Home half of the first: Ian Kinsler
grounded out to San Diego starter Chad Gaudin, who came into the game with a
3-6, 5.60 record in 2009 – after being released by the Cubs at the end of spring
training – and a career 3-6, 6.08 mark in 19 appearances against Texas (1.748
WHIP, .305/.392/.495 – a better slash line than any Rangers hitter has this
David Murphy followed with a
base on balls.
Michael Young singled to
The rest of the way against Gaudin
and one inning of Heath Bell?
The Rangers sent 28 hitters to the
plate in 8.2 innings.
No hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts.
Tommy Hunter: 6.1 innings, under 15
pitches per frame, seven hits, no walks, three strikeouts, maybe the best
breaking ball command from a starter outside of Kevin Millwood all
It didn’t matter last night (though
it allowed Texas to keep the bullpen in order and makes
some bigger questions interesting).
(Footnote: I don’t
really want Pirates righthander Ian Snell either, but last night, in his first
minor league start since 2005, the recently demoted 27-year-old walked the first
Toledo batter of
the game. He then struck out 13 straight Mud Hens. Would you trade Hunter, if
not a more highly estimated prospect, to get Snell? Not
Gaudin – Chad Gaudin – became the first opponent in the
16-season history of Rangers Ballpark to hold Texas to one or zero hits in at least eight
innings of work.
So here comes Los Angeles for three (and
six of the Rangers’ next nine games). The Angels have one more win than
fewer losses, and a lot more swagger. They’ve just finished interleague play
14-4, including a weekend sweep of the Diamondbacks, with wins keyed by a bunt
that went for four bases and a straight steal of
Assume Josh Hamilton hadn’t missed
more games than he’s played. Assume the club’s first basemen weren’t hitting
.213/.270/.434, that its outfielders weren’t hitting .256/.315/.459, that its
designated hitters weren’t hitting .235/.307/.510. Assume more one member of
the club’s season-opening rotation had managed to avoid the disabled list.
Even without any of the above,
before this season, would you have taken 1.5 games out of first heading into six
of nine against the front-running Angels at the end of
That’s not to excuse the way
playing right now, but maybe it’s a good time to lean on a little
Imagine this thing starting from
scratch today, with just under 90 games left. From this point forward, are we
going to be two games better than the Angels, who have been there over and over
and are playing like it?
A whole lot would have to turn
around with a whole lot of players on this roster to answer that question
affirmatively, but with the team positioned to make more noise over the next few
years than it was expected to in 2009, that fact that, so far, every game of the
season has meant something in the standings is a good thing, something that
ought to benefit the young players in particular as they continue to learn on
the job, learning not only to handle big league situations and to make
at-bat-to-at-bat and game-to-game and series-to-series adjustments, but also to
I could name three more young
players at Oklahoma City and one at Frisco that might be putting themselves into
high-level roster discussions right now, not just because it might be the
natural next step for each of them developmentally but also because they might
be candidates to make the Rangers better right now.
This next month is going to be
fascinating – baseball July’s almost always are – starting with a real gut check
against the team that, after a two-month run chasing the Rangers, has put itself
back in first place with the undeniable message that it’s right where it
(Sabermetricians: Tune out.)
(Appropriately) lost in what was an energizing win was a
feeling I had early in the game about a possibly significant moment for Michael
After Young, who came into the game mired in a 1-for-20 skid
since a home run off Randy Johnson on Friday, had bounced into a double play
and walked in his first two trips tonight, he extended the rut to 1 for 22 with
a one-out comebacker in the fifth, with Ian Kinsler on third (after a double
and an Omar Vizquel sacrifice bunt). A bad
at-bat, with one of several pitches down and away that Young had unsuccessfully
offered at on the night, trying to jerk it instead of going with the pitch the
opposite way like Young always does when he’s locked in.
Right after Young’s tapper to the mound, Andruw Jones
delivered a mammoth two-run blast over the left field fence, extending what had
been a one-run Texas
lead to 5-2.
