May 2010

Simple.

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As foreign as it is
to my constitution to admit this, there are games about which a bunch of breakdown
and analysis would really take away from the simplicity of a battle won, a
scrap survived, a relentless one-run victory over the team that, whether the
Rangers care to acknowledge it or not, is the one against whom wins mean the
most.

 

Solid.

 

If you check out
FOXSportsSouthwest.com right now, you’ll see a banner under the lead with a
reminder that tomorrow night, right when Texas-Baltimore gets underway and
until the final pitch, we’ll conduct a live chat.  A strong showing could mean we’ll try this at
least once per homestand and once per road trip.  If you’re near a computer during Wednesday’s
game, make plans to join us for the live chat, whether you want to participate in
the Q&A or just take it all in.

 

Texas                           22        18       

Oakland                      19        20        2.0
or 3.0 games back

Los
Angeles                18        23        4.5

Seattle
                        14        24        6.5 or 7.5

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
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Cover to cover.

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I was thinking about
how that game was started and finished, impressively, by the two pitchers
featured on the front cover of the 2009 Bound Edition (below) and helped along by
the routine awesomeness of their shortstop, featured on the back cover of that same
book and on the front cover of the 2010 version, the shortstop who provided two
hits and a walk tonight and made a wholly non-routine play seem almost routine
to start the eighth.

 

(I’m working on getting
the audio for Eric Nadel’s call of Elvis’s play, by the way.  A Cooperstown play, and a Cooperstown call.  I’ll email it out once I get it.)


NRBE_FC_full.jpg

NRBE_BC_full.jpg

         

NRBE_BC_full.jpg

 

 

Newberg-Report-2010-cov-FC.jpg         

Newberg-Report-2010-cov-BC.jpg

 

Newberg-Report-2010-cov-BC.jpgNewberg-Report-2010-cov-FC.jpg

 

I was thinking about how the three players on the back cover
of the 2010 book, Justin Smoak and Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez, may very
well key a win over the Angels this time next year, prompting me to send an
email out like this one.

 

It’s obvious and trite to point out that the all those gaudy
farm system rankings of the past few years are now regularly producing big
league results, but the fruition of the standout work that this franchise has
been doing in scouting and player development is no longer just a promise of
things to come.

 

To celebrate Texas 4, Los Angeles 3, for this week only I’m discounting
the purchase of the 2009 plus 2010 Bound Editions, which would normally cost
$45 (Derek Holland’s uniform number), to a mere $30 (Neftali Feliz’s
number). 

 

As always, you can pay by credit card at www.PayPal.com (GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net account) or by
sending a check or money order to:

 

Jamey Newberg

Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.

1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100

Dallas, TX 75201

 

Nadel-Andrus audio to you shortly.

 

 

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Twitter 
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Doing what the game asks you to do.

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You know what Toronto
did better than Texas the last three? 
What the game asked them to do.

 

The Jays executed better, made their pitches, capitalized on
run-scoring opportunities, played with confidence.  I don’t know how much better they are than
the Rangers, but this weekend they looked markedly better.

 

Today, the Rangers’ first two hitters reached safely in the
first.  In the second.  In the fifth. 
In the seventh, when the first three actually managed to get on base.

 

The results?  Zero runs.
 One run (sacrifice fly).  Zero runs. 
One run (ground ball double play).

 

Ugly.

 

If the idea was for Josh Hamilton to play 140 or 145 games
this year, maybe a few more, as a concession to the importance of keeping him strong
all season, with all due respect to the trouble he has against left-handed
pitching, the days he sits should come from among the following:

 

May 26, 29

June 6, 13, 20, 26

July 11, 18

August 1, 8, 15, 18, 21, 22, 29

September 4, 5, 6, 12, 19, 25, 26, 29

October 3

 

All day starts.

 

Hamilton during the day in 2007: .195/.259/.364 with 18 strikeouts
in 77 at-bats

2008: .250/.314/.467 with 42 strikeouts in 152 at-bats

2009: .259/.344/.420 with 22 strikeouts in 81 at-bats

2010: .206/.265/.333 with 17 strikeouts in 63 at-bats

 

All told, in the big leagues Hamilton is a .233/.302/.413 hitter
during the day.  He’s Jason LaRue. 

 

That’s compared with .309/.372/.539 at night.  He’s Miguel Cabrera.

 

John Buck is no Miguel Cabrera (though at .276/.325/.610 he
joins Cabrera in the American League top 10 in OPS), but I sure wish he felt in
December that his opportunity to play in Texas would have been as good as in
Toronto, where he took one year and $2 million to sign days after Kansas City
non-tendered him.  The Rangers wanted the
29-year-old.

 

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune
writes this evening that Texas has inquired about White Sox catcher A.J.
Pierzynski, a development that, if true, does not make me very happy.  He’s hitting .198/.254/.292, makes $6.7
million, and has always been described, for what it’s worth, as less than a
great teammate.

 

A struggling Scott Kazmir vs. Derek Holland tomorrow night, Jered
Weaver vs. C.J. Wilson Tuesday night.

