The Rangers Are 1-3

Isn't winning fun?

  • A.J. Griffin took the mound tonight, and immediately put his defense to the test. By defense, I mean Carlos Gomez. In the top of the first inning, Gomez recorded all three outs in center field, one a ball that he tracked to the wall and saved from being what looked as if it would have otherwise been a home run. Way to go, Carlos.
  • In the bottom of the first, Gomez became a catalyst for the offense. He led off with a double, advanced to third on a Shin-Soo Choo groundout, and then on a weird play in which Nomar Mazara hit the ball to first base, bolted for home on contact. He slid around the tag at home, getting his hand on the plate and giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Also, it was ruled that Yonder Alonso hadn't touched first base, so Mazara was ruled safe.
  • Rougned Odor continued his powerful start to the season, belting his third long ball of the season and putting Texas up 3-0 heading into the second inning.
  • Griffin had a painless second inning, holding the 3-0 lead he was given. In the bottom half of the second, Joey Gallo led off with a walk and advanced on a groundout by Elvis Andrus. Jurickson Profar walked, and then Gomez was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Choo.
  • Choo singled on a hard-hit ball to center field, making it 4-0 Texas. Then, Mazara provided the highlight play of the game, hitting a grand slam to straightaway center field and making it 8-0 Texas.
  • At that point, it was thought that the Rangers could coast to the finish line. Of course, if you've watched the first three games of the season, you probably didn't yet feel comfortable. Griffin gave up a three-run home run in the third, then a solo shot to Khris Davis in the fourth.
  • In that fourth, Griffin attempted to keep an errant throw from bouncing out of the field of play and found himself on the ground. He appeared to have suffered some scraping on his pitching hand, and was promptly pulled from the game in favor of Alex Claudio. Griffin's final line was 3.1 IP, four hits, four runs (all earned), two walks, and two strikeouts. He wasn't exactly sharp, giving up a lot of hard contact, and even before the tumble near the camera well, he didn't appear to be long for this game. I tend to wonder if Mike Hauschild will get a shot sooner rather than later.
  • In the bottom of the sixth, Elvis Andrus led off with a double of his own. Following that, Profar got ahead in the count 3-0, then ended up striking out in one of the poorest sequences of hitting I think I've seen so far in 2017.
  • Carlos Gomez followed with an RBI double of his own, and Mazara singled on a ball to left field that was, quite possibly, a more impressive piece of hitting than his grand slam earlier in the game. The hit scored Gomez from second, making it 10-4.
  • In the bottom of the eighth, Mazara hit another ball to left field. The Big Chill has easily been the most impressive part of the young season so far, and much of that has been due to his plate coverage skills. After initial success followed by some struggles in his 2016 rookie campaign, it's a good bet that Nomar will end up being an important part of anything the Rangers do in 2017.
  • Jose Leclerc came in to work the ninth inning. Stephen Vogt reached on a Rougned Odor error and later scored on a Yonder Alonso double. Marcus Semien then grounded out to end the game, with the Rangers winning 10-5.
  • Not a bad first win of the season, at least as far as the offense was concerned. The starting pitching needs to be better, but will have a chance to begin righting the ship tomorrow evening as Yu Darvish takes the mound for the second game of the series.

So You Don't Like the New Broadcast Crew

Three games into the 2017 season, a hot topic on Twitter has been the state of the newly-revamped television broadcast.

Specifically, Emily Jones has taken on a larger role that was once reserved for Jim Knox, Dave Raymond is your everyday play-by-play guy, and C.J. Nitkowski joined the fold as a color commentator.

Tom Grieve will presumably still be involved in broadcasts during the season, but for now, the opening series of the season was mostly a blend of new with just a hint of familiarity in Emily Jones. And the response has been varied. Some love the change, others hate it and want the old broadcast back.

Now, I've made my opinions about Nitkowski public in the past. He seems like a well-spoken and intelligent former ballplayer. My only gripe has always been his insistence on "former MLB players" being a group that somehow holds more weight in baseball discussions.

That being what it is, I've found him to be at least refreshing compared to the normal goofball takes that come with Tom Grieve. As with any baseball broadcast, you're going to have lulls in the action where "filler" conversation is necessary. And Dave Raymond, who will only get better as time goes on, could afford to be a bit more enthusiastic at times. But again, that will improve.

For years, the Rangers were just another baseball team. With a noted lack of real success, the target audience was just different. And so things like "Cookie Talk" probably played well with those audiences. Approaching nearly a decade of sustained success, however, I'm just not sure that formula works anymore. So the more time goes by, the more I'm good with the change.

Still dead-set against it? Then I'll just leave this here from the eighth inning of a tie game against Seattle in 2014.

