Mapping out the next five weeks.

 
Scott Feldman in 2009: 14-4, 3.72, with an opponents’ slash line of .249/.315/.375.

Feldman as a starter: 14-4, 3.33, .243/.309/.355 slash.

Feldman on the road: 10-1, 2.92, .236/.309/.339 slash.

And a key set of numbers as Feldman heads into September for the remainder of his 2009 work:

6-0, 2.88, .238/.307/.276 against the American League West. 

If the Rangers stay in rotation the rest of the way, skipping no starters even for off-days, Feldman will make six starts in September, three against the West. 

If, however, the club decides to use its third consecutive Thursday off on September 17 to maximize its matchups – and by September 17 we’ll certainly have a lot better perspective on whether that’s a good idea as far as playoff possibilities are concerned – then Derek Holland can get his extra day of rest on the 18th at home against the Angels, but then the club could skip Dustin Nippert or Brandon McCarthy on the 19th, accelerating Tommy Hunter to that Saturday assignment on regular rest and Feldman to Sunday’s Angels series finale, also on regular rest.

Stated another way, if the Rangers stay in rotation (presuming no health issues) after the September 17 off-day (the club’s last), the probable starters would look like this down the stretch:

Sept. 18-20 (home, LAAA): Holland, Nippert/McCarthy, Hunter
Sept. 21-24 (road, OAK): Feldman, Millwood, Holland, Nippert/McCarthy
Sept. 25-27 (home, TB): Hunter, Feldman, Millwood
Sept. 28-Oct.1 (road, LAAA): Holland, Nippert/McCarthy, Hunter, Feldman
Oct. 2-4 (road, SEA): Millwood, Holland, Nippert/McCarthy

If Texas skips Nippert/McCarthy on the 17th:

Sept. 18-20 (home, LAAA): Holland, Hunter, Feldman
Sept. 21-24 (road, OAK): Millwood, Holland, Nippert/McCarthy, Hunter
Sept. 25-27 (home, TB): Feldman, Millwood, Holland
Sept. 28-Oct.1 (road, LAAA): Nippert/McCarthy, Hunter, Feldman, Millwood
Oct. 2-4 (road, SEA): Holland, Nippert/McCarthy, Hunter

The latter gives Feldman a start against the Angels that would have otherwise would have gone to Nippert or McCarthy.  It takes Feldman out of the series in Oakland but his replacement in that series would be Hunter, who three-hit the A’s over seven innings in their park on August 6.  It does replace Hunter with Holland in the Rays series at home, and Hunter’s had a bit more success against Tampa Bay than Holland, but here’s a goofy idea:

Maybe give Nippert or McCarthy (whichever one is working out of the bullpen) a spot start to finish the Rays series on the 27th, which is the Rangers’ final home game of the regular season.  Why?

Because it would allow Holland to pitch in Anaheim, where three weeks ago he fired a complete-game, three-single, one-walk, eight-punchout, 96-pitch, 73-strike shutout against the Angels.

Doing that would mean Nippert or McCarthy would get the assignment in Game 162 in Seattle rather than Hunter, but you know my feeling about that potentially sticky situation.

Bring it on.  If the October 4 game against Seattle has everything riding on it, maybe you throw Hunter out there on short rest and ask him to give you five innings.  He’d conceivably be headed to the bullpen for the playoffs anyway.  Even if Nippert or McCarthy were to get the Mariners start, Hunter’s not going to get the nod to start Game One in New York to kick off the playoffs.

That road start would go to Feldman, of course.

Too much information, perhaps, but as a fan the greatness of having reason to take a look at things like that as the August page is about to be torn from the calendar can’t be overstated.

The Rangers have won seven straight rubber games, with a chance in a few hours to make it eight in a row.  The club has won eight of its last 11 series, tying one other.  A win today makes it nine of 12.  A victory would also lift the Rangers’ road record to 32-32.  The only two American League clubs over .500 on the road are the Yankees and Angels.

