Tag Archives: texas

L.J. Hoes in Different Area Codes: TX

LJ pensive on a TX ranch...

LJ pensive on a TX ranch…

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Are You Left-Handed? You Could Be ‘THAT Guy.’

You know when you’re watching a movie and you see ‘that guy?’  The surly beat cop.  The troubled scientist.  The grizzled war general.  The character actor.  They do not land glamorous roles, they’re never stars but they come up again and again in similar roles across mediums (The King? Clint Howard.  He’s my all time favorite. Or this guy.).  These actors and actresses make a living doing small but crucial roles in a larger scheme.  We have lots of character actors in baseball.  For every Albert Pujols, there is an Alex Cora.  We give them monikers like ‘character guys,’ ‘defensive specialists’ and, in some sports ‘glue’ guys.  I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the finest character actors we have in sports today, Mr. Darren Oliver, lefthander extraordinaire.

Oliver is about to sign with the Blue Jays on a 1-year deal.  When he does, it will mark the start of his 19th season in the MLB.  Oliver is such an interesting case to me.  Proof, if you will, that every left-handed child should learn to throw a curveball.  Oliver was a mediocre but effective back-end starter for those Rangers teams in the late 90’s when they time and time again failed to defeat the Yankees despite putting up video game numbers on offense (actually, he threw a really nice start in game 3 of the ALDS against the soon-to-be World Series Champs Yanks, poor Braves).  But his mediocrity caught up to him and by 2005, he was not signed to a major league team.  By then, he had become a 6th starter, a swingman.  Starting games and mopping up messes.  Then he wised up and became a situational lefty.  There are very few careers in the world so beautifully, specifically designed.

very dramatic pose.

And this is when and why I find him so endlessly delightful.  You can see here in some sortable stats and pretty-colored charts that Oliver is rarely touching 90 on the radar gun.  There is something undeniably fun about seeing major league batters pop up on an 80 mph fastball and clearly mouth some truly foul expletives as they head back to the dugout.  It humanizes them.  There’s no solid logic for what makes Oliver so effective as a reliever.  Barely throwing swiftly, let alone hard, Oliver gets the job done time after time out of the pen.  He held lefties to a .225 batting average in 2011 and had the same batting average against with men on base last year.  He is the consummate ‘crafty lefty.’  Straight out of baseball’s central casting.  He’ll never sign a deal for $25 million a year, but Oliver and guys like him win championships and don’t go away easily.  Congratulations, Mr. Oliver.  Your fastball-slider combo gives hope to every high school lefty worrying that, while it might send you back in time, 88 mile per hour won’t get you to the big show.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, pitchers, Random Thoughts

Texas Two-Step

As in, step one: buy a sports team.   step two: PROFIT!

Not Jim Crane. Sadly.

Baseball is shaking things up.  Let me rephrase that.  As much as they can allow themselves to become more exciting, baseball is making some changes.  As I outlined brilliantly in my 3-part “Gritty MLB Reboot” series (or rant, depending on how you take it), baseball is in dire need of some different spices in the pot (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  Perhaps this purchase and movement of the Astros, and the dominoes their scenario knocks around, is a step in the right direction.

Let us address the sale of the Astros and subsequent move to the AL West.  Effective 2013, the Houston Astros will join their Texas brethren in the AL West.  This instantly creates a legitimate in-state rivalry, unlike the ones MLB and Fox try to force upon us when interleague play arrives (my distaste for interleague is a different story for a different day).  The battle for Texas will provide an interesting tweak on both the division it is entering and the one it is leaving.  Competitively, the NL Central loses  a punching bag, as the Astros have been downright astro-cious the past few years.  Horrible puns aside, the World Champion Cardinals especially benefitted from the Astros, going 10-5 against the 100-loss Houston team.  With the additional wild-card games and an added loser (the Astros, undeniably, will be bad for several years at the very least), the AL West becomes legitimate players.  Do the Athletics take a big step forward?  And does their impending success help persuade the A’s move out of woeful Oakland?  The ramifications of this move could prove to be far reaching competitively, financially, and emotionally – if Nolan Ryan would just say something outlandish to stir the pot (I sincerely hope this happens).  This nugget does not suffice:

“I’ve always thought of the Astros as a National League team,” said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan (who played for Houston from 1980-1988.)  “But when I look at it from our perspective, I like it.”

With a big, big TV deal in place and a mini-dynasty in the making, the Rangers surely like the idea of having a bad team to beat up on.  But the Astros, bad as they might be, will benefit from this too.  Texans are stereotypically a competitive lot, so, somewhat counter-intuitively, two teams in the same state should build up both teams’ TV share and attendance.  Jim Crane paid a pretty penny for a struggling team.  But he may have lucked into the perfect storm of circumstance.  Additional playoffs and a Champion-caliber, in-state rival should put the Astros in a good position financially going forward.  Now if they could only find some players.

