Posts tagged ‘Texas Rangers’

Monday: 04.8.2013

Worst Strike Call Ever?

The game-ending call in Arlington on Monday night was undoubtedly one of the worst strike calls I’ve ever seen. Even closer Joe Nathan knows they got away with one they most certainly did not deserve.

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Edit to add: Excellent stuff here by MLB.com posting it with all four calls (home and away TV and radio). Hat tip to my co-host Jason Collette for posting that on Facebook.

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Thursday: 02.7.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 16 Days – Mike Napoli

Only 16 days until live game action…

Got some make-up work to do! Wednesday was really busy and all of a sudden it was 11:42 PM and clear that I wasn’t going to finish this piece. Hopefully I will be able to get some Top 10 Right Now stuff done today, too, so I don’t have the same issue I had last week.

MIKE NAPOLI

Back in 2004-2005, Mike Napoli hit a combined 60 home runs with 217 RBIs, 190 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases as a catcher in the Los Angeles Angels system. Unfortunately he wasn’t really much of a catcher behind the dish. This would prove to be a problem given his big league manager, former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia. Scioscia takes defense behind the plate very seriously so he wasn’t likely to be nearly as enchanted with his three true outcomes catcher as were the fans and fantasy baseball managers.

He debuted in 2006 doing what he does best: rip bombs (16), walk (51), and strikeout (90). All in 325 plate appearances over 90 games. Though he hit a meager .228, his .360 on-base percentage more than made up for it. The next year was more of the same, but in just 75 games. Then 2008 was the best of the bunch. He started a string of 20-homer seasons while also posting a career-best .586 slugging percentage and adding some batting average to a much more palatable .273 mark, but in just 78 games. The “Free Napoli” campaigns were under way by this point. He was on a 36 homer pace over 500 plate appearances.

Fast forward three years.

He played 114 and 140 games during his final two years with the Angels, but he was traded during the offseason following 2010 first to Toronto in that awesome Vernon Wells deal and then four days later to Texas. Finally. It worth noting that not all of time missed was at the hands of Scioscia. Injuries played a role as he had two DL stints in 2007 and another in 2008. In that 2010 season before leaving LA, he’d finally been given a full season (his only 500+ PA season to date) and he was solid, but not special. His walk rate plummeted to a career-worst eight percent while his 27 percent strikeout rate was the second-worst of his career. The trade was almost inevitable.

Staying in Toronto would’ve been perfectly fine, but moving to Texas whetted the appetite of every fantasy baseball manager in the world. What could he do in that park? A lot, it would turn out, but he was hardly feasting on his home venue Coors Field-style. He was actually better on the road that year with 13 homers and a 1011 OPS in Arlington and 17/1078 on the road. He didn’t stay upright as long as in 2010 missing nearly a month to a strained oblique, but he hit 30 home runs for the first time and posting career-best strikeout and walk rates. The most surprising piece of his 2011 was the .320 average. Everyone would’ve bet on 50 home runs before .320.

The follow up wasn’t quite as sweet. To hear some tell it, you’d think he hit eight home runs in 400+ PAs with a .198 batting average. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it is portrayed at some outlets. Coming from 2011’s peak, it was definitely a tumble, but how bad are we really talking about here?

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The singular difference in those two lines seems to explain everything. Elevating your strikeout rate by 10.3 percent is never a good idea and it will unquestionably cut down the production from the previous year if everything remains the same. How different were these two seasons compared to what he was averaging coming into 2011? I gave the raw averages, but then scaled them to 425 PA to better compare them with 2011-2012.

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This is more or less the same as 2012 save a sharp difference in strikeout rate. At this point, it is becoming quite clear that 2011 was the outlier. Most fantasy managers knew this deep down, but in their hearts they wanted to believe he could maintain the level now that he was playing in such a hitter-friendly environment and delivering such incredible value as a catcher. Of course the similarities in his numbers aren’t surprising when you look at his remarkably consistent batted ball profile.

