Saturday, March 31, 2007

2007 Season Predictions

This week I will give my predictions for the standings, playoffs, and awards.

Regular Season Standings:

AL West:
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas Rangers
3. Oakland A’s
4. Seattle Mariners

AL Central:
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians – wild card
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Kansas City Royals

AL East:
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres
3. Colorado Rockies
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Francisco Giants

NL Central:
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals – wild card
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL East:
1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Washington Nationals


AL Division Series:

New York Yankees over Cleveland Indians

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over Detroit Tigers

NL Division Series:

New York Mets over St. Louis Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds over Los Angeles Dodgers

Championship Games:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over New York Yankees

Cincinnati Reds over New York Mets

World Series:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over Cincinnati Reds


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim


AL MVP: Travis Hafner because last year he hit 42 HR and drove in 117 RBI’s. He also hit over .300. Travis did all this and was injured for almost a month. If he does get the MVP award, that would be another reason why the Hafner/Drese/Diaz trade was awful.

NL MVP: Ryan Howard because he hit almost 60 homers last year, hit .313, and will probably get better as he gets more experience.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana because nobody in baseball can compete with him.

NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt because he has the ability to fool, overpower, and make players miss.

AL Rookie of the Year: Dice-K Matsuzaka because he is one of the very few top rookies this year that will get a lot of playing time on a competing team.

NL Rookie of the Year: Chris Young because he can hit for power very well.

Come back next week for a Rangers roster analysis.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ian Kinsler Interview

This week I did an interview with Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

1. Why did you decide to go to college instead of going to the Diamondbacks when they drafted you in 2000 and 2001?

At the time I felt like I wasn't ready for minor league baseball, I had to make that decision and live with it. I also thought that going to college would make me a more rounded baseball player.

2. What was the key to your high school success, when you won 2 state titles and hit over .500 in your senior year?

I think the key to my high school success was the players that played around me for those 4 years. The likes of Scott Haristion, Brian Anderson, Chris Duncan, Shelly Duncan, and Ryan Schroyer. We were a very dominate high school team and we all knew what we where capable of doing. As far as hitting .500, honestly I think that happened because I was trying to win every game I played and that was just the result.

3. What was the key to making it all the way to double-AA during your first full pro season in 2004?

The key was playing well in low A. I worked really hard that off season to be prepared to make a jump like that because I believed I could do it.

4. What was it like for you to transfer from shortstop to second base in 2005 with the Redhawks?

It was tough on the ego at first. But really the toughest part of the switch was the double play, starting the turn and making the turn. I had some great people around me to help me with that transition.

5. Were you excited when you were named to the AAA All-Star team in 2005 or would you rather have had the time off?

Of course I was excited. I had to miss the All-Star game the previous year in A ball because of the move to AA, so that gave me a little more reason to be excited to attend that All-Star game and see what it was all about. The best part was the home run derby.

6. What is the Arizona Fall League like? Are there many fans? What’s the overall experience like?

There aren't many fans in the fall league, but that isn't what it is about. It is about having the honor to play with the best prospects in the game at the time. I loved my experience.

7. What was the recovery process for your injured thumb last year and how frustrating was it to get injured so early in your rookie year?

The process was a lot of ice and more ice on top of the ice. It was a cold month and a couple of weeks. On the other hand I learned a lot, like how to come back from an injury and be successful and to be patient with the process of being injured.

8. How different is winning the Rangers Rookie of the Year award (2006) than winning the Rangers Minor League Player of the Year award (2004)?

I think that one is a minor league award and the other is a major league award. I was excited to receive both awards.

9. What are the three toughest pitchers you’ve faced and why?

The toughest pitchers that I have faced are Mike Mussina, Johan Santana, and Jose Contreras. The reason is because of their off speed pitches - top notch.

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

That team was the best I have been on. We all loved to play together and we had a good mix of vets and young players. That season was a lot of fun.

11. Is there any specific thing you’ve been working on in the off-season, and if so, what is it?

I have been working on the strength in my legs. I thought that was a weakness that I had to attack. It should help my speed and my quickness.

12. In your first pro season in 2003 at Spokane, you struggled at first (.239 in July). What adjustments did you make to hit .298 the rest of the season?

I think it was a little adjustment to the wood bat and also an adjustment to play the game everyday. I was lucky I adjusted that fast.

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

Jason Botts because I have gotten to know him really well. We understand each other. I have also lived with him for 3 years. Dane Bubbela, I don't know if you remember him, he won the batting title in Spokane in 03. The other has to be Michael Young. I have only played with him for one year but I see a lot of myself in him as a ball player and a person.

