Thursday, November 21. 2013 | Comments (4)
So, before I got around to doing another post on the Rangers' off-season antics, they went and blew everyone away. They also solved issues #2 and #3 on the "To Do" list for the offseason. On November 20th, Texas traded their home-grown all-star second baseman, Ian Kinsler, to the Detroit Tigers for their overpaid elite-slugging all-star first baseman Prince Fielder. Kinsler has been a borderline-elite defender at second, has plus speed on the basepaths and can hit for average and power. He's had two 30-30 seasons and is a fan favorite, but entering his age 32 season, Ian has had two consecutive down years offensively. He has also had some -unusual- problems maintaining focus while running and occasionally on defense. There was a minor story published last off-season about Kinsler having ADHD and having had to switch medicine at the start of 2012 (there were some ADHD meds that were outlawed as performance enhancers around that time).
Prince Fielder was pursued by Texas when he entered free-agency two years ago, but wouldn't offer the kind of contract that Detroit and a couple of other teams were willing to pay. Fielder has been an elite-hitter with plus power his entire career, but is a very slow runner and, statistically, the worst first baseman in baseball. While Fielder passes the "eye" test, at least to the level of "acceptable", probable second baseman Jurickson Profar will have to give extra consideration to backing Fielder up, and whoever lands in right field for the Rangers next year (most likely Alex Rios or Leonys Martin) better be speedsters able to move back constantly, because they will have to play shallow to cover Fielder. In Prince's defense, within his narrow range, he's an excellent defender. His range, however is his height plus the length of his forearm.
However, what the Rangers didn't need was a plus prospect (Profar) riding the bench every day. Profar's defense is borderline elite *now*, but his bat is league average. He's not quite as speedy as Kinsler, but he's no slouch, and should be good for at least 15 - 20 stolen bases per year.
The Rangers also didn't need Mitch Moreland holding down first base again. Moreland has been about as good a defender as most first baseman are, but his bat is about half what Texas needs from the position, especially with a light-hitting outfield. Moreland allegedly has a good arm but limited range, which means he could start providing his twenty-five home runs per year from left field. Or, maybe he backs up first base and serves as the primary DH. Moreland has power, but like former Texas first basemen Justin Smoak and Chris Davis, it's a homerun or nothing.
Moving forward, it looks like Texas is still in on at least one more big addition. While Prince Fielder's contract is embarrassing, Kinsler was on the highest rail for most non-superstar free agents: $16 million. However, after this year Kinsler's contract deflates, making it one of the most club-friendly contracts in the majors. Fielder keeps getting paid his ridiculous salary, however, which is why Detroit will be sending $30 million in salary relief to Texas from 2017 - 2020. This means Texas gets Fielder for under $20 million per year. Still possibly too much, but arguably how much Fielder would get right now on the market. And, subtracting out Kinsler's salary, we see that Texas has only added $4 million to the budget this year. That gives the Ranger's $17 million to $20 million left on their projected salary budget.
What will Jon Daniels do with that? Let's find out.
The Rangers do not need starting pitching or relievers. If they can make a deal for a good starting pitcher, they will, and it's possible that the Tampa Bay Rays have actually initiated trade talks regarding David Price for Mitch Moreland plus who knows who else. I think the Rays plan to attempt an improvement project with Moreland like Baltimore did with Chris Davis (spend a few months with a new batting coach and become an elite hitter). And you have to admit, the Rays know talent like John Pinette knows bacon. The thing is, Texas knows they missed something with Davis. I guarantee you no one on the coaching staff or in the front office is sitting around saying "Oh, well. Better luck next time." By now the Rangers know what the missed and how they missed it. Whether they could have made Davis and elite hitter is another matter entirely, but you can bet they've investigated the issue. Now, Chris Davis as is wouldn't go straight up for David Price, so you can bet there are a couple of other prospects on the list. Texas could probably stand to trade another middle-infielder, but there aren't any batting prospects that Texas would want to lose, and they got burned trading a pitching prospect last season. There's one guy they would probably trade. Has no stuff and no power, but get's people out. Damnedest thing you ever saw. The Rays would love him.
