4/23-4/25 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Fan Confidence Poll: April 23rd, 2012
The Importance of Andy Pettitte
(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

The Yankees and Rangers have quite a bit of history with each other, dating back to the three late-1990s ALDS matchups and more recently the 2010 ALCS. You can even include the race to trade for and then sign Cliff Lee in there. The Yankees won seven of nine games against the two-time defending AL Champs last season, including two of three in Arlington.

What Have They Done Lately?

At 13-3, the Rangers have the best record the best record in baseball. No club is within 15 runs of their +52 run differential, confirming that Texas has been baseball’s best team through at least the first three weeks of the season. They just took two of three from the Tigers in Detroit, losing only to Justin Verlander. They’d won eight straight prior to that loss, including a two-game massacre of the Red Sox in Boston last week.


(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Given the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, there’s really only one team in baseball that can hang with the Yankees offensively at the moment, and that’s the Rangers. Texas has scored 94 runs through 16 games while the Yankees have scored 90 in 15 games. No other AL team has scored more than 78 runs. At 134 and 128 wRC+, the Yankees and Rangers have the first and third best offenses in baseball, respectively.

Texas has power up and down the lineup, starting in the leadoff spot with Ian Kinsler (156 wRC+). Elvis Andrus (80 wRC+) gives the pitcher a bit of a breather in the two-hole, though he always seems to annoy with bunts and infield hits. Josh Hamilton (223 wRC+) has been the best hitter in baseball not named Matt Kemp this year, and then you’ve still got Mike Napoli (170 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (170 wRC+), and Mike Young (165 wRC+). Napoli recently had a five-game homer streak end thanks to Verlander. Platoon bat David Murphy (135 wRC+) has hit well in limited action, but Craig Gentry (57 wRC+) and Mitch Moreland (28 wRC+) have not.

The Yankees are catching a little bit of a break this series because Adrian Beltre suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend. He’s currently listed as day-to-day but will have an MRI at some point. Beltre hasn’t done much against the Yankees in recent years — just .234/.260/.340 in 28 plate appearances since the start of 2010 — but he’s a great player and having him on the sidelines is a plus for New York. Young or utility infielder/former Yankee Alberto Gonzalez will fill in at third for the time being. Texas is second to the Yankees in homers and third behind the Athletics and Yankees in steals. It’s a great offense and New York is really, really going to need its rotation to settle down.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Derek Holland
When you throw a two-hit shutout in the World Series, people will take notice. In reality, Holland’s march to stardom began in the second half of last season as he pitched to a 2.77 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio in his final 15 starts. He’s performed similarly in his first three starts of 2012, including seven innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox in Fenway Park last week. Holland is a fastball heavy southpaw, using his low-90s sinker roughly 70% of the time. His changeup, curveball, and slider make appearances when he’s ahead in the count, allowing him to miss plenty of bats (8.85 K/9 and 25.3 K%). Holland’s allowing some more fly balls (34% grounders) this year but he’s also limiting walks better than ever before (2.66 B/9 and 7.6 BB%). The Yankees hit the eclectic left-hander pretty hard three times last season, but that was before things clicked and he went on that huge second half run.

Coming for Yu. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Something tells me this game is going to be a pretty big deal in Japan. Lots of people are going to be late for work on Wednesday morning. Anyway, Darvish has been up and down in his first three MLB starts, allowing five runs to the Mariners in his first start (5.2 IP), two runs to the Twins in his second start (5.2 IP), and one run to the Tigers in his third start (6.1 IP). He’s had the same problem that plagues most Japanese pitchers when they first come over, and that’s nibbling too much and not challenging hitters. Darvish has walked at least four in all three starts and his 13 free passes currently leads the league. His K/BB ratio is nearly 1.0 thanks to his 14 strikeouts. His stuff is as expected, a 90-96 mph fastball with a knockout mid-80s slider and a slower mid-70s curveball. He’ll cut and sink his fastball as well. With all due respect to Detroit, the Yankees will be the best lineup Darvish has ever seen in his life.

Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. TBA
They haven’t officially announced it yet, but the Rangers are likely to start Scott Feldman in this game after Saturday’s rain out threw a wrench into their rotation schedule. He figures to be on a relatively short leash after throwing no more than 20 pitches in either of his two appearances this season, though he did work as a starter and get stretched out in Spring Training. I can’t imagine he’s good for 100+ pitches, though. Anyway, Feldman has used five different pitcher as a starter in the past, including two fastballs (cutter and sinker), two breaking balls (curveball and slider), and a changeup. He’s more of a low walks/ground ball type, though his strikeout rate has ticked up with more bullpen work in recent years. The Yankees have hit him very hard in the past, but that doesn’t really matter now.

Other candidates to start Wednesday’s game are left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando. The Rangers could always call up a minor leaguer as well, but that seems unlikely. Feldman is the clear favorite for the spot start. For what it’s worth (next to nothing), two of the three best starts of Hughes’ career — based on Game Score — have come in Texas.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
Yesterday’s rain out gave the Yankees’ bullpen an impromptu day off, so they’re pretty well rested. David Phelps needs at least one and probably two more days off after throwing 66 pitches on Saturday, but everyone else is good to go. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Cory Wade have each had two straight days off.

The Rangers played a doubleheader on Saturday and extra innings yesterday, but their bullpen is actually in pretty good shape because Neftali Feliz threw an eight inning, complete game loss in the second game of the double dip. Koji Uehara threw 25 pitches in the first game on Saturday, and yesterday the end-game trio of Ogando, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan each threw no more than 18 pitches. Ross threw 13 pitches as well. Mark Lowe hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, and I have to think Feldman is off limits for the first two games of the series so he can start the finale.

Overall, the Texas bullpen owns a 2.33 ERA and a 2.39 FIP, both top five marks in baseball and right there with the Yankees. Nathan has absorbed two of the team’s three losses and hasn’t been the old, automatic version of himself since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. For the latest and greatest on the Rangers, I recommend checking out Baseball Time in Arlington and Lone Star Ball. Both are high-quality reads.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 23rd, 2012
The Importance of Andy Pettitte
  • Liam in NY

    Nice breakdown. Always like these before a series. I think you meant Rangers in that first sentence though.

    • Delaware – Ralph

      I agree, I always enjoy reading these before the series begins. (good catch… have to admit I didn’t see it)

  • Robinson Tilapia

    The Rangers: They’re really good.

    I tend to understimate their pitching based on their losing their ace each of the last two seasons, but everyone else there has stepped up their game.

    Pitching matchups do look favorable, though, and I could make a strong case for the Yankees winning each of the three games based on looking at the matchups. A sweep would be amazingly sweet, but I am not banking on that, not against a team this good. I’d say we can take 2 out of 3 and bring that 13-3 record down to earth a bit.

    How about this: CC and Hughes win their games, CC looking good and Hughes hanging by the skin of his teeth again and benefitting from TBA being worse. Kuroda recovers, Darvish looks meh, but bullpen blows game 2.

  • Bonnie Parker

    I’m confident we can crush Holland as we always do, crush the overrated Darvish, our only problem might be with TBA. The Yankees always seem to struggle with pitchers they haven’t seen before. Let’s just hope with the day off yesterday that Joe doesn’t play Nunez in the field tonight. With a lefty on the mound Nunez can DH, Andruw in LF.

    • jsbrendog

      the yankees have definitely faced feldman before. and don’t sleep on darvish.

      • Steve (different one)

        Blame Wally Matthews for that, I read that the yanks had never faced Feldman before on ESPN yet I am pretty sure I have seen it in person….

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    Kuroda better bring a lot more to the table than he showed against the Twins last week or he’s gonna get embarrassed against that lineup.

