End of the Season Awards

I am sure we all have a lot to say about the collapse at the end of the season.  The Rangers set a record for the team to hold the longest division lead and then blow it.  All they needed to do was win one game against the A’s and they would clinch the division.  Not only were they incapable of doing that, they couldn’t muster enough heart to beat the Orioles in the one-game wild card playoff.  The lack of concentration and focus cost the Rangers the division and a run in the playoffs.  Perhaps they will learn something out of this.

All that being said, it was a long season.  There were some highs, and there were some lows.  Atop Greene’s Hill would now like to present our end of the season report on the Texas Rangers.

Biggest “Good” Surprise

This is a tough one.  But, I’m going to give it to Yu Darvish, because we here at Green’s Hill have been arguing for years that David Murphy is much better than Ron Washington gives him credit, and given the opportunity to play every day he would succeed.  So, Murphy’s success after being moved into the every day lineup was not a surprise to us.

The Ranger’s organization had some high expectations for Yu Darvish coming in, but I think given the track record of other Asian transplants, many of the fans were skeptical.  In our view, Darvish exceeded our expectations this season.  He finished the year at 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA.  He set a rookie record with 221 strikeouts, and pitched 191.1 innings.  He finished 5th in the American League in strikeouts and would have easily won the American League Rookie of the Year had there not been a guy in Anaheim named Mike Trout.

Not only were the stats impressive, but for the most part, Darvish was consistent.  He had a handful of ups and downs, but he seemed to improve as the season progressed.  While other pitchers like Derek Holland and Matt Harrision seemed to get worse as the season drug on, Darvish did not.  Other than April, September was his best month overall.  He was 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 5 starts.  He finished the season 5-2, in his last 1o starts, with a 3.65 ERA and was the go to guy for the one-off Wild Card game.  And, he was great in that game.  He pitched 6 2/3 innings, gave up only 2 ERs and struck out 7.  He gave the Rangers every chance to win, but the offense failed him.

Biggest “Bad” Surprise

There were a number of candidates for this one.  I’m looking at you Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Young.  But the guy who was just flat out awful, pretty much the entire season, and had the biggest drop-off in performance from last year was Mike Napoli.  Just look at the stats:

Batting Average

On Base Percentage

Slugging

OPS

Strikeouts

Homeruns

RBIs

Doubles

2011

.320

.414

.631

1.046

85

30

75

25

2012

.227

.343

.469

.812

125

24

56

9

Everything is worse.  MUCH WORSE.  Napoli was a huge disappointment and one of the main reasons the Ranger offense struggled at times this year.  Sure, Nelson Cruz had a bad year, as did Ian Kinsler and Michael Young.  But NO ONE, other than Napoli, was so much more worse this year than last.

Most Improved

David Murphy finally got to play in the every day lineup and he excelled.  He finished second on the team in batting average.  He was 6th last year.  Only Elvis Andrus was better with runners in scoring position.  Probably most important for David’s sake, he went from hitting .215 against lefties last season, to .347 this season.  He played in more games this year, scored more runs, logged more hits, had more total bases, twice as many doubles, more triples, more homeruns, more RBIs, more walks, a higher average, a higher on-base percentage, better slugging percentage, and a better OPS.  David improved in pretty much every statistical category.

And wouldn’t you know it, with the season on the line, and a lefty on the mound, Ron Washington benched his second best hitter against lefties, and his second best hitter with runners in scoring position, because you know, his Managing for Dummies book says that you don’t hit lefties against left-handed pitchers.

Least Improved

This one is going to Ian Kinsler.  The Rangers do not have a lead-off hitter.  As a friend of mine said, “They have a guy who hits first because someone has to do it.”  Ian Kinsler doesn’t hit, he doesn’t hustle, he doesn’t bunt, he gets caught stealing, and he led the league in getting picked off.  What he does most is pop-up to shallow right, center, or left.  None of these things are what you want in a lead-off hitter, and Kinsler has them in spades.

Kinsler hit .255 last year and .256 this year, but with a lower on-base percentage, a lower slugging percentage, and a lower OPS this year.  He struck out more, had fewer total bases, hit fewer homeruns, stole fewer bases, walked less, and had fewer RBIs.  In pretty much every category he got worse.  Not to mention that having a lead-off hitter with a .255 average is just not very helpful.  Looking at the teams still in the playoffs this year, Kinsler is considerably worse then almost all their lead-off hitters.  Take a look:

Team Player Average OBP
Baltimore Markakis .335 .390
Cincinnati Cozart .223 .262
Detroit Jackson .301 .378
New York Jeter .317 .364
Oakland Crisp .283 .348
San Francisco Pagan .290 .338
St. Louis Furcal .272 .341
Washington Lombardozzi .273 .312
Texas Kinsler .256 .326

This is looking at the players with the most at-bats as lead-off hitter for their respective teams.  Kinsler’s batting average is considerably worse than all but one, Cozart from Cincinnati, and his on-base percentage is lower than all but Cozart and Lombardozzi from the Nationals.

The last thing is, Kinsler just doesn’t hustle.  He pops-up,  drops his head, and jogs to first.  This is a guy who is supposed to add speed to the lineup, but I don’t remember him making a play close at first all season.  In fact, there were many circumstances where I thought a play would be close, based on where it was hit, and who was fielding the ball, and by the time the camera got to first base, the throw always beat Kinsler by several steps.  That’s just not going to cut it as a lead-0ff man.  You’ve got to put the ball on the ground and beat out infield hits.  Kinsler doesn’t do that, and I think it makes him more of a liability in the 1st spot than a benefit.

Team MVP

This is pretty much a no-brainer, so I won’t even waste time with the stats.  Adrian Beltre is by far the best player on the team.  Baring a stellar season from Mike Trout and a triple-crown winner in Detroit, Beltre would be the overall choice for AL MVP.  He was just that good.  He led the team in hitting and he’s leaps and bounds the best defensive player out there.  I’ve said many times that we really don’t understand just how good he is because he makes plays, that would be exceptional for other players, look routine.  Beltre is the offensive and defensive core of this team and I hope he stays healthy and stays a Ranger for a long time.  Plus who is the only player in the league who can hit homeruns from one knee?

Team Nolan Ryan

Since this is a team specific award, we won’t call it the Cy Young.  We will call it the Nolan Ryan.  This season’s Nolan Ryan Award goes to Yu Darvish.  I know that Matt Harrison won 18 games and had a better ERA, but Darvish struck out more batters (isn’t that the definition of a Nolan Ryan?), opponents had a lower average against him, and he gave up fewer homeruns.  Also, he just seemed more consistent.  Harrison was 7-7 after the All-Star break, while Darvish went 6-4.  In their last 10 starts Harrison was 5-5 with a 3.24 ERA and Darvish was 5-2 with a 3.64 ERA.

There’s really not much difference between them, but it is a Nolan Ryan award, and Nolan was known more for his dominance as a strike out pitcher, and Darvish fits that bill better than Harrison.

Don’t Let the Door Hit Ya…

Josh Hamilton will not be a Ranger next season.  It will be tough to replace 40+ homeruns and 120+ RBIs, but it will not be tough to replace him with a player who is more mentally stable and capable of playing an entire season without checking out for half of it.  Hamilton doesn’t understand why the fans were booing him after his last at-bat of the season.  He thinks it’s because his performance was bad.  It wasn’t.  Fans can accept poor performances.  They didn’t boo Michael Young.  They didn’t boo Nelson Cruz.  They didn’t boo Mike Napoli.  Each of those players had bad years, and each of them didn’t meet the expectations of the fans this season.  The difference is that the fans knew that even though they had down years, each and every day those guys went out there and played their hardest.  You can’t say that about Josh Hamilton.  Whether it was the slump he went through in July when he was trying to beat chewing tobacco, or the games he missed late in the season because he thought too much caffeine was causing him vision problems, it was just blatantly evident that Josh was mentally absent from baseball.  Some have said he was already thinking about playing in New York next year, or he just checked out because he knew from the beginning he wasn’t going to come back to Texas.

Whatever the reason, Hamilton put together one of the most contradictory seasons I’ve ever seen.  How can a guy who hit 43 homeruns and drove in 128 runs be considered a failure?  He finished 2nd in the league in homers and 2nd in RBIs.  And yet, his season felt like a complete train wreck.  Every at-bat seemed like Hamilton thought it was a waste of time.  He’d get up there, swing at 3 pitches and go sit down.  Sometimes he hit one.  Sometimes he hit one really far.  Most of the time he struck out.  In fact, he struck 162 times this season.  That’s 69 more times than last year, and 2 more strike outs than hits.  Compare that to last year where he accumulated 51 more hits than K’s.  And when it mattered most, in October, Josh went 2 for 13, with 6 strikeouts.  In his last game, he only saw 8 pitches.  He struck out on three straight, twice, grounded into a double play, and hit a 15-foot comebacker to the mound.  And at no time did it seem to bother him one bit.

So, Josh won’t be back with the Rangers, and I’m fine with that.  In April, I would have told you it would be very disappointing if the Rangers were not able to put together a deal to keep him here.  Now, I’m hoping they don’t offer him a dime.  With the money they save, they can hopefully go out and get a good catcher, or another good pitcher, perhaps an actual lead-off hitter, or even some bullpen help.  Any of those things would add more to the team than what Josh takes away with his attitude.

So, those are our end of the season awards.  Feel free to comment, argue, or make suggestions for others.

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3 Responses to End of the Season Awards

  1. Cameron says:

    Some good closing thoughts. Thanks for these.

  2. Ben says:

    A very well thought out discussion about how this season was put together. If you remember, I had summed it up way back in the middle of the season when Adam Dunn stole second and subsequently scored on a base hit to shallow left(?).
    A lot of people are down on this team. Lots of expectations unmet. So I’m going to offer an addendum to your post. The Rangers had four players have worse seasons at the plate than any of them have had in the last three (as you’ve detailed). Kinsler lead the league in getting picked off, and Elvis was right behind him. Hamilton swung at more b.s. than anyone in the history of the game, but unlike Howie Kendrick and Placido Polanco, he missed way more than he connected. Michael Young killed more rallies than I can remember with his clockwork gidp’s he kept hitting into. Two members of the starting rotation were lost for the season, and despite the depth we all perceived at that position, they still scrambled to try the Oswalt experiment and trade for Dempster. Seven players were run into the ground by playing 140 games. Now, despite all this adversity, they still managed to win 93 games. In years past, a Rangers fan would’ve been ecstatic to hear that. We’re spoiled, and we know they should’ve done better, but it’s hard to complain about that win total. I certainly don’t miss the days of hoping that the Rangers can get above .500.

  3. Pingback: Spring Training Winding Down | Atop Greene's Hill

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