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Only the HR/FB rate and that coincides with moving to Texas. So again, the only significant difference between his 2011 and 2012 seasons is how often he struck out. In 2011, he was striking out far less and it was translating into bundles of hits. In 2012, regression hit hard and actually zoomed by his career rates into a new low.

Diving deeper into his numbers, we see that off-speed pitches ate him alive in 2012, a 180-degree difference from 2011. Was this injury-related? In 2012 Napoli was day-to-day with a head injury, an illness, and twice with quadriceps injuries until the strained left quad finally DL’d him for a month in August.

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If you didn’t know any better, I could convince you that those are the numbers of two different players. The 2012 performance against off-speed stuff isn’t congruent with the 2009-2010 Napoli, either. Those 2012 numbers add up to a 582 OPS with a 43.5 percent strikeout rate, compared to 757 OPS and 30.8 percent in 2009-2010. Yet again the 2011 performance of 908 OPS and 26.7 percent is a major outlier by comparison.

Where does all of this leave us? If he didn’t have a degenerative hip issue that cost him two years and $34 million dollars from his initial deal with the Red Sox that eventually became a one year, $5 million dollar pact, it wouldn’t be too hard to project that a healthy Napoli improves significantly on his 2012 as his strikeout rate regresses toward previously established levels. The problem is determining the likelihood of a healthy Napoli. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty big unknown making it difficult to value him for 2013.

How much risk can you stomach? His current NFBC average draft position is 104, or the seventh round (NFBC uses 15-team leagues). I personally cannot stomach that much risk. Even if this were normal Napoli and not Nahipoli (please shoot me for that one), you are still talking about a guy who has one 500+ PA season and a peak of 432 otherwise. There is seemingly always something amiss with his body so adding a balky hip that we already know is a mess muddies the waters enough for me to pass altogether. It helps that he likely won’t be catching at all to exacerbate his injuries issues, but even still he won’t be on any of my 2013 teams at this current cost. I’d rather Alex Avila 126 picks later.

Thursday: 01.31.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 22 Days – Adrian Beltre

Only 22 days until live game action…

With 30 days to go, I started profiling a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

ADRIAN BELTRE

For today’s countdown piece, I’m going to do things a bit different. With Adrian Beltre, I’m going to offer 22 stats about him to celebrate the 22 days left until game time. He’s been excellent and yet somewhat underrated recently both in “real” baseball and on the fantasy landscape.

