Thoughts on a 4-2 Rangers loss

Thoughts on a 4-2 Rangers loss

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Rays 4, Rangers 2

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays 4, Rangers 2

  • Losses in day games are worse than normal losses because you have all day to think about it. Losses the day before an off day are worse than normal losses because you don’t have a game the next day to look forward to possibly getting the bad taste of the loss out of your mouth. Losses in day games the day before an off day is a terrible combination of the two, as more than 48 hours of wallowing in this defeat will ensue before the next game.
  • I don’t really have much to say about this game. It was an unpleasant game, without much in the way of offense. Shin-Soo Choo had a solo home run early on, and otherwise, the bats did little until the ninth, when an Adrian Beltre single/Joey Gallo walk/Drew Robinson single brought the go-ahead run to the plate. Renato Nunez was scheduled to hit with two on and one out, but Ronald Guzman pinch hit for him, and promptly hit into a game-ending double play. So that was that.
  • Cole Hamels had a shutout through five innings, then got knocked around in the sixth, giving up three runs. I figured that, with a rested bullpen and an offday tomorrow, Jeff Banister would go to a reliever in the seventh, but he opted to stay with Hamels. Hamels gave up a single, got a ground ball that Nunez booted for an error, and then gave up a double, bringing in the fourth run, which chased him from the game. Hamels’ pitch count was low — he ended the game at just 86 pitches — but under the circumstances, I was surprised that Hamels was allowed to go back out in the seventh.
  • Chris Martin got out of the jam, and Alex Claudio pitched a scoreless eighth, albeit with a couple of hits allowed. The bullpen continues to quietly do a pretty decent job this season.
  • Anyway. Pretty bleah game. It feels like this is what half of all mid-week day games on the road are like…

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Twins place Byron Buxton on disabled list because of migraine

Twins place Byron Buxton on disabled list because of migraine

– Outfielder Byron Buxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday after missing a second consecutive game because of a migraine.

Outfielder Ryan LaMarre, who was already with the team as a special 26th man for the Puerto Rico Series, was moved to the 25-man roster. So the Twins had one less player for Wednesday’s game against Cleveland.

The Twins were ready to put Buxton in the lineup Tuesday when he arrived at Hiram Bithorn Stadium showing symptoms and was sent back to the team hotel.

Thoughts on a 7-2 Rangers win

Thoughts on a 7-2 Rangers win

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Rangers 7, Rays 2

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 7, Rays 2

  • Baseball is so weird, you guys.
  • The Rangers are on the road, playing a IF/C who is supposed to be in AAA at shortstop, an outfielder at 2B, a guy who is supposed to be in AAA at first base, a Rule 5 pick who should be in AA at center field, a waiver claim at catcher, and a guy who has a claim for being the worst starting pitcher in MLB since the start of 2017 on the mound. And of course, the Rangers win in a blowout.
  • Moore didn’t look, early on, like he was going to have much more success than he had in his first three starts of the season, in which he gave up a total of 13 runs in 12.1 IP while picking up the loss in each start. He allowed a pair of singles in the first inning and a single and an error (his own) in the second, though he escaped each jam without a run scoring. In the third, he started off the inning walking Daniel Robertson, allowed a single to Adeiny Hechavarria, and then, after a Carlos Gomez K, an infield single/error combination allowed an unearned run to score, and had the Rays down just 2-1 with two on and one out. Moore induced Wilson Ramos to ground into a double play, however, to escape trouble.
  • And, miracle of miracles, that was the last hit the Rays got off of Matt Moore. Moore put up a 1-2-3 4th inning, walked Robertson again in the 5th but erased him on a GIDP, hit C.J. Cron in the 6th but left him stranded, and threw a 1-2-3 7th inning. End result was 7 IP, 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 Ks, and just the one unearned run. It was a strong outing from a guy who really needed a strong outing, and a reminder of why the Rangers have been intrigued by him for so long.
  • Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless 8th inning, and needed just 14 pitches to do so. With a 7-1 lead, I thought Jepsen might be allowed to pitch the 9th, but Matt Bush came into the game. Bush gave up a home run before closing it out, and it has me wondering whether Bush pitching the ninth is an indication of where he is in the bullpen pecking order, or a function of Jeff Banister not wanting to blow this game.
  • Of course, with Jesse Chavez logging four innings yesterday, the bullpen is now fairly well rested. Alex Claudio, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Chris Martin all head into tomorrow’s matinee game with two full days rest, and then Thursday is an off day.
  • A terrific game from Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who made up for his error by going 4 for 5 at the plate tonight. IKF, as noted above, should be in the minors, and is someone who profiles as a role player, but since getting promoted and then pressed into starting duty due to injuries, he has held his own and looked like a player.
  • Hits from everyone tonight except Joey Gallo, who did draw a walk. Shin-Soo Choo had a strong game, going 1 for 2 with a home run, 2 walks and a sac fly. Choo has been slumping, and like Moore, really needed a big game.
  • Ronald Guzman went 1 for 5 with 2 Ks, but his one hit was a big one — a two out, two run double in the fifth, giving Texas a 5-1 lead and providing some breathing room for the Rangers, who haven’t had many big leads this year.
  • A weird subplot of sorts from today…in the 7th, with Nomar Mazara on first and no one out, Adrian Beltre laced a ball into right field, and hobbled, in Beltre fashion, towards first. Former Ranger Carlos Gomez fielded the ball and threw to first, forcing Beltre to hustle to beat the throw, and causing those of us always fearful Beltre is going to pull something when he has to run to cringe. The next time Gomez came to the plate, in the bottom of the 8th, he was plunked by Jepsen. In the top of the ninth, with two outs and no one on, Juan Centeno was buzzed by Alex Colome.
  • It may be nothing, or it may be something. Jepsen may have felt Gomez was out of line for throwing to first on Beltre, and was sending a message. Or Jepsen wasn’t sending a message, but the Rays thought he was, and responded in kind. Or it is all a coincidence.
  • Early game tomorrow, then a day off. A win tomorrow, and Texas will have taken their second series in a row. A loss, and Texas has split a six game road trip.

