Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rangers-Rays Series Analysis and Playoff Roster Prediction

The Rangers clinched the AL West division title on Saturday, and I am pumped. I have waited as long as I can remember for the Rangers to make the playoffs, and now it’s finally happening. I’m so excited, and I can’t wait for October. We have tickets for all of the Rangers playoff games and I’m hoping for a deep run. I’ve been to hundreds of games but have never been to a major league baseball playoff game.

This week I’ll analyze the probable match-up of the Rays that the Rangers have for the playoffs in the first round and also give my Rangers playoff roster.

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays:

Game 1: Texas Rangers 0 (Cliff Lee) at Tampa Bay Rays 0 (David Price)
I’ll give Lee the edge in this one, even though Price has had a better year, and the Rays are at home. Price has given up 3 runs in each of his last two starts, and has already thrown way more innings than ever before in his career. They both have postseason experience, and have both been great in the playoffs, but Price did it while coming out of the bullpen. Last year, Cliff Lee had a 1.56 postseason ERA, including a 1.10 divisional round ERA, and went 4-0. In 2008, David Price had a 1.59 ERA during the playoffs, but only pitched 5.2 innings, so has a small sample. In his one game against the Rangers this year, David Price allowed 2 runs over 6 innings of work. This one should be a very close, low-scoring game, but I’m going to say that the Rangers lead the series 1-0 after the game.

Game 2: Texas Rangers 1 (CJ Wilson) at Tampa Bay Rays 0 (Matt Garza)
So far this year, CJ has been much better than Garza, with a 14-7 record, and a 3.15 ERA, while Garza is 15-9, with an ERA just under 4.00, at 3.92. However, in Garza’s last start against the Rangers, he threw 7 shut-out innings, and in CJ’s only game against the Rays, he allowed 3 earned runs over only 5 innings. But I still give CJ the edge, with Matt Garza having a horrendous September, with a 6.41 ERA in the month. He wasn’t exactly sharp in the ’08 playoffs, either, as Garza had an ERA of 6.00 or more in 2 of his 4 playoff starts, including his divisional series start. So with Garza’s recent play, and his past postseason play, I’ll give the Rangers the win here, too.

Game 3: Tampa Bay Rays 0 (James Shields) at Texas Rangers 2 (Tommy Hunter)
I think that Tommy Hunter is a much better pitcher than Shields in this one, but I worry about his youth. I’ll still give him the win, though, as his ERA is 1.13 points better than Shields’ ERA, which is an awful 4.96, including a 6.86 ERA in his last four starts. Shields also leads the American League in home runs allowed. Tommy Hunter pitched very well in his only start against the Rays in which he wasn’t sick, allowing just one run in a complete game outing while pitching at home against them. So while I really didn’t think coming into this analysis that the Rangers would sweep the Rays, based on the three pitching match-ups, I predict that they will. I think that the Rangers have the edge in all three games pitching-wise.

Result: Texas Rangers 3, Tampa Bay Rays 0

My Playoff Roster:
C – Bengie Molina: He is one of the top two catchers on the team as far as playing time, so I don’t see him being left off.
C – Matt Treanor: Has done his job this year, and is solid defensively. I see him possibly splitting the time with Bengie.
1B – Jorge Cantu: Can play first and third, and still has the potential to be a good hitter.
1B – Chris Davis: He can be on the roster as an injury replacement and is hitting very well. Could split 1B time with Cantu in playoffs.
2B – Ian Kinsler: Our obvious starting second baseman.
SS – Elvis Andrus: No question about it.
3B – Michael Young: Who else?
UTIL – Andres Blanco: Showed he deserved it while Kinsler was injured, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be on the roster here.
OF – Josh Hamilton: Hopefully he’ll be ready to go.
OF – Vladimir Guerrero: Big contributor, no question.
OF – Nelson Cruz: Assuming he doesn’t have any more hamstring problems.
OF – David Murphy: Has done a great job filling in for injuries, with .288 average and 11 HR’s.
OF – Julio Borbon: Solid this year, and we need the speed.
OF – Jeff Francoeur: Has been very good as Ranger,batting .299 against lefties. Definitely worth the spot.
SP – Cliff Lee: He’s our ace.
SP – CJ Wilson: 3.15 ERA. Enough said.
SP – Tommy Hunter: He’s our number three guy, ERA in the 3.00’s.
SP – Colby Lewis: 3.79 ERA. Don’t want just a three-man playoff rotation, too risky.
Closer – Neftali Feliz: Could have 40 saves by the end of the year, and should win ROY.
RP – Darren O’Day: 1.98 ERA.
RP – Alexi Ogando: 1.36 ERA.
RP – Darren Oliver: 2.52 ERA.
RP – Matt Harrison: Has done a nice job in long relief.
RP – Dustin Nippert: 0.77 ERA since coming back from injury.
RP – Michael Kirkman: 0.71 ERA since getting called up. Possible lefty specialist, but also has .050 batting average against with righties at the plate.

