April 2010

Relief.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

Mavs out of the way

Rangers now the
sole focus

Time to turn it
on.

 

Scott Feldman deserved better yesterday, and while Darren O’Day
and Dustin Nippert aren’t in danger of losing their jobs, the bullpen has been
a problem, accounting for seven of the club’s 12 losses (last year’s relief corps
lost 19 games all year) and a .461 slug. 
It’s easy to point quickly to the absence of C.J. Wilson, but that’s
lazy, as Darren Oliver has been effective in Wilson’s vacated role.  The problems are elsewhere.

 

Neftali Feliz and Frankie Francisco have contributed most
heavily to the troublesome bullpen numbers, and they’re not going anywhere
either, but it’s fair to assume that, in the natural course of things,
reinforcements will be needed in various relief roles over the remaining 140
games, and there are several young relievers on the farm – including three who weren’t
stateside in the system last year – pushing for whiteboard discussions at 1000
Ballpark Way.

 

There were fewer than 6,000 paid in Frisco last night for the
RoughRiders’ 1-0, 11-inning win over San Antonio (fans of both clubs probably
had another Thursday evening sports appointment), but what happened in the top
halves of the eighth and ninth was probably worth noting. 

 

Alexi Ogando, after three “starts” (designed to keep the relief
prospect’s innings carefully managed), was shifted to the bullpen (perhaps to begin
getting him used to the situations he’ll be asked to handle, and maybe to get him
more regular work than the rotation assignment allowed).  And Tanner Scheppers worked on two days’ rest
for the first time and pitched one inning, having had his first five Frisco
appearances spaced out further and logging two frames at a time.  Again, this could be an effort to step up the
grooming process.

 

Their work last night, the first game they pitched in
together:

 

Ogando’s seventh: perfect inning, groundout-flyout-groundout.  Seven pitches, four strikes.  Reportedly worked 95-96, mixing in his advanced
slider.

 

Scheppers’s eighth: perfect inning, strikeout looking-groundout-flyout.  Thirteen pitches, nine strikes.  Reports of 96-98 and dirtiness in his own power
curve and change.

 

Ogando this season (holding opponents to 2 for 34, fanning
14 of 34 batters faced, .059/.111/.088):

 

DATE

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PITCHES

STRIKES

Apr
10

2.2

0

0

0

1

3

0

39

25

Apr
19

3.0

1

1

1

0

3

0

44

34

Apr
25

4.0

1

0

0

1

8

0

59

43

Apr
29

1.0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

4

TOTALS

10.2

2

1

1

2

14

0

149

106

 

Scheppers (holding opponents to 3 for 38, punching out half
of his batters faced, .079/.079/.158):

 

DATE

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PITCHES

STRIKES

Apr
9

2.0

1

0

0

0

3

0

32

22

Apr
13

2.0

1

1

1

0

3

1

34

22

Apr
17

2.0

0

0

0

0

3

0

26

18

Apr
22

2.0

1

0

0

0

4

0

26

18

Apr
26

2.0

2

0

0

0

5

0

27

19

Apr
29

1.0

0

0

0

0

1

0

13

9

TOTALS

11.0

3

1

1

0

19

1

158

108

 

Omar Beltre, working out of the Oklahoma City bullpen, is
probably going to get some work tonight in relief of lefthander Michael
Kirkman, hoping to finish off an impressive April (to date: 8.2 innings, two
runs [2.08 ERA] on six hits [all singles] and five walks [.194/.297/.194], 12
strikeouts, eye-opening ratio of 10 groundouts to three flyouts).  He’s been pitching on two or three days’ rest
each time out.

 

Will Scheppers, Ogando, and Beltre be up this year?  For various reasons (long-term shoulder risk for
the former, age for the latter two), it might make sense to err on the side of
pushing them a bit.  It’s too soon, but given
the erratic start that the big club has had in the bullpen this month, it’s
hard not to keep one eye on what’s happening with those three out of the gate.

 

The other benefit, of course, is that very few pitchers jump
into big league games with the kind of success and reliability that Feliz provided
last summer.  Scheppers, Ogando, and
Beltre are going to be counted on to help in 2011.  It would make sense to get them used to the
major leagues in 2010, and get the acclimation period out of the way.

 

The way those three are dealing, the acclimation period may
belong to opposing hitters.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

Changes.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


One thing Matt
Treanor couldn’t have known when he agreed not to exercise his out clause on
March 30, and one thing he evidently didn’t know:

 

1.      That he’d be this club’s frontline catcher
less than a month later.

 

2.      That the Rangers don’t hit Mark Buehrle.

 

Treanor was going to start Tuesday night whether the Rangers
had shuffled their catcher corps or not, but hours after the announcement had
been made that Texas had not only optioned Taylor Teagarden but also activated and
optioned Jarrod Saltalamacchia, recalling Max Ramirez to serve as the backup
catcher, Treanor responded by contributing the first extra-base hits by a
Rangers catcher all season.  His home run
and double off Buehrle (11-3, 2.93 against the Rangers coming into Tuesday, the
most dominant numbers he has against any opponent he’s faced more than a few times)
accounted for the first three Texas runs, staking C.J. Wilson to a lead that he
and Dustin Nippert and Frankie Francisco would make stand up. 