Here’s an Instant Message conversation I had with someone the
moment after the Jones home run:
[22:07] gjsneaker1: prediction: Michael
gets hits in his next 2 AB
[22:08] gjsneaker1: I just know that
there can be a cloud lifted in someone really hard on himself (I can relate on
my much smaller level) when a teammate picks you up like that
[22:09] gjsneaker1: I bet he goes to the
plate in a much better frame of mind than he’s had in a while
[22:14] _________: you could be right
[two innings later]
[22:38] gjsneaker1: there’s 1 (infield single rifled up the middle,
deflected by pitcher Jon Garland)
[two innings after
[23:23] gjsneaker1: there’s 2 (opposite-field double to deep right center)
What followed for Young was the opposite-field flare to
right in the 11th, caught by Justin Upton, that Vizquel or third
base coach Dave Anderson chose not to attempt to score on, and a 12th-inning
strikeout. But I have a good feeling
about the chances that Young is about to get on a very good roll.
Speaking of which, tonight was obviously Chris Davis’s
night. Single the opposite way with a
man on first. Double to deep left center
on a full count. Single to center. Strikeout looking. Five-pitch walk with a man on first. And the big two-out, two-run shot on a 2-2
count in the 12th, crushed to straightaway right.
filled the box score with those four hits, two RBI, and two runs, and only two
of his teammates saw more than the 27 pitches he saw on the night. He got himself into good counts, and good
Why did the Diamondbacks call for an Esmerling Vasquez changeup
on the home run pitch, considering Davis’s
season-long trouble with the fastball?
He’d swung over a Vasquez change earlier in the count, and had fouled off
a fastball on the previous pitch. He was
ready for Vasquez to come back with the change, and punished it.
Nice couple wins, this time with the offense carrying its weight. If Young is ready to get hot, and if Davis,
five spots down in the order, can get into a groove where he’s not an automatic
out, those two things could make this lineup work a good bit better, and maybe
the offense can start to get healthy with these three against San Diego before
the Angels get to town.
Millwood and Holland
the next two nights. I’ve got a good feeling
about this series.
OK. You can let the sabermetrics
camp back in.
to multiple local reports in the last 15 minutes, righthander Neftali Feliz is
moving from the Oklahoma City
rotation to its bullpen, and the reason is fairly obvious.
T.R. Sullivan’s text:
The Rangers are moving top pitching prospect Neftali Feliz to the bullpen at
Triple A Oklahoma [City]. It could lead
to a promotion to the Rangers at some point similar to what they did with Derek
“We’d like to see if he’s an option to help the Major League club in
that role,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s scheduled to throw an inning there
tomorrow. We still feel he may start for
us in the future but we’re going down that road first.”
Feliz is 3-5 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts at Oklahoma. He has pitched 60 2/3 innings and
allowed 59 hits and 27 walks with 55 strikeouts. Daniels said he has been looking for ways to
strengthen the Rangers bullpen.
Since an acceptable trip to New York
and Boston to
start the month, the Rangers have gone 15 for 90 with runners in scoring
position. That’s a .167 batting average
in those 13 games. Roughly one hit per game
with a runner on second and/or third, and just seven opportunities a
While the cast is not exactly the same as last year’s, this
lineup features many of the same players who contributed a year ago to a league-leading
offense that hit .287 with runners in scoring position (third best in baseball)
and slugged .476 (best in the league).
In June, the Rangers are hitting a collective
.218/.277/.363. That’s roughly what Craig
Monroe (.215/.287/.354) was hitting before Pittsburgh designated him for assignment this
You can bullet-point lots of remarkable numbers to tell the
story, or simply watch this club take its at-bats most nights lately. It’s an anemia, a pandemic anemia, that features
a dizzying array of swings and misses, bad counts, lazy pop-ups, and
While the stakes are obviously not the same, the last time we’ve
seen this brand of offensive baseball here, it seems, was in the three playoff
series against the Yankees late in the last decade, before anyone in the
current lineup was in the major leagues.
Fortunately, May was so good for this team, and the pitching
and defense have been so consistent this season, that it wasn’t until late last
night that Texas surrendered its sole lead of first place in the West, a perch
it now shares with the Angels after 47 straight days looking down at the rest
of the division.
Five days from now the Angels stop in for a three-game set
in Arlington, and after three with the Rays we head to Los Angeles for three at
the Angels’ place and then four in Seattle, against a Mariners club that is now
just 2.5 games back. Those 10 games against
Los Angeles and Seattle are very big. Not just because of the head-to-head
showdowns, but also because of where they land on the schedule.
