Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

30 Teams: Texas Rangers

By Mike Moritz

As we all know, the long time Texas Ranger Michael Young wants out of Texas. After the Rangers had signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million contract, the plan was to still use Young as an everyday player but he would be a utility/DH player. That is clearly not okay with Young, as he has been requesting a trade for about a month now. Trade talks have been quiet of late, though and there are not many proper suiters for Young. 

The Rangers lost to the Giants in the World Series this past year, 4-1, as we all know and Cliff Lee, a post season master was beaten twice. It was thought that if the Yankees did not sign Cliff Lee, then he would go back to Texas which was, again, not the case since he latched on with the Phillies and their historic pitching rotation. 

But looking back at this loss, it seems like it might be a good thing that Texas (and the Yankees) missed out on him. If Lee had signed a big six or seven year contract, the contract would most likely back fire down the road on Rangers (or Yankees). He is already 32-years old so perhaps the first and maybe the second year of his contract might look "Lee-like" but after that, when he reaches 34 and 35 etc., when he might start losing his "stuff", then the contract becomes garbage. It would have been a risky contract to say the least and in a few years, Texas GM John Daniels might look back and smile on the fact that he did not bring Lee to back to Texas for the long term. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I would love to have Cliff Lee in my rotation, even if he is 32 years old, for five years, just as the Phillies did. Would I rather that Lee signed with the Yankees than the Phillies, or Rangers, or any other baseball team? Of course! What Yankee fan would not love to have a pitching artist like Cliff Lee? But on a seven-year deal that the Yankees offered him? I don't think so. 

Let us keep a level head though, missing out on Cliff Lee is a shame. But let's go through some moves that the Rangers did make.

They signed catcher Yorvit Torrealba to a two-year, $6.25 million contract. Of course, the Rangers would love to see Torrealba catch at least 100 games this year, something that he has only done once in his ten year career. Coming off a season in which the right handed hitter posted his best career WAR, 2.5, he hit .271/.343/.378/.320 (which was somewhat inflated by his .321 BABIP), I am sure that the Rangers are very happy with their catching situation as they could do much worse. But the catching situation went from OK to good with a trade that brought Mike Napoli back the AL West.

Napoli was originally traded to the Blue Jays and was with them for not even a week, five days, before being traded again. The Rangers picked him up and sent 31 year-old relief pitcher Frank Francisco back to Toronto. Once again, Napoli will probably be platooning with someone as he did with Jeff Mathis with the Angels. 

The reining AL MVP and Texas Ranger left fielder, Josh Hamilton. Hamilton had a .359 average, 32 homers and a .447 wOBA and led the majors with an 8.0 WAR. 

The Rangers also signed Brandon Webb and Arthur Rhoads to one-year deals, as well as bringing Darren O'Day back to Texas on a one-year deal as well. The Rangers brought some players on minor league contracts, the likes of Endy Chavez and Seth McClung as well as many others.

The Rangers have a pretty good farm system and there is one guy who I would like to talk about.  Jake Skole is an outfielder, center mostly, who is ranked 8th on Marc Hulet's Fangraphs Texas Rangers Top 10 prospects. Hulet had this to say:

"A football player in high school, Skole did not focus solely on baseball until turning pro. Despite his split attention as an amateur, the outfielder showed signs of being more advanced than expected. He posted a walk rate of 10.1 BB% in short-season ball. His inexperience does show with pitch recognition and struck out at a rate of 25.9 K%. He gets out on his front foot with off-speed pitches, but he his good bat speed (which currently generates line-drive power) helps him compensate. Skole did not show much home-run pop in his debut (.095 ISO) but could develop above-average power with more experience. Defensively, he might stick in center field but will more than likely end up in right field. He has a good arm. Skole should open 2011 in low-A ball."

Although I have no notes of my own on Skole, which is kind of pathetic, I really like this kid. All it took was to read this paragraph by Marc Hulet to get me to do some further research. I found that his swing consists of the following: he stays tall, he has a very short path to the ball (my favorite part of his swing), and that he generates good bat speed. All very good notes to have in my opinion. You can check out Marc Hulet's Top 10 Ranger prospects by clicking here.

I'm nuetral on the Rangers this year. I think that the Beltre signing overlooked the loss of Cliff Lee to an extent. The pitching rotation is in solid shape, if not, decent. The rotation has solid pitchers but no real clear ace. We have no idea how Brandon Webb will do given his shoulder troubles. My projection is that they will fight for a play off spot but the Athletics will be very close through the whole season.

86-90 wins is my final projection. 

(Statistics and additional information in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, espn.com, and jbrynsvold.blogspot.com)

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