 

The Teagarden move wasn’t surprising, given his colossal struggles
making contact and his occasional defensive lapses, but the Saltalamacchia move
was an eye-opener, maybe first and foremost for Saltalamacchia himself.  Among the things Jon Daniels said about the
move was that Texas didn’t want Saltalamacchia worrying about when the club was
going to activate him from his rehab assignment.  The option requires at least a 10-day stay on
the farm (barring an injury to someone else at the big league level), during which
the Rangers expect Saltalamacchia to focus on playing every day, not on when he’d
get the plane ticket.

 

Meanwhile, Teagarden goes from having an opportunity to play
every day in Texas, in Saltalamacchia’s absence, to backing him up in Oklahoma
City.  Evidently, if Saltalamacchia’s
option lasts more than 10 days, the club would consider moving Teagarden to
Frisco so both could play most days.

 

Nelson Cruz’s deactivation resulted in a recall for outfielder
Craig Gentry as well, and he had a couple nice at-bats against Buehrle, but it
also meant Ryan Garko was going to get a start on Tuesday, despite coming into
the game 0 for 11 as a Ranger.  Garko’s
.480 average in 25 career at-bats against Buehrle was second best in baseball
among hitters with at least 20 at-bats against the veteran lefty, and his .552 on-base
percentage was tops.  Garko hit a key
single in the sixth, his first hit for the club, moving Vladimir Guerrero to
third and setting up a Justin Smoak sac fly that extended a 3-2 lead to
4-2. 

 

So Oklahoma City now runs a club out there that might
feature, on a given night, Saltalamacchia and Teagarden at catcher and DH,
Chris Davis at first base, and Derek Holland on the mound, all on option and
none on temporary rehab assignment cameos – and the season is just over three
weeks old.  It’s a concrete indication,
if we didn’t believe what the front office was telling us over the winter and
in camp, that the organization has placed on itself an expectation of winning in
2010.  The meritocracy extends to the early
changes at the top of the lineup and the back of the bullpen, and should put veterans
like Matt Harrison and Rich Harden and Garko on notice that jobs secured before
Opening Day aren’t tenured.

 

The RedHawks host New Orleans tomorrow night after taking
the day off today.  Holland (2-1, 0.67,
21/3 K/BB in 27 innings, four quality starts out of four) gets the start, but
the off-day skews the pitching schedule that he and Harden (0-1, 4.58, 20/18
K/BB in 17.2 innings, slated to face Chicago tonight) were on together.  Holland and Harrison are a couple days apart
now, and if Holland deals again Thursday and Harrison struggles in Seattle on
Saturday, would it be a shock to see Holland not pitching to Saltalamacchia or
Teagarden in Omaha next Tuesday, but instead held back to make Harrison’s next
start in Texas against Omaha’s parent club, the Royals, a week from tomorrow?

 

Could Francisco be closing games again by time Kansas City
comes to town, after his clean ninth last night?  Doubtful, at least not as the first option.  Neftali Feliz had the night off, having
pitched each of the previous two days, and Ron Washington said after the game
that the closer’s job is still his.  We’ve
already seen this month that that job, like Chris Davis’s and Saltalamacchia’s
and Teagarden’s and Julio Borbon’s leadoff assignment, is subject to change if
the organization thinks there’s an option more likely to help the club win
games now.  But Feliz isn’t in danger of
ceding the job after Monday’s poor effort (his first back-to-back day
assignment), despite Francisco’s good work last night. 

 

Francisco in his last seven appearances: seven innings, one
run on three singles and two walks (.130/.200/.130), three strikeouts.  He’s finding a good groove, and right now that’s
good news as far as the eighth inning is concerned.

 

The rest of the bullpen (Darren Oliver, Darren O’Day, Chris
Ray, Nippert, Doug Mathis) is pitching reasonably effectively to very well,
which should stave off Holland-esque promotion watches on young relievers like Tanner
Scheppers, Alexi Ogando, and Omar Beltre, not to mention Pedro Strop. 

 

But if a decision were made to move Harrison to the bullpen after
his next start, it would make sense to get a reliever up here until Holland’s
start, possibly a lefthander like Clay Rapada or Zach Phillips.

 

For what it’s worth, John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus writes
that the Rangers are considering moving Harden into long relief to get him straightened
out, which is a possibility that will draw more local speculation if he
struggles tonight in his faceoff against Jake Peavy, who like Harden has yet to
log a 2010 victory.  Perrotto’s BP cohort
Will Carroll weighs in to say he doesn’t think Harden is hurt, but does wonder
aloud if he’d thrive in a bullpen role at this point in his career the way it
worked out for Kerry Wood.