 

Texas (losers of three straight) holds a division lead over
Los Angeles (winners of three straight) that, at its current 2.5 games, will stand
up at the end of the two-game series, no matter how it goes.  But it’s mid-May, and while head-to-head
matchups bring things to a relative boil (Yankees-Red Sox is sure to get as
much attention as Celtics-Magic this week), stacking up wins (regardless of
opponent) and finding a rhythm, both as a team and player to player, is
probably more important than what the last column in the standings looks like.

 

Where Texas and Los Angeles fit in the standings right now
is meaningful to the extent that neither team is lapping the other, and neither
is burying itself out of any race.  The real
question, however, that must be asked is, over the next 124 games (one fewer for
the Angels), can the Rangers win as many as (or at least within two of) Los
Angeles?

 

One way to ensure you can grab a win while the other doesn’t
is to do it at the other’s expense, and while I’m not feeling real good about
the offense against the lefthander Kazmir and the solid Weaver, I’ll take my
chances with Holland and Wilson doing what the game asks them to do.

 

 

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Mutual fun.

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Jumping off from (1) a discussion we had on the Ben &
Skin Show yesterday, and (2) the sideshow we all watched last night:

 

Vladimir Guerrero’s contract, which pays $5.5 million in 2010
(with another $900,000 in roster bonuses), contains a $9 million mutual option
for 2011, with a $1 million buyout payable if either side declines the option. 

 

Rich Harden’s contract, which pays $6.5 million in 2010
(with another $2.5 million in what now appear to be mostly unattainable graduated
workload incentives), contains an $11 million mutual option for 2011, with a $1
million buyout payable if either side declines. 

 

Pretty clear where both of those deals are headed.

 

Unless new ownership helps get the hitter extended (two
guaranteed, market-value years plus an option for a third?) during the season.

 

According to at least one local report, the Rangers have two
pitchers from the 40-man roster on a morning flight to Toronto that connects
through Detroit.  The decision as to
whether to activate one (for Doug Mathis, who would be optioned) or both (which
would mean both Mathis and Craig Gentry would be optioned without Joaquin Arias
being activated yet – Max Ramirez would serve as both the backup catcher and
first baseman today) hasn’t been announced.

 

As the two pitchers are reportedly on the roster, candidates
include Oklahoma City righthanders Guillermo Moscoso, Pedro Strop, and Alexi Ogando,
Oklahoma City lefthander Michael Kirkman, and Frisco lefthander Zach Phillips.  (Oklahoma City righthanders Brandon McCarthy
and Omar Beltre are on the disabled list.) 
Oklahoma City and Frisco were both home last night.

 

 

 

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Big Bad.

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Way to go, Big Bad

Angels’ loss is
Rangers’ gain

Keep on impalin’

 

Remember the pall cast
over the Rangers fan base when the club elected to let Ivan Rodriguez move on, not
even offering him arbitration, sending a message through the press that his unique
skill set had begun to erode and he was never very good at working with young
pitchers anyway, and the 31-year-old proceeded to instantly lead a Marlins club
led by a young rotation to a World Series title?  Remember the hurt?

 

Imagine how much
worse it would have been if Pudge had jumped from Texas to Oakland and done it.

 

I’m not predicting a Rangers title in mid-May, but it has to
be pretty crummy for Angels fans to see their perennial MVP candidate, Vladimir
Guerrero, tuning the league up at a .328/.361/.527 rate (while his replacement,
Hideki Matsui, sits at .226/.307/.371 under roughly the same contract) for a
team they’re chasing in the division. 
With no draft pick compensation to patch the wound since Los Angeles
didn’t offer him arbitration.

 

The Guerrero-Matsui swap for Los Angeles may not sink to the
level of Steve Nash-Erick Dampier (another local roster shift with the club spinning
its departing star’s alleged signs of decline), but given the Angels’ lousy
start, and Guerrero’s insanely awesome one, I bet it’s a handy point of depression
for the Los Angeles faithful.

 

I’m sure I had as much fun watching Josh Hamilton hit in
2008 as I do watching Guerrero now, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

 

Incidentally: Hamilton through 34 games in his storybook
2008 season: .292/.346/.533.  He’d struck
out 20 times in 137 at-bats.

 

Guerrero, at the abovementioned .328/.361/.527 slash rate through
34 games played, has fanned 13 times in 131 at-bats.

 

Having won yesterday’s game, getting fantastic work out of
C.J. Wilson and Frankie Francisco (17 strikes in 20 pitches, all four batters punched
out) and Elvis Andrus (a big bag of awesomeness, though with the requisite once-a-game
brainlock of a player who occasionally does act his age), I’m going to go ahead
and question a decision, not because I want to rant and rave about its
insanity, but rather to ask what I’m missing.

 

Bottom of the ninth.  Game
locked at 1-1.

 

David Murphy singles with one out.

 

Justin Smoak singles him to third base.

 

Max Ramirez and Julio Borbon are set to hit.  A run ends it.

 

Ron Washington sends Craig Gentry out to run for Smoak.

 

I didn’t understand the move and, really, despite hearing a
couple attempts to reason it out, still don’t.

 

Here’s why:

 

1.     
The obvious: The Smoak/Gentry run doesn’t matter.  If Murphy scores, the game is over.  If, say, Murphy is cut down at the plate on
an infield grounder, putting Smoak on second and Ramirez at first with two outs,
fine – put Gentry in for Smoak at that point if you want.  I can see that.