14. What’s been the best game so far of your professional career and why?

The first game I came back after injury. We came back from a 7 to 1 deficit and won a game against Oakland with a Phil Nevin walk off home run. The two home runs that I hit that night also helped my decision.

15. What is the biggest adjustment you had to make when you started facing major-league pitchers?

Not too many adjustments for me. I think the biggest and most important is to be patient at the plate and realize that I am in charge of the situation. I choose what I swing at, not the pitcher.

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

The sport I played growing up was soccer. That was also my best sport besides baseball. I was all state my senior year. I really enjoyed that sport, and still do.

17. What was your favorite team growing up and why?

The New York Mets, my father is from New York and loved the Yankees. Everyone knows how New Yorkers are - they need adversity at all times. When he moved to Arizona he didn't have any so he decided to make some by making me a Mets fan. Try to figure that one out.

I would like to thank Ian for giving such great answers and for being really nice about doing this interview.

Come back next week for an analysis of the AL East and NL West.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Description of my Trip to Spring Training with my Dad and Granddad

Day 1 – Sunday March 4th

We flew out to Phoenix on an 11:30am flight. The flight was delayed for about an hour. We landed a little after 1:30pm. We went straight to Surprise Stadium for the Royals home game against the Rangers. We got there during the bottom of the 7th. It was 4-0 Rangers when we got there and they ended up winning 5-0.

After the game, I got autographs from Desi Relaford and Marlon Byrd, watched Thomas Diamond and Jose Vargas have a bullpen session, and then got autographs from Chris Stewart and Jose Vargas. During the bullpen session, Jose Vargas’ fastball was very fast.

We checked into the Hampton Inn and Suites in Surprise. It was a nice room with two beds and a sleeper sofa. It was a nice hotel overall – and I would recommend it. They have a free breakfast in the morning and cookies and sodas in the evening, plus free wireless access.

We tried to eat at Outback for dinner but it was too crowded, so we went to the Chili’s on Bell Road instead.

Day 2 – Monday March 5th

We went to the Rangers workouts on the backfields in the morning. The Rangers were in Tucson but a lot of the players stayed behind. When we got there, they were all doing warm-up exercises. I was wearing a Peter Warrick Bengals jersey and the players were all trying to figure out who it was. CJ Wilson and Michael Young asked me to tell them who it was. None of them had guessed right.

When they were moving from warm-ups to the hitting and pitching stations, I got autographs from Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa. I noticed during the week that Kenny was really nice until you asked him for an autograph. I was the only person he signed for that day. The hitters took batting practice and the pitchers took fielding practice. As workouts were breaking up, I got autographs from Bruce Chen, Jamey Wright, Mike Wood, Francisco Cruceta, Rick Bauer, Salomon Manriquez, and Taylor Teagarden. Salomon didn’t seem to like signing but everyone else was really nice about it. Taylor remembered us from the Newberg Bound Edition release party.

After workouts, we went to Maryvale Baseball Park to see a Brewers game. They were playing the White Sox and won 4-3. Mark Buerhle and Jeff Suppan started. During the game, Brewers GM (and former Rangers GM) Doug Melvin sat behind us and we got to talk to him for a while. He was very friendly and seemed to enjoy talking about baseball.

It was the worst of the Spring Training stadiums in Phoenix. It wasn’t clean and had nothing special – just a plain ballpark. It was the last Spring Training ballpark in the Phoenix area we hadn’t seen a game at.

We went to Outback for dinner. Scott Servais and some other Rangers people were eating dinner there too.

We watched Eragon in the hotel room after dinner. It was a good movie, but I expected more after the book was so good. Over the trip, I spent my spare time reading the sequel to Eragon, Eldest. It is also great.

Day 3 – Tuesday March 6th

We went to the Rangers workouts in the backfields in the morning. The gates for the workouts open at 10am. Shirley the Cookie Lady, her friend Dorothy and their husbands were there every morning. They were staying in Surprise for a month.

It is very easy to talk to players, because they go to different stations, where fans are allowed to be.

We saw Eric Gagne take a bullpen session. The pitchers were taking fielding practice again. We saw Evan Grant and talked to him for a while. We met Tim Cowlishaw. We also talked to Gregg Elkin and he let us go into the stadium an hour before the gates opened so that we could watch the star players take BP.

Before the game, I got autographs from Ramon Vazquez and Franklyn German. During the game, I talked to Jon Daniels. The Rangers lost 10-3. After the game, I got autographs from Willie Eyre and Matt Kata. Matt really doesn’t like to sign.