 

Wilson’s fourth straight quality start to kick off the
season was the first such Rangers streak since 1993, when Kevin Brown (six
straight) and Charlie Leibrandt (four) pulled off the feat.

 

I said it two weeks ago and I’m even more convinced now:
Wilson is our ace.  And a Kenny Rogers
career isn’t out of the question.

 

The great Joe Posnanski points out that Royals righthander
Zack Greinke has a 2.11 ERA in his 46 starts since August 16, 2008 – and that
Kansas City’s record in those games is 22-24. 

 

Greinke makes $7.25 million this year and has a limited
no-trade clause.  He makes $13.5 million
in 2011, and again in 2012, without any no-trade protection.  The Royals can and will be in last place with
or without him.  Wouldn’t it make sense
for them to do with the 26-year-old what every reporter in the country is
writing San Diego will need to do with Adrian Gonzalez – move him to get three
or four pieces to build with like Texas did with Mark Teixeira?

 

Or like Florida did in 2007 with Miguel Cabrera, as we
discussed in Monday night’s report?

 

Colorado optioned 27-year-old catcher Chris Iannetta yesterday,
a fascinating move for a guy who came into his own offensively under Clint
Hurdle and parlayed it into a multi-year contract this past winter.  He was hitting just .133/.235/.333 out of the
gate this season.

 

TCU freshman lefthander Matt Purke: 7-0, 3.81 in 10 starts
and a relief appearance, with 69 strikeouts and 13 walks in 56.2 innings. 

 

Kansas City designated righthander Luis Mendoza for assignment,
after he’d surrendered 10 runs on 10 hits and three walks in four relief innings.

 

Boston recalled lefthander Fabio Castro for one game, and
Baltimore purchased the contract of righthander Alfredo Simon.  Oakland optioned righthander Edwar Ramirez to
AAA.

 

Two middle infielders tied in rumors to Texas over the last couple
months made the transaction wires yesterday: St. Louis signed Aaron Miles to a
minor league deal, and Boston designated Kevin Frandsen for assignment.   

 

The Rangers released outfielder Eric Fry and left-handed reliever
Ryan Falcon.

 

The Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier
League signed infielder Donnie Ecker.

 

I’m going to be very interested to see when and how often
Ron Washington entrusts a start behind the plate to Max Ramirez, but for now the
microscope is instead on Rich Harden, who might be pitching tonight to stall
yet another major change for this club.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Sunday best.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


Saturday was a rotten
sports day.  The day began with word that
Max’s soccer game and what we thought would finally be the first game of his
baseball career (not counting T-ball) were rained out.  Then Texas coughed up a really bad loss against
Detroit.

 

I woke up this morning thinking maybe Sunday could redeem
things.  I had a chance to actually
contribute in my softball doubleheader after I was such a waste the last time
out.  We were going to get Max’s game in
today.  And Colby Lewis had an
opportunity to put Texas a game up in this four-game set with the Tigers.  I doubted all of those things would come
together, but a little positive after Saturday’s uselessness would be good
enough.

 

And it all turned out better than I’d hoped for.  That was a great baseball day.

 

None of that matters to you, but maybe this will:

 

Frisco righthander Tanner Scheppers in 2010: eight innings,
three hits (3 for 29), one run (1.13 ERA), zero walks, 13 strikeouts.

 

Frisco righthander Alexi Ogando in 2010: 9.2 innings, two
hits (2 for 31), one run (0.93 ERA), two walks, 14 strikeouts.

 

Scheppers’s opponents’ slash: .103/.103/.207.  Eighty strikes out of 118 pitches.

 

Ogando’s opponents’ slash: .065/.121/.097.  One hundred two strikes out of 142 pitches
(in fact, identical 51/71 splits against right-handed hitters and left-handed
hitters, the latter of whom are getting neutralized by a filthy change). 

 

Sorry, Scott, for stealing your thunder.  I’m leaving Michael Kirkman and The Chad
Tracy Show to you. 

 

Guess who in baseball has more strikeouts than Colby Lewis.

 

Here’s the list:

 

Tim Lincecum.

 

He has four more punchouts than Lewis – in 3.1 more innings.  The two righthanders basically have the same
strikeout rate (10.7 per nine innings).

 

Lincecum was the 10th player chosen in the 2006
draft. 

 

The 457th player taken in that draft (by the
Phillies) was Florida high school outfielder Riley Cooper. 

 

Cooper would later be the 754th player chosen in
2009, by the Rangers, out of the University of Florida.  Texas offered to pay him $250,000 (well above
slot) if he’d play minor league baseball. 
He agreed to at first, then reconsidered.

 

The 22-year-old was chosen by Philadelphia again this
weekend, this time by the Eagles, with the 159th selection in the
NFL draft. 

 

If that fifth-round slot calls for something in the
neighborhood of what it paid last year, Cooper is looking at about $180,000-$190,000
to sign with the Eagles, where I’m guessing he’d have to unseat Jason Avant or
Hank Baskett in order to push for meaningful reps behind DeSean Jackson and
Jeremy Maclin.

