June 2009

Fasten your seat belts.

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Tough one yesterday, a game that I’m sure this team’s best
player would like a couple mulligans on. 

 

Tack on the Angels’ eight unanswered runs in the final four
innings to escape with a 9-8 win over Seattle,
and all told the final day of May could have gone a lot better.

 

Still, it’s June 1, and Texas maintains the American League’s best
record, sitting 4.5 games up on the Angels in the West.

 

The past 10 June 1st‘s for this franchise:

 

2000: 27-25 record, 1st place, percentage points
behind Seattle

2001: 19-33, 4th place, 21 games back

2002: 21-31, 4th place, 12.5 games back

2003: 25-29, 4th place, 11 games back

2004: 27-22, 2nd place, 2.5 games back

2005: 30-20, 1st place, 1.0 games up

2006: 28-25, 1st place, 4.0 games up

2007: 19-35, 4th place, 13.5 games back

2008: 29-28, 3rd place, 4.0 games back

2009: 30-20, 1st place, 4.5 games up

 

Oakland
general manager Billy Beane is credited with first articulating the idea that you
spend the first third of the season evaluating your team and figuring out what
you are, the middle third trying to acquire pieces to address what you’re not,
and the final third sitting back and seeing how much noise your team can make.

 

Loosely speaking, the first third of the season ends with
the transition from May to June.

 

Literally speaking, the first third is complete with the 54th
game, which for Texas will be this Friday in Boston.

 

But as far as this season goes, the first third is
realistically a week from arriving. 
After today’s day off, Texas travels to
Yankee Stadium for three and Fenway
Park for three.  On the morning of June 8, when the Rangers are
back in Arlington, poised to face Toronto and the Dodgers,
two formidable opponents in their own right, the season will be 56 games old,
and at that point we’ll probably have a better sense of what this team is and
is not. 

 

The draft will take place on the second, third, and fourth
days of that Blue Jays series, and I’ve barely discussed the draft at all.  Couldn’t be happier about that.  Take a look back up at that June 1
chart.  In half of those seasons we’d
have been deep into draft talk in this space for about three weeks now.  With the Yankees and Red Sox next up, my
guess is we’ll get around to talking again about pick number 14 and the names
of Shelby Miller and Matt Purke the day before the draft, if not the day of.

 

These next six games will feature Vicente Padilla, Scott Feldman,
Brandon McCarthy, Kevin Millwood, Derek Holland, and Padilla again, and while
we probably shouldn’t expect the rotation to post a 3.64 ERA on this road trip
(or the staff to throw down a 3.51 as a whole) like they did in May, it should
also be pointed out that the Rangers offense scored five runs a game in the
club’s 20-win May, a full run per game less than it scored in April.  The pitching has been stunning, but it’s not
as if this team is playing out of its mind as a whole right now, statistically
speaking.  There’s actually plenty of room
for realistic improvement.

 

Set aside the blanket approach of several Rangers hitters trying
to handle Michael Wuertz’s slider down and away by jerking it rather than going
with the pitch to right field.  If Texas simply ran the
bases the right way yesterday, we’d probably be talking about a four-game
sweep.  This season has been strikingly devoid
of fundamental brainlocks and breakdowns, relatively speaking, and to go into New York and Boston
and come away with, say, a split, the mistakes will have to continue to be
limited.

 

Incidentally, Oakland
traded ordinary minor leaguers Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers to the Cubs for
the 30-year-old Wuertz four months ago. 
His 2.59 ERA (1.93 before yesterday) and 3.29 K/BB are career bests, but
this is still a lifetime 3.49/2.17 guy with a legit out pitch against
right-handed hitters, making a modest $1.1 million.  You can find middle relievers, and in July it
wouldn’t surprise me if Texas
does exactly that, whether or not Neftali Feliz comes up at some point himself to
give the club another bullpen arm capable of neutralizing righthanders in small
bursts.

 

But trade talk is more likely appropriate for the end of the
season’s middle third, and we’re just now nearing the start of that
period. 

 

I feel like the father of an eight- and four-year-old as
many times as I’ve turned around to suggest to you that it would be a good idea
to buckle up, but it’s time to do it again.  And that sure beats coming out of the first
third with nothing more to focus on than the draft and the chance to be sellers
in July.

 

 

You can read more from Jamey
Newberg
at www.NewbergReport.com.

 

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