Friday, July 18, 2008
Guest Writer: Rangers Preview
As always, I'm happy to post articles written by SethSpeaks readers here. That's what we've got here today. I will follow his Rangers update with some game notes from Thursday and a few other thoughts.
But the main part of today's posting is a look at the surprising Texas Rangers by Vic Quick, a great friend of mine from back in college. You may recognize Vic's name as one of the participants in the SethSpeaks NFL "Expert" Picks each year. He is currently a sports reporter at KOTA-TV in Rapid City, South Dakota. He grew up in Dallas, Texas, and is the self-proclaimed biggest Texas Rangers fan in South Dakota. I don't know if he gave himself a plaque, or what. After years of disappointment, his Rangers are certainly a team worth watching, full of exciting players. Vic gives us a little look at what we can expect from the team. Now, I also have to say that you have to be careful about what you read. Vic sent me a text message before the Home Run Derby finals that read "Hamilton will obliterate Morneau." Oh was it fun to respond to that message about 15 minutes later! Anyway, thank you to Vic for this look at the Rangers. Please feel free to comment.
The Texas Rangers pay a visit to the Metrodome this weekend. Twins' fans will have the opportunity to watch what might just be the most exciting team in baseball. And it's not just about Josh Hamilton. In fact, Ian Kinsler's 1st half of the season has been just as impressive, if not more so. No one expected this kind of year from the Rangers' 2nd baseman. Kinsler leads the American League in hitting at .337, he's driven in 58 runs, and leads the American League in Runs scored with 84. Kinsler has stolen 23 bases, and his only caught stealing was on a pickoff. The number 2 man in the Rangers lineup is Michael Young. After a bit of a slow start, he's turned things on, and may pick up yet another 200 hit season. A red hot week before the All Star break has pushed Young's average up to .302. We all know about the 3rd man in the Rangers' lineup. Josh Hamilton has been sensational. He has 95 RBI in 96 games. His 21 home runs have seemed to come in big spots, including a walk off winner against the Angels last week.
I wasn't quite sure want to think when the Rangers signed Milton Bradley this off season. But the move has paid big dividends. Bradley is hitting .316 with 19 HR's and 57 RBI out of the Rangers clean up spot. But even more impressive is the fact that he seems to fit in very well in the Rangers' clubhouse. If you watched the Home Run Derby, you saw him joking around with Hamilton, and the other Ranger All Stars. By all reports, Bradley appears to have a great deal of respect for Texas' manager Ron Washington, and the two get along great. In fact Bradley has even served as a leader for this young Rangers' team. So there is a rundown on the Rangers 1 thru 4 hitters, who all were selected for the All Star game. But the hits don't stop there. David Murphy should be the American League's rookie of the year. You probably don't realize that David Murphy has 60 RBI. Which is more than such players as Vladimir Guerrero. He's also knocked out 13 round trippers, and has done a fantastic job in the number 5 spot. After being called up just a few weeks ago, first baseman Chris Davis has been very exciting. He's hit 6 Home Runs in just 17 games. At the bottom of the Rangers order you'll find either Marlon Byrd or Brandon Boggs in left field. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (the longest last name in big league history) or Max Ramirez behind the plate, and Ramon Vazquez at 3rd. Vazquez has hit 9th for much of the season, and has a .310 average, that will tell you something about the Rangers' lineup.
Alright so the Rangers obvious weakness is pitching. That's been the case for 36 years now. Kevin Millwood will start on Friday, followed by Eric Hurley and Vicente Padilla. Millwood and Padilla make a lot of money, but haven't delivered what the Rangers have expected. Padilla hasn't been bad. He has picked up 10 victories, and you can usually count on 6 good innings from him. Meanwhile Milwood's problem has been the 6th inning. Over the last month especially, he's had trouble getting out of that frame.
Over the last month the Rangers' top relievers have actually done a pretty nice job. C.J. Wilson is the Rangers' closer. He has 22 saves this season. He likes to make things interesting, but you can usually count on him to get the job done. If the Rangers head into the 8th inning wtih a lead, Minnesota fans can expect to see their old buddy Eddie Guardado. Every day Eddie has done a great job as the Rangers' set up man. Guardado has 19 holds, and has been lights out over the past month. If the Rangers go to the bullpen with a lead in the 7th, Frank Francisco is the man. The pitcher who was once known for getting in a fight with A's fans back in 2004, has done a nice job this season. Jamey Wright usually gets the assignment if the Rangers are down in a a close game in the 7th or 8th. The former starter has done a nice job in his role.