 

But enough about football, and, soon, enough about basketball,
which is about to make the Great Game the Only Game in Town again.  Baseball roped me back in today.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail
deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

At a loss.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


The Tigers have to
scratch their scheduled starter hours before gametime, with a bullpen whose
tensile strength was already being put to the test asked to go nine innings on
the road in a nearly sold-out game against the other team’s number one starter.  Each of the Rangers’ three AL West
division-mates had already lost. 

 

That’s a game you’ve
got to win.

 

Texas backs its ace with
four runs on seven hits and two walks through the first inning and two-thirds. 

The remaining seven
and a third against the Detroit pen: Zero runs on four hits and a walk.

 

Meanwhile, Scott
Feldman (still fighting the effects of the stomach flu, maybe? hopefully?)
gives up eight straight runs after being staked to that 4-0 lead, surrendering
eight hits and four walks and a costly wild pitch in 3.2 innings.  Feldman didn’t have a start in 2009 as bad as
either of these last two until his 18th start of the season – at home
against Detroit.

 

That’s a bad loss.

 

Three times in the last five games, Texas has squandered a
four-run lead.

 

Five times in the last seven games, the Rangers starter has
failed to go five innings.

 

Doug Mathis, bravo.  No
better a ball-to-strike efficiency tonight than Feldman, but he battled.  He might find himself back on the shuttle,
necessarily, but that was a solid effort. 

 

Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
proposes that one way to address the lack of a second lefthander in the bullpen
would be to option Mathis and call Derek Holland up, not to replace Rich
Harden, but Matt Harrison, who would slide into relief.  If that’s in consideration, it would make
more sense to get a reliever up here in Mathis’s place until Holland could go
on Wednesday.  Harrison probably can’t pitch
tomorrow even though he threw only 75 pitches on Wednesday, because he likely
threw a side yesterday or today. 

 

Regardless, maybe Pedro Strop (seven straight scoreless
outings, but he did pitch last night and tonight) or Guillermo Moscoso or Omar
Beltre (four scoreless outings out of five) or Alexi Ogando or Zach Phillips,
all of whom are on the roster (though all right-handed other than Phillips), or
southpaw Clay Rapada, who isn’t, could come up here in Mathis’s place to hold
things down in long relief until Holland’s spot came up Wednesday.  If Wilson is onto something.

 

Through 17 games in 2009, Texas issued 73 walks and fanned 99,
holding opponents to a .282 batting average and throwing 17.8 pitches per
inning.

 

Through 17 games this year, Texas has issued 72 walks and
fanned 123, holding opponents to a .251 batting average and throwing 17.8
pitches per inning.

 

Yet the Rangers were 8-9 through 17 last year, 7-10 right
now. 

 

Why?

 

The offense through the first 17 in 2009: .274/.331/.513, 105
runs, 35 home runs.  This year:
.240/.315/.366, 71 runs, 12 home runs. 

 

How does Vladimir Guerrero factor into all that?  Big Bad Vlad had a lifetime line of
.394/.471/.705 in 193 at-bats as an opponent in Rangers Ballpark.  Nobody expected him to be
that
ridiculous in a Rangers uniform, but you know what?  In 31 home at-bats this year, he sits at
.548/.576/.839.

 

Then again, he’s at .194/.257/.226 in the same number of road
at-bats.

 

Three bad moments for Taylor Teagarden defensively tonight.  Seems pretty certain that once Jarrod
Saltalamacchia proves on his Oklahoma City rehab assignment that he’s ready, he
and Teagarden will switch uniforms.

 

Saltalamacchia caught all nine innings and singled, walked,
and hit an RBI sac fly in four trips for the RedHawks tonight.  Also in that game was Chris Davis’s first
2010 home run, a three-run blast to right field that extended Oklahoma City’s eighth-inning
lead to 8-3 (in a game the RedHawks eventually won, 8-7).

 

Ian Kinsler will rehab with Frisco Monday through Wednesday and
could join the Rangers in Seattle on Friday. 
Tommy Hunter threw 19 pitches (13 strikes) in an extended spring
training game today in Surprise.

 

Crummy loss tonight.  Sometimes
when I write about a game like this, it’s therapeutic, cathartic, but tonight I’m
stuck with the feeling you get when you lose a routine fly ball in the lights
or the dusk or whatever it was.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail
deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Justin Smoak is a big leaguer.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


Max Scherzer’s
professional debut was on June 7, 2007, a year after he’d been drafted by the
Diamondbacks.  It came against the Bakersfield
Blaze.  He struck out eight in five
innings.  Two times, third baseman Chris
Davis was the victim.

 

Scherzer has since been
traded by Arizona to Detroit, and he gets the Tigers’ start tonight, but he won’t
face Davis.

 

Instead, Scherzer,
who was the 11th pick in the 2006 draft, will face off tonight against
the 11th pick in the 2008 draft, Justin Smoak.