 

2.     
If the idea is that Gentry is going to steal second base to
take away the double play opportunity (which they obviously didn’t plan, as
Ramirez took three straight balls without Gentry moving), I’d argue that would
have been bad managing.  If he gets
thrown out, you’ve eliminated the chance to win the game with a fly ball.

 

3.     
I’d have been surprised to see Washington put on a
hit-and-run at any point in the Ramirez at-bat. 
It’s not what the game asked you to do in that situation.  Not with the walkoff run at third.

 

4.     
If the idea is that Gentry is swift enough to beat out the
front end of a double play, that makes no sense to me, either.  If the force play is going to be that close
(again, assuming no hit-and-run), that probably means a slow-developing play,
which means even if the A’s get the force, they’re never going to complete the
pair, and the game ends as Murphy crosses the plate.  Stated another way, if Oakland is able to
double up Ramirez, it wouldn’t matter whether Vince Coleman or Bengie Molina
was the runner on base unless he was put in motion – and Texas was not going to
put Gentry in motion.

 

It ended up not mattering much that Smoak was lost for the
game (Ryan Garko popped out in the 11th but did make a nice 3-6 play
in the top of the 10th), but it might have, and it sure would have
been nice to keep Gentry’s availability alive for a spot when his speed tool
would have been truly usable.

 

Am I missing something?

 

Garko (3 for 33, all singles) is reportedly about to lose his
roster spot to Joaquin Arias, a move that was signaled once the Rangers began
to play Arias at first base during his rehab stint with Oklahoma City.  Gentry is expected to be optioned back to AAA
with Nelson Cruz returning, so I suppose the idea is that Arias gives
Washington the pinch-runner that Gentry’s departure was taking away from the
bench.

 

It wouldn’t have bothered me to see Gentry stick (so
Hamilton wouldn’t have to patrol center every day) and Borbon optioned.  Getting Borbon right is a big key for this season.  He drew only his second walk yesterday (113
plate appearances), an obviously unacceptable rate for any regular but
obscenely so for a player whose game is predicated on reaching base and
then
doing damage.  The only Rangers regular
seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance than Borbon is Guerrero.  Chris Davis had a better rate.  So did Taylor Teagarden.  And Arias. 
Last year’s good-looking Borbon spray chart has given way this season to
lots of lazy volleys to the left fielder.

 

I’m not out on Borbon. 
Far from it.  But he’s got to get
right, and I’d have been OK if today’s ticket to Oklahoma City were given to
him rather than to Gentry.

 

As for Garko, he was a low-risk (low-salaried) add that didn’t
work out, one that wouldn’t have been necessary had Mike Lowell passed his
December physical and come to Texas for Ramirez.  Ironically, the way Ramirez has been swinging
the bat the last few days, he’s been giving the Rangers the kind of occasional
production from the right side that they were looking to Garko for. 

 

Smoak’s home run on Wednesday night was his fourth, which gave
him the lead among American League rookies – even though Smoak has been around
for barely more than half his club’s games.

 

The Rangers’ home run barrage that night was just the fourth
time in what is now 35 games that the club has gone deep more than once. 

 

Last year’s offense had 21 multi-homer games in its first 35.

 

Take it further: last year through 35 games, the Rangers were
hitting .279/.335/.500, with 201 runs, 77 doubles, 62 home runs, 101 walks, and
288 strikeouts.  This year: .259/.328/.394,
165 runs, 53 doubles, 32 home runs, 117 walks, and 244 strikeouts.

 

Texas isn’t hitting as well and isn’t slugging as much, though
a better walk rate (and a lower strikeout rate that suggests, even if not
conclusively, that a handful of deep-count pitches that might been flailed at
last season are now being taken) has the club reaching base nearly as often.

 

And yet the records and positions in the standings between the
two seasons through 35 games are about the same (21-14 and 1.5 games up in 2009,
20-15 and two games up now). 

 

The biggest reason the dropoff in offense hasn’t resulted in
a dropoff overall is obvious: The pitching got a lot better last season.  But it’s taken another huge step forward this
year.

 

Last year’s team ERA through 35 games was 4.74.  This year’s is 3.57 (the starters are at 2.96
over the last 13 games, with nine quality starts).  Opponents were hitting .262 last year, .242
this year.  Walks are up slightly this
year (119 to 137), but the increase is not as dramatic as team strikeouts (188
to 258).  Home runs are down (43 to
36). 

 

He doesn’t get all the credit (plenty should go to ownership,
the front office, coaches and scouts, and the pitchers themselves), but Mike Maddux
has been a top 5 acquisition during the Jon Daniels regime.

 

I thought about Maddux as Ben Sheets, his prize pupil in their
six years together in Milwaukee, and Wilson, his renovated ace, absolutely locked
horns for more than six-and-a-half innings. 
Winning instincts aside, Maddux had to be proud.

 

Wilson wasn’t as efficient or as sharp as he was in Friday’s
complete game, but that just underscores what kind of pitcher he’s become, limiting
the A’s to one run over seven innings of work despite not bringing his best
stuff to the mound.  That’s seven
straight quality starts for Wilson, a Rangers franchise record for the start of
a season.  He’s also thrown 69.1
consecutive homerless innings at Rangers Ballpark, another club record.  In fact, he’s allowed only four extra-base hits
(all doubles) all season.