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How The Game Has Changed: Part 2, Hitting And Fielding

How The Game Has Changed: Part 2, Hitting And Fielding

Last week I wrote the first part of this article, covering how pitching has changed to be less reliant on starting pitching and how the role of the reliever has grown, especially over the past twenty years. It was a fairly short article and might have seemed underwhelming. There were two reasons for this: 1) much of the data (e.g., the pitch types and locations) is lacking in data from earlier than the 2000s. 2) I want to attribute the growing rise in strikeouts to the hitters moreso than pitchers.

And that brings me straight to Part 2: Hitting and (as a result) Fielding.

The “Three True Outcomes” approach is causing a dramatic increase in strikeouts

As you might have heard by now, batters are striking out at rates that have never been seen before. This is a part of the “three true outcomes” approach to baseball – walk, strikeout, or home run. Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds are two former Diamondbacks that represent this “three true outcomes” approach to a tee.

What might surprise you, however, is how steady the walk and home run rates have held up over time. Home runs have not really followed the substantial increase in strikeouts. Now, there is definitely SOME effect – after all, last year was the single highest HR/PA in MLB history – but the period of 1994 – 2014 isn’t really much higher than the period from 1953 – 1970:

Sean Testerman

If I was to pick any one subject in these two weeks’ worth of posts to claim is the “not your grandfather’s baseball” well, this would be it. Seeing this chart actually surprised me – I thought the home run rates were going to be substantially higher, especially prior to the 1960s (when the mound was lowered and the strike zone was shrunk). Not really. You’ll also note that there really isn’t any significant bump from the steroid era, but I shall save that for another post on another day.

However, we are not done with the Three True Outcomes…

Batters aren’t actually hitting more flyballs but they are hitting the ball harder

Now, the data for this only goes back to 2002, so it is a limited scope. However, I’m sure most of you have heard about all these hitters trying to hit “more flyballs” or “increase his FB%” yaddah-yaddah. You would think that with all these players doing this (allegedly), that we would see an actual increase in Flyball%, right?

You see where I’m going with this? Since 2002, there hasn’t been a measureable increase in Flyball%. In fact, it appears to have mostly gone down. And strangely, what has increased over this time? Infield hits and bunt hits. Amazing.

So, you may not be surprised to hear that aside from the past year and a half (which there were talks of a different baseball), home haven’t really increased since 2002. And they’re back down again so far in 2018.

Sean Testerman

This chart is honestly not very revealing. But I use it to bring up my point. Despite the push for more flyballs, more home runs, and, in general, more of the “three true outcomes”, we aren’t really seeing this in the batted ball data. Flyballs haven’t changed nearly as much (or at all) and neither have the home runs.

So have the strikeouts been worth it? Probably not, but they’re not necessarily a bad thing, either. A ball in play still has roughly a 30% chance of being a hit and we have seen a steady increase in Hard% over the last 7 years… though this might just be a blip in the system.

I think we’re in an MLB crux. I think the change in approach to hit more flyballs works for some hitters (see: JD Martinez) but when applied to the league as a whole, they don’t seem to really work.

But I think some teams are already fighting against this “trend” in baseball (which I put in quotes because it’s more of an ideal than anything set in reality). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the best offense in baseball (The Astros and it wasn’t even close: 121 wRC+ vs 108 wRC+ for the second-place Yankees) is the team that had the lowest K% and second-lowest TTO% (three true outcome%). And just look at the teams with the bottom-5 K%s so far this season (Red Sox, Angels, Pirates, Braves, Mariners) – they all have wRC+ of 113 or higher and rank in the top 7 so far in the season in offense. Will this be the new trend?

However, we are not finished yet, because this has a huge impact on fielding..

Defensive value is less valuable than it ever has been, especially for 2B and SS

This is another thing that seems contrarian to what you hear about all the time. Teams wanting to build strong defenses, choosing to use a shortstop who still can’t hit because of his defensive prowess, etc. But it’s really comes down to something brutally simple:

More strikeouts => Less balls in play => Less value for defenders

This isn’t rocket science. The more opportunities you have to make a play, the more opportunities you have to save/lose your team a run on defense. It’s just like any other skill in baseball.

And I haven’t even gotten into shifts (and won’t be in this post due to limited data0, which further downplay the value of infielders (and to a lesser extent, outfielders). The “traditional” infield alignment doesn’t adjust to a batter’s hit tendencies, so infielders with a great range had the best value. When you’re aligning your defenders to the places where specific batters hit the ball the most common, you’re lessening the value and/or need of having “great range” because they are now in the place where they are most likely to field a ball.

Sean Testerman

Sorry for the large chart, but it was the only way I could think to properly display this information. I calculation for each position was (PO + A)/(100*Innings). I multiplied the innings by 100 so that we could deal with integers instead of decimals; it doesn’t change the shape of the chart at all. I also added a linear regression line to help make it easier to see the trend.

This chart is depressing. You’re pretty much watching the value of defenders decline with each passing year. SS and 2B are hit particularly hard but we see steady declines for both 3B and outfielders. I excluded 1B (they’re already low-value defenders, in general) and C (I don’t know how to properly measure their defensive value).

So, what does this all mean for defense? Well, it’s pretty much tied directly to the rampant increases in strikeouts since I showed above that the batted ball data wasn’t really changed during a smaller window with data. This means that value has shifted heavily from defenders to pitchers in regards to run suppression. It also widens the gap between fielding and the other skillsets.

So, in summary:

Pitching (especially relievers) and offense are more valuable than ever in baseball; defense is less valuable.

(Sorry Nick Ahmed)

Thoughts on a 6-5 Rangers win

Thoughts on a 6-5 Rangers win

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Rangers 6, Astros 5

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Rangers 6, Astros 5

  • Regardless of how this season turns out, I think this will end up being one of the most memorable, and one of the most fun, games of the season.
  • Mike Minor got the start and, except for a short stretch to start the fourth inning, was terrific. Minor had a no hitter going after three innings, with the only baserunner being Marwin Gonzalez, who reached when Jurickson Profar dropped an easy pop up in shallow center field for an error to start the third. Gonzalez was erased when Max Stassi hit into an inning-ending double play, so Minor had faced the minimum when he began the fourth inning.
  • The fourth started, however, with George Springer and Alex Bregman getting on with back-to-back singles, bringing up Jose Altuve. Minor got up 1-2 on Altuve, then froze him on what looked to be a backdoor cutter on the outside corner. Whether the home plate ump felt it was just outside, or was in the zone for a normal sized hitter but was high to the diminutive Altuve, there’s no way to know, but the pitch was called a ball, and then after a foul, Minor badly mis-threw a 2-2 pitch that bounced in and hit Altuve in the foot, loading the bases.
  • Carlos Correa broke up the shutout and brought a pair of runs home by dumping a ball down the left field line that ended up going for a double, and then Yuli Gurriel took the first pitch he saw, a high fastball, into the bleachers with a laser shot to make it a 5-0 game.
  • Minor settled down after that, striking out the next two batters before popping out Evan Gattis to end the inning, and pitched a scoreless fifth as well, but at that point, it seemed like the game was over. Texas, with its spring training road game lineup and on the road at Houston, seemed to have little chance of getting back into the game.
  • Give credit to the bullpen, though, for keeping the Rangers in it. Tony Barnette threw two scoreless innings, striking out three, and Matt Bush pitched a scoreless eighth, which gave the Rangers a chance to tie the game, allowing Keone Kela to pitch in the bottom of the ninth, shutting down the Astros and keeping the game tied, before Chris Martin and Alex Claudio tag-teamed the 10th to lock down the win. Because nothing can be easy, Martin allowed singles to the first two batters he faced, getting us all a bit panicked, but he got Carlos Correa to hit a comebacker that gave him a chance to get the lead runner at third, saw Adrian Beltre snag a line drive from Gurriel for the second out of the inning, and then, with lefty Josh Reddick due up, Claudio was summoned from the pen to induce a grounder for the final out.
  • I was a bit surprised that Jeff Banister went with Martin in the 10th — not because Martin hasn’t been good so far this season, but because he has indicated that Kevin Jepsen would close when Kela wasn’t available. To protect a 1 run extra innings lead, and with Kela already having pitched, I’d have guessed Jepsen would get the nod, but I’m not complaining about Martin.
  • Profar had an eventful game in the field — along with the pop fly that he dropped for an error in the third, he also had a foul pop fly down the third base line carom off his glove.
  • One of the keys to 2018 is going to be the ongoing Mike Minor as starting pitcher transition. Despite the one disastrous inning, Minor continues to look like he has the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starting pitcher, and he rebounded well after the Gurriel home run. We will have to continue to watch how he holds up, workload-wise, but the early returns on the transition are very positive.
  • Of course, the big story from today’s game wasn’t the pitching or the gloves…it was Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman, each of whom had their first major league home runs. IKF got the team on the board in the fifth, lacing a line drive into the Crawford Boxes to make it a 5-1 game, as seemingly every Ranger game has been this year. There was much discussion about how Kiner-Falefa has had just 5 career home runs as a professional — all of them for Frisco last year — but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Kiner-Falefa had a total of 39 extra base hits of any kind in his first four years as a professional — he’s listed at 5’10”, 176 lbs., and the big question about him as a fourth rounder in 2013 was whether he’d ever be strong enough to be a credible hitter. Him picking up 5 homers last year was a pleasant surprise, and the fact that he homered in his second start at the major league level is one of those weird, unfathomable things that makes baseball so much fun.
  • IKF’s homer seemed at the time to be largely inconsequential in terms of how the game was playing out, but in the sixth, Adrian Beltre also homered, making it a 5-2 game. With the bullpen shutting down the Astros, the Rangers had a chance to get back into the game, and with Brad Peacock pitching in relief in the 8th inning, things happened quickly. With one out, Jurickson Profar doubled down the right field line, bringing up Joey Gallo. Gallo had looked helpless against Astros starter Charlie Morton, with his third at bat being a three pitch strikeout that brought back memories of 2016. Against Peacock, though, Gallo was back in his element, and took a 2-2 pitch to right field to make it a 5-4 game.
  • And so up came Guzman. The $3.5 million bonus baby from 2011, the guy who looked like a hitting prodigy as a 16 year old, but who struggled early on in his minor league career, grappling with a variety of issues while seeming to be stuck in low-A ball, looking like an expensive bust. In 2015, after starting the season in Hickory for the third straight year, Guzman was sent to high-A High Desert after a month, and despite the extremely hitter-friendly environment there, he underwhelmed, putting up a 752 OPS. He was just 20, still had lots of time, but for someone who we’d been hearing about for a long time, a true first baseman who had to hit, and hit a lot, to be a quality prospect, it seemed like it just wasn’t to be. Compared to his fellow 2011 bonus baby Nomar Mazara, who was blossoming in Frisco in 2015, even earning a late-season promotion to Round Rock, Guzman seemed even more disappointing, and I was ready to write him off at that point. Guzman’s solid 2016 season in Frisco put him back on the map, however, and a nice, if unspectacular, 2017 campaign at Round Rock established him as someone who, at a minimum, was going to be a major leaguer.
  • Little did we know that Guzman would be a major leaguer in April, 2018…the plan was for him to spend the bulk of this season repeating in Round Rock, but the barrage of injuries brought him up, and put him in position to be a difference maker in his second major league game. With two outs in the 8th, down one run, Guzman got hold of a 2-2 pitch that was low enough to likely be called a ball, and golfed it down the right field line into the seats. Guzman’s first major league home run — a game-tying late-inning shot on the road against the defending World Series champions in just his second career game.
  • What Guzman did for an encore was almost anti-climatic. In the 10th, with one out, Jurickson Profar drew a walk, then went to third on a Joey Gallo double. Astro pitcher Will Harris walked Adrian Beltre intentionally to bring Guzman back up, no doubt in the hopes that a ground ball could be induced from the rookie to set up a double play. Guzman did hit it on the ground, back up the middle, but off of Harris, and by the time the ball was tracked down, it was a run-scoring infield single, making it a 6-5 game, and giving Guzman both the game-tying and game-winning RBIs.
  • Guzman and Kiner-Falefa had the most memorable games for the hitters, but several other Rangers did damage as well. Profar got on base four times, with a single, a double and a pair of walks, while Beltre and Gallo each had a pair of hits. And the much-maligned Ryan Rua got in on the action, registering a 2 for 5 line.
  • Congrats to IKF and Guzman on their big blasts today, and let’s see if Texas can win Sunday and take the series.