Come back next week for more playoff analysis - the Rangers/Yankees matchups if the standings change and a position-by-position analysis of the Rangers’ playoff opponent.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pennant Chase Special

This week the Rangers announced that the AAA team will be moved from Oklahoma City to Round Rock and that the High-A team will be moved from Bakersfield to Myrtle Beach. I am a little disappointed that the AAA team will move away from OKC, because that was a great stadium and a really fun place to see a game, and I always enjoyed seeing games there. But I am ecstatic that the High-A team moved to Myrtle Beach, and will now be called the Pelicans, because my family and I go to Myrtle Beach every summer, and already go see at least one Pelicans game every year. It is also a great place to see a game and will be an even better one now that it will be a Rangers affiliate. An interesting piece of trivia is that two of the Rangers’ affiliates will now have a mascot named Deuce – the RoughRiders have a mascot named Deuce who is a giant prairie dog and the Pelicans have a mascot named Deuce who is a real dog who takes baseballs out to the umpire between innings.

This week I will analyze all of the divisional chases for this season, and predict the winner of each one. The AL West, AL Central, and NL Central races are already pretty much over, so I will not analyze those.

New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays:

Right now, the Yankees are up by half a game, but have 13 of their last 14 games against teams with winning records, while the Rays have just 4 of their last 15 games against teams with winning records, so I really don’t think that the Yankees will win the division. Another reason I think the Rays will win the division is the fact that Andy Pettite hasn’t pitched since July and Phil Hughes’s monthly ERAs starting in June have been 5.17, 5.52, 4.22, and 6.59, a sign of fatigue. Their other pitchers have been struggling too, as AJ Burnett has a 5.08 ERA for the year, and Javier Vazquez has a 5.09 ERA for the year, including a 5.96 August ERA and 8.38 September ERA. Meanwhile, the Rays’ pitchers are David Price (1.55 ERA this month), Matt Garza (3.88 ERA this year, but 7.98 ERA this month, which I don’t put too much stock in because of his 1.27 August ERA), James Shields (struggling all year), Jeff Niemann (awful lately), and Wade Davis (3.50 ERA this month), which isn’t much better, but is a slight improvement over the Yankees’ staff. I think that the schedule will help the Rays win the division, and I predict them to be the 2010 AL East Division Champions.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves:

Right now, the Phillies are up by three games, and I see them winning the division, with both them and the Braves having the same amount of games against winning teams and having good pitching staffs. They have Roy Halladay (no stats needed), Cole Hamels (3.01 ERA, including 0.44 ERA this month), Roy Oswalt (2.90 ERA, including 1.53 August ERA and 1.59 September ERA), Joe Blanton (2.81 and 3.78 ERAs in the past two months), and Kyle Kendrick (4.78 season ERA). That is an amazing pitching staff. The Braves have good pitching, too, with Tim Hudson (2.61 season ERA), Derek Lowe (0.64 ERA this month), Tommy Hanson (3.62 ERA this year, with 2.77 September ERA), Jair Jurrjens (mediocre year), and Mike Minor (3-1). I wouldn’t be surprised if they both make the playoffs, with the Braves also in the wild card race, but right now I don’t think the Braves have much of a shot at the division championship, with the Phillies’ pitching.

San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies

Right now, the Padres are up half a game on San Francisco, and one game on Colorado. But I don’t think that will keep up, and I actually think the Padres will finish 3rd. The main reason for that is the fact that the Padres pitching, which has kept them in first place, isn’t doing so well now. Here’s their rotation, and the stat that makes me worried about each one of them:
1. Mat Latos – 7.36 ERA this month
2. Clayton Richard – 6.00 ERA this month
3. Jon Garland – 5.40 ERA this month
4. Kevin Correia – 5.40 ERA this season
5. Wade LeBlanc – 6.47 ERA in August, 9.00 ERA this month

Meanwhile, the Giants’ rotation is amazing, with this rotation:
1. Tim Lincecum – 3.60 ERA, 2.36 ERA this month
2. Matt Cain – 3.08 ERA, 2.86 ERA this month
3. Madison Bumgarner – 3.27 ERA, 1.35 ERA this month
4. Jonathon Sanchez – 3.21 ERA, 0.47 ERA this month
5. Barry Zito – 4.02 ERA, 3.45 ERA this month

The Rockies’ rotation is passable, and their offense makes up for that:
Ubaldo Jimenez – 19-6, 2.84 ERA
Jason Hammel – 10-8, 4.45 ERA
Jorge De La Rosa – 4.25 ERA
Aaron Cook – 2.28 ERA this month
Esmil Rogers – 5.34 ERA

With the Padres’ offense never having been very good, they’ve had to rely on their pitching, and it seems that that is no longer there for them. At the end of the year, I see it being Giants, then Rockies, then Padres.

Come back next week for another pennant chase special.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Predictions for Final Standings

This week will be a short blog due to the plethora of homework I have to do, although I would much rather have a longer blog and less homework. For this week’s blog, I will give my predictions on what the standings will be at the end of the season, and give some analysis on the teams that I think will either move in or drop out of the playoffs.

AL West:
1. Texas Rangers (currently 79-63, +7.5)
2. Oakland Athletics (currently 71-70, -7.5)
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (currently 69-73, -10)
4. Seattle Mariners (currently 55-87, -24)

I think that this one is pretty obvious all the way around, with fairly large gaps between every team in the division.

AL Central:
1. Minnesota Twins (currently 84-58, +6)
2. Chicago White Sox (currently 78-64, -6)
3. Detroit Tigers (currently 71-72, -13.5)
4. Kansas City Royals (currently 58-83, -25.5)
5. Cleveland Indians (currently 58-84, -26)

This one is also a pretty obvious division as far as end-of-the-year standings, with a healthy gap between every team except for the Royals and Indians battling for last place. As far as that race, I think that the Royals are the better team of the two, so the Indians will finish in last.

AL East:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (currently 86-55, -0.5)
2. New York Yankees (currently 87-55, +0.5)
3. Boston Red Sox (currently 78-64, -9)
4. Toronto Blue Jays (currently 72-70, -15)
5. Baltimore Orioles (currently 55-87, -32)

Right now the Yankees are in first place, but I think that the Rays will be in first place by the end of the year, simply due to their schedules. To finish out the year, the Yankees have 16 games against winning teams, and only 3 against losing teams, and that team is the Orioles, who have a winning record under Buck Showalter. The Rays, on the other hand, have only 8 games against winning teams, and 13 games against losing teams. That is a huge difference to finish out the year.

NL West:
1. Colorado Rockies (currently 78-64, -2.5)
2. San Francisco Giants (currently 80-63, -1)
3. San Diego Padres (currently 80-61, +1)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (currently 71-72, -10)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (currently 57-85, -23.5)

Once again, I am basing much of this on schedules. The Padres are in first place now, but have a terrible schedule, with 14 games against winning teams, and 7 against losing ones, and they also have just 8 home games of their last 21 games. The Giants have the easiest schedule with 12-out-of-19 home games and 12-out-of-19 games against losing teams, but I give the Rockies the edge due to the extent of their hotness. They have won 9 of their last 10, and have a completely even schedule with 10-of-20 home games and 10-of-20 games against winning teams, so their schedule won’t get in their way.

NL Central:
1. Cincinnati Reds (currently 81-61, +7)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (currently 73-67, -7)
3. Houston Astros (currently 67-75, -14)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (currently 65-76, -15.5)
5. Chicago Cubs (currently 62-80, -19)
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (currently 47-94, -33.5)

I don’t think that this division will change at all. The Reds are way up in the division, and I think the Cardinals have a better chance of being caught by the Astros than they do of catching the Reds. As for the battle for 3rd place, I don’t see the Brewers having enough pitching to even make up the 1.5 games between them and Houston.

NL East:
1. Atlanta Braves (currently 82-61, +0)
2. Philadelphia Phillies (currently 82-61, +0)
3. Florida Marlins (currently 72-69, -9)
4. New York Mets (70-72, -11.5)
5. Washington Nationals (60-82, -21.5)

The Braves and Phillies are exactly even to this point of the year, and as far as home games and amount of games against winning teams, their schedules are almost exactly even, but I give the Braves the edge due to the schedule anyway. I give them the edge because they have the best home record in all of baseball (51-20), and 7 of the 10 games that they have against winning team are at home, so almost all the road games they have are against losing teams.

Come back next week for a pennant chase special.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Jeff Francoeur Acquired and Oklahoma City Trip Report

On August 31st, the Texas Rangers acquired OF Jeff Francoeur and cash from the New York Mets in exchange for INF Joaquin Arias.

I like this trade. It’s not a big deal, but it’s definitely a helpful one. Jeff is not having a very good year so far, hitting only .237, but he has decent power numbers (11 HR and 54 RBIs). Although the addition wouldn’t look very good with those numbers by themselves, comparatively, it is pretty good. He is going to take at-bats away from mostly Jorge Cantu and Julio Borbon. In 57 at-bats with the Rangers, Cantu is hitting only .211, and has yet to get an RBI, even though he had 100 of them just last year. Borbon’s batting average isn’t all that bad (and .286 in the last 30 days, which is solid), but he will be losing at-bats against lefties not righties, and he is hitting only .231 against lefties, while Francoeur is hitting .280. That’s a very big difference, and is definitely an improvement.

Also, losing Joaquin Arias might be a good thing. In the trade that we got him in (the Soriano/A-Rod trade), he was a major prospect. That made Jon Hart decide to take Soriano and Arias over Robinson Cano (that hasn’t worked out well), but Joaquin never panned out. He wasn’t a very smart player, making way too many mental mistakes, and never really even played that well. His career on-base percentage is .319, and his power (or lack of it), is well below average, as he still has yet to hit a home run through 235 career at-bats. He also wasn’t very good defensively anymore (although he was definitely a decent fielder before he had shoulder surgery), and then, at least in my experiences with him, was not very fan-friendly. This trade should turn out real well, although there is always the outside chance that Arias will make it to his potential.

Grade: A, I think that Francoeur is a solid addition, and one that we didn’t have to give much up for.

A couple of weekends ago, my granddad, grandma, and I went on a road trip up to Oklahoma City to see a Redhawks game. It was a lot of fun, and I would like to thank them for taking me.

Saturday, August 14th:

We left for OKC at around 10:30 on Saturday morning, and got there around 2:00 in the afternoon. For lunch, we stopped at a Pizza Hut that was almost exactly halfway there. Pizza Hut is always good and is especially good with sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and canadian bacon. It was a good pizza. We also brought some snacks in the car, but I wasn’t very hungry after the pizza.

When we got to Oklahoma City, we went straight to our hotel, and it was awesome. We stayed at a Hampton Inn that was overlooking the ballpark. We were on the top floor on the side looking over the field, so we had a great view of the ballpark from our room, making it one of the neatest hotels outside of Disney World that I’ve ever stayed at.

At 3:45-ish, we left out hotel, and walked around the outside of the stadium, which is one of the better parts of the park. They have three main entrances, Mickey Mantle Plaza, Johnny Bench Plaza, and Warren Spahn Plaza. Each of the three has a statue of the player the plaza was named after, with some information on the player. It really adds a lot to the stadium, because there aren’t many minor league ballparks that have three statues, and I really like ballparks that display baseball history. They have the plazas dedicated to those players because they each had ties to the state of Oklahoma.

The only other entrance of the ballpark was the First Base Gate, and the cool thing with that one is that it opens three hours before the game starts so that you can see the players do their workouts before the game. We did that, and we were about the only people in the stadium. So at 4:00, we were in the stadium for a 7:00 PM game, which is very neat.

During the workouts, it was easy to talk to the players, since there were basically no fans there, so I got to talk to Doug Mathis and Chris Davis and have a lengthy conversation with Terry Clark, the Redhawks pitching coach, who I know from when he was the RoughRiders pitching coach. It was a lot of fun, and if you are ever at a Redhawks game, I recommend getting there early.

Our seats were in the Club Level, which was really nice, because it was a hot night, and between innings we could go up into the air conditioning if we wanted to (the Redhawks’ Club Level concourse is enclosed and air conditioned). We also had a very nice view of the game, since our section was right behind home plate.

The Redhawks won the game 4-3 over the Las Vegas 51s. Omar Beltre started the game for the ‘Hawks, and he looked very good. He went 7 innings, allowing two runs, only one earned, and struck out three. Zach Phillips came in to pitch the eighth, and was shaky, allowing two hits in the inning, but no one scored, and he ended up picking up the win. Tanner Scheppers pitched the 9th, and picked up save number 4 of the season in AAA, and he was even shakier that Phillips. There was a two-run lead when he came in, and after allowing a run to score, the tying run got to third base before he got the final out of the game. Chris Davis, Brandon Boggs, and Ryan Garko each picked up an RBI. Chris Davis only got one hit, but he was very impressive, not only in the game, but during the workouts that we saw. Hernan Iribarren probably had the best game of anybody, going 3-for-4 with a double, with Brandon Boggs and Max Ramirez each getting two hits each.

Sunday August 15th:

We woke up fairly early on Sunday morning, and went down to eat Hampton Inn’s free breakfast. They had their sausages that morning, and that made me happy, because that’s their best breakfast choice. When we got back up to the room, we packed up and headed out.

We drove around town, and around OU until about 11:30, when we went to go eat at a Red Robin in Norman, Oklahoma. We always eat at Red Robin in Surprise when we go to Spring Training, and it’s always very good, so we were very happy to see one. I got the burger and fries, and they are both great, while my grandparents both got salads. After we finished the meal, we ordered some shakes, and I learned that Red Robin has very good shakes, too.

When we were finished at Red Robin we headed on home and got back to Dallas at about 3:30. It was a great trip.

Come back next week for my Pennant Race Analysis.