 

Remember the guy who, eight months ago, you’d hiss at as
soon as he trotted in from the bullpen and delivered ball one to a hitter
crow-hopping out of the way of his first-pitch fastball?  Today, if you squint your eyes and try to
envision Game One on October 5, isn’t Wilson the guy whose hand you want the ball
in as soon as the Anthem ends?

 

By the way, if you’re not catching Wilson’s weekly radio
segment with Ben & Skin on ESPN Radio (103.3 FM), Tuesday mornings at
11:40, you’re doing it wrong.

 

And whether you’re doing it right or wrong, you deserve to
listen to the Wilson intro that Ben Rogers recorded, a lot of times: http://songtwit.com/2u8 

 

Wilson was called for a balk that didn’t count in yesterday’s
fourth inning.  It was nullified by the
single Jake Fox hit to center on the pitch, a rule that I would have
appreciated the home plate umpire in the 1987 Waxahachie Tournament knowing
when he wiped off my two-run homer in the first inning of a game we ended up losing
to Fort Worth Southwest, 5-0.  He ruled “no
pitch,” called me back to the plate, sent our leadoff hitter Steve Whitlow from
first base to second, and tossed our coach out of the game. 

 

Lefthander Matt Harrison threw on flat ground Wednesday and
reported no residual problems from the biceps tendinitis that forced him to the
disabled list.

 

I’m a day early, but Happy 22nd Birthday to Hickory
outfielder Miguel Velazquez, my favorite position player in the Rangers farm system
right now.  Velazquez (.331/.403/.583) has
the highest OPS (.985) among all hitters suiting up for one of the 14 teams in
the South Atlantic League. 

 

After I’d seen Velzaquez in camp this March, I wrote: “Had him at
number 25 in the book, and the number two outfielder in the system, and the
number four breakout candidate among hitters. 
Too low, in every case.”
 
I moved him from 25 to 8 when I re-ranked the system’s prospects on March
26.  If I did a new ranking today, I’d
have him higher than that.

 

Oklahoma City lefthander Michael Kirkman was number five on Baseball America‘s
Hot Sheet last week.

 

The Rangers named its minor league award winners for the
month of April: lefthander Derek Holland (Pitcher of the Month), first
baseman/outfielder Chad Tracy (Player of the Month), catcher Jose Felix (Defender
of the Month), and lefthander Zach Phillips (Relief Pitcher of the Month, a new
award).

 

Bakersfield righthander Cody Eppley, age 24, has yet to
allow a run in 18 relief innings this year, scattering nine hits (one double)
and one walk while fanning 24.  Of his 30
outs on balls put in play, 25 have come on the ground, only five in the air.

 

Hank Blalock (.349/.405/.505 for AAA Durham) has an out
clause approaching sometime in the next week, and he reportedly intends to
exercise it if Tampa Bay doesn’t activate him by that time (or within 48 hours
of his notice to opt out).  Two
interesting notes: (1) Blalock is destroying International League lefties
(.500/.538/.833); and (2) in 26 games, he’s DH’d twice and played defensively
the other 24 times – all at third base.  The
Mariners and White Sox and A’s are among the teams rumored to have some level
of interest.

 

There are some rumors, both locally and nationally, that
Texas might be a match with the struggling White Sox on catcher A.J. Pierzynski
(who gains 10-and-5 rights on June 14, enabling him to veto any trade).  Not sure I’m in love with that idea.

 

The Yankees recalled outfielder Greg Golson again.  Kansas City designated righthander Josh Rupe for
assignment.  The Mets released
pinch-hitter Frank Catalanotto.

 

Kansas City fired manager Trey Hillman and replaced him with
Ned Yost, at least on an interim basis.

 

Iowa Cubs righthander Thomas Diamond has a 2.17 ERA in seven
starts for the AAA club.

 

The Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League signed
righthander Hector Carrasco.

 

It was pointed out last night that only nine of the Rangers’
next 53 games are against teams who now have winning records, an almost
unbelievable number.  That stretch,
incidentally, ends with the All-Star Break, and if the ownership situation is
resolved by then, imagine the mid-to-late-July possibilities for improving the
roster if this club maintains its division lead, or at least has it in reach.

 

Texas got out of town yesterday afternoon with six wins out
of seven on the homestand and 12 of 16 overall, boarding a plane for Canada right
after a 12-inning survival that knocked the A’s two games back.  I’m not sure if Ben Rogers makes it a
personal rule to write songs only for players who are regular guests on the Ben
& Skin Show, but if he’s willing to swing with authority at a pitch out of
the zone, he’s got three days – after which Los Angeles comes to Arlington – to
put one together for former Angel Vladimir Guerrero, who never struck out a
minotaur-like unicorn with the head of Barry Bonds but has surely done many
things equally awesome with those bare hands, that nuclear-war-ravaged helmet,
and all that Big Badness.

 

 

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Texas 10, Oakland 1.

Not going to send a nighttime report out.  Busted out
13 tweets during the game (if you want, you can check them out on Twitter -
@newbergreport), but I will add three things:

 

1.      The
Angels’ 4-3 loss to the Rays drops L.A. to 15-21, that club’s worst 36-game
record in 20 years.

 

2.      Hideki
Matsui: one year, $6 million, .226/.307/.371.  Vladimir Guerrero: one
year, $6.5 million, .336/.370/.544.  Angels five games in back of Texas.