The Rangers Are 0-3

I think it's fair to say that the bullpen needs a bit of fine-tuning. Some thoughts:

  • Cole Hamels took the mound tonight, and early on, looked very dominant, not allowing a base runner until the fourth inning. Things were looking pretty excellent.
  • In that fourth inning, Francisco Lindor hit a ball to left field, where Nomar Mazara was playing tonight. Mazara -- who hit an upper-deck home run to right field in the first inning -- should have made the catch, but instead, there were men on first and second with no outs. This became important later, as Jose Ramirez, with two outs in the inning, singled in both runners, tying the game at two runs apiece.
  • Cleveland plated another run in the fifth inning to briefly take the lead, but an offensive barrage gave Texas a 5-3 advantage heading into the sixth.
  • The sixth was where Hamels struggled mightily tonight. He faced six hitters on 28 pitches, giving up a home run to Lindor. No matter, Texas still held a 5-4 lead as Hamels ended his night.
  • Elvis Andrus hit a solid home run to left field to make it 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh. Tony Barnette had worked a scoreless top half of the seventh, and with Matt Bush and Sam Dyson waiting in the fold, a 6-4 lead felt somewhat comfortable.
  • Bush did his part, working a scoreless eighth. Good job, Matt.
  • Sam Dyson, however, continues to be erratic to begin the season. His five earned runs allowed in the ninth bring his ERA on the season to a whopping 72.00 (not a typo), and perhaps most concerning were the back-to-back walks to the ninth and first place hitters in the Cleveland lineup. The first loaded the bases, while the second walked in a run to bring the score to 6-5.
  • Of course, the one thing you can't do is give up a grand slam, which Dyson did to Francisco Lindor. Lindor is one of the most exciting young players in the league, but I'm not sure Rangers fans will be too sad to see him go.
  • 0-3 isn't ideal, and perhaps most concerning has been the inability to shut down games late, but at least there are 159 more of these to go. That might not feel like much consolation right now, but at least there's an off day tomorrow for the club to regroup.

Was the Platoon Play the Right Call?

The Rangers lost a one-run game last night, 4-3 against the Cleveland Indians at home. It was a game Texas had a chance to win at the end.

Down 4-2, Nomar Mazara led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double, followed by a Mike Napoli RBI double that came mere feet from clearing the center field wall to tie the game. So down a run with no outs and a man on second base, Texas had Rougned Odor, Ryan Rua, and Joey Gallo due up. The prevailing thought, at least in my mind, was that at least one of these guys could get a hit, maybe more.

Rougned Odor ended up striking out on eight pitches, and then manager Jeff Banister made a decision that, according to my Twitter timeline both during and since the game, wasn't very well-liked. He pinch-hit Jurickson Profar for Rua.

It seems that many felt that letting the righty Rua remain in the game would have been a more prudent decision at the time as opposed to getting Profar up as a left-handed bat. And to a certain extent, I get it: While the exact difficulty isn't very well agreed upon, the idea that hitters perform worse coming off the bench than hitters already in the game is backed up by a strong history to prove it. Furthermore, in an era of more specialized bullpens, it's entirely possible that the penalty is even more severe than back in the good ol' days.

And yet, I can't help but think that, despite the ensuing Profar strikeout on a pitch that could have -- maybe should have -- been called a ball, the reasoning behind Banister's decision was sound.

First, let's consider that Cleveland closer Cody Allen is a right-handed pitcher. In 2016, he faced 124 left-handed hitters and 140 right-handed hitters. The lefties posted up a wOBA 70 points higher than the righties at .292. If we want to put an even finer point on it, opponent slugging percentage was 112 points higher at .382 when the hitter was standing in the left-handed box. That's not nothing, nor is it exactly insignificant.

Moving back over to the Rangers, let's consider Ryan Rua for a moment. Without even considering who you're pinch-hitting for him, it's important to determine, "Should you consider pinch-hitting for him?"

In 2016, Rua took 116 plate appearances against lefties, 153 against righties. Maybe not the largest sample size, but it's the most recent "large" sample we have to work with here. The results? A .337 wOBA against the left-handers and .301 against right-handers. Translated to wRC+ -- where 100 is league average -- that comes in at 107 and 82, respectively. The gap is at least significant. So we have our answer to the question. Yes, maybe you should consider pinch-hitting for Ryan Rua in a late-game situation when it necessitates a platoon advantage.

Enter Jurickson Profar. Profar was abysmal against left-handed pitching in 2016, posting up a wOBA of .212 (wRC+ 21). That's of no consequence at this point in the exercise. The pitcher he was coming in to face was a right-hander, and Profar -- batting out of the left-handed box as a lefty -- put up a .322 wOBA (wRC+ of 97) in 2016 in 231 such plate appearances. So yes, Profar profiles as a guy who should hit right-handed pitching better than Ryan Rua.

And when you're attempting to tie or win a game, you take any advantage you can get, which is exactly what Jeff Banister did. Now, to argue the finer point of whether or not Profar's "pinch hit penalty" was significant enough that Ryan Rua should have hit for himself in that situation is another matter entirely. But on the surface, taking the platoon advantage was probably the right call, even if it didn't work out.

When you play the laws of averages and flip a coin 100 times, you'd expect it to come up heads 50 times and tails 50 times. You wouldn't necessarily expect those to occur one by one in sequence.

So, while I've been one of the more vocal critics of Jeff Banister in the past -- mostly regarding his bullpen usage last season -- I can't really fault him for playing the odds in the second game of 162. It just didn't work out this time.