  • Since getting out Seattle (where he was criminally underrated), he his 19.1 fWAR is second among third basemen to only Miguel Cabrera. Considering Cabrera has played third base just one of those three years, I think it is fair to declare Beltre the best overall third basemen by fWAR since 2010.
  • His 19.1 fWAR also lands him fifth on the overall list behind only Cabrera, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, and Ryan Braun.
  • His fielding is no doubt aids his lofty ranking, but his 138 wRC+ is the 13th highest total in the same span (and sits 17th after factoring in ties) so it’s not like he’s been anything but spectacular with the bat, too.
  • Over at Baseball-Reference, he rates 4th overall in the 2010-2012 time period with a 19.7 bWAR topped by three of the four from the Fangraphs list. This time Cano sits atop the list followed by Cabrera and then Braun.
  • He is pacing the position in all three Triple Crown categories the last three years with 96 home runs, 309 RBIs, and a .314 batting average. He leads by four in home runs over Mark Reynolds, by 28 in RBIs over Aramis Ramirez, and by 19 points in average of David Freese.
  • For good measure he’s also leading in runs with 261 over David Wright (238)…
  • …and doubles with 115 over Ramirez again (106).
  • His last season in Seattle was really the only dismal one despite the entire tenure often being thought of as a bust because he never reached the heights of his .334-48-121 season in 2004, his last year with the Dodgers. Even factoring in the 8 HR/44 RBI swan song in Seattle, he still averaged 21 HRs and 79 RBIs per season with a 162-game average of 24/90.
  • Imagine if he hadn’t been stuck in Safeco Field for half of his games those five years. He hit a paltry .252/.304/.411 in 1595 plate appearances in his home yard.
  • That park remains hell on righties with an 84 park factor for doubles/triples and a 70 park factor for home runs. Only singles are favorable for righties at a modest 102.
  • Since transitioning out of Seattle and into a pair of favorable home ballparks the last three years, Beltre is averaging 32 HRs and 103 RBIs with a 162-game average of 36/116.
  • Not mention his average has risen from .266 to .314 the last three years.
  • He’s handled his early 30s like an all-time great. His 19.7 bWAR is the 7th-best age 31-33 WAR since 1970 and the 12th-best since 1940. He even tops Rickey Henderson and Alex Rodriguez, who tied at 19.6 apiece.
  • The greats to top his 19.7 since 1940 include: Willie Mays (31.1), Joe Morgan (25.9), Barry Bonds (25.3), Roberto Clemente (24.8), Jackie Robinson (24.5), Hank Aaron (23.5), Stan Musial (22.1), Mike Schmidt (21.3), Sammy Sosa (21.1), Craig Biggio (20.6), and Pete Rose (20.2).
  • Beltre’s 985 OPS versus righties in 2012 was 5th-best in MLB.
  • His .609 slugging percentage versus was 3rd-best as were his 30 home runs.
  • His 965 OPS in the second half of 2012 was the 8th-best in baseball and that’s with a 697 OPS in July.
  • Beltre tied Kyle Seager for the major league lead with nine home runs on 1-0 counts. Don’t get behind to these guys or they will attack.
  • Surprisingly, his 1448 OPS in those 1-0 counts was only 7th-best last year. Nick Swisher had an insane 1995 OPS including a .605 batting average.
  • But if Beltre got way ahead, he wasn’t as effective. On 2-0 counts he hit just .167 with a 333 OPS. Of course part of that is because of the meager 18 plate appearance sample. So it’s probably better stated that if he got way ahead in a 2-0 count, he wasn’t as aggressive.
  • Any plate appearance where he was ahead, he had a .405 batting average with a beastly 1274 OPS and 15 of his 36 home runs.
  • His 17 home runs with men on tied him for 4th-most with five other players including Cabrera, Braun, Chase Headley, Josh Willingham, and Alfonso Soriano.

These facts aren’t intended to inform you that Beltre is a good player. You already knew that. Instead, they should help you realize that you’re watching a generational talent. He is building a legitimate Hall of Fame case and if that fact has been lost on you to date, well, now you know and you can appreciate the greatness you’re watching at a premium defensive position.

Additionally, these gaudy statistics may help you figure out the answer to the question, “Who should I draft near the end of the first round in my draft this year?” Especially if you are in a bigger mixed league that runs 14+ teams deep, but even you 12-teamers should give him legitimate consideration. Third base isn’t the sinkhole it was a few years ago, but it is a still a premium infield position and filling it with a superstar is a great way to start your team. Hell, Evan Longoria has maintained the lofty draft status without coming close to Beltre’s numbers the last three years. I understand why people are lured in by his potential, but maybe you’d do better with Beltre’s consistency over Longoria’s promise.

Saturday: 01.22.2011

Three Questions – Texas Rangers

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Michael Young. Go.

OK, that’s not really a question, but his offseason has been one of uncertainty with the signing of Adrian Beltre and Baseball-Reference.com referring to him as Mike Young for some reason, so what does 2011 have in store for him?  For fantasy purposes the movement on the diamond whether over to first base or off the field to designated hitter has no real impact on his fantasy value because he will still qualify at third base based on last year.  That is where his value is highest without question.  I can’t really see the position move impacting his offense too much, either, though sometimes guys just don’t respond well to DH’ing.