 

3.      Thank
you, Derek.

 

 

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Deflated.

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Crummy defense,
especially the plays unmade. 

 

Bad execution and squandered
opportunities. 

 

Walking the hitter
leading off the inning – a hitter whose offensive numbers barely register. 

 

A really
questionable bullpen-engineering decision.

 

I had a bunch I planned to write about today, but that loss took
too much out of me.  Not because it was a
loss, which in some reasonable amount we as baseball fans have to accept, but
because of how it was lost and should have been won, against a team it would
have been very useful to put away for one night.

 

Derek Holland, hope you brought a heavy dose of that efficiency
with you from Oklahoma City.  A solid
seven out of you would be fantastic.  Especially
given what happened last night, when the bullpen threw as many pitches (104) as
starter Colby Lewis, with every reliever being called upon other than Doug Mathis,
who got loose himself.

 

In the one start Holland has made against the A’s (August 4),
he gave the team only 4.1 innings in a 6-0 loss (incidentally, at the hands of lefthander
Gio Gonzalez, tonight’s Oakland starter). 
Can’t have that tonight.

 

There are lots of other things that distinguished Oakland 7,
Texas 6 that we can’t have tonight, either.

 

 

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Twitter 
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Looking ahead.

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Where would this
thing be without Vlad Guerrero, or C.J. Wilson?

 

Where would things
be with Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz playing
so much as one game together through the first five weeks?

 

There are other
questions along the same lines, maybe not as central to 18-14 but just as rhetorical,
but there are questions like those that every team can ask a fifth into the
season, and there’s little point in looking back. 

 

There’s not much
point in looking back at Oakland (one game behind Texas), the Angels (4.5), or
Seattle (5.5), either, other than to understand that there’s something in reach
here, and looking forward to these next three with Oakland, with Big Bad Vlad hitting
at home and C.J. pitching on Thursday, the same day that Kins and Cruz should
be in the lineup together for the first time in 2010, is almost enough to forget
about how lousy things started this season, again. 

 

Off-days aren’t as depressing as six-game skids in
mid-April, but like most this one isn’t welcome at all, and yet despite the
extra day the A’s head to town for three that won’t allow them to get Dallas
Braden back on the mound, possibly a good break in a season that feels like it
hasn’t had many.

 

But the bad breaks and the good ones are history, less
important than the 130 games – if not more – that lie ahead, yet meaningful in
the sense that they’ve set things up so that the rest matter, a lot.

 

These next three are pretty big, and heading into mid-May
that’s all you can ask for.

 

 

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Zack Greinke: Looking forward, looking back.

As I sit at my desk eating my pregame meal, realizing that I’m
looking more forward to being at tonight’s game than any in memory that didn’t
fall on Opening Day or in a late-season pennant race, because I do loves me a
great pitching matchup, I thought I’d reissue a report I sent out on September
11, 2009.

 

Have fun tonight.

 

JDN

 

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT –
SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

I was not interested in an off-day.  That was irritating.

 

I gave Steelers-Titans the chance to fill the void, but all it did
was remind me that What We Play For was taking the day off.

 

I stared at the Venezuela 13, USA 9 World Cup box score, ignoring
the final score and fixing my gaze on the Justin Smoak line – 4 for 6, two home
runs, two doubles, five RBI, two runs – but that helped for a minute or two, at
best.

 

To distract myself last night, I tried not to think about this
weekend set of three against the Mariners and instead turned my attention back
to a topic that I hatched last summer: The idea of making Zack Greinke a Texas
Ranger.

 

Piecing together a few things, chronologically:

 

June 20, 2008 Newberg Report:

 

Which team says no: Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley, John Mayberry
Jr., and Warner Madrigal to Kansas City for Zack Greinke (who was then 6-4,
3.33 for the season, and 27-39, 4.40 for his career)?

 

August 27, 2008 Newberg Report:

 

Saltalamacchia…[Matt] Harrison or Hurley…Mayberry or [Nelson]
Cruz…Joaquin Arias…and Zach Phillips or Carlos Pimentel or Miguel De Los
Santos or Geuris Grullon or Julio Santana or Matt Nevarez…for Greinke and
Ramon Ramirez.  Are we talking?

 

October 6, 2008 Newberg Report:

 

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, in a note regarding the decision
facing the Royals on whether to trade righthander Zack Greinke, reports that
Texas “made a big offer for him before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.” 
According to Rosenthal, Kansas City says it won’t move Greinke unless
overwhelmed.

 

January 27, 2009 Newberg Report, the day after Greinke signed a
new multi-year deal with Kansas City:

 

The first two years of Zack Greinke’s four-year, $38 million
extension with the Royals apparently contain “very minor” no-trade protection,
according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.  As for 2011 and 2012, when the
righthander is set to make $13.5 million annually, the no-trade clause
apparently goes away, and one league executive told Rosenthal: “He’s going to
get traded in one of the thirteen-and-a-halfs, unless he wins a Cy Young Award
before then.  And he could.”

 

August 31, 2009:

 

Kansas City exercises general manager Dayton Moore’s option for
2011 and extends his contract through 2014.

