Game 69, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · June 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Tyson Ross, 5:05pm

It’s time for the season’s nicest game, wherein James Paxton will again match up with an injury-riddled cast-off who signed for cheap with the Rangers this off-season. Back in April, he faced off with Andrew Cashner, the ex-Padre who made his season debut and kept the Rangers around, but Paxton fired the best start for a Mariner pitcher all year, so it didn’t matter. Today, Paxton matches up with, er, ex-Padre Tyson Ross, who’s thrown 5 1/3 MLB innings at all since September of 2015. Minor league rehab appearances bump that total to 24 IP, but Ross is still a complete unknown at this point. Yes, he was once an all-star caliber starter, whose 2014-15 peak produced nearly 8 fWAR. But the last time he was on a mound in a competitive baseball game, he gave up 10 hits and 8 runs in 5 innings against Oklahoma City. He’s walked 11, plunked 2, and K’d 11 in a handful of PCL starts this year, but here he is, because the Rangers need help, and at least you can still dream on some upside here, even if it takes him a while to find his footing.

Because it’s the Rangers, it might play out that way. By FIP, the Rangers rotation (excepting Yu Darvish, of course) has been an absolute debacle, akin to the Orioles’ 5-headed monstrosity. By ERA, though, they’re fine – especially considering their home park. By K rate, they’ve just passed the Twins to move into last place in the American League, and by K-BB%, it’s really just them and the Orioles fighting off in the ugliest, most pointless battle imaginable. To make matters worse, they’re right up there with Seattle in HR rate, meaning they make up for hard contact what they give away in free bases. I don’t understand how the Rangers aren’t where the A’s are right now, is what I’m trying to say.

They may not be beating their BaseRuns estimate to a pulp the way they have in recent years, but they’re still peppering it with jabs and well-timed passive-aggressive comments. This is a statistical incongruity, and there are many such outliers we can point to with the Rangers. Perhaps the biggest is also the one we can’t really hold against them – the remarkable way Adrian Beltre’s aged. Beltre’s tenure with the Rangers has taken him from Hall-of-Very-Good or should-be-in-but-won’t-be to what I expect is a fairly easy Hall of Fame case. He’s accrued 34 fWAR and 38 bWAR for the Rangers, waaaay more than he did with either the Dodgers or Mariners, and the difference in a per-year or per-game basis is massive. He’s done it all *after* turning 32. He’s been incredible offensively and defensively and, until this season, remarkably durable. I think you can make the case that he’s the best free agent signing in recent memory, and far and away the best the Rangers ever made. That’s really nice for the Rangers and all of that, but because Beltre’s so good, it’s hard to see this as a transcendentally lucky thing – that’s what greatness do, to paraphrase Jarrod Dyson. It laughs at your regression and aging curves – at least for a while.

But Beltre isn’t what’s *made* these Rangers teams of recent vintage. When I think of these teams, I think of all the times that the Rangers have turned to a middling prospect, a post-injury or post-stardom vet who’s given them a bit more than the Rangers dared hope for. And then, like the old fairy tale, they turn back into a pumpkin and vanish. In 2011 it was Alexi Ogando, a promising reliever pressed into service as a starter. He gave them about 170 very good innings, accruing 3.3 fWAR and then *never again breaking 1.0*. He started again in 2013 and put up a FIP defying ERA, but is now pitching in South Korea. In 2012, it was David Murphy’s turn. After a 93 wRC+ in 2011, the OF saw his walk rate, isolated power and BABIP all rise simultaneously, pushing him near a 4 fWAR season. The next year, he was worth 0.3, and then fell again to -0.6 in 2014. After that 3.8 win 2012, he was worth less-than-replacement level through the end of his career. In 2013, it was reliever Tanner Scheppers, who posted a 1.88 ERA in 76 games. Despite a low K rate and a FIP in the high 3’s, Scheppers was a brilliant set-up man for closer Joe Nathan, and helped the Rangers win 91 games. Of course, he never again had an ERA under 4, let alone 3 or 2, and, like Murphy, was worth negative WAR after that breakout season. In 2014, the Rangers collapsed, but they still got 126 innings and 22 solid starts from low-tier prospect Nick Tepesch, who filled in for a bunch of injured starters and ran a 4.36 ERA or 1 bWAR, helping the Rangers avoid the fate of the Astros of that period. You know where this is going: Tepesch was worth either negative WAR (BBREF) or 0 WAR (FG) for the rest of his career. In 2015, the Rangers traded some minor league spare parts for declining ex-ace Yovani Gallardo, and watched as his K rate continued to fall as his walk rate rose. A high strand rate and a great HR/FB ratio meant his ERA was well below his 4.0 FIP, so while his fWAR was “only” 2.4 (solidly above average), he was worth 4.0 by bWAR. In the 1.4 or so years since then, whatever FIP-busting magic he had in Texas has long since gassed off, leaving him with -2.1 bWAR and a modest 1.1 fWAR that politely pretends not to notice the ugly runs-allowed total he’s been responsible for. Last year, it was Colby Lewis’ turn (he could’ve been included if we went back to 2010, too), as he tossed 19 starts of FIP-crushing, 84-MPH fastball powered nonsense, worth 2.4 bWAR in half a year. This year, you could point to either Nick Martinez or Austin Bibens-Dirkx (yayyy!) as candidates for Most Rangers performance of the year.

No, David Murphy or Tanner Scheppers didn’t MAKE the Rangers a good team. They’ve had actually good players that’ve done the big lift. But the Rangers have consistently squeezed…something out of players who don’t evidence a lot of pure talent (or, in the case of Scheppers, are continually injured). This is *exactly* what the M’s failed to do for so long, and so the contrast is all the clearer for M’s fans. The M’s got Chris Iannetta from the Angels for a fair free agent contract. The Rangers got peak Mike Napoli from the Angels-via-Toronto for essentially nothing. Why do good things happen to bad people, and all of that. So, again, Tyson Ross hasn’t pitched effectively since September of 2015, and there’s no clear reason to believe he will suddenly start now. But he may start now.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Dyson, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Motter, SS

Minor League starters include Reggie McClain for Modesto and Martin Suarez for Everett – get over to Everett and enjoy the first Northwest League series of the year. Yeah, Hillsboro beat them in yesterday’s opener, which I should’ve covered more, but tonight’s game is Kyle Lewis bobblehead night. The AquaSox have Brayan Hernandez as the big prospect star thus far, though they’ll get reinforcements from this year’s draft as those players sign and report.

Hillsboro won the NWL opener 10-3, as Ryne Inman got touched for 3 HRs. Clinton won in 11 innings over Beloit. Rayder Ascanio had the MiLB performance of the night for Modesto with a 4-5 game including a HR.


6 Responses to “Game 69, Mariners at Rangers”

  1. Westside guy on June 16th, 2017 7:58 pm

    Oh, man. Just got home, tuned in… Rangers are up 10-4 in the eighth.

  2. Westside guy on June 16th, 2017 8:00 pm

    Gamel just scored, but that cost them two outs.

  3. Westside guy on June 16th, 2017 8:02 pm

    Claudio (current pitcher for the Rangers) has a rather odd delivery.

  4. Westside guy on June 16th, 2017 8:08 pm

    That dude (Gomez) swings like Beltre! At first I thought it WAS Beltre.

  5. stevemotivateir on June 16th, 2017 8:16 pm

    Brutal. Paxton has been terrible since he returned from the DL.

  6. Westside guy on June 16th, 2017 8:21 pm

    Yeah, you have to wonder whether Paxton is actually healthy or not.

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