league pitcher, but his prospects as a two-way player aren’t as good as they were a year ago.  The main problem for McKay is that his talents as a pitcher are developing much faster in pro ball than his talents as a hitter.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  Ohtani finished the 2018 season with .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter and went 4-2 in 10 starts before hurting his elbow.  The entire baseball world is waiting for his right arm to be healthy enough to pitch again. ’nuff said.

2.  Michael Lorenzen (.247 career batting average and .767 career OPS).  Lorenzen is still short of the 100 career at-bat cut-off I’ve used in previous iterations of this post, but he had a tremendous season with the bat in 2018 and was used in a role that was specifically tailored to his ability to hit.  He managed 34 plate appearances last season, in which he batted .290 with a 1.043 OPS thanks to four home runs, despite making only three starts all season.  He was used at least nine times as a pinch hitter, and was frequently left in games to hit for himself when he pitched in relief.

I expect Lorenzen’s career averages to drop as he gets more major league plate appearances, but it’s clear at this point that he’s one of MLB’s very best hitting pitchers.

3.  Zack Greinke (.219 BA, .569 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season, and he has been remarkably consistent as a sweet-swinging pitcher since then.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Madison Bumgarner (.184, .542).  I dropped MadBum a couple of spots this year, because he hit poorly in 2018 and his career batting line isn’t particularly impressive, although park factors are probably in play in comparing MadBum to Greinke.  We’ll see if Bumgarner bounces back to being the best hitting full-time pitcher in 2019.

5.  Yovani Gallardo (.201, .563).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher is probably over, as he remains unsigned as of this writing, but he sure could hit.

6. Adam Wainwright (.202 BA, .537 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

7.  German Marquez (.230, .504).  Marquez benefits from a small sample size and playing his home games in Coors Field, but any pitcher who hits better than .220 with an OPS over .500 is great hitting pitcher in today’s game.

8.  Noah Syndergaard (.176 BA, .526 OPS).  “Hulk say Thor smash ball with hammer bat!” At least once in a while.

9.  Daniel Hudson (.222, .557).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson hasn’t had many opportunities to hit in recent years, but his career numbers get him on the list.

10.   Mike Leake (.198, .507).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

11.  Tyler Chatwood (.210, .475) and Tyson Ross (.200, .481).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable Mentions.  fangraphs.com says that aces Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer were with Zack Greinke the best hitting pitchers in 2018.

Young Hitting Pitchers to WatchBrent Suter (.174, .530).  Unfortunately, Suter is already 29 years old and likely to miss all of 2019 after having Tommy John surgery.