 

September 5, 2009:

 

Greinke allows no Angels earned runs (one unearned) over eight innings,
lowering his season ERA to 2.22.  But he gets no decision as Los Angeles
beats the Royals, 2-1.  Greinke’s win-loss record remains 13-8.  The
rest of the Royals staff: 42-77 – a win percentage that would extrapolate to a
57-105 season.

 

September 6, 2009:

 

MLB.com’s Victor Rojas on Twitter: “royals have lack of mlb
talent/depth & some bad contracts too – it’s time to seriously consider
trading greinke for gaggle of players”

 

No sense in rehashing Greinke’s worth.  I’ve spent enough
time on that the last 15 months.  At age 25 he’s younger than Brandon
McCarthy and Doug Mathis, the same age as Guillermo Moscoso and Luis Mendoza,
and for me he’s as great a technician as any starting pitcher in the American
League. 

 

And now Moore has job security.  Lots of it.

 

So would he follow Rojas’s suggested blueprint, one not unlike the
plan in Texas that started with the 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira, and move
Greinke for a slew of players with whom he can accelerate things for the
Royals, who have proven this season that they can hold down the AL Central
cellar comfortably and hurtle toward 100 losses even with a Cy Young-caliber
season out of Greinke? 

 

It would stand to reason that Moore’s contract extension, which
will keep him on Kansas City’s payroll two years after Greinke is almost
certainly going to be on someone else’s, makes a winter Greinke trade at least
a little more likely than it might have been a month ago, even if it’s still a
longshot.

 

What would it take?  No less than it would have taken to get
Roy Halladay. 

 

The strength of the Royals’ horizon is on the infield corners
(where Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer figure in,
with one likely settling in at DH and another, perhaps Moustakas, moving to a
corner outfield spot) and in the rotation, where behind Greinke are, among
others, Luke Hochevar, prospects Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, and Chris Dwyer
and, assuming he signs, Aaron Crow.  Kansas City desperately needs help up
the middle, which is what Texas keyed on in part with the Teixeira trade -
picking off players developed in the Atlanta system while Moore was the Braves’
director of player personnel and then assistant general manager.

 

Moore wouldn’t need to rely on Royals area scout Rick Schroeder to
recommend Derek Holland, a player Schroeder was partly responsible for Texas
drafting when he held a similar position with the Rangers.  Holland and
Neftali Feliz will be the first players Moore would ask Texas for.  Among
Schroeder’s other draft recommendations from his Rangers days were Frisco
reliever Brennan Garr and Frisco infielder Renny Osuna, but neither would
figure into a blockbuster deal (unless tacked on, as lefthander Julian Cordero
was when Texas added the Class southpaw to the Francisco Cordero-Laynce
Nix-Kevin Mench package to get Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz in 2006).

 

Royals manager Trey Hillman’s time as Rangers director of player
development and Royals minor league skipper Darryl Kennedy’s time managing on
the Texas farm were long enough ago that none of the players they had here
would fit the profile of what Kansas City would be looking to add.

 

But that’s an elementary way of looking at things, anyway. 
In today’s game, teams’ scouting coverage is such that organizations have a
book on just about every player in every system.  Yes, from time to time
there’s a Dr. Keith Meister-Darren O’Day history that can add a layer to the
evaluation process, but deals don’t turn on past connections.

 

Plus, with Kansas City sharing Surprise with Texas, and fielding
AA and AAA teams that compete in the same leagues as Rangers affiliates, the
Royals obviously have a convenient perch from which to keep tabs on young
Rangers players.  The Royals have recently picked up Tug Hulett, Travis
Metcalf, John Bannister, Manny Pina, and Tim Smith from Texas, for instance.

 

But that doesn’t mean Moore may not have a soft spot for a player
like Saltalamacchia or Harrison, both of whose pro careers he was in charge of
getting underway back in 2003.  Shame they’re both going to end the 2009
season at less than full health.

 

So here we go:

 

Let’s say Texas had to give up (1) Kansas City’s choice of
righthander Tommy Hunter or lefthander Martin Perez; (2) righthander Wilmer
Font; (3-4) Kansas City’s choice of either outfielder Julio Borbon and hitter
Max Ramirez – or outfielders Nelson Cruz and Engel Beltre; and (5) shortstop
Leury Garcia to get Greinke and, say, reliever Juan Cruz (owed $3.25 million in
2010 and a $500,000 buyout in 2011).  Tack on (6) Garr as well.

 

You in?  Which team walks away?

 

We now return to our regularly scheduled Pennant Race, already in
progress.

 

 

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

 

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What I would do with Matt Harrison.

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Crazy: One month in,

No pitching moves yet, all year

I’m ready for one.

 

Disgusting win. 

 

The best teams lose games, the Royals win games, but the
bottom line is that even though you can’t win ‘em all, you can at least expect
to play winning baseball.  That, despite the
W, was not winning baseball.

 

I’ll take it, of course. 
I’m thrilled that Texas escaped with a victory, and did it with some
great work off a sensational closer, regaining a tie for the division lead.  But . . . geez.

 

I was at the game, which usually means a Twitter
assault.  The first tweet I posted: “Harrison
deals over first two frames.  Tomorrow’s Newberg
Report already written.”