 

Davis was hitless
again last night but had some positive moments, drawing one of the club’s two walks
and seeing a team-high 26 pitches, and making a key defensive play as he
typically does, digging Michael Young’s running throw in the seventh with two
outs and two on.  But he did strike out
twice, giving him 17 in 15 games (48 at-bats), and he wasn’t hitting the ball with
much authority or producing any runs (one RBI). 

 

Meanwhile, Smoak was
putting together great at-bat after great at-bat for Oklahoma City, hitting .300/.470/.540
in 50 at-bats with 16 walks (second most in the minor leagues, next to Conner
Crumbliss, a 23-year-old playing in Low Class A) and eight strikeouts, acceptable
left-right splits (the biggest difference this year being that he’s drawn 14
walks and fanned just twice from the left side), and solid (if not Davis-level)
defense.  He was lifted in the eighth
inning of last night’s game with the RedHawks ahead, 7-4, having fouled a ball
off his foot in the seventh, but everything checked out after the game and he’s
headed to Texas, where the club will give him everyday work right away in hopes
that he can sustain the zone he’s in.

 

Still, despite Davis’s
struggles and Smoak’s locked-in-ness, I’m guessing this move wouldn’t have
happened this soon had the Rangers offense as a whole been in better
shape.  Ian Kinsler’s return is probably
still a week away at best, and maybe there were just too many holes in the lineup
right now for the organization not to reward Smoak and give him an opportunity
to give the club a boost offensively.

 

People will start
writing baseball obituaries for Davis right away, but let’s not get carried
away.  Smoak could hit .188 for a month -
which is not only exactly what Davis is hitting now but also exactly what Mark
Teixeira hit in his first month in the big leagues (actually starting 0 for 16
before collecting his first base hit) – and end up yielding his spot back to
Davis if the team is in contention and Davis refinds his stroke like he did
with the RedHawks last summer.  Or Vladimir
Guerrero could land on the disabled list at some point, which could open a door
for both Smoak and Davis to hold down spots in the lineup.

 

I’m a Davis believer,
and I expect him to have a very productive major league career – with someone -
but this development serves as an extra reminder of why you never draft for “need”
in baseball. 

 

When Texas chose Smoak on June 5, 2008, Davis was less than
two weeks into his AAA promotion, having hit his way out of the Texas League with
a monstrous .333/.376/.618 two months.  There
was every reason not to pop the 21-year-old Smoak with the 22-year-old Davis
barreling in toward the first base job that Ben Broussard and Chris Shelton
were attempting to hold down.  The
Rangers could have taken the second player on their board, Georgia high school
righthander Ethan Martin, and avoided the possible Davis-Smoak conundrum.

 

(And they would have selected Martin had this war room conversation
ended differently while Texas was on the clock:

 

Daniels: We like Smoak and Martin.  Smoak’s an impact college hitter who will
come quickly, but it will take millions above slot to sign him.  Martin’s a two-way high school player who we
like as a pitcher.

 

Hicks: Who’s the better player?

 

Daniels: We believe Smoak is.

 

Hicks: Take Smoak.)

 

Based on the early returns, Martin (who was the next pitcher
taken, going to the Dodgers four picks later) would have been a solid add, too. 

 

But five weeks from now, when Smoak is 100 at-bats into his
big league career, Martin will probably be pitching against the Rangers’ High A
club when Inland Empire hosts Bakersfield for a May 26-29 series.  Had Texas gone after Martin rather than Smoak,
because of Davis’s presence, they’d have another high-ceiling arm in their
loaded system, which wouldn’t be problematic – but it wouldn’t help the Rangers
in their effort to figure out how to address this first base issue today.

 

The Rangers didn’t shy away from drafting Teixeira just
because they had another young third baseman, Hank Blalock, a player they
expected to build around for a decade. 
When the Cowboys decide to take a player like Dez Bryant, they have a
pretty good idea how he’s going to fit because in football, as in basketball,
you get drafted and you are expected to contribute.  Now, in most cases.  Not so in baseball. 

 

Things change.  On the
day that Smoak signed with Texas, right up against his August 15 deadline to do
so, Davis had a big league OPS of .856 – and that was after a two-week slump brought
it down from 1.018.  The idea that the
polished Smoak would get to Arlington 20 months later was surely less far-fetched
at the time than the possibility that Davis would be optioned back to AAA in
July 2009 and again in April 2010 (where he might see some time at third base, occasionally
switching spots defensively with current RedHawks third baseman Matt Brown). 

 

Things changed.  And Texas
was prepared.

 

Incidentally, Smoak will not be a free agent until after the
2016 season.  Had he come up as few as
four days ago, he would have earned a full year of big league service in 2010 (assuming
he didn’t return to the farm), setting things up for free agency after 2015 if
not locked up long-term beforehand.  This
move speeds up Smoak’s arbitration timetable by a year (he’ll likely earn Super
Two status after 2012, meaning he’ll have four arbitration seasons rather than
three), but that’s a less significant issue than the free agency spectre.