Anyway, I don't think that's gonna happen. Don't need infielders now. We've got Beltre, Andrus, Profar and Fielder; with a plethora of talented middle infielders still in the minors.
It wouldn't hurt if at least one of the outfielders was a power bat. Texas ended the year with Gentry in left, Martin in center and Rios in right. Martin and Rios are both good for 10 - 20 homeruns per year, but Gentry has almost no power at all. All three are good contact hitters and should hit .285 - .290 reliably. All three are plus-level speedsters as well; all three should get around thirty stolen bases per year. Moreland could reliably add 25 homeruns from the outfield, which doesn't seem like much until you remember that Nelson Cruz was usually only good for 25 most years. Most of the free agent outfielders available this year are going to get $12 - $15 million per year, and most of them aren't significantly better than Mitch Moreland. This market needs to develop more, and if the Rangers acquire someone for the outfield I suspect it will be via trade.
So, do the Rangers need a catcher? In fact, they DO. Geovany Soto is a decent but unexceptional backstop, who also happens to be Yu Darvish's preferred battery mate. So that's settled. There happens to be a premier catcher on the market, who is supposedly interested in coming to Texas, and who will probably get $15 million or so per year. Texas also happens to have a plus-level catching prospect at High-A ball who has plus power and patience but poor contact skills, good game-calling but mediocre stopping and positioning, and elite-level defense reminiscent of [looks both ways, lowers voice and whispers] Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.
So, who wouldn't want Brian McCann around to mentor Jorge Alfaro? I predict that the Rangers sign McCann at any AAV under $18 million.
UPDATE: Apparently the Rangers don't want McCann at any AAV under $18 million. Well, I was against signing McCann before I was for it; you know how spending mad money can ramp up. It will probably be a while before we find out why the Rangers wouldn't go for what McCann was expected to get all along. Time to return to my original position of trading something marginal to the Angels for Chris Ianetta. They need bullpen help; I can dig up a couple of middle-relievers with low ERA and terrible peripherals; that seems to be Anaheim's speed.
And I guess I better look into getting a Fielder jersey for next year. When it started looking like there was a real possibility that Gentry would be traded, I decided to pick up a classic jersey. I didn't want to do Nolan jersey; EVERYONE has a Nolan Ryan jersey. I wanted something specific to my fandom of those 1980's Rangers teams, like Julio Franco, the slugging second baseman who isn't quite good enough to get into the Hall of Fame. Or Ruben Sierra, the journeyman outfielder who played for Texas three separate times but was never consistent or healthy enough to stick with a team for long. One of these days I'll pick up an Oddibe McDowell number 0 jersey because he had an awesome name, his jersey was 0, he was a fabulous leadoff hitter, and was almost but not quite the revolution he was supposed to be. But in the end, it had to be the most promising but disappointing long ball hitter probably in baseball history, who also happened to be my favorite player for years:
Friday, November 8. 2013 | Comments (0)
I'm not entirely sure this is necessary...but it's interesting:
They did this, too:
IMO, those are the three best by far. The Northern Kings have tons of other covers, but they don't really have the spark of inspiration.
So, there you go.
Friday, November 8. 2013 | Comments (0)
So here's the opening to Slayers Try, "Breeze" by Megumi Hayashibara.
and here's a different version by NOVA:
The full version of "Kujikenaikara!", the closing song from the original Slayers series (it's worth it, if you've never heard the full version. Hayashibara and Okui harmonize beautifully:
Hayashibara performing "Going History", the opening from Slayers Next:
Ok, this is mostly pop stuff. So here's "La Isla Bonita" as performed by Twilight Guardians.
Yeah, it's a cover. Sue me. Ronnie James Dio was one of the gods of rock; I like Killswitch Engage's version of "Holy Diver" better.
Thursday, October 24. 2013 | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 15. 2013 | Comment (1)
As we wait to see if the Dodgers can fully come back and defeat the much-despised St. Louis Cardinals: Destroyers of Dreams; and hope for Detroit to get a chance to prove that their embarrassing shellacking by San Francisco last year was the work of space aliens (or maybe you like Boston, that's fine; I'm rooting for Detroit, though...) it's time to start working through the Rangers' own embarrassment of finishing 2nd in the A.L. West for the second year in a row.