  • Kosmo

    TBA is probably Scott Feldman who is :
    3-2 lifetime vs. NY
    4.76 ERA
    22 innings
    28 hits
    12 BB
    15 Ks

    • Robinson Tilapia

      ….and those were his numbers when he was actually a regular starting rotation option.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      I would have to think 3-2 is better than his Pythag, what with a WHIP of 1.82

    • jsbrendog

      i see winning 2 of 3 but somehow feldman being the one that wins cause texas offense goes beast mode on philly phranchise

  • JohnC

    Yanks will be a challenge for Darvish in that they are patient hitters who won’t offer at those pitches on the outside part of the plate. Similar to how they were against Matszuaka when they faced him

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Pretty much what I’m banking on as well.

    • jjyank

      This is my hope as well. I haven’t watched Darvish’s starts personally, but if he goes with the nibbling strategy against our lineup, he could have a long night. Should be a fun game, I’m glad Kuroda and Darvish are lined up to face each other.

      • Rookie

        From the half a dozen or so innings I watched Darvish pitch against Detroit, it looked to me like batters were finding it very hard to make solid contact with/square up his pitches. And as I will readily confess anytime, you can put everything I know about pitching on a postage stamp and still have room for the Lord’s Prayer. But it looked to me like the reason why they were having so much trouble making solid contact is that Darvish had three or four pitches at or near fastball speed (92-95 mph) with excellent movement in different directions in addition to, I believe, two or three off speed pitches that were impressive, too.

        I normally think of Miguel Cabrera as being able to square up pitches with the best of them. I know he scares the heck out of me every time I see him come up in an opposing team’s uniform. But I thought Darvish made him look impotent. Maybe it was because it was the first time Cabrera batted against Darvish — and Cabrera will look much better once he gets more familiar with his offerings. I understand, that that’s the way it usually goes. But it certainly didn’t go that way in Japan — where Darvish’s numbers improved over time until his last two years were his two best.

        Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that while Darvish may nibble — either by choice or due to fear or lack of control — I think he has good enough “stuff”/movement on his pitches and enough different pitches that look similar to the hitter that he doesn’t HAVE to nibble.

        One more thing… Darvish and Matsuzaka were both outstanding Japanese pitchers. But Darvish was far MORE successful:

        Matsuzaka’s ERA in his last two years in Japan was 2.30 and 2.13, respectively, and he never managed a single year in his career with an ERA below 2.13. Darvish’s ERA in his last two years was 1.78 and 1.44, respectively. And from his age 20 season on, Darvish never had a single year in Japan with an ERA below 1.88.

        I understand that Japanese baseball is closer to AAA than MLB level. I know that Darvish has not yet adjusted to pitching every five days and that he hasn’t yet found his control. I don’t expect to see what Darvish is actually capable of until his second or third year in the Majors. But I don’t think comparisons with Matsuzaka are justified except to point out that Darvish was far better than Matsuzaka in Japan and that he’s likely to be far better in the Majors, too.

        That said, I don’t think anyone — certainly not me — can predict what will happen in any single game. But that’s my opinion, for whatever it might be worth.

  • mike

    i wouldn’t even mind losing the series if Hughes pitches a really good game and Kuroda doesn’t get crushed – both are far more important than winning the series in a slugfest

  • CJ

    Don’t get swept.

    • mustang

      Agree. Don’t like this series at all.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Yup, Rangers seem scary good right now. Need CC and Kuroda to perform as we know they can and hope for the best form Hughes. Really hope they can take 2 of 3 and settle things down in Texas. They can’t keep putting up those kinds of numbers all season, so may as well start the downward trend for them.

  • Pat D

    Now obviously the Rangers are good and the Yankees have questions, but I’d like to point out this article as another example of how front-running and terrible the writers are down in Texas.


    • Robinson Tilapia

      Holy God. I’m surprised they didn’t mention that Roger Clemens is on trial, Mickey Mantle’s dead, aaaaaaaand….