 

The likely 40-man roster casualty would seem to be righthander
Omar Poveda, who is out for the season and could be transferred to the 60-day
disabled list to create the roster spot. 
The move would result in Poveda earning major league pay, which hasn’t been
the case until now, as he’s been on option and thus earning the minor league
side of his split contract.

 

I have more to say about the Smoak-Davis ramifications but
not much time this morning.  Still, it’s
not as if this is a story that will last for just one or two news cycles.  This doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, and
we may reach a point later this season at which the success of one of our young
first basemen doesn’t necessarily mean the other has failed.  The objective right now is for Smoak to give the
big league lineup a boost, and for Davis to get things back in order in Oklahoma
City.

 

If both things happen, Texas will be in very good shape, one
way or another.

 

But first things first. 
Treating Max Scherzer badly would be a good start.

 

Shakeup at first
base

Not even after
we Lost

Smoak Monster
cometh

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Spring draining.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


Six straight losses,
baseball’s longest current skid, and Texas sits at 5-9. 

 

In four seasons under
Ron Washington, Texas is 22-34 in the first 14 games each year, a .393 win
percentage.  Extrapolated over a full
season, that translates to 64-98.

 

In games 15 through
162, Washington’s Rangers are 224-220, a .505 clip, translating to 82-80.

 

Cliché as it might
be, April losses count just as much as August and September losses, and these
four clubs have had massive trouble getting going each year.

 

Why is that?

 

Kansas City purchased the contract of righthander Josh
Rupe.  Seattle signed infielder Ramon
Vazquez to a minor league deal.  The Long
Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League signed righthander Rick Bauer.  The Grand Prairie Airhogs of the independent
American Association signed catcher Ben Petralli.  The Sioux City Exploreres of the same league
traded lefthander Jared Locke to the Sussex Skyhawks of the independent Can-Am
League to complete an earlier trade.  The
Can-Am League’s Worcester Tornadoes signed righthander John Slusarz and
outfielder-righthander Rick Asadoorian (who evidently now goes by “Eric”).

 

LSU righthander Anthony Ranaudo faces Mississippi lefthander
Drew Pomeranz tomorrow night.  They’re
not only two of the top pitchers in the NCAA this year.  Ranaudo (11th round) and Pomeranz (12th
round) were chosen by the Rangers in the 2007 draft (which included Julio
Borbon, Tommy Hunter, Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Neil Ramirez, Mitch Moreland,
Tim Smith, and others) but opted not to sign. 

 

You should have gotten an email at 7:30 this morning with a
link to this week’s Newberg Report/MLB.com column, ranking the Rangers’ best
draft picks in each of the first 10 rounds over the last 20 years.

 

That’s all I’ve got in me today.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s rehab assignment is underway
in Oklahoma City, Ian Kinsler and Tommy Hunter are about to get game action in at
extended spring training in Surprise, the Rangers are considering sending a
right-handed reliever out (Doug Mathis has options and thus is the likely victim)
so they can add another lefthander to the bullpen (Clay Rapada, who would
require a 40-man roster move, may be the leading candidate, but he did pitch
last night for Oklahoma City), Nelson Cruz’s tweaky hamstring shortened his
second straight game and he won’t be in tonight’s lineup, Josh Hamilton’s home
run last night looked pretty good, Justin Smoak’s good at baseball (last night’s
two doubles, notably, came off a lefthander), and I don’t want to start getting
numb to upsetting losses.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Bad music.

There are 3,444 songs on my iPod.

It’s a somewhat random mix, comprised mostly of music I cared about between 10 and 25 years ago, but also a little newer stuff, and a handful of embarrassing songs from the 1970s whose sole merit for me is that they evoke memories of being a happy kid, in spite of their lameness.  

With the exception of a very small number of singles (primarily key one-hit wonders from the ’70s and a few present-day mashups), which make up maybe one percent of the songs, my iPod is just a hand-held library of the CD’s I own.  The upside is that the track shuffle mode I’ve had it on since loading the thing up four months ago for my car has yet to play a song twice.  The downside is occasionally I have to fight (or forward) through a lousy B side from an album I might have bought 20 years ago for one or two other songs.

This weekend I ran into an unusually disappointing stretch of songs while driving around, not to and from the first two Youth League machine pitch games of Max’s life (he’s only been asking about when that day would come for six months), both of which were rained out, but instead running a bunch of mundane errands: first an obscure Big Star song I don’t think I’d ever heard and don’t care to hear again . . . then a Pete Yorn thing from seven or eight years ago off an album that held my interest for maybe three days . . . the one song off “Document” that I never cared for . . . Soul Asylum (what was I thinking?).  And another half dozen disappointments, one after another.

But it didn’t make me want to unplug the thing and toss it aside.  The iPod concept’s whole is not only substantially greater than the sum of its parts; in some ways the whole is as great as it is not only despite some of those parts but because of them.  When a couple duds give way to “Nightswimming,” or Mary J. doing “One” with U2, or George Harrison’s “Something,” their awesomeness is even awesome-r.

