Friday, May 29, 2009

Texas Rangers: Dynasty Under Construction

Tommy Hunter starts today, in his third ever major league start, against Oakland. Last month, I described Hunter's wonderful competitive defiance.

Mike Hindman interviews Minor League Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark:
Inside Corner: Let’s talk about Blake Beavan. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about his drop in velocity since turning pro.

DC: It’s fine. He was hitting 93 mph [Saturday] night. Remember, he’s just 20 years old.

I’m a big Blake Beavan fan. The thing he’s got that you just don’t see from many guys is total fastball command in the zone. Blake can get it over in any part of the zone he wants whenever he wants. We’re actually having him throw more 4-seamers and getting away from the 2-seamers for now to build some velocity back up and he’s learning he can succeed with that pitch. I’m not a guy who thinks that velocity is the be-all, end-all especially if you have the pitchability that Blake has.

I was there for his complete game and he got through all nine innings in 101 pitches. He just almost never gets out of the zone. Again [Saturday]: no walks and he got through seven in 98 pitches.


LH Martin Perez
photo by Mike Hindman

Inside Corner: What’s the plan for Martin Perez? What good will it do for him to keep beating up on the Sally League?

DC: Well, that’s open for discussion. The big thing is to control his innings. We want him to come in around 110 this year. But he’s just a special player, ability-wise. He can put the fastball where he wants it, and it’s 94. He can drop the curve where he wants it and it‘s a plus pitch. His change is there now. He’s just on another level.

Inside Corner: And he’s got some swagger.

DC: Yeah, he does. Big league swagger.

Notes on Rangers Major League club

I'm concerned about our free swinging ways. The Red Sox grind pitchers: force em to throw a lot of pitches, force em to come over the plate, get starting pitchers out of games early. This is the way an offense succeeds in Playoff Games and World Series Games: dominate your strike zone, lay off bad pitches, grind. Force the pitcher to come to you. The Yankees grind pitchers(and look to have a spectacular 2009 offense - just spectacular). The A's grind pitchers; the Twins grind pitchers.

The Rangers are free swinging fools. The offense now becomes the one area which can prevent a Rangers dynasty from occurring. Defense? It's 100% going to be there. Pitching? The Rangers can't trade away enough pitchers to ruin their future World Series pitching. Therefore, future Rangers success becomes all about offense. We don't want a franchise which becomes a Sports Center star by beating up on mediocre pitching, yet which cannot score 4 or 5 against good pitching. We don't want a front running offense which wins 100 games and then lays an egg in the World Series - every hitter swinging for the fences, trying to hit a solo 5 run home run on every swing. Useless. Our hitters must become smarter.

The offense has hurt the 2009 Rangers more than the pitching; more than the defense. The Rangers offense is like a football team which hangs 50 on Baylor, spends a week celebrating itself to death, then gets only a field goal against OU. That's a useless offense. Again I remind of the Oakland A's of Canseco and McGuire: those teams laid eggs in Playoffs and World Series Games: losing to underdog Dodgers; losing to underdog Cincinnati. It was the offense. The free swinging Bash Brothers could be shut down, could be prevented from scoring at all. They kept losing to teams which found myriad ways to scratch 4 runs across in a tough game. The more desperate the Bash Brothers got, the more desperately they tried to hit 5 run homers with the bases empty. They went down, hard.

These are the batters the Rangers can depend on to force pitchers to throw strikes:

Ian Kinsler
Omar Vizquel: a winning player
Andruw Jones: excellent eye for a power hitter: a winning offensive player
David Murphy: also a winner - a battler - battles, battles, battles
Elvis: Elvis will do what it takes to win - inclu a scrupulous batting eye
Teagarden: almost a clone of Jim Sundberg's strengths and weaknesses

Nelson Cruz is fighting to develop the batting eye which will save his career and earn him $150 million. He is showing promise of becoming a judicious hitter. I like Nelson Cruz' chances of succeeding.

Nelson Cruz is on pace to steal 30 bases this season. Imagine that. I don't think he will maintain this pace through a brutal Texas summer. But, still: outstanding. Nelson Cruz could become a force which scares opponents half to death. Whether he does is almost 100% dependent on how he develops his batting eye. Cruz has already proven he can hit every pitch in his strike zone (with impressive power).