After last night’s shutout, Texas leads the American League with 10.  The staff’s 4.15 ERA is second only to Seattle’s – and no AL team has allowed fewer runs per game (Seattle, for example, has permitted 59 unearned runs, while the Rangers have yielded only 30, also a league best).  Since the All-Star Break, no team in the league has a better staff ERA than the Rangers’ 3.74. 

No Rangers staff has had a better ERA than this one since 1992, the penultimate season of Nolan Ryan’s playing career.  That staff posted a 4.06 mark (which was only good for 10th in the league). 

The Rangers not only lead the AL with 55 wins from its starting pitchers – they’ve already surpassed 2008’s total of 52. 

The bullpen – which has retired all 13 Twins it has faced in this series – leads the league with a 78.7 percent success rate in save opportunities.

The Angels are fourth in the league, but couldn’t hold a 3-0 lead at home in the seventh last night.  After six innings, Jered Weaver handed the shutout off to Jose Arredondo, who allowed the first three A’s he faced to reach and one to score on a wild pitch.  After a strikeout, he gave way to Rafael Rodriguez, who promptly served up a two-run single before ending the inning. 

In what was then a 3-3 game, Mike Scioscia curiously left Rodriguez (6.26 ERA) out to pitch the eighth – even though the rookie hadn’t pitched in five days since being struck on the hand with a line drive – and though he started the inning by issuing a walk, allowing a single, and yielding a sacrifice bunt that prompted an intentional walk to load the bases, Scioscia left him in the game.  A groundout to first gave Oakland a 4-3 lead.

The Angels wouldn’t score in their eighth or in the ninth.  Oakland 4, Los Angeles 3.  Texas is now four back in the division, 2.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.

Rodriguez was optioned to AAA this morning.

Remember the ugly inherited runners numbers we discussed here from time to time regarding Jason Jennings (29 inherited, 17 scored)?  Jason Grilli has inherited 11 runners in his 20 Rangers appearances.

None have scored.

Neftali Feliz has baseball’s lowest ERA in August (minimum 15 innings), at 0.51.  His current 15.1-inning scoreless streak is second longest in the AL.  In 17.2 innings, he’s set 22 down on strikes and issued one walk.  He leads the AL in strikeouts per batters faced (36.7 percent).  The only big leaguer with a better rate is Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton (37.2 percent) – and Broxton walks batters seven times more frequently than Feliz.

Uncle.

Feliz’s fastball velocity was down last night, and that’s a bit of a concern.  (Yes, he threw some sharp breaking balls in big spots last night, but overall his command of the curve was not very good.)  (And I know the splitter is not going to register speeds as high as the four-seamer, but even the four-seamer is sitting mid-90s the last couple times out rather than upper-90s.)  (Not that there’s anything wrong with mid-90s.)

But Chris Davis’s and Ian Kinsler’s swing velocity seems to be a tick or two down as well, and I’m digging that a lot. 

The explosion off Davis’s bat when he’s right is sort of like Feliz’s fastball: you just can’t believe how little apparent effort, how little “violence,” can create that much damage.  Davis has brought the plane of swing down, creating the deadly backspin that we saw last summer, he’s keeping the bat in the zone longer, and he’s using all fields.  He’s hitting just .250/.286/.400 since returning from AAA – but he’s about to explode.

Kinsler – hitting .308/.410/.673 since returning to action two weeks ago – is still popping up from time to time, but not
nearly as often.  He put great (less violent) swings on the ball on his two singles last night, and the way he’s been running the bases all year, singles and walks from Kinsler – even from the five or six hole – are great.  He’s still going to run into his share of two- and four-baggers. 

Kinsler has 28 home runs and 28 steals.  He’ll be the first Ranger ever to join the 30-30 club.

Josh Hamilton’s .352 average in August is in the American League top 10, but it’s not been a powerful month for Hamilton, slugging just .467 (well short of the .530 mark he posted in 2008 as a whole). 

But then there’s Michael Young, whose .628 slug since the All-Star Break is the second highest in the AL. 