Here are some other bits from around the league:

–> Infielder Matt Antonelli will undergo a physical on Monday to finalize his major league deal with the Orioles, tweets Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.  Matt’s a good dude.  And he’s from Peabody.  And he’s read our blog before, so he’s wicked smaht.  Good to see Dan Duquette give him a go.  Glad he’s healthy again.

—> Joe Nathan signs a 2 year (3rd year team option) with the Texas Rangers.  This really makes me mad, actually.  I have been saying for several weeks now – louder since Papelbon left for Philadelphia – that the Red Sox should make Daniel Bard a starter and sign Nathan to be their closer.  It was a concept borrowed from these same Rangers, and a damned good one, so they did it with their more-than-a-closer Neftali Feliz.  The worst part of this going forward is now the Red Sox must either overpay for a guy who’s not that good, have open tryouts a-la “Invincible” or… gulp… make Bobby Jenks their closer.

—> Philadelphia Phillies acquire Ty Wiggington for a bag of trail mix.  I’m confused by the Phillies reluctance to sign players or develop players under 30.  Between Jim Thome and Ty Wiggington, the Phillies’ bench seems better equipped for lumberjacking than winning baseball games.

—> The Red Sox are circling around Bobby Valentine for their managerial position.  More details and lots of swearing to come in the following weeks.

—> The MLB is working on a new CBA and it will allegedly address issues such as HGH testing and draft slotting.  More details will begin to emerge and once they announce the official parameters, I will break them down.

 

 

Adios, muchachos, enjoy this phenomenal new Black Keys song and the awesome dancing.  Don’t know how this guy stole my moves.

-w

 

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Well, That Was Fast…

 

BUY BUY BUY SELL SELL SELL

Just a day after completing a deal for the arbitration eligible Mike Napoli, the Blue Jays have turned around and dealt the squat C/1B to the Rangers for the expendable Frank Francisco.

This deal has several implications. Firstly, it means the Rangers have no intention of moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation, a move that would have had startling fantasy meaning (would’ve been like the Sox moving Paps to the rotation back in the day). Sticking with the closer talk, the move is very interesting for those of us looking to scrape up some saves off the trash heap, as there are two intriguing candidates now in Toronto in Francisco and the newly acquired Octavio Dotel. Not being an ‘expert’ on handicapping saves, my best guess is that Francisco emerges as the Jays’ closer, as he has had success there in the past and isn’t as volatile as Dotel. But what do I know, Dotel has outstanding K potential and both are likely usable in all formats, regardless of who wins out in the closer competition, if there is one.

As for the deal’s implications in Texas, Napoli creates a sort of ripple effect. The deal all but takes the Rangers out of contention for Vlad the Impaler. The deal also makes for an interesting C/1B situation. Mitch Mooreland, playoff hero, figures to lose at bats, which is sad because I was curious to see what he could do with ample AB’s. Alas, he will likely have his plate appearances restricted as he learns the league. Of much less fantasy importance, save for position eligibility, Yorvit Torrealba figures to lose time behind the dish.  Either position, the move is excellent for Napoli’s already good hitting numbers.  Check out his career numbers at Rangers Ballpark… I’ll wait.  Do those numbers look good?  How bout for a catcher?  Napoli’s value is sky high in terms of fantasy right now and he may be well worth an overdraft if you miss out on the big name catchers.  He could be in for a monster season in a monster lineup.

As an interesting aside, the deal shows an interesting strategy on the Rangers part that I have been utilizing in fantasy for years: flexibility. With Mike Young and Napoli, the Rangers have players capable of playing multiple positions as well as DH. This is obviously a movement away from the big slugger-type DH’s in favor of having moveable parts. It works in football, we’ll see what the Rangers do with the flexibility in 2011.  Hopefully Napoli stays put now because, while I like the guy in fantasy, three articles in 2 days would be pushing it.

 

-w

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Filed under catchers, Closers, Fantasy Baseball, first base, MLB, offseason, Opinion, pitchers, Posted

Championship Pieces: Will Power

Every cahampionship run has a few ‘glue’ guys.  not-to exciting players who in the end get the job done.  James Posey, Scott Brosius, Robert Horry, Bill Mueller, Troy Brown,  guys who get the job done in a pretty unremarkable fashion.  but they win you games, and you need wins now as the fantasy playoffs loom…

I constantly think of Placido Polanco, who beat me several years ago with a hot September week.  Sad.

So i present to you two new young fellas who you shoudl call up to the team, if theyre not up already to help hold the team together:

Will Rhymes: Your Average/Speed Guy (and Infield guy)

Look at this little carney.  My god he’s like 5’5”.  But he gets the job done.  Dustin Pedroia-Lite, if you’re trying to get a Pedroia fix while he’s out.  Based on his minor league stats(Admittedly many, but he’s turning magical age 27…), he figures to be able to keep his relatively unspectacular but very useful .320-ish average with a .365-.375 OBP.  That type of consistency that a guy like Rhymes could provides is undeniably useful as you get into those tighter weeks and are looking to scratch out hits, runs and possibly doubles out of their second second base issue (otherwise known as an IF or 2B/SS spot in leagues I always hate the 2B/SS spot because I forget about it in the rush of good Outfielders that often arrives in a draft.)