From here down, it's okay with me if we trade any of these guys:

Michael Young: he'll never change his free swinging, and therefore might not be a championship hitter. He sets a horrifying HORRIFYING example for the Rangers young hitters. It kills me. Drives me crazy.

Hamilton: I've no idea what will happen with Hamilton. This April, if a pitch was going to stop anywhere near the backstop, Hamilton was flailing at it. He's been bad - unquestionably bad - so far this season. I'd hate to trade him, but he could be a #6 hitter who had a hot streak last season and needs line-up protection.

Marlon Byrd: He doesn't really swing at bad pitches, but he doesn't really swing at good pitches. Rarely sees more than 2-3 pitches before putting the ball in play. Hits strikes which are on the corners. Doesn't wait for "his pitch" which he can drive. Murphy, for comparison, looks for "his pitch" to drive; then battles if he gets two strikes. Murphy sees a ton of pitches; Murphy wears pitchers down; even Murphy's outs are beneficial to the team. Byrd sees 2 pitches and grounds out to SS. Byrd lets the starting pitcher off the hook; Byrd lets the starting pitcher get closer to pitching the 7th and 8th innings.

Saltalamacchia: I've no idea if he will save himself from his free swinging curse.

Chris Davis: same. Once again: ought to be in AAA. I think Davis benefitted last season from hitting 9th and being protected by Ian Kinsler. When Kinsler hits behind you, you are going to see strikes. This season, Davis is hitting in front of Saltalamacchia and Teagarden. Davis is not seeing the same pitches, and is being totally exposed as a hitter who does not know the strike zone. It's cringe-inducing to watch Davis wildly swinging at pitches way off the plate. Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Blalock: an immature child. A lost cause. Has ruined his career via free swinging and trying to pull every pitch. Has cost himself $100 Million dollars, easy. Probably $150 Million, or even more. A tragedy. A losing player - and it absolutely pains me to say that. No one has rooted for Hank Blalock longer and harder than I have. Hank had a year off to watch baseball, notice some nuance, and restructure his losing plate approach. He did not. He is what he is: a limited role player, at best, on a championship team.


Minor leaguers who show good batting eyes, and whom I would be very happy to eventually see in Arlington:

OF..Brandon Boggs
C... Max Ramirez
1B.. Justin Smoak
SS.. Marcus Lemon
3B.. Johnny Whittleman


Minor leaguers who could become free swinging, losing major league players:

CF Julio Borbon

Borbon needs a FULL season at AAA. Borbon DOES NOT need to be "pushed". He must be forced to force his way into the line-up. He must be forced to completely, completely prove himself - and then he must be forced to wait for an opening, "We're sorry, Mr. Borbon, but you are blocked." He's got to develop a batting eye before he comes to Arlington and watches Michael Young's at bats (as watching Michael Young is detrimental for a young hitter).

CF Greg Golson
SS Joaquin Arias (probably will become a judicious batter)
2B Jose Vallejo
Util German Duran (probably will become a judicious batter)
3B Esteban German I was wrong about Esteban German being a wild swinger. His OBP is close to .400. Excellent! I would be happy to someday see him in Arlington.


Joe Bucknam said...

Re: Michael Young "sets a horrifying HORRIFYING example for the Rangers young hitters." Yeah, 200 hits a season is soooo horrifying.

gcotharn said...


Thanks for stopping by.

I love Michael Young. However, he's hardheaded about some things which are detrimental to his game:

1) he goes to the plate to hit, as opposed to going to the plate to get on base

2) on defense, when he sets himself into position, his center of gravity is too high (this is what causes him to have poor defensive range)

Re hitting

I suspect his streak of 200 hit seasons subtly and detrimentally lured him into being a more aggressive hitter.

Sometimes he makes me want to scream. Tuesday, he came up against a pitcher who had thrown 5 consecutive balls w/o a strike. Young watched ball one go by, then swung at a fastball waaay up in his eyes, grounding out to SS. It was possibly the highest pitch I've ever seen him swing at, and he ought not have been swinging even if the pitch were served to him on a platter. He ought have forced the pitcher to throw a strike first.

Wed, Young swung at another fastball in his eyes, again grounding out to SS, and eventually sending me to the keyboard to compose an exasperated blogpost.

I appreciate the leadership abilities Michael Young does have. However, leading young players to be smart hitters is not one of Michael's leadership abilities.