Riding a 16-game hit streak, Young’s.327 batting average and .533 slug for the year both lead all big league third basemen.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon last week, regarding Young: “Michael Young is setting a great example for that entire team.  He’s playing with a purpose and a mission, and they’re on his back right now.  With his example, they’re not going away.”

Ron Washington on Young: “This is his team.  If he has anything to do with it, he’s not going to let them fail.  He brings everyone else’s level of play up.”

Elvis Andrus has four errors in his last 46 games.  He’s second in the AL in sacrifice bunts, with 10.

Julio Borbon was recalled on August 7.  Giving the rest of baseball a week’s head start – and starting only 11 times in 21 games – he’s nonetheless second in the big leagues with 10 stolen bases for the month.

Texas leads baseball with an 84 percent stolen base success rate.  Can’t find it now but I saw a note a week or two ago that it would be the second-best rate of any team since 1975, and the best of any American League team. 

I’m loving the Pudge Rodriguez shot in the arm, and appreciating Washington’s willingness to give up his catcher on the bench by putting Rodriguez in at designated hitter from time to time.  That won’t be an issue in a couple days, once roster expansion brings a third catcher onto the active roster.

Would Texas activate Esteban German off the disabled list and add Ryan Freel to the roster as well?  German is two games into a rehab assignment with Oklahoma City, playing third base on Friday and left field on Saturday.  Freel DH’d for the RedHawks in yesterday’s game.

And Max Ramirez doubled and drew two walks in that game.  Man, what could have been had he been healthy this year.

(And what might be in 2010.)

Oakland shortstop prospect Josh Horton singled three times for Midland in its 4-2 loss to Frisco last night, but he was thrown out trying to steal once (on a strike-him-out-throw-him-out in the first inning) and picked off first base another time – in both instances by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  That’s obviously very good news, considering the injury that forced Saltalamacchia to the disabled list was with his throwing arm.  In his six innings of work, Saltalamacchia popped out to third, was hit by a pitch, and flied out to right.

I meant to get into a discussion today about the candidates to show up when rosters expand in a couple days, but that will have to wait.  A preview: RedHawks lefthander A.J. Murray isn’t going real well right now (runs permitted in four straight relief appearances), but here’s why we might see him in September anyway – the club’s left-handed relief situation is a bit unclear as far as 2010 is concerned, and Murray (who had a 2.37 ERA heading into August and has been tough on lefties from his new lowered slot) can leave the organization as a six-year minor league free agent in October if he’s not on the 40-man roster. 

Spots on the 40-man roster are going to be tight (especially once McCarthy is activated and Freel, presumably, is considered for addition to the roster), but I can see the Rangers considering a way to get Murray up here for some spot work to make what could be a final analysis on the 27-year-old before he goes out and Jesse Carlson’s or Kiko Calero’s for someone else in 2010.

Roy Halladay against Boston today.  Seriously, Doc.  Step up.

==================

ERRATUM:

A
good many of you get passing marks for reading comprehension today, regarding my
comment that Ian Kinsler will “be the first Ranger ever to join the 30-30 club”
with two more home runs and two more stolen bases.

 

OK,
Alfonso Soriano did it in 2005, when he went deep 36 times and stole 30
bases.  I think I’d repressed that memory
since his regular trick of standing at the plate and admiring a ball that
eventually short-hopped the fence cost him a few extra bases and not only gave
him a dozen fewer home runs than he decided on contact that he’d hit but, I’d
revisionistically decided, belied a more pedestrian actual home run count.  So, yeah, you guys are right, and I’m wrong,
and that’s my flimsy excuse.

 

As
for Bobby Bonds, sorta, but not really. 
The Rangers acquired him in mid-May 1978, and while he finished the
season with 31 homers and 43 steals, his Rangers totals were 29-37. 

 

Not
my first screw-up, but I’m asking for a mulligan and another chance, 45 minutes
before Kevin Millwood gets another chance to finally earn a win against the
Twins, against whom he’s 0-7, 6.18 in 11 career starts.

===========================================================

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

 

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