It may not surprise you that slogging through that dismal sequence helped me remember that as bad as those three games in Yankee Stadium were, it could be worse.  It was just three of 162.  It was a team not hitting, running into a team not missing, in mid-April, and it will get better.  Texas was 5-7 last year, too, and ended up having a pretty nice season.  

It’s baseball.  And I’m not about to unplug it.

I could have saved myself (and you) a lot of time by skipping all that nonsense you just read and simply tossing out a baseball analogy about Texas getting to Boston just before the running of yesterday’s Marathon.  But I didn’t, because if I’m gonna push a forced cliché on you, I’m going all out.  Just one more thing to fight through.

If the run of “Exit Music,” “Drain You,” and “Otherside” I caught coming home last night was any indication, I feel a turnaround coming.  I could have lied and said Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” came on, fittingly, but (1) there’s no Boston on my iPod and (2) this isn’t sabermetrics.

I’m taking them as they come, accepting them for what they are, and hoping for seven strong from Colby Lewis tonight, or six total bases out of Chris Davis, or a four-game win streak, any of which right now would feel like landing on “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” and “I’ll Take the Rain” and “Pendulous Threads,” back to back to back.

And if it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll survive, and patiently wait on a little rally.

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

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

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

Hard to watch.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Jamey Newberg
12.00


I don’t know if Rich Harden is hurt, but if possible,
today’s line . . .

 

 

Pitchers

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

R Harden

3.2

5

4

4

6

5

1

94-53

4.72

 

. . . was probably kind, even tossing in the two hit
batsmen, compared to how off he looked.  When he missed, either in the
strike zone or out, he usually missed badly, without nearly enough stuff to
overcome his mistakes.

 

Frankly, it would be a little reassuring if there was some
sort of minor physical issue that might explain what’s going on with
Harden.  As it stands, he’s not giving his team a good enough chance to
win.  Three and a half baserunners per inning isn’t going to cut it,
whether he’s guaranteed $7.5 million or making the league minimum.

 

Speaking of which, Derek Holland just threw an eight-pitch
(six-strike) first in Memphis, keeping Oklahoma City and the Redbirds
scoreless.  Holland came into the game with this line through two AAA
starts:

 

 

Pitchers

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

D.Holland

13.2

10

1

1

1

9

1

180-119

0.66

 

Pacific Coast League lineups aren’t Toronto, Cleveland, and
New York, but if Harden is dealing with some sort of physical issue, there’s an
interesting alternative right now in a guy on the same pitching schedule.

 

*     *     *

Jamey Newberg
12.00

ADDENDUM: Derek Holland has been relieved after six scoreless in Memphis, with Oklahoma City ahead, 3-0.

Don’t read too much into that.  Holland had thrown 93 pitches (57 for strikes), after throwing 82 and 98 in his first two starts.  Could he have given the RedHawks another inning?  Probably.  Was he denied the seventh because he’s going to pitching in Arlington in five days?  No.  If a decision had been made to get Holland up here in five or six days, and if the organization decided he needed to be lifted early from today’s start to protect him and the club, he’d have been gone from today’s start before getting through six.

In other words, don’t read anything into Holland’s Sunday afternoon other than the obvious: it’s another tremendous effort for the 23-year-old, who now has an ERA of 0.46 in three RedHawks starts (19.2 innings, one run [a Mike Restovich solo home run in the season opener], 17 hits [.236 opponents' average], three walks, 15 strikeouts).

It’s less meaningful than the fact that Josh Hamilton, as Eric Nadel pointed out on the broadcast, has one hit to right field this season, and just one other ball hit hard in that direction (the line drive that Mark Teixeira snared going up today).

But it’s a good development, as have been the minor league starts that Brandon McCarthy and Michael Kirkman and Guillermo Moscoso and Omar Beltre and Justin Smoak and Max Ramirez and Matt Brown and Craig Gentry and Chad Tracy and Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando have gotten off to.

There are several reasons that strong starts by those players can be huge, given their chances to help in the big leagues this year.  One of those reasons, and the easiest to get our heads wrapped around, is the idea that players like Holland could make the Rangers better right away.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, even though I wouldn’t discourage you from getting fired up about what the lefthander is doing in an effort to force his way back into the big league picture.
 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail
deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to www.newbergreport.com and click the
“Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter  @newbergreport

 

P/PA.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Jamey Newberg
12.00

 

A local beat reporter
wrote a few days ago that while Rangers starters were averaging 103.1 pitches
per outing, the highest total in the American League (and third highest in
baseball), it was “not to suggest the
Rangers are overworking their starting pitchers.  It’s more the opposite.  The Rangers are getting their starters to go
longer and throw more pitches, though, they are getting a wholly more efficient
performance since the club decided to push starters a little harder.

 

To support the point
he notes that Texas was averaging 16.5 pitches per inning, in line with the American
League average, evidence along with the pitch counts of how deep the club’s
starters were getting into games.

 

All of that was
true. 