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Guzman caps rally in Rangers' 6-5 win over Houston

Guzman caps rally in Rangers' 6-5 win over Houston

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Texas Rangers’ Ronald Guzman, left, celebrates his game-tying home run off Houston Astros relief pitcher Brad Peacock with Ryan Rua during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) — Ronald Guzman’s first career homer tied the game in the eighth inning, and he put the Rangers ahead with an infield single in the 10th as Texas rallied from five runs down to beat the Houston Astros 6-5 on Saturday.

The Rangers, who snapped a five-game losing streak, loaded the bases with one out off Will Harris (0-1) before Guzman sent a hard grounder up the middle that Harris tried to grab. It ricocheted off Harris’ glove, allowing Jurickson Profar to score. Harris struck out Ryan Rua and induced a groundout by Juan Centeno to end the inning.

Keone Kela (1-0) pitched the ninth for the win. Chris Martin allowed consecutive singles to start the 10th but induced lineouts from Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel. Alex Claudio came on and retired Josh Reddick on a grounder to earn his first save.

Houston has lost three of four after starting the season 9-2.

Joey Gallo cut the lead to 5-4 with a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the eighth, and Guzman followed two batters later with a solo shot to right to tie it.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa also hit his first big league home run, a drive to left to open the fifth. Adrian Beltre homered to right in the sixth to cut the lead to three. It was the 463rd of his career, tying him with Miguel Cabrera for 35th on the all-time list.

The Astros scored all five of their runs off Mike Minor in the fourth on Correa’s two-run double and Gurriel’s three-run homer to left. Minor worked five innings, allowing five hits.

Charlie Morton tied a career high with 12 strikeouts in his six innings, allowing two runs on six hits. The right-hander has 25 strikeouts in 18 innings over three starts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: OF Nomar Mazara did not play because of what manager Jeff Banister called neck stiffness. ”He was stiff overnight, came in this morning early to get treatment. He has gotten better. It’s a situation where you have a little crick in your neck. It’s kind of tough to turn your head and see the baseball in those situations,” Banister said. … OF Delino DeShields (fractured left hamate bone) hit off a tee Saturday.

LOOKING GOOD IN GREEN

Masters champion Patrick Reed sat behind home plate, wearing his green jacket. The Astros presented Reed, who lives and trains north of Houston, with a personalized jersey.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Bartolo Colon will make his second start of the season Sunday night in the series finale. He allowed one run over six innings in his previous outing, a no-decision.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (2-0) makes his fourth start of the season and second against the Rangers. Verlander, who has a nine-game regular-season winning streak, struck out nine in seven scoreless innings in his last start Monday at Minnesota.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball