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Entries in Texas Rangers (77)

Friday
Jul052013

Big Puma Passive to a Fault

The Texas Rangers recently inked Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract, hoping he still has some modicum of the hitting prowess that made him a 12-time All-Star selection. Manny's career credentials are unquestioned -- he has 555 career home runs, 14th on the all-time list, and his 154 OPS+ ties him with Frank Robinson for 15th-best in MLB history. But let's be honest -- no one, Jon Daniels included, knows what to expect from Manny. He's 41, hasn't played a big league game since April of 2011 and slugged .349 last season for the Sacramento Rivers Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A's.

One major reason why the Rangers are willing to see whether Manny's big numbers this season with Taiwan's EDA Rhinos translate to the bigs is the decline of another Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, Lance Berkman. Texas signed Berkman over the winter to a one-year, $11 million deal with a club option for 2014, thinking the 37-year-old could take and rake while resting his aching body as the Rangers' DH.

Unfortunately, Berkman isn't doing much raking. He has just six home runs and a 101 OPS+, and his right knee (surgically repaired four times during his career) is barking. In addition to his creaky knee, it looks like Berkman's overly patient approach could be hurting him.

Big Puma has shown otherworldly strike-zone judgment during his career, and he's still doing a good job of laying off pitches thrown off the plate -- his chase rate is 17.6%, seventh-lowest among MLB hitters and far below the 27% average. But Berkman's judgment on pitches in the zone has taken a turn for the worse. Check out his swing rate against in-zone pitches over the 2011-12 seasons, and then in 2013.

Berkman's swing rate by pitch location vs. in-zone pitches, 2011-12

 

Berkman's swing rate by pitch location vs. in-zone pitches, 2013

In 2011-12, Berkman took at cut at about 73% of pitches thrown over the plate. For comparison's sake, the MLB average is about 65%. This season, Berkman is swinging at just 62% of in-zone pitches. The trend is even more pronounced against fastballs -- Berkman swung at 70% of in-zone heat in 2011-12, but just 56% in 2013.

With Berkman keeping the bat on his shoulder so often, he has fallen behind in the count far more often this year (40% of his plate appearances) than he did with the Cardinals the previous two years (33%). Maybe he's looking for pitches in a particular spot, unsure that he can still do damage on some high-velocity, in-zone pitches that he used to crush. In any event, don't be surprised if the Rangers act fast should Ramirez rake in the minors and Berkman continue to take so often.

Wednesday
Jun122013

B. Chuck: Elvis Andrus owns the Indians

In last night's Cleveland 5-2 win over the Rangers, Elvis Andrus went 1-3 which means he has now hit in all 34 games he's played against Cleveland.

His 34-game hitting streak is tied for the second longest all-time against the Tribe.

Top 10 Longest hitting streaks against Cleveland

Rk   Strk Start End Games AB H 2B 3B HR SO BB BA Tm
1 Ken Griffey 1992-05-24 1996-08-06 35 142 55 8 1 13 29 16 .387 SEA
                           
2 Elvis Andrus 2009-04-06 2013-06-11 34 132 50 8 1 3 18 16 .379 TEX
3 George Bell 1985-06-01 1987-08-08 34 141 55 18 1 9 11 8 .390 TOR
                           
4 John Stone 1930-07-05 1931-09-24 27 111 49 9 3 3 4 8 .441 DET
                           
5 Rod Carew 1972-08-21 1974-07-13 25 105 48 8 1 0 3 7 .457 MIN
                           
6 Kirby Puckett 1991-09-02 1993-09-07 24 105 41 4 0 5 14 4 .390 MIN
                           
7 Wayne Causey 1963-07-26 1964-08-20 23 86 37 6 0 1 6 20 .430 KCA
8 Al Simmons 1925-06-15 1926-06-12 23 95 42 7 0 4 3 7 .442 PHA
9 Harry Heilmann 1923-04-22 1924-04-16 23 90 42 8 1 3 5 8 .467 DET
10 Frank Brower 1921-06-12 1922-07-31 23 75 31 8 3 2 3 8 .413 WSH
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/12/2013.
Thursday
May162013

Verlander, Darvish Bring the Heat in Different Ways

Gloves might as well be optional tonight in Texas, as Justin Verlander (10 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.93 ERA) squares off against Yu Darvish (13.7 K/9, 2.73 ERA) at 8:05 PM EST on MLB Network. Verlander and Darvish are early Cy Young favorites in part because they bring the heat, but they use their premium fastballs in far different ways. Verlander lets it ride high and in the strike zone. Darvish, by contrast, pounds hitters with shin-high pitches.

Verlander is averaging "just" 93.3 MPH with his fastball, tying him with David Price, Justin Masterson and Derek Holland for highest among American League starters. Darvish also ranks in the top ten, averaging 92.8 MPH. Those lofty radar gun readings are translating into precious little hard contact for opposing hitters:

Lowest opponent slugging percentage on fastballs, 2013

Verlander and Darvish both throw hard, and they're both torturing hitters. That's where the similarities end, though. Check out their respective fastball locations in 2013:

Verlander's fastball location

Detroit's ace dares hitters to handle his searing fastball, throwing far more of them over the plate (56%) than the average MLB starter (52%). Most of those fastballs are belt-or-letter-high: Verlander has tossed just 19% of his heaters down in the zone, well under the 30% MLB average.

Darvish's fastball location

While Verlander's fastball philosophy can be summed up as, "Here it is, just try and hit it," Darvish's approach relies more on deception and location. Texas' ace has thrown just 41% of fastballs over the plate, the lowest clip among qualified starters. He has also thrown 41% of his heaters down in the zone, trailing only Jeremy Hellickson among AL starters.

High and in the zone, low and off the dish...either way, the result is devastating. Good luck, Rangers and Tigers hitters. You'll need it tonight.

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