The good thing about this amazing run of unproductive offense
(count on me to seek out the positive) is that it has happened in June. If it were July 24 today, and this club were tied for first in the West, the
pressure to make an impact trade or two would be greater, and based on what
this trade market looks like, it would probably cost more to get something
meaningful done than it should, even for July, in prospects.
Maybe we’ll know a lot more about where this thing is headed
after those 10 with the Angels and Mariners, and unless the hitting starts to
catch up with the pitching and defense, the result in the standings will relax any
urge to make a short-term strike . . . though I’m confident that a two-month
rental pickup has never been a strong consideration, even when the Rangers had
the league’s best record early this month.
trading for C.C. Sabathia last July was not the model. His contract expired after the season.
Boston acquiring Jason Bay
last July was. Two pennant races.
and Mark Teixeira in July 2007: Same thing.
The Rangers aren’t as good as they were playing a month ago,
and aren’t as bad as things look now. I’d
still like to see a deal made – the bullpen is still the priority and appears,
according to several local stories, to be the area most conducive to a
reasonable July trade – because if this team can right itself, there’s still a
chance to be a factor in September. Doesn’t
need to be a blockbuster deal, and it shouldn’t be. Darren O’Day and Jason Grilli upgraded this bullpen
at the cost of $60,000.
(And yes, I think Neftali Feliz is getting closer to
figuring into the equation.)
Once you fight through the disgust of watching your team play
bad ball for an extended stretch – and I think we’d all agree that even disgust
beats apathy – the fact remains that, for all of this team’s extremes, it does
share a division lead. So of course
there’s a chance to get into October.
But lots has to change in the second half, particularly with
the bats. It doesn’t need to be as
dramatic a change as we’ve seen in the wrong direction this month, but this loss
of consciousness at the plate can’t go on.
The problem on offense is obviously something that one trade could never
cure, and it goes much deeper than the absence of Josh Hamilton.
If there weren’t a track record for most of these players to
be more productive than they’ve been in June, then maybe there would be a lot
more apathy out there than disgust. With
Arizona (Dan Haren tonight) and San Diego on the immediate schedule, followed
by 10 of 13 with the Angels and Mariners as this club heads into the All-Star
Break, it’s time to take what the numbers reveal, and what the eyes can see, and
what the players and coaches recognize, and figure out what adjustments need to
be made and execute them. Time to do a
better job getting on base and moving around on them.
The Rangers have arrived in the Phoenix area, set to start a three-game series
with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, 11 miles west along I-10 and another 12 miles
north on State Highway 101, in a game that’s going on right now, the Arizona
League Mariners have a 9-2 lead on the Arizona League Rangers. Among the notable subplots have been the pro
debut of precocious 16-year-old righthander Richard Alvarez (3-3-3-3-3-4) and
the pro pitching debut of former infielder Johan Yan (1.2-3-5-5-6-3 – and it
was no mop-up appearance . . . the transition to the mound is in full throttle).
But the debut I was most interested in was not really a
debut, though I’m sure to Jeff Zimmerman it felt a little bit like the first
time he’d taken the mound for the High A Port Charlotte in April 1998, as a 25-year-old
minor league rookie facing a league full of 21-year-olds. Tonight, Zimmerman was a 36-year-old facing
hitters half his age. Really: half his age.
Or, in 17-year-old Rangers second baseman Alex Gonzalez’s
case, less than that.
In the first inning, Zimmerman, making his first pro
appearance of any kind since 2003, when he pitched three times in the same
Arizona League trying to get back to the big leagues after two years of elbows
problems, allowed a Joseph Bonadonna single and stolen base, coaxed a Tomas
Telis groundout, surrendered an opposite field RBI single off the bat of Justin
Smoak, walked Miguel Velazquez, fanned Ed Koncel, and got Edwin Garcia to pop
Alvarez, who had just turned nine years old when, on October
1, 2001, Zimmerman fired a 1-2 slider that John Olerud hit back to the mound before
loping toward first base as Zimmerman fired the ball to Carlos Pena to lock
down a 4-3 Rangers win over Seattle for his 28th save, retired the
2009 teenaged Mariners quietly in the bottom of the first: flyout to center,
popout to second, infield single, strikeout swinging.