We ate at Red Robin, then went to a nighttime Padres game at Peoria Stadium. They beat the Diamondbacks 5-3. Chris Young and Brandon Webb started. Jerry Hairston sat two rows in front of us. We talked to him for a while when he was leaving and he was really friendly and happy to talk.

Day 4 – Wednesday March 7th

The Rangers had a B game at 10am on the backfields. The B games have very unofficial rules, and barely have any fans. One time Matt Connor just yelled out “1 more,” after the third out and Kevin Millwood got a fourth out. They don’t play all 9 innings.

During the game, we talked with Thad Levine, Keith Meister, Jon Daniels, Josh Lewin, some scouts, Randy Galloway and a Royals official named Dan Glass.

I got autographs from Scott Rice and Guillermo Quiroz. At that point, I had autographs from everyone on the Spring Training roster except for Victor Diaz. I mentioned this to Jerry Hairston and he said that he would tell Victor to look for me at the game.

I went to the Rangers game against the Diamondbacks. Before the game, I got Victor Diaz’s autograph. Jerry had probably told him to look for me. That completed my spring collection – I had autographs from all 57 players in major league camp. The Rangers won 9-8.

I went to the Suns game that night. The arena was better than the Mavs one, but wasn’t great. It had a good kids area. The game was really close, even though the Suns were playing the Bobcats. It went to overtime, but the Bobcats fell apart in it.

Day 5 – Thursday March 8th

We checked out of the hotel, and then went to the workouts on the backfields. When we got there, they had already split up for batting practice and pitchers’ fielding practice. I asked a lot of people my poll question (below). Otsuka talked to us a long time – he’s very friendly. Michael Young gave me a bat. I talked to Kevin Harmon too.

We drove to the A’s stadium for the Rangers/A’s game. The Rangers won 7-6. We left after the 7th inning to get to the airport and fly home on a 6:30pm flight.

I took a player poll during the week. The question was: Do you think the AL and NL should have the same DH system, and if so, which league should change? The following people responded:
- Kevin Millwood
- Jamey Wright
- Michael Young
- Kameron Loe
- Josh Rupe
- Jon Daniels
- Frank Catalanotto
- Brad Wilkerson
- Ramon Vazquez
- Bruce Chen
- Akinori Otsuka
- Brandon McCarthy
- Gerald Laird
- Mark Teixeira
- CJ Wilson
- Scott Feldman

Here are the results of the poll:
- The AL should lose the DH – 8 (50%)
- It should stay the same – 6 (37.5%)
- The NL should get the DH – 2 (12.5%)

I will also rate all the Pheonix Spring Training stadiums 1-10, 10 being the best.

1. Surprise Stadium (Rangers/Royals) - 10
2. Peoria Stadium (Mariners/Padres) - 9
3. Scottsdale Stadium (Giants) - 8
4. HoHoKam Park (Cubs) - 6
5. Pheonix Municipal Stadium (A’s) - 5
6. Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels) -4
7. Maryvale Baseball Park (Brewers) - 3

Come back next week for an analysis of the AL East and NL West.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Training Trip Report Part 1 of 2 - Player Performance

This week I went to Spring Training and took notes on how the players performed. I went to 3 full Rangers games and took notes from every one of them.

After seeing them play, I don’t think Desi Relaford will make the team anymore. Instead, I think Jerry Hairston Jr. will take his spot.

Mariners @ Rangers, Tuesday March 6th:

For this game, I’ll provide a play-by-play analysis of the first three innings, to give a feel for what to expect in the season.

Top of the 1st: Jamey Wright pitching:
Jamey struck out Ichiro, and allowed no hits. He did allow a warning track fly ball, though.

Bottom of the 1st: Horacio Ramirez against:

Kenny Lofton: Lofton took three straight balls to start off the at-bat, all of them close. He then swung at two straight pitches, one of them foul, and he didn’t connect on the other one. The next pitch was a ball and he walked. The at-bat was seven pitches long.

Frank Catalanotto: Like Kenny, Frank took three straight balls to start off the count. He then grounded out, moving Lofton to 2nd.

Michael Young: Michael hit a grounder to the pitcher and Lofton was caught in between 2nd and 3rd. Lofton got out but Young got to second safely.

Sammy Sosa: He swung and missed at the first two pitches, fouled one off, then took a close ball. He then had a check swing on a pitch, which was called a ball, fouled one off, and was way in front of the curveball as he struck out on another 7-pitch at-bat.

Top of the 2nd: Jamey Wright against:

Richie Sexson: When the count was 1-1, Sexson hit a liner to right field where Cruz made a good play to get the out.

Ben Broussard: Jamey threw a good fastball on the corner to start the at-bat. The next pitch was outside. He ended up walking Broussard.