 

It may just be wishful thinking, but I’d decided two things before
the game:

 

1.     
If Matt Harrison got bombed last night, it would be time for
Derek Holland.

 

2.     
If Harrison pitched well early on, it would be time for Derek
Holland, with Harrison giving the bullpen a boost.

 

What I didn’t count on was not only the latter coming into
play . . . but the bullpen, on the same night, also hammering home the need for
a shot in the arm.

 

Harrison’s first inning: 11 strikes, six balls, four up,
three down.

 

Harrison’s second: nine strikes, two balls, three up, three
down.

 

(Then the tweet.)

 

Harrison’s third: eight strikes, three balls, three up,
three down.

 

By time Harrison trotted out for the fourth inning, he’d
been staked to an 8-0 lead, and had thrown an economical 39 pitches, an extremely
efficient 28 of them for strikes.  He’d gone
through the Royals order plus one, and was very good.

 

The baseball marching orders for “doing what the game asks
you to do” (a frequent Wash-ism) were clear at that point.  Given the situation that an early eight-run
lead presents, you throw strikes (his 72 percent strike rate was matched by
first-pitch strikes to seven of 10 batters through three innings), let the
defense do its job, save the bullpen (at least the key guys), and get this one
in the books.

 

Instead, in the fourth and fifth, Harrison faced a dozen
hitters, started seven of them off with a 1-0 count, and gave up a home run, two
singles, and three walks – including a five-pitch walk to number eight hitter
Mitch Maier to start the fifth, followed by a four-pitch free pass to number
nine hitter Yuniesky Betancourt, who’d earned all of one base on balls all season
(101 plate appearances).

 

Harrison’s night was done, needing 95 pitches to get through
five innings (those 39 pitches through three frames were followed by 56 in the next
two), and awful work by Dustin Nippert on his 29th birthday forced
Texas to use every member of the pen other than Darren Oliver and Doug Mathis.  The club lost the lead before pulling things
out in the dramatic eighth.

 

Can we blame Harrison’s collapse on the 127 pitches he threw
last time out?  I suppose if you were to
look solely a his final line – four runs on four hits and three walks in five
innings – but how does that excuse his inability to get the job done after the first
time through the Kansas City lineup?  He admitted
after the game to a bout of minor stiffness that cropped up in the third inning
and again in the fifth.  Whether that’s
an excuse or not, Harrison’s effectiveness fell off a cliff against a bad team,
allowing them to get back into a game they had no business being in, and it
took a nearly full complement of relievers and a heroic late-inning comeback to
nail down a win that should have been a gimme.

 

Let’s face it: Assuming nobody gets hurt, the rotation is
pretty simple to assess.  Scott Feldman
is not going to lose his job.  Rich
Harden has bought himself several more starts at the very least, after the gem
he pitched Monday.  C.J. Wilson and Colby
Lewis have been two of the great pitching stories in the American League so
far.

 

Meanwhile, Holland has an ERA of 0.93 in six AAA
starts.  He’s striking out a batter per
inning, walking less than one-fifth as many. 
He’s commanding everything, including an improved slider.  He’s ready to get back up here.  And Harrison’s spot is the only logical one
for Holland to claim.

 

But getting back to the original point: I’d like to see
Harrison moved to relief, rather than the RedHawks.  It probably means an option for Mathis, but
right now the bullpen could probably use another lefthander, and the fact that
Harrison can give the club two or three innings if needed gives him a chance to
be used in a couple different ways.

 

Would Harrison’s stuff play up coming out of the pen?  Hard to say. 
There are some promising numbers: batters leading off an inning against
Harrison this season are hitting .161/.278/.194.  If used against key left-handed hitters on
nights that Oliver is unavailable (or earlier in the game than the club wants
to use the veteran), Harrison can be called on: lefties are hitting .200 off
him this year.

 

But with runners on base, Harrison’s opponents are hitting .306/.362/.532.  And he needs to hold runners better.

 

On top of that, interestingly, before last night’s effort, the
first time Harrison had faced a hitter in a game in 2010, his opponents were
hitting .350/.422/.475.  The second time:
.256/.341/.436.  The third: .147/.194/.265.  Those numbers suggest he gets stronger as he
gets deeper into the game. 

 

But not last night.  And
I’m ready for Holland.

 

Holland’s regular day to pitch comes around on Sunday.  Would you push Feldman back two days (the
team is idle on Monday), after his 111-pitch effort on Tuesday that started so
poorly but ended well?  Probably not.  Six days of rest is too much.  Move Colby Lewis from Tuesday (which will already
be after an extra day of rest) to Wednesday? 
Unlikely. 

 

Harrison is slated to pitch again on Wednesday, at home against
Oakland (unless the club skips his turn with Monday’s off-day affording that
opportunity, pitching Lewis on Tuesday but accelerating Wilson to Wednesday, keeping
him on regular rest).  To ask Holland to
take the ball that day will mean he’ll have had seven days of rest, after
throwing only 83 pitches on Tuesday.  It’s
not ideal, but is it a better option than sending Harrison out there again?  I think so.