So there you go, I just wanted you Twins' fans to know a little more about the team you're facing this weekend. The Rangers started the year 7-16, but have gone 43-30 since. Ron Washington was reportedly days away from being fired, and there is now talk of a contract extension. It's been a very exciting summer for us Rangers' fans, especially since we haven't had much to cheer about over the last decade. At 50-46 the Rangers are 7.5 GB back of the Angels. They probably won't make the playoffs, but I also wouldn't count them out.
Thank you very much, Vic, for that look at the Rangers. So what do you think? Pitching matchups for the series:
Friday night - Glen Perkins (6-2, 4.14, 1.46, .301) vs Kevin Millwood (6-5, 5.11, 1.71, .321)
Saturday night - 6:05 - Livan Hernandez (9-6, 5.44, 1.62, .342) vs Eric Hurley (1-1, 3.57, 1.28, .253)
Sunday afternoon - 1:05 - Scott Baker (6-2, 3.47, 1.16, .254) vs Vicente Padilla (10-5, 4.70, 1.45, .271)
It's hard to imagine, but Kevin Millwood is pretty much as bad as Livan Hernandez. Not really surprising, but still. Secondly, from a 'stuff' standpoint, I have no idea why Vicente Padilla is so bad. Against the Twins, he always does well. He has a fastball in the 94 mph range. He also has a couple of other pitches including that really slow, Livan-like curveball. I know that his issue is more the mental side of the game, but he should be much better.
Other Notes -
My negativity about the current state of the Twins prospects is shared by John Sickels who looked at how his Top 20 Twins prospects from the preseason have done this year.
Travis also updated his Top 50 Twins prospects.
Aaron Gleeman did a very thorough review of the Twins hitters in the first half.
Nick Nelson posted his Trade Deadline Preview.
Check out Part 1 of Josh Taylor's first half minor league grades. He's really nice!
Thursday GAME NOTES
Twins Minor League Updates
Thursday SethSpeaks Player of the Day – Dustin Martin, New Britain Rockcats
Thursday SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day – Francisco Liriano, Rochester Red Wings
Thursday – Rochester 7, Norfolk 4 – Francisco Liriano was certainly the story during the day on Thursday. He was also the story on Thursday night. The lefty turned in his fourth solid start in a row. In eight innings, he gave up one run on seven hits. He walked zero and struck out eight. He is definitely close. 70 of his 103 pitches were strikes. Ricky Barrett got the first two outs of the ninth inning, but he gave up three runs on two hits and two walks. Bobby Korecky got the final out for his 13th save. Howie Clark went 2-3 with a walk. Randy Ruiz was 2-4 with his 27th double. Garrett Jones hit his 10th home run.
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Thursday – New Britain 15, New Hampshire 3 – It is almost hard to believe that this game was at 5-3 going into the seventh, but the Rockcats clubbed ten runs over the final three innings to take the big win. Dustin Martin went 4-4 with three walks and his 20th double. Drew Butera went 3-5 with his fifth home run, a grand slam in the 9th. Toby Gardenhire went 2-4 with two walks. Felix Molina was 3-5 with his 13th double... and a walk. David Winfree was 2-3 with three walks. Luke Hughes also had two hits. Jay Rainville improved to 7-7 with five innings of work. He gave up three runs on five hits and three walks. Zach Ward, back in the bullpen, went the next three innings and gave up a run on four hits and two walks. Frank Mata threw a scoreless ninth.
Thursday – Beloit 11, West Michigan 7 – Mike McCardell started and improved to 7-2. He certainly wasn't as dominating as he has been the last five weeks or more. He gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out seven. Charles Nolte gave up an unearned run over the next two innings. Blake Martin gave up a run in the final two innings for his first save. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-5. Ben Revere had two doubles and four RBI. He also stole his 30th base. Ramon Santana was 2-3 with his ninth double. Deibinson Romero went 2-5.
Thursday - E-Twins 3, Pulaski 4 – Dan Osterbrook was excellent, except for the four run fifth inning. Those were the only four runs he gave up in six innings. He gave up eight hits, walked none and struck out ten. Curtis Leavitt was excellent again, with three shutout innings in relief. Evan Bigley went 2-4 with a double and two RBI. James Beresford was 2-3.
GCL TWINS TALK
Thursday – GCL Twins 3, GCL Red Sox 1 – Angelo Sanchez was again very solid in the start. He went the first five innings and gave up just one run on three hits. He walked three and struck out five. Jose Mijares got the Win with two one-hit innings in relief. He struck out three. Kelvin Mota gave up just one hit and struck out one in two innings for his third save. Tyler Ladendorf went 2-4 and got his third stolen base.