That sounds like hyperbole, and realistically I know it is. The Rangers have finished in 2nd or 1st place every season since 2008. They had a losing record in 2008 which feeds into the story about how awful the A.L. West is sometimes, but we'll take about that another day. Had MLB been using the play-in Wild Card system back then, the Rangers would have made the play-offs every year for the last five years. Their record in that period is 457-406, for a .530 winning percentage. In the same span, only the Yankees have performed better in the American League.
So what could I possibly have to complain about? The Yankees were better. The Cardinals are going deep into the playoffs again. Oakland managed to outperform the sum of it's parts for two straight years. There's always something to complain about, when it comes to improving your team. And with that thought in mind, I'll use ESPN DFW's "10 Offseason Questions" series to express my own thoughts.
Question #1: Should the Texas Rangers make a Qualifying Offer to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz? If he rejects the offer, should they take the presumptive draft pick and run, or should they be in on the presumptive competition to sign the slugging outfielder to a new contract?
First of all, explaining how free agent signings work now: When a player's contract is up, the team he has been playing for may make a "Qualifying Offer" to him to remain with the club for another year at a salary determined from the top 100 salaries in the game. Last year that amount was around $13+ million, this year it's gone up to around $14+ million. Some free agents are worth that much, a very few are possibly worth more, most are worth less. At least this year. Cruz, based on his statistical value, is worth anywhere from $13 to $16 million, depending on how the market develops, so $14 is pretty good, and I wouldn't have much of a problem with paying a bit more. $16 may be a bit high. If the Rangers make the qualifying offer, and Cruz turns it down (a good bet), he is free to pursue a contract with any team, including the Rangers. If he signs with a team other than the Rangers, the other team loses a first round pick and the Rangers gain a "compensatory" 1st Round Draft pick in the following year's draft. Compensatory picks occur at the end of the 1st round. Therefore, the compensatory pick is very valuable, but losing your 1st round pick is even more valuable. In other words, if Nelson Cruz wants $15 from, say, Toronto; Toronto also has to add the cost of losing a first round pick. When you're rebuilding like Toronto is, losing that pick is worth millions of dollars. If you were New York instead, losing that first pick is never as big a deal, because you have the resources to sign any free agent whenever you want, and don't mind over-paying for useful talent.
Looking forward, The 33-year-old Cruz is an average defender in the outfield, with average baserunning skills. However, his power-hitting is top-ten quality and his plate discipline is above average. He's had injury problems that have caused him to lose 30 - 50 games per season on multiple occasions. When teams look at Nelson Cruz, they're likely going to be looking at a Designated Hitter who can play the outfield part-time. This, of course, rules out National League teams unless they want to try him as an every day fielder, and he's healthy enough that several teams would probably try.
However, the Texas Rangers have three elite defenders in the outfield now, although they don't represent great offense. Alex Rios in right field is an above-average every day bat with plus defense and plus-bordering-on-elite baserunning skills. Leonys Martin is a plus-bordering-on-elite defender with average baserunning skills and an average bat, but he's still young and could improve his hitting. Craig Gentry is an elite defender and elite baserunner; but a career platoon hitter. With former 4th outfielder David Murphy floundering, Gentry finally got the call to play left field daily in the final month, and he grabbed the opportunity and RAAAAAAAAN. In September his slash line was .354/.400/.415, he stole 10 bases and drove in 5. He added 1.1 of his 3.4 WAR in the last few weeks of the season, the only month he played full-time. Of course, David Murphy did something similar last year, which led to the David Murphy Experiment. Murphy has always excelled in small sample sizes, although to be fair, he was also predictable. He always started slow (whether he was playing multiple days or not), had a few blips of excellence, and finished strong. Gentry's performance is much more random, but he's also never received the playing time that Murphy has.