Will Venable: Your Power/OBP guy (and Outfield Guy)

Dave loves Venable, for whatever that’s worth …

Venable has demonstrated decent power in the majors and minors with a mid-level OBP and doubles.  A decent slugger.  I think of him as a James Loney-Lite type, hitting for an unremarkable but useful average as he picks up bunches of RBI’s and Doubles.  How does a .290 average  with a .422 oBP and a .991 SLG% sound to you for a month? 7 extra base hits in 51 AB’s?  With a triple in a triple’s park?  I like Venable just as much as Dave moving forward as I think he’ll settle around the .290-.400-.900 AVG-OBP-SLG in the remaining time in the season.  Having watched him this year in Spring Training on mlb.TV many times this year, I tell you he has the ability to be this type of player.  He’s also 27, for the superstitious type.

C.J. Wilson – Your ACE.

Texas has 2 Left-Handed Aces.  This is why I fear them in the playoffs (you know, aside from Josh ‘Lord’s Arm’ Hamilton on the team- damn, they’re scary).  C.J. Wilson’s only issue (aside from brief and inconsistent control issues) rest in his… well… rest.  He worked like a bulldog to start out the year and his decline in stats can be attributed to a tired arm.  In his last 24.2 innings he has 28 K to only 9 walks with a 1.09 WHIP.  The kid has been dealing, check!  He will put up big-time numbers down the stretch as the Playoff push comes for both your home team and your fantasy team.  Unless you live in Pittsburgh, then it’s- “have you SEEN the draft picks this year!?!?!?!”

sorry, Pittsburgh, I know some of them are coming through, you still can’t produce a single arm…….

…….. not like doc, at least…..

enjoy the willpower, people

-w

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Phew, What a Day…

thank god I'm not in Cleveland anymore

The back and forth and almost reporting (ahem… guilty hand raised) is done, Cliff Lee is going to the Texas Rangers in a 6 player swap (USA Today story here).  Good for the Rangers, first of all, for stepping in and beating the Yankees out and for finally making a push for that one guy to make them serious contenders.  I love parity.

Now on to the meat and potatoes.  What in the world does this mean for fantasy?  Let’s break it down:

Seattle gets…

Justin Smoak, 1B

Smoak was a fantasy darling this year and has on more than one occasion been compared to former Ranger Mark Teixeira, another switch hitter (who also had trouble with lefties when he came up…).  He came out of the gate big, but has cooled off considerably.  Okay I’m sugar coating, he has struggled a lot recently, but the pedigree is phenomenal.  By all accounts, Smoak will be a good-if-not great first baseman and, more importantly for us, a viable fantasy option for years to come.  And just to beat those naysayers to the punch, Safeco Field might be good for Smoak.  With its large power alleys, Smoak, a great line drive hitter, could be in line to rake in the doubles out in Seattle.

Blake Beavan, Joshua Lueke, and Matt Lawson

*Beaven was the 17th pick in the 2007 draft (WOW HE’S ONLY 21!) and is supposedly an excellent control pitcher.  He’s also 6’7” 250, so he has the build of a monster, or at the very least Jeff Nieman 2.0.

*Lueke, another big fella (6’5” 220), was a 16th round selection in 2007 draft.  He’s had biiiiiiiiiig strikeout numbers in the minors and he’s older (25) leading me to believe he is going to be a useful bullpen are along the way, as some scouts have called him a ‘top relief prospect.’  I read that to mean he’s a power arm, plain and simple.

*Lawson is an interesting player, listed as a 2B/OF- always an interesting combo.  A 14th round selection in that same 2007 draft (nice haul, Texas).  He seems like a solid player, hitting for a nice combo of speed and power with a decent OBP.  Who knows how he’ll play out, but he seems to be an athlete at the least.  The only issue might be the K’s (127 in 545 Plate appearances in high A last year), but it appears he has corrected that somewhat (64:37 BB:K ratio this year in AA).

The Rangers Get…

This Guy Named Cliff Lee?

He’s just plain good.  Even in Texas.  I feel like I don’t need to write him up at this point.  But I will.  Lee goes to a solid rotation in Texas and makes them legitimate contenders.  Not that this is set in stone, but I am fascinated by the effect Lee might have on the rising young arms in Texas, especially my favorite C.J. Wilson.

Mark Lowe

Lowe is a very solid reliever and an established one at that, unlike the young arms the Rangers traded away.  This is a smart move by the Rangers, as I always think it is wise to grab established relievers over young potential relievers.  He figures to add to an already solid Ranger bullpen and anchor the last few innings with Francisco and Feliz.

And there you have it, blurbs for all, the deed is done and the Lee is gone.  Great deal for both teams, I’m excited to see Smoak develop and the Rangers with an actual ace for once…

-w

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