Zimmerman came back out for the second, and on deck stood
Ruben Sierra Jr., whose father had pinch-hit in the top of the ninth inning of that
October 2001 season finale, grounding out to second in what was at the time a
3-3 tie. In what would be his second and
final inning of work tonight, Zimmerman got Braxton Lane to line out to shortstop, coaxed
a Sierra groundout to third, and, after Gonzalez had reached on an error and
stolen second, struck Bonadonna out to end the frame.
It wouldn’t surprise me, all things considered, if someone
from the Rangers’ big league traveling party made it over to Peoria tonight, if for no other reason than
to get a look at Smoak as he returns from the oblique injury that cost him
nearly a month of playing time. If there
was in fact someone from the big club or front office who got there in time for
the top of the first, I suspect the Smoak shot to left quietly put a smile on
But probably nothing like the discreet smile I imagine is on
the face of Jeff Zimmerman, whose tightly Ace-bandaged postgame icepack will probably
feel as majestic as a steak dinner at Nick & Sam’s, a Sunday afternoon nap
on the couch, or a scoreless seventh inning in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park
as a 26-year-old rookie middle reliever.
We play such a maddening brand of baseball. Losses like tonight’s are games I wish I’d
Bad approaches by just about every hitter over age 20, failures
to execute (on both sides of the ball) that evoke the legendary John McKay quote,
an unbelievable .571/.625/1.143 slash line for the first hitter of each Giants inning.
Lately, I have no more confidence with a Ranger on third and
fewer than two outs than I do with the bases empty and two down.
Even the best teams drop more than a third of their games. Losing happens. But I’d feel a lot better if we made teams
that beat us work a lot harder. Or even
Chad Billingsley may be one of the best pitchers in the
league right now, but he’s walked 4.2 batters per nine innings this season. This, in a nutshell, says a lot:
The Rangers worked one walk off Billingsley in seven innings
The Angels worked five walks off Billingsley in six innings
The significance of that is not just the creation of run-scoring
opportunities. Billingsley got through
his seven innings in Arlington
needing just 97 pitches (13.9 per inning).
The Angels saw 112 pitches in six innings tonight (18.7 per
inning), chasing the 24-year-old.
Tigers lefthander Dontrelle Willis, between his two 2009 stints
on the disabled list, both due to an alleged anxiety disorder manifested by a virtually
complete absence of command, made seven starts.
In six of them, he issued 26 walks in 27.1 innings. In the other Willis start, Texas drew two walks in 6.1 (one-hit)
Toronto lefthander Brian
Tallet: Between two lousy June starts (five runs in six innings against the
Angels and eight runs in 3.1 innings against Florida),
he shut Texas
out on two hits over seven innings on the 9th.
The season is past the 40 percent point and my team is still
in first place, a position it’s held for the last 44 days. I wouldn’t want it any other way, but it sure
makes the losses – especially ones like tonight’s – sting a lot more. I hate losses no matter what shade they come
in, but that one would have been better for my health if I’d only seen the box
We’re in desperate need of some good contagious. The bad contagious needs to beat it, without waiting
for Josh Hamilton to come back.
On a night that belonged in one sense to Rangers legend Ivan
Rodriguez, perhaps the greatest catcher to play the game, the home team’s hero,
as far as I’m concerned, was the club’s current man behind the plate.
In the seven seasons since Pudge left Texas, four different catchers have started
on Opening Day, but the one who donned the gear on April 6 has a real chance to
hold the spot down for a long time.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia won’t catch over 2,200 big league games, and almost
certainly won’t log 1,500 games behind the plate as a Ranger, but the
improvement he’s made this season as a field general has been one of the best Rangers
stories in what continues to be a storybook year.
The home run in the bottom of the third was big, but
Saltalamacchia’s top of the ninth was spectacular. In two pivotal plays, back to back, he put on
a display of Pudge-like quickness, footwork, arm strength, and accuracy. It was a fitting tribute to the man in the
other dugout tonight, and David Murphy never gets the chance to win the game in
the tenth if not for what Saltalamacchia did in the ninth.
The TROT COFFEY (Trade Rumor Offerings To Chew On For Fun, Even Yuks) reports return this morning. Not to be confused with Brewers journeyman reliever Todd Coffey, the TROT COFFEY is a mailing list-only update on various trade rumblings unearthed, if not hatched, by the media.
To join the free Newberg Report mailing list — the TROT COFFEY’s won’t show up on this website — go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.
Look, the sky is not falling.
Ian Kinsler is hitting .260/.339/.508. It’s fair to expect more.
Josh Hamilton is absent, and hit only .240/.290/.456 when he
was around. When he’s back, he’ll be
Chris Davis is at .208/.266/.431, after .285/.331/.549 as a
rookie. He has more strikeouts in 202
at-bats this year (92) than he did in 295 at-bats last year (88). As big as the 2008 sample size was, it can’t
be viewed as a Kevin Maas-like fluke.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.251/.300/.383) and Marlon Byrd
(.288/.310/.455): The average and the slug look like 2008’s, but the dropoffs
in reaching base have been staggering.
Hank Blalock has fallen from .287/.338/.508 to
Yes, Andruw Jones (.257/.371/.532) and Omar Vizquel
(.322/.355/.424) are giving us more than we expected, but they have the 11th
and 12th most at-bats on the club, each fewer than Hamilton, who has
missed almost as many games as he’s played.
With 100 games left to play, of the regulars, only Nelson Cruz,
Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, and David Murphy are producing at a level that you’d
have taken three months ago. And though
each has had at least one torrid streak at the plate this season, looking at
their overall numbers you probably wouldn’t say any of them is playing out of
his mind offensively.
That’s sort of the point.
Nobody that Texas
counts on every day is hitting out of his mind in 2009. Not one guy.
And yet the club is two games up on the rest of the division,
having survived what was objectively the toughest three-week run of opponents
on its 2009 schedule. You’d have taken that
June 16 position three months ago, without question.
If your cynical response is that the pitching staff is full
of guys playing out of their minds, in truth that can probably only be said
about two, maybe three pitchers. And as
improved as the Rangers defense is, there’s at least theoretical (if not
statistical) reason to believe that there’s a basis for the pitching to have
been producing more without doing more.
If this lineup can figure some things out (and I’m not
suggesting it’s merely a matter of time – there’s clearly work to be done), then
this team, on pace to win 92 games, can get better. The most encouraging thing about 35-27 is not
that we’ve just gotten through NYY-OAK-NYY-BOS-TOR-LAD having seen the division
lead shrink by only half a game (one full game after the Angels held on last
night), but instead that track records suggest that there is so much room for
offensive improvement, on nearly a player-by-player basis, that this good
baseball team has a legitimate chance to very good. This year.
Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours Scot Shields has decided to
undergo season-ending knee surgery, Kelvim Escobar (who was going to replace
Shields as a high-leverage righthander in the Angels bullpen) has gone back on
the disabled list with a shoulder that’s still giving him trouble, Ervin
Santana has been scratched from tonight’s start with tightness in his forearm
(MRI results should come today), and Torii Hunter bruised his rib cage running
into a wall and will miss at least a couple games. The Angels aren’t going away, but Texas has played itself
into a position to take advantage of an opportunity that shouldn’t be going
away anytime soon, either.
For those of you who think I’m about to advocate a launch
into Step Five, I’m noncommittal on that right now. But that doesn’t mean an impact trade is out
of the question. Five words:
Delmon Young for Matt Garza.
Actually, 15 words:
Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie for Matt
Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan.
I was among what I suspect was an easy majority who saw that
November 2007 trade and thought Minnesota had
pulled one over on Tampa
Bay, having stolen the AL
Rookie of the Year runner-up just before he really exploded into superstar
territory. But the Rays probably aren’t
the defending American League champs without that deal, and they’d never undo
it. As for the Twins, they’re rumored just
a year and a half later to be shopping Young and his three extra-base hits in
I’m not going to sit here and lay out a half dozen specific trade
scenarios involving pre-arb players for pre-arb players (yet), but I will
suggest to you that falling into the camp that says there’s a trade or two to be
made that could help fill a hole or two on this contending team doesn’t
necessarily mean taking on significant payroll, or emasculating the farm system. It may just be a matter of reallocating
assets, in a way that Tampa Bay did with more success than Minnesota did 19 months ago. It was a good old-fashioned baseball card
trade, one that had nothing to do with salary dumps or mid-summer rentals, a
trade without which the Rays would probably still be a franchise without a
It was a bold, smart move for Tampa Bay,
who got a lot better right away, without a venture into Step Five.
With the Rangers system as deep in young talent as it is
right now, at both the major league and minor league levels, I wouldn’t be
against the concept of that type of trade to make this team instantly stronger,
trusting the evaluations of my scouts to use a strength to address a weakness.
Getting more production out of the big league lineup, from hitters
who have proven that they’re capable of providing it, would make the club
stronger right away as well.
But those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Nothing wrong with shooting for both.
dump during a power outage delay (literally, in this case) . . .
Czajka’s annual Rangers Draft Page, always worth bookmarking, is now up at http://www.dickiethon.com/eczajka/draft_2009.htm. There you’ll find photos, scouting
reports, and other information on many of the players Texas drafted this
also loaded Ryan Tatusko’s latest “Back Field Diaries”
who had a six-hit game this year, is now 6 for his last
has had four bad outings out of 27 this season, at least based on his line
scores. What do they have in common? All four came on the second day of
back-to-back days of work.
Thompson was named pitching coach at Short-Season A Spokane, filling the
position vacated when Jeff Andrews was elevated from Spokane to Frisco, where
Joe Slusarski had been dismissed last month as the RoughRiders’ pitching coach.
This will be Thompson’s first professional coaching position. Spokane opens its season
lefthander Ryan O’Malley, the former Cubs pitcher who showed up as a Frisco
acquisition a couple weeks ago, is apparently joining the RoughRiders as an
assistant pitching coach.
minor league award winners for May: Hickory
lefthander Yoon-Hee Nam (Pitcher of the Month), Frisco outfielder
Mitch Moreland (Player of the Month), and Bakersfield catcher Jose
Nam was one of
six Crawdads selected to appear in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game,
joined by lefthander Martin Perez, catcher Doug Hogan, infielder Erik Morrison,
and outfielders Mike Bianucci and David Paisano. No team in the league has a
Miguel De Los Santos so far in the Dominican Summer League: six innings, one
hit, two walks, 16 strikeouts. So only two outs recorded on balls in play? Not
exactly. He’s had three. In his last outing, on Monday, he had the rare
two-inning, seven-strikeout performance. One of his victims reached safely on a
third-strike wild pitch.
sending Chris Davis to AAA would be a drastic move? Maybe so, but the Angels
optioned second baseman Howie Kendrick today. The 25-year-old is a career .294
hitter in about 1,200 plate appearances, but hitting just .231 this
Guerrero has five extra-base hits in 101 at-bats. That’s two more than Cubs
pitcher Carlos Zambrano has in 30 at-bats.
Hernandez Manzo, the daughter of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, is four months
older than Rangers first-round pick Matt Purke.
Nick Masset gave up nine hits as a Ranger, over 8.2 innings in
eight hits this year, in 23.2 Reds innings.
Brendan Donnelly for AAA Round Rock in the Houston system: four earned runs (2.04 ERA) on
14 hits and five walks in 17.2 innings, fanning 16. Two of five inherited
runners have scored.
sign of Derrick Turnbow anywhere.
have reportedly released reliever Kazuo Fukumori, who has apparently returned to
Japan with plans to rejoin the
Rangers farmhand Craig Frydendall is the new pitching coach for Hutchinson Community
College, having served as pitching coach the last two seasons
County Community College. Both schools are in
draft picks on the eight teams at the College World Series. Bad if you were
hoping to get a quick peek at some of the players, but good from the standpoint
that it won’t postpone negotiations.
four) new additions for the Newberg Report Night
* A pizza
party for 20 at the awesome Durkin’s Pizza (eight large pizzas, cheese bread,
sodas, and a case of beer).
separate opportunities to visit Chuck Morgan’s control room during the ballgame
go to charity.
For those of
you who are Little League parents: We’re brainstorming on doing something other
than trophies for the T-Ball team this year. Any