Bryan LaHair: Jamey threw two pitches on the outside corner after a ball to get the count to 1-2. Then with a 2-2 count, Bryan grounded to second for a probable double play but Ramon Vazquez made a bad throw to Young and there were runners on 2nd and 3rd.

Jamie Burke: With a 0-2 count, Jamie lined a ball to center for a single. 2-0 Mariners.

Oswaldo Navarro: A change-up in the dirt was the first pitch and the next pitch was fouled off. With a 1-2 count Navarro hit a grounder to Young for an out.

Rey Ordonez: A high chopper was hit on the first pitch. It was a close play but he was out after bad communication, when Blalock cut right in front of Young, who was almost to the ball, almost creating a collision.

Bottom of the 2nd: Horacio Ramirez against:

Hank Blalock: With a 2-2 count, Blalock grounded to third, for an out.

Nelson Cruz: Cruz got under the ball and flew out.

Jared Sandberg: Sandberg had a good eye and walked on four pitches.

Gerald Laird: After hitting a hard ball foul, he hit a soft grounder to 3rd, and a great play got a hustling Laird out.

Top of the 3rd: Akinori Otsuka against:

Ichiro: Ichiro fouled off the 1st and 3rd pitches and then grounded out to third. Blalock made a nice play to get him out.

Jeremy Reed: A great curveball was taken for the first strike. The next pitch was a fastball that was fouled off. Reed was fooled on the 3rd pitch and struck out.

Willie Bloomquist: The first two pitches were balls and the third pitch a strike. Then Bloomquist hit a grounder to third and Blalock got the out.

Bottom of the 3rd: Horacio Ramirez against:

Ramon Vazquez: Ramon took the first pitch, which was right down the middle, and he also took the second pitch, which was a strike. Then he hit a grounder to 2nd and got out.

Kenny Lofton: Kenny took the first three pitches and they were all balls, then grounded out to 2nd.

Frank Catalanotto: Frank fouled off the first pitch and then was robbed of a single by Rey Ordonez.

The Rangers pitchers struggled from this point on. The Rangers ended up losing the game 10-3.

Diamondbacks @ Rangers, Wednesday March 7th:

For this game, I took general notes for the whole game.

John Koronka: Koronka pitched great and really fooled the hitters. He had a good mix of speed and his curveball really broke well. He pitched three hitless innings to start the game.

Kameron Loe: Kameron pitched well, only allowing one unearned run on a Blalock error in three innings.

Freddy Guzman: Freddy dropped two balls, although they would have been great plays if he made the catches. Earlier in the game, Freddy really hustled and tripled. After that, he struck out.

Desi Relaford: Desi made an error on a very easy play. He also struck out, looking awful.

Francisco Cruceta: Francisco pitched awful and was hit very hard. He allowed one home run, allowed 4 earned runs, and hit a batter in two-thirds of an inning.

Sammy Sosa: Sammy hit a moon shot past the lawn seats. He went 2-for-3 on the day.

Gerald Laird: Gerald hit a homer to center that started a rally. When he got back in the dugout, his teammates ignored him as a joke, so Laird high-fived the air.

Brad Wilkerson: Brad struck out but went 2-for-3. On defense, he threw a strike to second to get an out.

Jose Vargas: Jose has a strange wind-up. It’s very jerky. He had poor control, walking one, giving up two hits, and giving up an earned run in two-thirds of an inning.

Victor Diaz: Victor swung too hard in his only at-bat, which resulted in a strike out.

Guillermo Quiroz: Guillermo struck out on three whiffs in his only at-bat.

Drew Meyer: Drew made a quick throw to second to get a quick start to a possible double play.

Mike Wood: Mike had a pretty good curveball and got ahead of hitters most of the time. He made great use of the corners.

Jerry Hairston: Jerry made a great defensive play but did not get the out.

Joaquin Arias: Joaquin didn’t play well as the DH, going 0-for-4.

The Rangers won 9-8.

Rangers @ A’s, Thursday March 8th.

For this game, I will give you some key statistics from the first 7 innings.

Strikeouts: Brad Wilkerson, Mark Teixeira (2), Hank Blalock, Kenny Lofton, Gerald Laird.

