Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lee and Cruz Acquired

This week the Rangers traded Coco Cordero, Julian Cordero, Kevin Mench, and Laynce Nix to the Brewers for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz. This week I will discuss my thoughts on the trade and grade each player from 1-10 (10 being the best).

Carlos Lee:
Lee’s career stats are:
212 HR
747 RBI
.284 AVG.
His stats this year are:
28 HR
81 RBI
.288 AVG.
Carlos was a National League Silver Slugger in 2005 and an all-star in ’05 and ‘06. He started his major league career on May 7, 1999, hitting a home run in his first at-bat. Lee recorded the 1st hit at the Cardinals’ new Busch Stadium. His brother, Carlos, plays in the White Sox minor league system.

Grade of Carlos Lee: 9.8

Nelson Cruz:
Nelson’s career minor league numbers are:
97 HR
431 RBI
.287 AVG.
Nelson was the Brewers' minor league player of the year last year. This year he has been in Triple-A Nashville, where he hit .302 with 22 doubles, 20 home runs, 73 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 104 games.

Grade: 8.7

Francisco Cordero:
This year, Cordero has put up these numbers:
7-4 W-L
4.71 ERA
49.2 IP
55 SO.
Francisco lost his closing job earlier this season, and has blown nine saves already this year. But the Brewers' bullpen is slumping, and their closer, Derrick Turnbow, lost his job to Dan Kolb, so Cordero might become a closer again in Milwaukee.

Grade: 6.3

Kevin Mench:
So far this year, this is Kevin’s stats:
12 HR
50 RBI
.284 AVG.
Mench is on pace to get a career-high 80 RBI’s. His power numbers will probably drop in Milwaukee because he will leave Ameriquest Field.

Grade: 6.9

Laynce Nix:
Laynce’s minor league stats this year are:
10 HR
55 RBI
.269 AVG.
Nix was considered a big prospect a few years ago, but has really struggled in the majors. He is very good defensively but not very good offensively.

Grade: 5.2

Julian Cordero:
Julian’s stats for the LumberKings this year are
2-5 W-L
2.91 ERA
68 IP
49 SO
Julian is a pretty good pitcher but not one of the main prospects.

Grade: 6.1

Trade Evaluation:
To me, this trade is good if we make the playoffs or sign Lee for multiple years. It is also good if Cruz becomes a great player. This trade gives the players more confidence, so it gives us a better chance in two ways of making the playoffs.
Grade: A

Come back next week for a short interview with Tulsa Drillers closer Jim Miller unless the Rangers make another trade.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Steve Rowe Interview

This week I did an interview with Steve Rowe, the Roughriders relief pitcher. He was very nice and did the interview on his birthday as he was walking down the Riverwalk in San Antonio. The interview is below:

1. Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?

He said that it would probably have to be some of his roommates, like Kameron Loe, Sam Narron, Wes Littleton, and Bryan Corey. He ended up picking Jason Andrew, because he was his first roommate and they shared a similar situation, and Dustin Smith, because he’s a great guy on and off the field, they were roommates for a while, and they had a lot of fun together.

2. Can you please rate the ballparks in the Rangers organization that you’ve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?

Steve said that the Ballpark in Arlington is the best for obvious reasons. He gave the Oklahoma City ballpark a 9 because it has a great clubhouse, is a nice park and has great fans. He gave the Frisco ballpark an 8 for the park but a 3 for the field because the playing service is ‘hard as a rock’. He gave Bakersfield a 1 and Stockton a 5. He said that the Texas League has very good ballparks.

3. Who are the three toughest hitters you’ve faced and why?

- Juan Richardson (Springfield Cardinals) – he’s faced him twice and given up two homers.
- Nick Swisher – he hit Steve pretty well in the California League.
- Joseph Koshansky (Tulsa first baseman) – Steve said that he thinks he’ll be in the big leagues soon.

Steve also mentioned Billy Butler of the Wichita Wranglers.

4. Did you notice a difference between single-A and double-A hitters and, if so, what is it?

The hitters are more patient and won’t chase balls out of the zone as much.

5. Did you notice a difference between double-A and triple-A hitters and, if so, what is it?

Same answer – he said that the hitters get more patient as you get higher in the farm system. Guys don’t hit the ball further or harder. The ones who are the most successful have the most plate discipline.

6. What is the toughest thing about minor league life and why?

The road trips, but Steve said they weren’t that bad in the Texas League. He said that being away from his family and the long bus trips are hard.

7. What is the worst injury you’ve had to deal with?

Steve said that he hasn’t been hurt since he’s been a pro so he can’t really say. He tore his ACL in high school.

8. What were your thoughts when you were undrafted out of college?

Steve said that he wasn’t expecting to go high up in the draft so he wasn’t upset.

9. How did you end up in the Rangers organization?

The Rangers called Steve the night of the draft and offered him a contract. He said that he was very excited.

10. How did it feel to dominate the California League in 2003 when you didn’t allow an earned run after June 12?

He didn’t realize that he had that streak going until after the regular season was over, so he didn’t really notice it. He said he had some luck, some good defense, and some good calls. Steve said that it was a fun year because he was on a good team with a lot of guys that were fun to be around, like Dustin Smith.

11. How exciting was it to win a championship in AA in 2004?

Steve said that it was the most fun he’s ever had. The last two months, they felt like they couldn’t lose a game. ‘It was a blast.’ He mentioned that a lot of those guys are in the big leagues now. He had never really won a championship in anything and it was a great feeling.

12. Were you excited to go to the AA All-Star game in 2004 or would you rather have had the days off?

It’s always an honor to be asked to play with the best players and an honor to be seen as one of the best in the league. It was a lot of fun, especially after going undrafted. He said that it gave him a reason to believe that reaching the big leagues wasn’t so far out of reach.

13. Do you still want to become a pilot?

At first Steve thought this was a funny question because he thought I asked him if he still wanted to be a pirate. He said that being a pilot would be cool but he didn’t see himself doing it anytime soon.

14. What was your favorite team growing up?

He had two. He grew up in Houston but his parents are from Ohio and were Reds fans. They would go see the Reds play in the Astrodome when they came to town. But Steve became an Astros fan in high school.

15. What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?

- Football – he was a quarterback in high school
- Baseball – always his favorite
- Basketball – he didn’t play past junior high
- Golf

16. What are your hobbies?

Steve said that he doesn’t really have much free time. He plays golf once or twice per road trip and once every other day in spring training. He also plays Guitar Hero on PlayStation and likes to play cards.

Steve also mentioned at the end of the interview that one of his motivations is to play long enough for his kids to remember seeing him play.

I would like to thank Steve for being so nice and letting me interview him.

Come back next week for a short interview with Tulsa Drillers closer Jim Miller, unless there is a Rangers trade to discuss.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mid-Season Awards

This week I will give out my mid-season awards. Stats are as of the All-Star break.

Rangers MVP:
Gary Matthews, Jr.: .328 AVG, 10 HR, 47 RBI
Runner-up: Michael Young
Last month: 1st – Hank Blalock, 2nd – Michael Young

Rangers Cy Young:
Vicente Padilla: 8-5 W-L, 4.44 ERA, 107.1 IP, 90 SO
Runner-up: Akinori Otsuka
Last month: 1st – Akinori Otsuka, 2nd – Kevin Millwood

Rangers Rookie of the Year:
Ian Kinsler: .320 AVG, 7 HR, 26 RBI
Runner-up: John Koronka
Last month: 1st – John Koronka, 2nd – Ian Kinsler

Most Disappointing Rangers Hitter:
Mark Teixeira: .275 AVG, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 71 SO
Runner-up: Brad Wilkerson

Most Disappointing Rangers Pitcher:
Kevin Millwood: 8-5 W-L, 4.83 ERA, 110 IP, 75 SO
Runner-up: Robinson Tejeda

Jim Thome: .298 AVG, 30 HR, 77 RBI
Runner-up: David Ortiz
Last month: 1st – Travis Hafner, 2nd – Jim Thome

AL Cy Young:
Roy Halladay: 12-2 W-L, 2.92 ERA, 129.1 IP, 72 SO
Runner-up: Johan Santana
Last month: 1st – Mike Mussina, 2nd – Scott Kazmir

Most Disappointing AL Hitter:
Richie Sexson: .218 AVG, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 92 SO
Runner-up: Mark Teixeira

Most Disappointing AL Pitcher:
Jeff Weaver: 3-10 W-L, 6.29 ERA, 88.2 IP, 62 SO
Runner-up: Carlos Silva

David Wright: .316 AVG, 20 HR, 74 RBI
Runner-up: Lance Berkman
Last month: 1st – Albert Pujols, 2nd – Alfonso Soriano

NL Cy Young:
Brad Penny: 10-2 W-L, 2.91 ERA, 108.1 IP, 82 SO
Runner-up: Tom Glavine
Last month: 1st – Brandon Webb, 2nd – Bronson Arroyo

Most Disappointing NL Hitter:
Carlos Delgado: .252 AVG, 22 HR, 56 RBI, 74 SO
Runner-up: Bobby Abreu

Most Disappointing NL Pitcher:
Oliver Perez: 2-10 W-L, 6.63 ERA, 76 IP, 61 SO
Runner-up: Jorge Sosa

Come back nest week for an interview of RoughRiders pitcher Steve Rowe.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Road Trip to the new St. Louis Cardinals Stadium

The week of June 26th, my dad and I went on a road trip to St. Louis to see a Cardinals game and made two stops to see minor league games. In this week’s blog, I’ll describe and analyze the stadiums we visited.

On the way to St. Louis, we stopped at Tulsa to see the RoughRiders play the Tulsa Drillers at Driller Stadium

Here are my thoughts on Driller Stadium:
Bad – The stadium was very plain and boring.
Bad – The stadium was made of all metal.
Bad – The metal made lots of noise as people walked up and down the aisles.
Bad – There were not many good choices for food.
Bad – The Drillers had no gift shop. They only had a gift stand.
Bad – About half of seats that they have are bleachers.
Good – The stadium has a Wall of Fame behind home plate that includes eight different famous Drillers (players, owners, and coaches) including Pudge, Juan and Sosa.
Interesting – The parking lot was inside an old horseracing track next to the ballpark.

Here is a description of the RoughRiders game in Tulsa that we saw:
– The RoughRiders won 10-4.
– Steve Rowe started for the RoughRiders, giving up 3 earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched with 3 strikeouts.
– Jesse Carlson had great movement and pitched very well, going 1.2 innings with two strikeouts and no runs allowed for the hold.
- Kevin Richardson, Adam Morrissey, Jim Fasano, and Luke Grayson homered for the RoughRiders.
- Adam Morrissey (2 for 5 with 2 RBI) and Luke Grayson (1 for 3 with 3 RBI and a walk) both had great games.

St. Louis:
We saw the Cardinals play the Indians at the new Busch Stadium. We saw the game from a party room suite.

Here are my thoughts on the new Busch Stadium:
Good – The sidewalk outside the ballpark has bricks describing big moments in Cardinals history.
Good – The Cardinals sell individual tickets to suites, called Party Rooms. They are very nice and they come with food and beverages but they cost $90 apiece, which is way too high.
Good – On the outside concourse, they hung the scoreboards from old Busch Stadium, still showing the scores from the last game at that stadium.
Good – The Cardinals have cushioned seats for the more expensive tickets.
Good – The displayed their retired numbers in two different places.
Good – They displayed their World Series and National League pennants on top of the home team and visiting team dugouts.
Good – The Cardinals had nicer bathrooms than most ballparks.
Good – They displayed some old Cardinals logos (from older jerseys) around the stadium.
Good – The Jumbotron was pretty cool.
Good – Above the bullpen, they show the pitcher’s stats for the game and for the season at all times.
Bad – When you’re on the concourse, you can’t see the game.
Bad – The out of town scoreboard doesn’t show inning-by-inning scores.
Bad – The Cardinals hadn’t finished moving the statues over to their new ballpark. They moved Stan Musial but not any of the others.
Bad – The gift shops were lame. They hadn’t finished building their main team store.
Bad – The Cardinals made it extremely hard to get autographs. They won’t let you into the lower-level seating area before the game unless that’s where your tickets are.
Bad – They only had two escalators in the whole ballpark.

Here is the description of the game:
- The Indians won 3-1.
- David Eckstein had a very good game, as he was 3-for-4 with 3 singles and an RBI.
- This was the Cardinals’ 8th loss in a row.
- Sabathia pitched 8 innings, allowing 1 earned run and with 4 strikeouts.
- 2 of the 3 Indians’ runs came off of a homer by Ronnie Belliard in the top of the 1st.
- Travis Hafner was 0-for-2 with 2 walks and a strikeout.
- Pujols was 1-for-4.

The next morning, we took a tour of new Busch Stadium. It was very interesting and we got to go in the Cardinals’ dugout and out on the warning track. There were a lot of bugs in the dugout.

Then we went to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, which is across the street from the future site of Baseball Village (which is next door to the new stadium and on the site of the old stadium). It was very interesting, with replicas of some of the old ballparks, information on all the World Series and playoffs they’ve played in, plaques of everybody in the Cardinals Hall of Fame, memorabilia from Cardinals history, and Cardinals merchandise. The Bowling Hall of Fame is in the same building and they have a real bowling alley in the basement. My dad and I bowled there and I won.

We then went to visit the sites of some of the old Cardinals ballparks.

First we went to the site of Sportsman’s Park, which was the home of the St. Louis Browns from 1902 to 1953 and of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1920 to 1966. Now the site is a Herbert Hoover Boys Club.
Good – The building had a painted sign on the outside of the building, which had very interesting information about the old stadium. The sign had information on World Series that had been played there and great players that had played there.
Bad – All they have there now is a football field even though we had read that the baseball diamond was still there.

Then we went to the site of Robison Field, which was the home of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1893 to 1920. There’s a high school where it used to be. They had a plaque in the yard that was just put up in early June of 2006 that has information about the old ballpark.

On the way back from St. Louis, we went to my dad’s friend’s house and we all went to a Springfield Cardinals game in Springfield, Missouri. The Cardinals played the Wichita Wranglers.

The Springfield Cardinals stadium was very nice and new looking. It’s almost as nice as the RoughRiders but not quite as nice.

Here is a description of the game:
- The Wranglers won 4-3.
- The Wranglers pitcher was Junior Herndon, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He went 8 innings, giving up 3 runs and with 6 strikeouts.
- Stuart Pomeranz was the Springfield pitcher and he is a big prospect. He went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs.
- Nick Stavinoha was another big Springfield prospect and he played DH. He was 1-for-3.
- Juan Richardson played 1B and is another big Springfield prospect. He was 0-for-3 with one walk and two strikeouts.
- Alex Gordon played 3B for the Wranglers and is one of their big prospects. He was 0-for-3.

This was a great trip and I really enjoyed all the games.

Come back next week for my mid-season awards.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Newberg Day Summary and Castro Traded

Yesterday was the Newberg Day at the ballpark. It was a great day. I will describe the day and at the end, I will analyze the Fabio Castro trade.

The day started off with a Will Carroll Q&A session at the Legends Museum. Will is a specialist in injuries and steroids for Baseball Prospectus. He won a Sporting News award and has written 2 books, one on avoiding injuries for young pitchers and one on steroids called The Juice. One thing I thought was interesting was that a minor league system does good to produce 2 major league players a year.

Then they had a prize drawing for people who helped in the toy drive. I won a Dennis Quaid autographed picture and a prop from the movie, The Rookie.

After that was a Jon Daniels Q&A session. As usual, Jon was very friendly and did a great job answering questions. Below are some notes I took on what I thought were interesting topics.

Question: Can you please name one player from each position that would be called up to the Rangers if someone gets injured?

C: Jamie Burke, Nick Trzesniak, Tom Gregorio
1B: Move DeRosa to 1st
2B: Drew Meyer
3B: Drew Meyer
SS: Drew Meyer (for a short-term need), Joaquin Arias (for a long-term need)
OF: Drew Meyer, Adam Hyzdu, Laynce Nix

Question: What were your thoughts on the Castro trade?

- They weren’t 100% sure about Castro.
- Haigwood is a big prospect.
- It’s touch to carry Rule 5 guys. Only 2 or 3 from the last 10 years made it through the whole season.
- They think that they got a guy in Haigwood who is about the same level of prospect as Castro. The difference is that they don’t have to carry Haigwood on the active roster.
- There were 3 serious offers for Castro.

Question: Do you think Kameron Loe’s performance this season is just a fluke and what do you think his long-term role is?

Answer: Jon hopes it is a fluke. He thinks that Loe’s long-term role is in the bullpen.

Question: Who is the next spot starter?

Answer: Edinson Volquez.

Questions: What do you think Enrique Cruz’s role is?

Answer: Jon thinks that Cruz will be an MLB utility player.

At the end of the session, Jamey told us that I was throwing out the first pitch and that I needed to go to suite 32A immediately. We rushed there and met someone who was waiting for us. She took us into the tunnels below the stadium and then we went through the umpire’s tunnel onto the field. We were standing on the infield warning track through all the pre-game ceremonies. After the national anthem, they announced my name over the speakers and I jogged out to the mound. I threw the pitch from the pitcher’s rubber for a strike. It was really exciting and I was glad I threw a strike.

After that, we went up to the suite to watch the game. We watched the game with Jamey Newberg, Will Carroll and Bob Sturm. The Rangers lost 9-5. Once again, there was a bad umpire call against the Rangers that cost them 7 runs. Craig Biggio had a strikeout because he had gone all the way around with his swing. But the home plate umpire called it a foul ball although he clearly did not hit the ball.

It was a really fun and exciting day and I thank Jamey Newberg and Jon Daniels and Will Carroll and the other Newberg volunteers (like Eleanor and Alan) for making it happen.

Castro/Haigwood Trade Evaluation:

The Rangers traded Fabio Castro to the Phillies for Daniel Haigwood. Castro was with the Rangers’ major league club (taken in the Rule 5 draft) until they designated him for assignment and Haigwood was with the Phillies’ AA club (the Reading Phillies).

Daniel Haigwood LHP:
Daniel’s career numbers are:
32-11 W-L
3.36 ERA
332 IP
333 SO.
Daniel started his pro career in 2002, when he was an all-star for the Arizona League White Sox. Haigwood has spent 3 of his 4 seasons with the White Sox (making it to AA in 2005), becoming teammates with Chris Young and Fabio Castro. This year he has a 2-5 record with a 3.54 ERA and 85 strike-outs in 84 IP.

Fabio’s career numbers are:
16-10 W-L
2.40 ERA
195.2 IP
203 SO.
Fabio started his pro career in 2003 and this was his 1st year to get out of A-ball. So far this year his stats at the major league level are a 3.18 ERA with 7 SO in 11.1 IP.

Trade Evaluation:
I think this trade was very good considering that we don’t need to use a spot on the active roster for Haigwood like we did with Castro. Haigwood has a pretty good ERA and strikes out a lot of batters. It’s disappointing to lose Castro but I understand the Rangers’ reasoning.
Grade: B+

Come back next week for a recap of my trip to St. Louis to see the new Cardinals ballpark, with stops for minor league games in Tulsa and Springfield.