Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Training Trip Report

My dad, my granddad, and I went on a trip to Spring Training last week. We got there on Sunday, March 14th and left on Wednesday, March 17th. It was a great trip and I had a blast. This week I’ll give a recap of my trip and a report on how the players looked.

Sunday, March 14th:

We had a very early flight on Sunday morning (7:25), so I had to wake up at 4:45 AM so we could leave the house at 5:15. I was tired. Our plane was on time, though, so we landed in Phoenix at about 8:00 AM Arizona time. On Sunday morning we went straight to the workouts, which were fun as always, and got to talk to Jamey Newberg, Anthony Andro, TR Sullivan, Ryan Tatusko, and CJ Wilson. CJ was especially nice throughout the whole trip, and took time to talk to me a lot after both the Sunday and Monday workouts. At the workouts, we got to see Tanner Scheppers throw a bullpen session. I noticed that Tanner has a good change in his velocity.

The game was in Surprise, so we had time to go eat lunch at Red Robin before heading over to the game. Red Robin had good food as always, and I was happy to be able to watch some of the ACC Championship game as we ate.

We then went over to the Rangers/Diamondbacks game at Surprise Stadium. Colby Lewis was pitching and got out of the first inning quickly, with a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts, and he looked really good. But after that he started to leave his fastball up, and in the next three innings he gave up six runs, not even finishing the fourth inning. He lost his control and just got pounded. In the third inning alone, he left four fastballs right at the letters, and even the outs were hard hit balls. He ended up going 3.1 innings, giving up six runs, all earned, six hits (including one homer), and striking out four. One thing I noticed about him is how quickly he works. It’s just one pitch after another, no Padilla-like stalking around the mound five times before each pitch. Ben Snyder came in to finish the 4th inning and didn’t fare much better. He gave up a home run to his first batter, and then gave up two more hits and another run in the 5th. He got hit hard by almost every batter and gave up two runs in 1.2 innings. Chris Ray gave up a run and three hits in his only inning, but he actually looked really good. All of his pitches had really good movement, and he seemed to have pretty good command of his pitches. Kasey Kiker, Zach Phillips, and Frankie Francisco pitched scoreless 7th, 8th, and 9th innings, respectively. Hamilton looked very good at the plate, as on the day he went 2-for-3 with one home run and two RBI’s. He homered in the first on a ball he got way under, and ended up hitting it over the right-field bullpen. In the third inning he hit a double off the wall in the gap. Vlad hit it solidly in each at-bat, but went just 1-for-3, and Michael Young was 1-for-3 also. Craig Gentry went 0-for-4 and Justin Smoak went 1-for-3. The Rangers lost the game to the Diamondbacks 9-3 with Colby Lewis picking up the loss.

When we got back to the hotel I checked the computer to see what the NCAA brackets were, and I couldn’t have been happier. Texas A&M (my favorite college) was a 5 seed, and were positioned great. They play an easy team in both the first and second rounds before playing the Sweet 16 in Houston, which would be a home game. I was extremely excited about their chances. For dinner we went to NYPD Pizza. They have great pizza there, and we gobbled it up. We got back to the hotel, and both my granddad and I were asleep by 7:30 PM, leaving my dad unable to make any noise until he went to sleep (that’s never fun, I’m just glad it wasn’t me).

Monday, March 15th:

The Rangers had a night game on Monday, so only the minor leaguers had their workouts in the morning, since the major league workouts didn’t start until 2:30 PM. We went to the minor league workouts and saw a few pitchers pitching to live hitters who weren’t allowed to swing. I got to see Martin Perez pitch, and he looked very good, with excellent command of his pitches, as almost every pitch was at the knees. He had a really good curveball. I got to talk to Blake Beavan, Tim Murphy, Rich Rice, and Court Berry-Tripp. They are all incredibly nice people and I would like to especially thank Rich Rice for helping us out while we were in Arizona.

We went to the Reds game in Goodyear and saw them play the A’s. My dad grew up in Cincinnati, so we are also Reds fans (nowhere close to the Rangers, though). We got to see Ben Sheets pitch for the A’s, and that was a lot of fun because he allowed 10 runs and got 0 outs. He got pulled before he even got an out, raising his Spring ERA to 31.15. The A’s defense was horrible, too. On the very first play, Jake Fox, the left fielder, fell down while tracking down a fly ball, then Sheets muffed a grounder on the next play. Later in the inning, the shortstop made an error, and then let the ball lay on the ground as the runner on second took third. The Reds won the game 13-5.

