Game 150, Rangers at Mariners
Blake Beavan vs. CJ Wilson, 7:10pm.
The Rangers come to town this week looking to stay in control of the suddenly tight AL West. Their appearance also serves as a handy reminder of just how much better they are. The last time they were here, they systematically took apart a terrible M’s offense and left with a sweep. They’ve beaten the M’s in all five game started by either Felix Hernandez or Michael Pineda, and their position players have been worth about 30 wins more than the Mariners’ group.
They are a measuring stick, and comparing the two teams can get a bit depressing. They had great pitching depth in the minors back in March/April, and they’ve seen injuries and trades essentially wipe out that depth. But here’s the problem: they’ve still got a better farm system than the M’s. That’s subject to debate and all, but while I might give the M’s the edge for pitchers right now (in an inversion of the rankings back in the spring), pitching isn’t really the problem here. The M’s have been worth 30 wins less this season, and whatever you think of Mike Carp, Dustin Ackley, UZR ratings, wOBA, etc., any true talent estimate is going to show the Rangers in the lead. And the Rangers have the superior hitting talent in the minors. The M’s front office has been a strength, but I’m not sure it’s better than the Rangers’. I’m sorry, I’m not being very uplifting here, but I’ve grown to hate playing the Rangers because it’s depressing.
Michael Young’s lion-in-winter season is one of the more unlikely of 2011, especially given how publicly he expressed his desire to have a lion-in-winter season somewhere else. Colby Lewis was expected to regress, and has, but it doesn’t matter. Neftali Feliz has gone from the top pitching prospect in the league to a poor man’s Mark Lowe, and it doesn’t matter. They got essentially nothing from CF Pedro Borbon, so they picked up Endy Chavez and promoted a defensive specialist in Craig Gentry, and they’re great. This isn’t to say that they’ve been lucky or unlucky (it’s tempting to call the Mike Napoli acquisition lucky, but they didn’t sign him; they had to make a trade, and they did), it’s to say that they were prepared.
The M’s have added Pete Vuckovich to the Front Office as another special assistant to the GM. Vuckovich and Zduriencik worked for Pirates GM Ted Simmons in the early 90s, and Simmons is now the senior advisor to the GM in Seattle. They’ve also made Roger Hansen, the long-time player (esp. catcher) development specialist, a special assistant to the GM. It’d be tempting to play office kremlinology and speculate on what it means for the team or Tony Blengino, but I haven’t a clue. I’d just love to hear from the M’s how they see the situation vis a vis Texas and how more assistants will get them what they need.
CJ Wilson’s now the ace of the staff, with a low 3’s FIP and 5+ wins under his belt so far. While he’s had significant platoon splits over his career, part of what’s made him an effective starter has been his ability to get righties out. He’s still better against lefties, but by improving his command (giving up fewer walks to lefties AND righties), he’s become a very effective starter. His struggles against righties in the past are the primary reason he’s faced nearly four times more right handers than lefties this year (180 to 673), but it hasn’t hurt him.
Opposing him is Blake Beavan, who’s in a dead heat with Brad Penny and Tyler Chatwood for the highest contact rate in baseball at 89%. When the Twins staff is laughing at your contact rates, you may want to think about trying to miss a bat or two.
The line-up, now with Brendan Ryan!
4: Olivo (nooo not cleanup noo)
6: Pena (DH)
9: Wells (CF)