    • Sarah

      LeBreton is the worst. He’s terrible on all fronts. Also he’s the biggest bandwagon-er you’ve ever read. When the Rangers are bad, he’s “they are the WORST TEAM EVER,” and when they are good “RANGERS THE BEST TEAM IN HISTORY OF UNIVERSE.” At least the NYY writers are consistently “this team is AWFUL,” even when the team is good.

    • Sarah

      Also, never forget the time he compared Canada to Nazi Germany.


    • Havok9120

      “And while past Yankee juggernauts could always rely upon their abundant farm system…”


      *gasps for breath*


    • mustang


      Can I change all my other comments now?


    • Josh S.

      That idiot put his phone number below the article. Anyone actually try to call him?

      • Sarah

        Please call him. That would be awesome.

    • jjyank

      “How did Cashman miss out on Jamie Moyer?”

      LOL. Just wow.

  • Al Snow

    What does everybody want?

    • Pat D

      Shane Douglas to stop putting on ECW reunion shows as if they mean anything or if he still has any relevance.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Shane is such a twit.

        • Pat D

          My friends and I have gone to the same bar for WrestleMania the last few years. He was there last year signing autographs. I wanted to go up to him and say, “What’s it like to be such an asshole?” or “Ric Flair rules!” but I had a feeling he’d snap.

          I was actually hoping he’d be there again this year because I would have asked, “Just what did you do to get kicked out of Raw a few weeks ago? Try to start an ECW chant?”

    • Robinson Tilapia


    • jsbrendog

      what does everybody need????


    • Michael Cole

      Shut up jobber.

  • mustang

    I’m not as enthusiastic as you guys are about the series. Texas is hitting really well and the Yankees starters have been struggling that’s just not a good match. They have 7 games left this month 3 Texas, 3 Detroit, 1 with the O’s sign me up for 4-3 and a 13-9 for very tough April schedule.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It could go either way, sure, but I’m not the type to go on here and say, “yeah, we’re getting swept. Where’s the scotch?

      • mustang

        I’m not that type either, but if Hughes and Kuroda pitch well and they only manage 1 win is series I can live with it.

        • Havok9120

          Oh, definitely. I’d take all the starters looking good but only winning 1 or no games due to either a bullpen fluke or offensive failure. That would be a longterm sign of improvement, and I’m all for that this early in the season.

          • mustang

            Yes Sir.

      • jsbrendog

        well if they win it’s the ballantine’s 21

        if they get swept it’s the cutty sark.

        womp. womp.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Don’t knock the Cutty Sark.

  • V

    So, O/U on # of pitchers we lose on Texas’s mound?

    RIP Joba and Hughes as prospects.

    • Pat D

      Of course Ivan Rodriguez was secretly working for the Rangers when Joba suffered his injury.

      • jjyank

        Ivan “Stairs” Rodriguez!

    • A.D.

      Just glad they’re not throwing Nova.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Former Yankee/utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez….

    this guy will be trouble….that’s why ycpb

    • mustang

      What’s ycpb? and how is a guy with these career numbers


      going to be trouble?

      • Jim Is Bored

        You Can’t Predict Baseball.

        Which is ironic, since that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.

      • jsbrendog

        i’m going with sarcasm.

        • mustang

          Yes I figure that to after finding out what ycpb meant.

          • mustang

            But I did have my doubts.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I’d rather the Yanks lose the series and pitch well than win the series on the offense and bullpen.

    Weird I know, but I want to see the rotation pitch better, as it means more long term. Specifically Hughes and Kiroda.

    There is no shame in losing a series to Texas in Arlington.

    Rather lose 3-2 than win 9-8 this week.

    Of course I’d love to win 3-2, but my basic point still stands.

    • A.D.