 

But the best option?  Skip
Harrison on Wednesday (chalk it up to the minor tendinitis, not serious enough
for a disabled list stay), let him pitch in mop-up relief if needed (or DL him
and bring up a reliever temporarily), and bring Holland up to make the start on
Saturday the 15th in Toronto, so that Lewis doesn’t have to pitch on
short rest.  Holland can make his next
RedHawks start, this Sunday in Iowa, and then join the Rangers in time for the
start in Toronto, with one extra day of rest.

 

Holland’s worst start in the big leagues came against the
Blue Jays, on August 31 (10 runs in three-plus innings).  But with the improved command and breaking
ball that he’s shown in AAA, he’s earned the chance to be recalled when the team
needs him, as opposed to spotted against the right opponent.

 

Would I prefer it if Harrison had thrown a gem last night in
front of Royals GM Dayton Moore, who is under contract with Kansas City through
2014 and was in Atlanta when the big lefthander had developed into one of the
Braves’ top prospects, teeing it up for me to suggest that Texas (assuming resolution
of the ownership issue) could try to pry Zack Greinke free in July with an
offer of something like Harrison, Wilmer Font, Alexi Ogando, and the Royals’
choice of Mitch Moreland, Engel Beltre, or Miguel Velazquez?  Of course.

 

But he didn’t, and though I’ve been ready for a couple weeks
to see Holland back in Texas, now I’m really ready.

 

A few more things:

 

1.     
Wilson faces Greinke tonight, but the marquee matchup shouldn’t
faze him.  Wilson’s opponents in 2010: C.C.
Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, AL ERA leader Doug Fister, Ricky Romero (quality starts
five times out of six, fourth in the league in strikeouts), and Clay
Buchholz. 

 

2.     
The Rangers have said Jarrod Saltalamacchia will not return
to Texas today, when he’s first eligible to do so.  He’s hitting well (.367/.407/.633, 12-game
hit streak) but is still dogged by throwing issues.

 

3.     
Yes, I’m concerned about Michael Young.

 

4.     
I sure do enjoy watching Vladimir Guerrero do what the games
asks him to do.

 

5.     
Having Ian Kinsler back in the lineup (did you notice the
difference in his front shoulder and his bat path last night?) and in the
infield makes a huge difference.  I’m
eager to see what the offense can do on a consistent basis once Kinsler and
Nelson Cruz are in the lineup together.

 

6.     
Julio Borbon’s outs look bad.  I’m not so sure Craig Gentry doesn’t stick
around once Cruz is activated next Wednesday, with Borbon going back to Oklahoma
City for some needed work.  It may be
time to start paying attention to Endy Chavez’s rehab progress.

 

7.     
Justin Smoak’s nine-pitch at-bat in the third, culminating
in the missile to right, was a thing of beauty. 
 

 

8.     
Is Josh Hamilton going to settle in to be as streaky as Dean
Palmer? 

 

9.     
Admit it: It’s getting difficult to imagine Neftali Feliz
becoming a starting pitcher.

 

10.  Tangentially
related subject: Tanner Scheppers, who logged two innings in five of his six
Frisco appearances (one run on three hits and zero walks, with 19 strikeouts in
11 innings) and in his first Oklahoma City appearance (one run on three hits
and one walk, two strikeouts), is reportedly on a plan under which he’ll soon
be asked to pitch three innings a couple times a week, and then ramp up further
to four innings a shot.  The idea is to
stretch Scheppers out gradually so that he’s not only a bullpen candidate in
Arlington later this season but also an option for the rotation should the need
arise.  My money?  He’ll be getting eighth-inning outs in
August.  Incidentally, both of the runs
Scheppers has permitted this year have come on solo home runs.  Those two pitches aren’t the sole reason the
club wants the 23-year-old to work on getting the ball down.  When Texas League opponents managed to put the
ball in play against him, he got twice as many outs in the air as on the ground.

 

11.  The
Yankees, having lost Curtis Granderson to the disabled list, have recalled
outfielder Greg Golson from AAA.  Florida
designated Mike Lamb for assignment. 
Seattle placed malcontent Milton Bradley on the restricted list.

 

12.  If
you’re in the business of making custom baseball cards (say, for a Little League
team), give me a shout.

 

13.  The
Rangers are hosting a “Mom’s on the Mound” event on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until
noon at the Ballpark.  Those attending (men
are invited as well) will go through hitting, pitching, and fielding rotations on
the field, get instruction from Rangers staff, and play a game.  You’ll also get to take photos with Nelson Cruz
and Clint Hurdle.  The cost is $79 and
includes a ticket to that night’s Rangers-Royals game.  More details at texasrangers.com/women. 

 

14.  Finally,
I’m excited to announce that I’m going to do a live, in-game chat session on Wednesday, May 19, at FoxSportsSouthwest.com.  If it goes well, we may try it a few times
per month.  Hope you’ll stop by to participate
or just take the action in while we discuss the Rangers-Orioles game as it
unfolds.  More details as we get closer.

 

As it stands now, May 19 would be Derek Holland’s normal day
to pitch for Oklahoma City – if the RedHawks weren’t idle that day. 

 

But I’m betting right now he’ll be in uniform that night anyway,
sitting near Mike Maddux in the home dugout and watching Baltimore’s hitters in
preparation for the following night’s start, rather than getting settled in
Portland at the end of a travel 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 gme recaps,
and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
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and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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