Young has been a legitimate fantasy asset now for eight straight seasons and even at 34 years old there is nothing in his profile to suggest that will change.  The batting average dipped below .300 for only the second time in the eight year stretch since 2003, but with his flyball rate climbing yearly since 2007, that is hardly shocking.  The tradeoff is the likelihood of his power staying in the upper teens, lower 20s area.  His team dependent numbers should remains strong as the lineup actually gets better than its 2010 iteration with addition of Beltre.  With third base still one of the thinner positions on the infield (shortstop is the thinnest), Young remains a quality asset whether at third or filling your corner infielder spot.

Can Mitch Moreland hold the first base spot all year or does Chris Davis take that job and run with it?

Moreland joined the Rangers late in July and enjoyed a solid 47-game stint, but the results aren’t indicative of what you should expect over a full season.  He showed uncharacteristic power (9 HR in 145 AB; 12 in 353 minor lg. AB) thanks to a 21.2% HR/FB which would be tough to sustain over an entire season and would certainly qualify as an upset if he did it.  With a 29 AB/HR rate in 1398 minor league at-bats, no one is betting he is going to sustain his 16 HR/AB over a full season in the majors.

Conversely, he showed a much better knack for getting base hits in the minors than he did in his short time at the big leagues.  A career .313 hitter in the minors, Moreland hit just .255 in his time with the Rangers.  In essence, I would bet on the two trends reversing where he a low double-digit home run total for the season would be paired with a .285+ batting average and above average plate discipline.

But will it be enough?  For your fantasy team, not in mixed leagues as he profiles as a slightly better Daric Barton.  For the Rangers, that is to be determined.  Davis is a prototypical AAAA guy who has mashed his way through the minor leagues on multiple occasions, but failed to carry it into the big leagues in his last two years after a strong rookie debut in 2008.  Of course despite being written off as a complete bust by most, he is still just 25 years old.  Plenty of guys don’t even start their major league career until age 25 and he already has 872 major plate appearances under his belt so it’s far from over for him.

On the whole, Davis has more upside than Moreland related specifically to his prodigious power so inking Moreland in at first base on your Texas Rangers lineup projection is dangerous.  A lot can change between now and Opening Day.  It is a situation to monitor closely throughout the spring, but in the end it is one to avoid in anything but the deepest leagues where I would be more willing to gamble on Davis with a late pick if he has a solid spring than invest in Moreland’s higher floor, but much lower ceiling.

Is this the year that Ian Kinsler finally puts it *all* together?

Kinsler, a fantasy favorite for a few years now, has a 30-30 season (2009), a 20-20 season (2007), a .319 season (2008), a .517 slugging season (2008), two 100 runs scored seasons and two All-Star appearances (2008, 2010) yet his career still feels like something of a disappointment when you realize it could be so much better.  In the 30-30 and 20-20 seasons, he hit .253 and .263 respectively.  In the All-Star seasons he only played 121 and 101 games.  In fact he’s only played more than 130 games once in his five year career.  He is either putting up an incredible minus one key factor and/or having injuries cut dream seasons short.

So is 2011 the season of 150 games, 100-30-90-30? … No, of course not.  Sorry, but there is just no way you can realistically project that at 29 he is all of a sudden going to make it through an entire season.  Health is a skill and it’s one he lacks.  That said, he is still generally putting up a season’s worth of numbers in the 100-odd games he does play so he is still worth drafting relatively given the risk, but I think it would be foolish to reach for him at a position that has a lot more depth than many seem to realize.

Maybe shortstop’s stink drifts over to second base or fantasy owners just associate middle infield positions with scarcity, but second base has plenty of viable option.  Those automatically ahead of Kinsler for include Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips.  After that group, Kinsler’s power-speed combo is just too rich to pass up for guys like Rickie Weeks and Martin Prado, who are very good, but just don’t offer Kinsler’s robust fantasy excellence.  Plus you can always dream that everything goes his (and your) way and he finally plays a full set of games.  Just don’t bet on it.