Sunday, June 06, 2010

It has begun: Texas Rangers budding dynasty announcing itself with authoritay

From last summer, this blogpost: is looking good, as both Smoak and Max Ramirez are playing well; as the Rangers are embarked upon a month of June in which they will win and win and win.

As if the baseball gods suddenly snapped their fingers: things are going right for the Rangers.

A few weeks ago, Francisco and Chris Ray began to pitch well; Scott Feldman began to show signs of life, i.e. signs of the return of his massively sinking fastball; Michael Young and Josh Hamilton began to hit; Max Ramirez began contributing quietly effective performances.

A week or more ago, other things began to click into place:
Justin Smoak began to hit SCREAMING line drives from the left side. SCREAMING.
Max Ramirez began to hit with more consistency.
Matt Treanor broke out of his slump.
The batting ghost of Julio Borbon began to display some life.

At this moment, the only struggling offensive player is Ian Kinsler ... yet his slump is not disastrous: he draws some walks; he still accomplishes some positive things at the plate; he is not a black hole in the lineup.

In April and May, poor offense was holding the Rangers back from being excellent. Yet, the Gods have snapped their fingers: snap snap: summer is here, offensive players have awakened, the offense is suddenly good.

Then, yesterday: Tommy Hunter sublimely combined a Mariano Rivera type cut fastball with a Burt Blyleven type curve. Hunter's pitches do not equal either Rivera's 96mph or Blyleven's around the world action. However, Rivera doesn't throw a curve, and Blyleven did not cut a fastball. Tommy Hunter can do both. Hunter's cut fastball has very similar action to Rivera's. Hunter also displayed a big, tailing change-up which he could not control, yet with which you know he will get better and better as the year goes on. If a control pitcher like Hunter can make the change-up tail - and he can, then he will eventually harness it. Hunter is a player to watch.

Rangers fans are not recognizing it, yet - b/c they are shellshocked from almost 40 years of futility (which were only broken up by the Will Clark Rangers of the 1990s) - but, beginning 6 days ago, the Texas Rangers are displaying the excellence of the budding dynasty which they are. In another 2 weeks, serious Rangers fans will pretend they knew, even this weekend, that the Rangers were suddenly, instantly good. The casual Rangers fan is so shellshocked that they will not believe it for a couple more months; or maybe not even until January - when, on a cold and gray day, it will suddenly dawn on their shellshocked psyche: "Holy smokes! The Rangers are actually good!"

The Rangers have a 4-1 record in June, plus an easy schedule through the end of the month. I expect the team to go 22-5 for the month. On July 1, I expect the Rangers to have an 8 game lead in the division. In 2020, we will look back to June 2010 as the month when a budding dynasty announced itself with authoritay. It's only been 40 years in the making.



What if Rich Harden remains ineffective and has to go?

What if Derek Holland's mystifying arm numbness is actually a career threatening rotator cuff injury which shelves him for 2 seasons?

Here's what:

Move Neftali Feliz into the rotation (preferably in mid July, so as to not overtax his young arm with innings this season ~~ Feliz could be prepped via 4-5 outings of long relief).

Make Francisco the closer and Chris Ray the set up man. These are young veterans who are up to the tasks.

1) make Rich Harden a relief pitcher (he might be a natural relief pitcher, as he is a strike out pitcher who is difficult to hit, and as he would not then have to worry about his number of pitches per inning), or
2) choose a relief pitcher from amongst white hot minor league prospects Pedro Strop, Alex Ogando, Tanner Scheppers, or Omar Beltre. Any of the four might be superior to the current relief pitchers in Arlington.

Francisco and Ray are plenty of relief for the regular season. If you want more dynamic relief for the playoffs: slide Feliz back into the bullpen during the playoffs. Teams only use 4 starters for the playoffs (or, sometimes, only 3 veteran starters - if the team is willing to pitch a starter on 3 days of rest).

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