 

What the story did
not mention was that Rangers’ starters were throwing 4.10 pitches per batter
faced, the worst mark in baseball. 

 

Since then,
including today’s Scott Feldman start, the mark has crept up to 4.15, still the
highest in the league.

 

That’s not to
suggest the starters haven’t been very strong.  They’ve been outstanding, and are the reason the
team has won as many games as it has. 

 

But what’s happened
the last two days in Yankee Stadium has driven home a statistical point that
seems worth noting.  New York is predictably
making Texas pitchers work – Yankee hitters are extraordinarily patient and fundamentally
sound.  But they’re not alone.  Rangers’ starters’ opponents are working
deeper counts than any other team’s starters’ opponents.

 

Meanwhile, Texas hitters see only 3.64 pitches per plate
appearance.  The only offense in baseball
that sees fewer pitches per trip is San Francisco’s.

 

When the gap begins to narrow between those two composite numbers,
it’s going to feel like we’re another step closer to being where this team is
capable of being.

ADDENDUM

Elaborating:

Pitches per Batter Faced, Highest, American League Starting Pitchers:

1. Rich Harden, TEX (4.51)
6. Colby Lewis, TEX (4.23)
8. Scott Feldman, TEX (4.20)
10. Matt Harrison, TEX (4.11)
45. C.J. Wilson, TEX (3.75)

Again, this isn’t a hatchet job on the Rangers rotation, which I have as much confidence in as any bunch the club has put together in the last 20 years.  Just something worth noting, maybe, particularly when laid against the what’s going on with the Texas offense, which just isn’t working counts.

By the way, Wilson is 22nd lowest in the league – impressive, and given his history, surprising.

But not as surprising as the fact that the only hitter on the entire Texas roster (with the exception of Matt Treanor) seeing as many as four pitches per plate appearance is the last player any of us could have ever nominated for being the early king, on this team, of getting deep into pitch counts:

Joaquin Arias.

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

No need for the ledge.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Jamey Newberg
12.00


Texas dropped the ball

Blew what should
have been a sweep

On to Yanks
& Sox

 

You can spend 3,000 December words on an off-season move to
add a middle relief candidate, holding forth like you have a bead on what it
will mean for the bullpen, if not the pennant race.

 

And then your three most reliable defensive players make
blunders in one catastrophic April inning, three plays that sit somewhere on
the spectrum between unfortunate and inexcusable, taken together bordering on
something like impossible, and you realize how unpredictable this game is, and
how all the objective data in the world is suggestive at best, persuasive yet
not controlling, and maybe even distracting at times from the organic nature of
the game and its players and its plays.

 

This team could very well be 8-1 with baseball’s best record
– in fact, it has trailed only once after seven innings.  But they make you play nine, and too often in the
first 1/18th of the season (keep that part in mind) Texas hasn’t
closed the deal, on the mound or in the field, and instead the club heads into
the New York-Boston swing at what can only be characterized as a disappointing
5-4.  Better than the Angels, better than
the Mariners, better than the Red Sox.  But
disappointing.

 

There’s so much to be encouraged about – starting with the
starting five, which is pitching with that swagger that the front office talked
more about trying to develop and capture back when Nolan Ryan arrived and Mike
Maddux was hired.  Nelson Cruz appears to
be taking the next step, one that only a fraction of the few even capable of
taking actually convert on.  Vladimir Guerrero
and Darren Oliver aren’t yet acting their age.  The Neftali Feliz chrysalis is splitting.

 

The problems of the first week and a half aren’t the type
that armchair GM’s insist they can fix by whiteboarding the perfect trade, or
by starting the clock on the all-important, imminent call-up.  They’re the type that call for better
execution (and sometimes concentration) by players clearly capable of executing.

 

And maybe that’s what’s so frustrating.  The resignation of seeing games get away
because Chan Ho Park or Ben Broussard or Kris Benson or Andruw Jones isn’t
getting it done is a lot different from the gut punch of watching a core player
we tend to take for granted fail to come through. 

 

Half of the Rangers’ outcomes have taken the sabermetrics
right out of it, and that’s ok with me. 
The data might tell us what we can
expect when a
starting pitcher reaches that third time through the lineup or what happens when
Josh Hamilton can’t lay off the first-pitch breaking ball out of the zone, but
could never prepare us for Thursday’s defensive eighth, or for the difference
between a Frankie Francisco outing where the squared-up shots don’t find gloves
and one where they do, or for the potential impact that the latter could have
on his confidence going forward.

 

Texas has won two straight series, one at home against a
division contender and the other on the road, and of course you’d take that.  It doesn’t make the nature of the last three
of the Rangers’ four losses any easier to take, but it hammers home for me that
trying to diagnose how you get to 5-4 can drive you crazy.  

 

Instead, maybe the proper prescription is to enjoy this
unprecedented run of Rangers starting pitching and hope that it continues into
these next six against two of baseball’s best, a stretch that should include
C.J. Wilson twice, and that the shortstop will have learned something Thursday
the way the new closer did on Opening Day.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers