Monday, April 16, 2007

The Rangers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Well, not quite 1/10 of the way through the season and I've finally had a chance to breath after they really stunk it up the first series against the Angels. I mean it's frustrating. You wait six months for baseball to start, you're reasonably optimistic about the season and they lay an egg on the west coast, which means if you want to watch or listen to the game you gotta stay up past midnight. There's another issue to complain about as a Ranger's fan. Why is it that the Rangers are the only team two whole time zones away from their rivals in the division? With the unbalanced schedule a ton of games start at 9:00. That's ridiculous, but that's not why I'm writing now.

Where are the Rangers after this first two weeks of the season? In the same place they have been far too often in their history: last place. Thankfully, it is still the first two weeks and not the last two weeks. So at least we still have something to talk about and hope can still grow. But for hope to really take hold, they gotta start playing better. Let's take a look at what's gone right and what's gone wrong and what we need to see coming up for them to claw their way out of the depth of what looks like a pretty mediocre division.

The Good
1. Ian Kinsler- Any list of what is goin right has to start with the sophomore second baseman. He leads the team in HR (6) and RBIs (10) and is hitting 343 .452 .886 to pace the team. He has unquestionably been the Texas' early hitting star. Which raised the question of why Ron Washington continues to bat him ninth instead of the Wilkerson or Sosa, who, though not making the what's not going wrong list, have struggled out of the gate. There is not a baseball player (who isn't a catcher or pitcher) who looks less athletic than Brad Wilkerson. He looks like he should be in beer league somewhere.
2. The late bullpen- The closer combination of Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne have been good at the back of the bullpen and Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman have been pretty good.
3. The starters haven't been an abomination (with the exception of Brandon McCarthy's last start: a less than sterling effort- 2IP, 6H, 6ER, 3 HR. I mean could we not have had John Danks give up a bunch of homeruns in that spot in the rotation? I thought the fact that McCarthy had had major league experience was a major plus over Danks.) Millwood has been the horse that he's supposed to be and Tejeda is showing signs of being a decent #4 starter.
Ok, I confess. It's been hard to come up with three things that have gone well so far. But they are what they are.

The Bad
1. Vincente Padilla- Norm Hitzges warned us that Padilla, with a guaranteed contract, would not be that great and his initial starts have just not been that good. So far, in three starts he has 17.2IP, 19H, 15R, 7BB, 6K, 6.62 ERA. In his only good outing, he gave up two long homeruns to David Ortiz. I am expecting much more from the #2 starter.
2. Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock- Neither of these guys right now can hit their way out of a paper bag. Tex, a notorious slow starter, has continued that trend- .233 .365 .256, 1 double. That's right. One extra base hit. He's batting clean up and has 2RBIs. Chris freakin Stewart has 2RBIs! Blalock is usually terrible in the second half, but he drops of from what's he's been doing, then they need to send him to AAA- .256 .289 .349. He has more extra base hits, but no HRs and only ONE RBI. The one saving grace for Teixeira is he has 8BB, indicating that either he's not getting any pitches (and with Sosa behind him, it's possible) or he's close because at least his eye is still there. These two guys have got to start hitting. (Even Michael Young has been less than expected so far. It just hasn't been a good year offensively so far for the Rangers.
3. Sosa- I've alluded to him a couple of time. The guys on the radio say the Rudy Jaramillo says that Sosa's close. Well, he has not looked real good so far. I give through Memorial Day to get his stuff together.

The Ugly
1. Defense- Ron Washington is supposed to be a defensive guy. Well, so far, the lessons have not taken. They have had some sloppy games defensively, the last two losses to Seattle were prime examples. They committed 3 errors in both games have had at least 2 errors in 4 games and lead the league in errors with 13. I thought that this was going to be a fundamentally sound team, but not so far.
2. Clutch Hitting- This is little more nebulous and I haven't seen a stat, but it seems that they are having trouble getting the runners in after they get on base. They've have opportunities, but have blown them on too many occasions.
3. Ron Washington- Have you seen a picture of this guy? He is one funny looking dude.

As I look at all this, I can only say that's it's still very very early. They've got a tough couple of weeks ahead: @ CWS, OAK, SEA, @CLE, @TOR. Hopefully, they can start improving on their rough start.

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