Some things to talk about while the Rangers get into the market of the sinkerball pitcher...
1) Pitch framing and home field advantage
Clack has linked to his articles a couple of times, but the work Glenn DuPaul is doing around the Internets on Pitch F/X is fascinating. Here, he has a very good study (if somewhat inconclusive) on the possibility that umpires call more strikes at home for some teams than others.
The Astros pop up at the top of a few of his early lists, before he tries to control for pitch framing. This may seem odd to you, until you remember that one of the things Mike Fast tried to identify before joining the Astros is whether catchers can be tracked by how good or bad they are at pitch framing.
One of the reasons why the Astros brought in Chris Snyder last year was that framing ability (or at least that's what we speculated about here at TCB). So, it's nice to see tangible evidence of that paying off.
It also suggests that Jason Castro might have a knack for framing pitches, too, that adds value to his defense we may not see in his other failings behind the plate.
Anyways, it's an interesting study with an intriguing premise that's worth your time.
2) Erik Bedard's delicate strain
Umm, what? How did I miss this? Did we just learn late last night that Erik Bedard had missed time with a gluteal strain?
I'm all for cashing in on the cheap joke, but this is too easy.
If we had a pool going for what body part would get injured first on Erik Bedard, how far down do you think "butt" would have been on the list of odds? 500-to-1? More?
More seriously, we all assume that Bedard an Phillip Humber are locks for the rotation, but we also assumed that Livan Hernandez was a lock last spring and the team cut him before the season. The fact that Bedard is missing time now can't be good for his odds of being on the opening day roster, but it's not a killer either.
Bo Porter has some complimentary quotes about Humber today, and Alex White pitched well till he gave up all the walks against Detroit. Part of the reason we assume Bedard will make the rotation is they don't have a lefty otherwise. Does his injury then help Dallas Keuchel or Brett Oberholtzer? Obiehockey has now thrown as many innings as the big boys in the rotation battle, to middling results. But, he's done about as well as Humber has stat-wise (not that spring stats mean anything, etc.).
3) Has the Rangers window closed?
Off-topic on the Astros, but if you'll allow me, I'd like to wax a bit on our new division neighbors to the north.
It may have started last winter, when the Texas Rangers decided not to re-sign Josh Hamilton. Heck, they may have decided that last summer, from the quotes coming out of the Ryan Express. It may go deeper than that, with the loss of C.J. Wilson and Cliff Lee to free agency too.
Suddenly, the list of players who anchored the Rangers lineup for those two straight World Series trips is getting smaller. They still have a terrific manager and one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. They still have a force at third base, both offensively and defensively, but a quote from Nolan caught my eye. I'm not sure where it's from, but my boss put it as a Quotable blurb in our newspaper today. Ryan basically says that Lance Berkman will rebound to hit this season and he will carry the Rangers offense.
Relying on Lancelot to carry their offense? If you ever needed a reason to think the Rangers were in for a fall, that might be it.
Or, it could indicate why Nolan was pushed out of the baseball operations part of the team. Richard Justice has a fascinating look into the inner workings of that front office, where he posits that Nolan never had much to do with the running of the team or the moves that got the Rangers to two straight World Series. But, that Nolan simply brought a credibility to the franchise.
If that's the case, and the reason he's being pushed out is because Jon Daniels wanted more of the limelight and credit, then we may have a case of The Disease of More popping up in Arlington.
Yes, Jurickson Profar will be good. Yes, they still have Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Yes, the pitching is shallower, but still very good. But, if we're looking at trends, this may be a team headed in the wrong direction. By the time that Profar and Mike Olt are ready to be big-time producers, guys like Cruz and Beltre may be past their team-carrying primes.
In essence, the window the Rangers had to play at a high level may be closing. Nolan's possible exit may be the most visible sign of it, but it's there all the same. They're still good enough to beat up on the Astros a bunch this season, but can they get to another World Series?