2007 Record: 75-87 (.463)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 78-84 (.483)
2008 Record: 42-41 (.506)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 40.5-42.5 (.488)
Manager: Ron Washington
General Manager: Jon Daniels
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (100/100)*
Who’s Replacing Whom:
Josh Hamilton replaces Mark Teixeira and Brad Wilkerson
Milton Bradley replaces Sammy Sosa
David Murphy inherits the playing time of Kenny Lofton and Victor Diaz
Brandon Boggs replaces Nelson Cruz (minors)
German Duran replaces Jerry Hairston Jr. and Travis Metcalf (minors)
Chris Davis replaces Jason Botts (minors)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is filling in for Gerald Laird (DL) in the lineup
Max Ramirez is filling in for Saltalamacchia on the bench
Vicente Padilla reclaims Edinson Volquez’s starts
Scott Feldman is filling in for Jason Johnson (DL) who replaced Kameron Loe (minors)
Luis Mendoza is filling in for Doug Mathis (DL) who was filling in for Brandon McCarthy (DL)
Eric Hurley replaces Robinson Tejada (minors)
C.J. Wilson has inherited Eric Gagné’s save chances
Eddie Guardado replaces Ron Mahay and Wilson’s set-up innings
Josh Rupe replaces Wes Littleton
Jamey Wright has ceded his starts to the gaggle of starters listed above and moved to the bullpen to replace Willie Eyre
Warner Madrigal the latest reliever to attempted to fill in the remaining innings pitched by Mike Wood, John Rheinecker (DL), Akinori Otsuka and others last year.
1B – Frank Catalanotto (L)
2B – Ian Kinsler (R)
SS – Michael Young (R)
3B – Ramon Vazquez (L)
C – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S)
RF – Josh Hamilton (L)
CF – Marlon Byrd (R)
LF – David Murphy (L)
DH – Milton Bradley (S)
R – Brandon Boggs (OF)
L – Chris Davis (1B/3B)
R – German Duran (UT)
R – Max Ramirez (C)
R – Vicente Padilla
R – Eric Hurley
R – Scott Feldman
R – Kevin Millwood
R – Luis Mendoza
L – C.J. Wilson
R – Joaquin Benoit
L – Eddie Guardado
R – Jamey Wright
R – Frank Francisco
R – Josh Rupe
R – Warner Madrigal
15-day DL: L – Hank Blalock (3B), R – Gerald Laird (C), R – Jason Jennings, L – Kason Gabbard, R – Doug Mathis, L – A.J. Murray
60-day DL: R – Brandon McCarthy, L – John Rheinecker, R – Thomas Diamond
R – Ian Kinsler (2B)
R – Michael Young (SS)
L – Josh Hamilton (RF/CF)
S – Milton Bradley (DH)
L – David Murphy (LF/RF)
R – Marlon Byrd (CF)
L – Frank Catalanotto (1B)
S – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C)
L – Ramon Vazquez (3B)
Quick, what team has the best offense in baseball? Okay, maybe the headline was a giveaway. Easier question: what team has the worst pitching staff in the game? In both cases the answer is the Texas Rangers team that just showed up in the Bronx for a three-game series. Sure, their ballpark* has played its part in those rankings, with the team’s runs scored and allowed per game each swelling by roughly one full run at home versus their road marks, but the Rangers’ offensive attack is very nearly that good and their pitching really is that bad.
Three of the first four hitters in the Texas lineup–Milton Bradley, Ian Kinsler, and Josh Hamilton, in that order–boast three of the top four VORP totals in the American League. The fourth member of the quartet atop the Rangers order is Michael Young. He’s 34th in the AL in VORP, but first among AL shortstops. Ramon Vazquez, a 31-year-old futility infielder pressed into duty at third base in the wake of yet another Hank Blalock injury, is having something beyond a career year and ranks above Young at 31st in the league in VORP despite having less than two-thirds as many plate appearances. Vazquez is hitting ninth on reputation rather than performance (he’s hitting .319/.359/.542 this month), and thus gives the Rangers five mashers in a row when the lineup turns over. David Murphy, who was picked up from the Red Sox in the Eric Gagné trade at last year’s deadline, is fourth in VORP among AL rookies. He hits fifth, giving Texas six notable performers in a row.
Then again, Murphy is 26 and won’t take a walk (he has just three since May 10), and the top four hitters in the order all experience a significant decrease in production on the road. Still, the Rangers’ still boast the best road offense in the league, plating 5.02 R/G away from Arlington, and with professional lefty hitter Frankie “The Cat” Catalanotto, switch-hitting catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the improved plate discipline of former washout Marlon Byrd rounding out the lineup, the Rangers aren’t a whole lot of fun to pitch too. Kinsler, Young, Hamilton, and Bradley, all legitimately excellent hitters, make them outright dangerous.
The Rangers pitchers are dangerous as well, but only to the Rangers. The state of their rotation can be best summarized by the fact that the most effective starting pitcher the Rangers have had this year will pitch against them as a Yankee on Wednesday, and he’s Sidney Freaking Ponson. They have received more reliable individual performances out of the bullpen, but the sum total of the Rangers’ relief work has been the worst in baseball by a fair margin.
What that all adds up to is, surprise, a .500 ballclub. The Rangers were terrible in April (.370 winning percentage), great in May (.655), and are dead even in June (13-13).
Tonight the Rangers send Scott Feldman to the mound. Feldman is a 25-year-old side-arming righty who spent most of his pro career as a reliever before being forced into the rotation when Jason Jennings hit the DL at the beginning of May. Since then, he’s been roughly league average, turning in five quality starts in ten tries. A low-strikeout groundballer, Feldman has been giving up way too many fly balls this year, but managing to survive nonetheless. That doesn’t bode well for his future performance. He’ll face off against Mike Mussina, who will be making his first start since having his work against the Pirates erased by rain last week.
The Yanks have swaped Justin Christian out for Brett Gardner, which makes a lot of sense given that Joe Girardi had taken to starting Christian, a bench outfielder at best. Gardner starts in left field tonight with Jorge Posada at DH, Jose Molina catching and Johnny Damon on the bench.
Meanwhile, I’ll be joining Alex, Steve Goldman, Peter Abraham, Jay Jaffe, Joe Sheahan, Will Carroll, Derek Jacques, and an apparent cast of thousands at the Baseball Prospectus pizza feed at Foley’s on 33rd street at 8pm tonight. Hope too see some of you there.
*I take my park factors for these team summaries from Baseball-Reference, but something’s clearly awry about B-Ref’s factors this season. B-Ref has Rangers Ballpark as a slight pitchers’ park, but ESPN.com lists the Rangers’ park as the fifth most extreme offensive environment in the majors.