Grounded into double play: Mark Teixeira, Sammy Sosa

Caught-stealing: Gerald Laird

Walks: Frank Catalanotto, Hank Blalock, Gerald Laird, Marlon Byrd

Hits: Sammy Sosa (2), Michael Young, Gerald Laird, Ian Kinsler (2), Frank Catalanotto (2), Jason Botts, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Stewart, Matt Kata, Nelson Cruz

Doubles: Frank Catalanotto, Sammy Sosa

Triples: Nelson Cruz

RBI’s: Gerald Laird, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Stewart, Matt Kata, Nelson Cruz (2)

Runs: Sammy Sosa, Marlon Byrd, Jason Botts, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Stewart, Matt Kata

Hits allowed: Vicente Padilla (6), Franklyn German (3)

Walks committed: Vicente Padilla (1), Frank Francisco (1), Franklyn German (1)

Strike-outs: Vicente Padilla (1), Joaquin Benoit (1), Frank Francisco (1)

Errors: Jason Botts

Runs allowed: Vicente Padilla (3), Franklyn German (2)

Earned runs allowed: Vicente Padilla (3), Franklyn German (2)

Innings pitched: Vicente Padilla (3), Joaquin Benoit (2), Frank Francisco (1), Franklyn German (1)

The Rangers won 7-6.


Everybody was off-and-on, which is to be expected this early in spring training. The power numbers aren’t too great yet. The trip confirmed my picks of who would make the team, except for Jerry Hairston replacing Desi Relaford.

Come back next week for a day-by-day description of my Spring Training trip.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Analysis of Spring Training Infielders and Catchers

The Rangers have 9 infielders and 6 catchers in major league Spring Training camp. Below, I will rate each infielder and catcher and give their chances of making the 25-man active roster at the end of Spring Training.


Joaquin Arias:
Joaquin is learning the outfield positions and might be the utility guy or back-up infielder. I think he will be the utility guy.

Percentage: 62.4%

Hank Blalock:
He’s our third baseman.

Percentage: 100%

Nate Gold:
Nate played great last year but isn’t going to make the team. He’s a first baseman and back-up infielders need to be able to play 2nd and short.

Percentage: 0%

Ian Kinsler:
Ian’s our second baseman.

Percentage: 100%

Drew Meyer:
Drew was called up part of last year and batted .214 in 14 AB. He was DFA’d this off-season and cleared waivers. He’s probably not going to make the team.

Percentage: 8.2%

Desi Relaford:
Desi is 33 years old and has never been a starter. He hasn’t been that good, with a career average of .244 and 40 career home runs. Last year, he didn’t play in the majors, but in ’05 he hit .224 with 1 HR and 16 RBI. But I don’t think any of the other players competing for the job will outplay him, except for Joaquin Arias.

Percentage: 53.7%

Mark Teixeira:
Mark’s our first baseman.

Percentage: 100%

Ramon Vazquez:
Ramon hasn’t had a very good career, batting .255 with 7 HR and 92 RBI. Last year, with Cleveland, he batted .209 with 1 HR and 8 RBI. He has been getting worse every year since 2002. He probably won’t make the team unless Desi Relaford or Joaquin Arias does awful.

Percentage: 12.7%

Michael Young:
Michael is the Rangers’ starting shortstop.

Percentage: 100%


Gerald Laird:
Gerald is the starting catcher

Percentage: 100%

Salomon Manriquez:
Solomon has never played in the majors and probably won’t this year. He’s got career minor league totals of a .254 AVG with 41 HR and 240 RBI. His best year was 2005 with Potomac, when he hit .287 with 15 HR and 68 RBI.

Percentage: 1.5%

Miguel Ojeda:
Miguel has a career .224 AVG with 15 HR and 72 RBI. He has never started and has only played 4 years in the majors. He has one option left which probably puts him a little behind Guillermo Quiroz.

Percentage: 34.1%

Guillermo Quiroz:
Guillermo was signed to a major league contract and has no options. He is the main runner for the back-up catcher job, in my opinion. He is the only one without options of the three main competitors. He only has 90 career major league at-bats. He isn’t that great a hitter (.238 minor league average), although his power numbers have been decent in the minors. He is 25 years old.

Percentage: 63.4%

Kevin Richardson:
Kevin isn’t going to make the team because he hasn’t gotten past AA yet.

Percentage 0%

Chris Stewart:
Chris probably isn’t going to make the team this year since he has options and only has 8 major-league at-bats. He hasn’t gotten any hits out of those at-bats. He is a great fielder and a decent hitter.

Percentage: 21.3%

Projected infielders and catchers at the beginning of the year:
Gerald Laird-catcher
Guillermo Quiroz-back-up catcher
Mark Teixeira-1B
Ian Kinsler-2B
Hank Blalock-3B
Michael Young-SS
Joaquin Arias-utility
Desi Relaford-back-up infielder

Next in line:
Miguel Ojeda

Come back next week for a report from Spring Training in Surprise.