      It may make you feel better as a fan with individuals having success, but I always rather the team win than lose, if Hughes & Kuroda pitch well that’s great, but any single start isn’t going to define the rest of their season, so I’ll take the win, which is guaranteed to be there the rest of the season

      • Cris Pengiucci

        I’d fully agree with you that the starts made here aren’t going to define the season, but with a team playing as well as Texas is, I’d take the good starts over the wins as well. Of course, both good starts and wins are the best outcome, so let’s hope for that. I’m just thankful I’ll get to watch 2 of the 3 games on TV (after getting to watch the 2 games played against Boston this past weekend). Looks like those of us outside of the YES Network viewing area are headed for a dry spell as far as upcoming TV coverage goes.

    • CJ

      Disagree. Win 9-8 show league bombers can still out thump any team

      • LiterallyFigurative

        I don’t think anyone doubts that.

        But on my 1-10 scale of worry. The offense is a 2, the bullpen is like a -4000, and the rotation is a 6. I trust CC, I trust Nova…..and I trust Pettitte.

  • Ro

    I’m betting $100 bucks that Kuroda pitches a tremendous game. It’s the whole Japanese and respect and honor thing. Couldn’t have matched up better for this series that both he and Darvish go on the same night.

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      I’d take that bet.

      He looked like he was throwing batting practice to the Twins last week and the Rangers are a MUCH better hitting team.

      • jjyank

        Right, but one start before that he made the Angels look silly all game, and they’re probably on par with the Twins offensively (too lazy to look anything up regarding that, but I feel like that’s not too crazy to say).

    • jsbrendog

      i’m actually really excited about the battle for japan supremacy.

  • OldYanksFan

    The Texas Offense is very good, but is it THIS good? Hammy is for real, but he, and many others seem to be producing WAY over their career norm.

    Has Napoli turned into Batista?
    His career 130 OPS+ has been 170 since last year.
    Kinsler’s 115 career OPS+ is 155 so far in 2012.
    Young’s 107 career OPS+ is 163 so far in 2012.
    And Hamilton’s 136 career OPS+ is whopping 213 so far!!!!!

    How long can they keep this up?

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      All of those guys are due for a major regression, just hope it starts this week.

    • Sarah

      Let’s not forget that aside from Verlander, they have not been facing great pitching (or maybe we should say, some pitchers have not performed well, i.e. Lester).

      And Hamilton is forever at risk for breaking something/pulling something. Perhaps it will happen today during BP.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      The Rangers have scored six runs in their last 27 innings, if that makes you feel better.

    • jjyank

      Regression is what I’m hoping for. They’re really damn good, but they’ll cool off at some point. Although Hamilton has “insane walk year” written all over him.

  • mustang
  • Garcia

    I wouldn’t necessarily discount how much the temperature will play a part in the pitchers’ performance in this series. CC’s always been a warm weather guy, hence his sluggish Aprils. Kuroda has spent his entire career with home games in domes or Chavez Ravine. Phil grew up in SoCal and always seems to pull a good one out of his ass (or pull a hamstring…) in Arlington. Perhaps naively, I’m not concerned about the starters for this series. I think we can have Darvish out of the game by the 5th due to an elevated pitch count, but I still see him keeping the Yanks from putting up more than 2 or 3 runs. The key will be getting to Derek Holland 3.0 tonight to make a statement, exhibiting some patience tomorrow night, and then maybe being ready for a barnburner on Wednesday.

    I’m just hoping Tex stays hot and we could get A-Rod going at his old stomping grounds. If we can cause this at least once, I’ll consider the series a success: http://sportschump.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/nolan-ryan-george-bush-rangers-game.jpg

  • Monterowasdinero

    Derek Jeetuh hit 2 HR’s in one game at Texas last year (a very high percentage of his output for the year) and Cervelli hit a GS in the same game.

    We will destroy the Rangers-Alberto Gonzalez or not.

  • http://twitter/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

    Optimistic. Reverse-trap series.

  • Kevin G.

    We sweep them. Calling it now.