I'm happy to give Gentry a chance at the full-time left-fielder's job, although I'm a bit biased:
I would love to see Cruz re-signed to something like a three year, $45 million deal. I think it's very likely the Rangers can do it, because I don't think many teams will want to give up the draft pick for someone who is basically an above-average but not plus or elite power hitter. On the other hand, you can view Nelson as possibly providing average defense in the outfield, he won't hurt you on the bases, and has flashes of plus power and a good above average bat otherwise. There probably are several teams that will choose to view Cruz this way. The teams that look at Cruz as a viable outfielder will, if they're going to give up that draft pick, probably be more interested in signing Cruz to a six or seven year deal, banking on on two or three years of solid outfielder performance followed by 2-3 years of solid D.H. performance (again, N.L. teams need not apply). Texas has shown repeatedly that they're not interested in handing out long contracts to players banking on "planned obsolescence". I can't see Texas going deep with Cruz when they've got an increasingly gimpy Adrian Beltre, who is a genuinely elite hitter running away from the D.H. position as slowly as his busted hamstring can carry him. Certianly Beltre will grump, but as long as he plays 2 out of 3 days at 3rd Base next year, with Jurickson Profar manning the left side of the infield a third of the time (which he showed he could do ably, maybe even at the same level as Beltre), I think he'll be content. There are worse roles for Profar than "the guy who spells Beltre and nobody complains about it". And then that just leaves the Kinsler/Profar/Moreland/1B knot, which I'll take about later.
The next article will be, should the Rangers attempt to keep Matt Garza?
Monday, October 14. 2013 | Comments (0)
You may have noticed that I changed the layout of the blog. I think this addresses the objectives I have been trying to meet reasonably well; I've replaced the twitter feed with a facebook feed, and adjusted the right column to make that feed a bit more usable.
Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
Wednesday, October 9. 2013 | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 26. 2013 | Comments (2)
It's a baseball reference. Nobody panic.
New MLB instant replay rules still emphasize getting it wrong.
Two carries, six yards: The tragic story of Ricky Bell.
Vivien Maier, brilliant amateur photographer of the 1950's, wasn't discovered until 2007.
The Soviet superplane program that rattled Area 51.
The Mars Science Laboratory is still running, btw.
Would you like to own every MAD magazine ever printed?
How long has it been since DC Comics did something stupid? 8 days, when I made the link.
Akira predicted the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Sort of. But it's still kind of...eery.
Jon Sorensen: Personal recollections of working on the film Alien.
So Los Alamos prepared three nuclear cores, right? And we used two of them right? Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You remember that. So where did the third core go?
Raising the Dead: Bushman's hole in South Africa claims the life of a preeminent deep-dive expert when he tries to return a body found in the hole to the surface.
Grand Theft Auto IV: San Andreas I'm gonna give this a try.
Tuesday, September 17. 2013 | Comments (3)
Completely forgot about Macross's 30th Anniversary a few months ago. I posted a link in Twitter to the Macross Museum which opened in Japan; pretty sure they're not going to bring it to America. So, here's the final battle from Macross: Do You Remember Love? Strictly speaking, the movie came out several years after the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime, but as the movie is presented as an "in-universe" retelling of the events of the series, I think it's acceptable. The movie took all of the major elements of the series and turned them up to 11, so a lot of DYRL comes off as a bit corny. However, it included the incredibly iconic song Love, Do You Remember and arguably the best hand-drawn animation ever photographed. Nothing in the movie is computer generated in any way; DYRL is plain, old-fashioned cell photography. And an incredible achievement.
Oh, and incidentally, I forgot to mention that Mari Iijima was propelled to instant stardom by playing the first "anime idol".
Tuesday, September 17. 2013 | Comments (0)
Both are still going strong, if you like that sort of thing. The musical styles aren't joined at the hip, but they certainly travel in the same circles. Most people had their only experience with these genre's in the early- to mid- 1990's:
Enigma had a second hit with Return To Innocence, but the song above, Sadeness, sticks with most people because it, or some variation, was used for 10,000 movie sex scenes.
Adiemus was used for a number of tv and radio advertisements for a number of years. Adiemus was the first song from the Adiemus album by composer Karl Jenkins. None of the other songs from the album were hits in the U.S. Nor where any of the songs on the SIX sequel albums.
Enigma, or more formally, The Enigma Project, has released six follow-up albums as well. Enigma could be said to have experienced more success, as several Enigma songs have featured in various movies and television shows. However, the creator of Enigma, Michael Cretu, has also been sued repeatedly for not acknowledging or paying the sources of several of the musical samples he has used.