We went back to Surprise for the major league workouts after the Reds game and got to talk to Scott Lucas and also to Court Berry-Tripp and CJ again. CJ talked to me for a long time again. He is such a nice guy.

We went to the Rangers/Giants night game in Surprise at 6:00, and Rich Harden was pitching. He was bad at the beginning and at the end, but was pretty good in between. He allowed two in the first and two in the fourth, but just one other. He needed 80 pitched to get through 3.2 innings, and he allowed 5 runs, all earned, on 5 hits and 3 walks. He struck out three. Like Colby, Harden works quickly, and there’s not much time between pitches. Doug Mathis came in to finish the fourth, and then he also pitched the 5th and two outs in the 6th. His stats aren’t too bad, as he gave up no earned runs in his two innings of work, but his control was off. He walked four batters but only gave up one hit. The box score shows that he gave up two hits and one earned run, but they credited a San Francisco batter a hit on an obvious error by Elvis Andrus. On the play, Elvis muffed a line drive, and on the throw to the plate after catching the outfielder’s throw, he bounced it in about five feet to the left of the plate, letting the run score. Edwar Ramirez came in next, and gave up one run in 1.1 innings, and then Darren O’Day gave up one run in 2 innings. Nelson Cruz hit a moon shot to straightaway center on the first pitch he saw in the 2nd inning. In the 3rd, both Vlad and Matt Brown had RBI’s. Josh got hit by a pitch on the hand, and that was scary, but he’s fine. The Rangers offense really didn’t do anything again until the 8th inning when Max Ramirez and Justin Smoak both drove in runs. The Rangers lost to the Giants 8-5.

Also, I got the chance to talk with Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, and Scott Lucas during the game, which was fun.

Tuesday, March 16th:

Since the Rangers were playing the Cubs in Mesa, which is over an hour away, the major leaguers weren’t doing workouts when we got to the Rangers’ backfields. But the minor leaguers were, so we went to see them. I saw Wilmer Font pitch. He had a good fastball, but his curveball was a little wild, and he couldn’t really control it.

The Rangers were playing a B-game over at the Royals’ complex, so we went over to see that. Esteban German was very impressive in the game, as he made a couple of very good defensive plays at short and also doubled. Luis Mendoza was the opposite of German, as he did not do well at all. Brandon Boggs hit a home run in the game, too.

After that, Ted Price was nice enough to let me be on his podcast to talk to me about what I had seen in camp. His podcasts are always great, and his site is It’s called Rangers Podcast in Arlington. Ted does the podcasts with Jamey, and Adam Morris, and sometimes with a guest. It was so much fun to do, and I would like to thank Ted for having me on. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The video should still be available on his site. It’s the March 16th entry.

We then headed out to Mesa to see the Rangers play the Cubs. It was a sold out game, and the traffic was terrible. The Cubs’ ballpark is built in a residential neighborhood, so the streets weren’t meant for thirteen thousand people. The traffic was so bad that Ron Washington missed the first inning. Neftali Feliz started the game, and looked really good in his first two innings, but then really struggled in the third. He was scheduled to go four innings, but he ended up going just three. He allowed 6 hits, 3 runs (all earned), and struck out 4 in his three innings of work. Omar Beltre came on to pitch the fourth, and he used some kind of wacky half-sidearm, half-overhand delivery. He allowed no runs and struck out two in his inning, but a lot of his pitches were low. CJ Wilson came in after Beltre, and he was dominant. He got five strikeouts in his first three innings, and there was not a single hard-hit ball. He was making the Cubs batters look silly. Jeff Baker hit a home run off him in the third, though. In the fourth inning, the first two Cubs batters got hits, to make it second and third with no outs. And CJ didn’t allow either of the runners to score, as he got three straight weak groundouts. He allowed one run in four innings, and he struck out four. The Rangers only got three hits in the game, a David Murphy single, a Taylor Teagarden single, and a Justin Smoak home run (which was the Rangers’ only run in the game). The Rangers lost 4-1. This made the Rangers 0-3 while I was in Arizona.

For dinner, we went to Outback, and I ordered a burger, but I ended up having just four bites, due to an overload of cheese fries.

On Wednesday, we left Surprise to fly back to Dallas, pick up my mother, little sister, and grandmother and then fly to Orlando for 6 nights at Disney World. We stayed in one of the cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort. We managed to catch a Grapefruit League game while we were there, seeing the Braves play the Tigers on Friday night. This was my first-ever Grapefruit League game. I was impressed with the Braves stadium (it’s on Disney property). We had a great trip, with basically back-to-back vacations.

Come back next week for my analysis of recent Rangers news and events.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Season Predictions

This week the Rangers acquired relief pitcher Edwar Ramirez from the New York Yankees for cash considerations. Edwar had a 3.55 ERA in 55.1 innings for the Yankees in 2008, but followed up that good year by struggling in 2009, with a 5.73 ERA in 22 innings with the Yankees. Basically, the Rangers get Ramirez for nothing, and I like trades where you get possible contributors and give up nothing in return.
Grade: A-

This week I’ll provide my predictions for the 2010 season.

AL East:

1. New York Yankees: New York won the World Series last year, and as much as it pains me to say it, they’ll probably win the AL East again this year. They have six players starting for the Yankees this year that had 20 or more home runs in 2009. Their pitching is amazing, with CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.37), AJ Burnett (13-9, 4.04), Andy Pettite (14-8, 4.16), and Javier Vazquez (15-10, 2.87). They also have Mariano Rivera as their closer. Even though they lost Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Brian Bruney over the offseason, they still improved in my opinion, as they added both Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez from trades.

2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card): The Red Sox are also very good, and would probably win any division other than the AL East. They have a pitching staff that is just as good, if not better, than the Yankees, with Jon Lester (15-8, 3.41), Josh Beckett (17-6, 3.86), John Lackey (11-8, 3.83), and Clay Buchholz (7-4, 4.21). I think that the Red Sox will be the American League Wild Card this year.

3. Tampa Bay Rays:
4. Baltimore Orioles:
5. Toronto Blue Jays:

AL Central:
1. Minnesota Twins: The Twins’ pitching is not very good, as their #1 starter had a 4.27 ERA, which is high for a #3 starting pitcher in a good rotation, but their hitting is incredible, and they just somehow figure out ways to win. The Twins have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Orlando Hudson, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel in their lineup. If Joe Nathan doesn’t play this year, which it looks like he won’t, it will be much harder for the Twins to win this year, but I still think they will because the AL Central is so weak.

2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians

AL West:
1. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have a good young team, and a very good chance to win the AL West. Their rotation is very good, with Scott Feldman, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter. I really think that Derek Holland will have an All-Star year this year and will be dominant. The Rangers also have a chance to have a very good offense, if Chris Davis has a comeback year, Josh Hamilton can stay healthy, and the rest of the team doesn’t decline.

2. Seattle Mariners
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (otherwise known as the team with the dumbest name ever)
4. Oakland Athletics

NL East:
1. Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies made it to the World Series for the second straight year last year. They have a very good team this year, too, as they have almost all their players returning this year from last year. Cliff Lee got replaced by Roy Halladay in the starting rotation, which might actually be a slight downgrade for this year, but in the future it will be for the better since Lee is a free agent after this year. Placido Polanco is the only new starting position player on the team, and he is an upgrade at third base from Pedro Feliz, who was the starter there last year. And the Phillies closing situation will be better this year, just because it couldn’t have been any worse, so it has to get better.

2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets (who I think should change their stadium name from Citi Field to Injury Field)
5. Washington Nationals

NL Central:
1. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have what may be the best 1-2 punch in all of major league baseball with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Wainwright had a 19-8 record with a 2.63 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 233 innings pitched, while Carpenter had a 17-4 record with a 2.24 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 192.2 innings pitched. And those two have Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday behind them in the field, and that may also be the best group of two hitters in the middle of the order. Just those four players plus Franklin, Molina, and Ludwick are good enough to make up for the somewhat mediocre remainder of the team.

2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros

NL East:
1. San Francisco Giants: The Giants pitching staff is amazing and will probably be even better this year with Jonathon Sanchez having another year under his belt. Cy Young Award winner for the past two seasons Tim Lincecum (15-7, 2.48) is the ace of the staff and Matt Cain (14-8, 2.89) would be the ace on most team’s staffs. Barry Zito (10-13, 4.03) improved last year, and actually was a decent pitcher. Jonathon Sanchez (8-12, 4.24) has a lot of potential and could be really good this year, while Madison Bumgarner (9-1, 1.93 in AA and 3-1, 1.48 in High-A) was dominant in the minors last year, and can have a very good season in the majors. The Giants signed Mark DeRosa in the offseason, and that will help the Giants horrible offense, which was basically just Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina, along with a little bit of Freddy Sanchez, and then a few hits sprinkled in from everybody else.

2. Colorado Rockies (Wild Card): The Rockies have a very good young team, with Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, and Carlos Gonzalez all starting for them. Tulowitzki (.297, 32, 92) really led the offense last season, and finished in the top 25 in the NL in batting average, home runs, RBI’s, slugging percentage, on base percentage, OPS, stolen bases, runs, and hits. Brad Hawpe also had a good season last year, hitting .285 with 23 home runs and 86 RBI’s while making his first All-Star appearance. Ubaldo Jimenez leads the rotation, and had a solid year last year, with a 15-12 record and a 3.47 ERA.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

AL Awards:

AL MVP: Joe Mauer, MIN
Runner-up: Evan Longoria, TB

Al Cy Young: Cliff Lee, SEA
Runner-up: Zack Grienke, KC

AL Rookie of the Year: Austin Jackson, DET
Runner-up: Carlos Santana, CLE

AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington, TEX
Runner-up: Ron Gardenhire, MIN

NL Awards:

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL
Runner-up: Joey Votto, CIN

NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, STL
Runner-up: Tommy Hanson, ATL

NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, ATL
Runner-up: Madison Bumgarner, SF

NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy, COL
Runner-up: Bruce Bochy, SF



Texas Rangers vs. Boston Red Sox: Rangers in 5

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins: Yankees in 4


St. Louis Cardinals vs. Colorado Rockies: Cardinals in 4

San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Giants in 5


New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers: Yankees in 7


St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants: Giants in 5

World Series:

New York Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants: Giants in 6

I will be taking next week off. Come back in two weeks for a spring training report.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Spring Training Infielders Analysis

The Rangers have 10 infielders and 6 catchers in major league camp. I did an analysis of all the infielders and catchers in big league camp, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the infield and catching roster.

Elvis Andrus – Elvis Andrus is obviously going to be on the team as the starting shortstop after he won the Rookie of the Year Award last year. Oh, wait, that went to a guy who got 26 saves, which is less than the number of stolen bases Andrus had. That makes no sense. Anyways, Elvis hit .267 last year with six home runs, 40 RBI’s, and 33 stolen bases. But his biggest addition to the team was his defense, which was incredible, and saved so many runs over the course of the year.
Percentage of making the team out of Spring Training: 100%

Joaquin Arias – Arias was a huge prospect when the Rangers traded for him as part of the deal that sent A-ROD to the Yankees, but now has become just another guy fighting for the utility spot that wouldn’t have even been up for competition if not for Khalil Greene not being able to come to camp. Last year Arias had just eight major league at-bats, and didn’t get on base once, and struck out three times. And he looked even worse than the stats show. He hit .266 with a .295 OBP with Oklahoma City last year and, really, I don’t see why he deserves to be on the team, or even in the race to be on the team.
Percentage: 46.9%

Matthew Brown – Brown is being looked at to be on the Opening Day roster to be a backup corner infielder for the Rangers. Last year with the Angels Triple-AAA team in Salt Lake, Matthew hit .245 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI’s. He has 24 major league at-bats (all with the Angels) and has just one hit, while striking out 11 times.
Percentage: 23.4%

Chris Davis – After having a great rookie year in 2008 (.285 AVG, 17 HR, 55 RBI), Davis struggled at the beginning of last year before being sent down to the minors where he hit .327 with six home runs and 30 RBI’s in just 165 at-bats. When he got called back up he hit much better, and his stats at the end of the year were: .238 AVG, 21 HR, 59 RBI. He will almost surely be the Rangers starting first baseman out of Spring Training.
Percentage: 97.6%

Esteban German – Esteban is going to have a chance to play his way into the utility infield spot on the team’s roster to start off the year. But being a non-roster invitee will make it harder for him to make the team. Last year with the Rangers, German hit .304 and looked really good in his 46 at-bats. With OKC, he hit .319 (.053 better than Arias in Oklahoma) with a .419 OBP (.124 better than Arias in Oklahoma), which is incredible. He also had 35 stolen bases, and I think that he deserves the utility infield spot more than Arias.
Percentage: 50.2%

Ian Kinsler – Ian will be the starting second baseman for the Rangers, and there is no chance that he won’t be. He had a down year for him last year, as he hit just .253, but he was also a 30-30 guy as he hit 31 home runs and stole 31 bases. In 2008, he had hit .319, but with just 18 home runs and 26 stolen bases. If he can combine last year’s power numbers with ‘08’s batting average, he will have a great chance at AL MVP.
Percentage: 100%

Marcus Lemon – Marcus was invited to big league camp after Khalil Greene’s situation. He doesn’t really have a chance to make the team. Last year with Frisco, Lemon hit just .262 and had 25 extra-base hits, as 93 of his 118 hits on the year were singles. That gives him a .333 slugging percentage, which is extremely low.
Percentage: 2.3%

Ray Olmedo – Ray is a non-roster invitee and does not have a good chance to make the team, but does have some major league experience. In his 403 major league at-bats split over five seasons (’03-’07) and two teams (Reds and Blue Jays), Ray has a .228 batting average, two home runs, 26 RBI’s, and six stolen bases. He last played in the majors with the Blue Jays in 2007. With AAA-Durham last year, Ray hit .250 with six home runs and 47 RBI’s.
Percentage: 7.5%

Justin Smoak – Justin probably won’t be on the team to start the year out of Spring Training, although he does have a very good chance to be called up to the team at some point this year, despite not being on the 40-man roster. Last year in Frisco, Justin hit .328 with six home runs and 29 RBI’s, and with Oklahoma City, he hit .244 with four home runs and 23 RBI’s.
Percentage: 17.9%

Michael Young – Michael had another great year last year, hitting .322 with 22 home runs and 68 RBI’s, and if not for a late-season injury, he would have gotten another 200-hit season. Last year Michael showed the power to hit 20 home runs in a season that he hadn’t shown since 2005. He will obviously be the starting third baseman, and there will not be any competition for that position as long as he’s still around and playing well.
Percentage: 100%

Emerson Frostad – Emerson does not have much of a chance to make the team out of Spring Training. Emerson spent most of his year last year with Oklahoma City, and hit just .226 with only one home run and 20 RBI’s. That average is bad even for Frostad, a career .256 minor league hitter. He actually hit more home runs in Frisco (3) in 44 at-bats than he did in OKC (1) in 208 at-bats.
Percentage: 1.2%

Toby Hall – Toby is more for insurance than he is for competing for the Opening Day roster. He is still recovering from right shoulder surgery last May, but is almost fully recovered. Last year was the first year that Hall did not play in the majors since 1999. In his career Toby is a .262 hitter with 46 HR’s and 269 RBI’s, and has spent most of his time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but has also had stints with the Dodgers and the White Sox. He has a chance at the team, but it is a minor one.
Percentage: 12.1%

Max Ramirez – Max doesn’t seem to be in a good position to be on the Rangers Opening Day roster, but he definitely has a chance at it. He had a horrible year last year, though, hitting .234, well below his .299 career average, with just 5 home runs and 43 RBI’s with Triple-AAA Oklahoma. In his only major league experience in 2008, Max hit .217 with two homers and 9 RBI’s.
Percentage: 21.4%

Kevin Richardson – Kevin finally got a chance to get a taste of major league ball after many years of minor league play, and being great at working with the pitchers. He only got six at-bats, but he got three hits, so he made the most of his opportunity. His hitting is not his strong suit though, as in his minor league career his average is .239. He probably will not be on the team, and probably won’t be up this year at all.
Percentage: 15.4%

Jarrod Saltalamacchia – It looks as if Salty will be battling for the starting catching position will Taylor Teagarden this spring, with the loser of that battle backing up the other. Salty had a bad year last year, even without the injuries, hitting .233 with nine home runs and 34 RBI’s. He’ll almost surely be on the team, and my guess is he’ll be starting, but his numbers have to improve from last year to be able to keep that starting spot.
Percentage: 92.7%

Taylor Teagarden – Taylor has a great chance at being the starting catcher this year, but needs to perform better than he did in ’09. Even though he was solid defensively, as always, he hit just .217, and struck out 76 times in 198 at-bats. That means that he struck out in 38% of his at-bats, which is way too high. His OBP was just .270, which is not just an okay number for a batting average. I think that he’ll do much better this year, especially if he starts.
Percentage: 93.1%

Predicted Infield and Catching Roster:
First Base: Chris Davis
Second Base: Ian Kinsler
Third Base: Michael Young
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
Utility Infielder: Esteban German

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Back-up Catcher: Taylor Teagarden

Next in Line:
Joaquin Arias

Come back next week for my 2010 season predictions.