Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rangers Pepper 7/3: Grimm Breakdown, All-Star Vacancy, Manny Ram . . . Wait, WHAT?!

by Dustin Copening

#RangersThoughts” on Twitter can be seen by following me @dfwfanconnect, but those thoughts evolve every few days from 140 characters into what I have dubbed as  “Rangers Pepper”.

The Pepper has been sparse over the last few weeks as my attention was diverted to the impending NBA free agent market. While I was breaking down mercenaries that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson plan to court, the Rangers salvaged June with a 10-3 run that allowed them to finish to the month at 14-14. So celebrate the return of quality baseball and Rangers Pepper with some tom foolery involving a pepper as a baseball:

Insert Grimm Pun Here - After three starts in April, Justin Grimm was the AL Rookie of the Month, going 2-0 (the Rangers winning all 3 of his starts) with a 1.59 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, and opposing BA of .239. This sting of losing Matt Harrison for at least half of the season was somewhat numbed by Grimm’s unexpected and solid performance.

The soothing presence of Grimm in the rotation has worn off over following twelve (often nauseating) starts made by the 24 year old. The latest being last night’s 4 inning doozy where the Mariners scored 6 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits (3 HR) and 2 walks. By the way, Seattle is once again ranked in the bottom 5 in runs scored in all of baseball, a position they’ve held since 2008.

Where fellow rookie Nick Tepesch has routinely been able to give the Rangers a chance to get to an early lead before running into problems, Grimm has allowed 31 of his 53 total ER given up in his first 3 innings of work.

Unlike Yu Darvish, there are no definable pitch selection issues to explain away Grimm’s poor work. In April, he threw 62.4% fastballs versus 37.6% off-speed pitches. That ratio dropped to 59.6/40.4 for a 2.8% difference in his last 12 starts. It’s a slight variation, but enough to explain a jump to a 6.96 ERA, 1.655 WHIP, and .312 opposing BA? Not likely.

BABIP is another culprit to look to for explaining any drastic shift in performance for a pitcher, and Grimm’s BABIP has jumped from a fairly average .294 in April to .340 in May through July starts; however, the true culprit does not appear to be bad luck.

Grimm’s per AB results from his April starts feature about the same number of groundball outs (19.44%) as the 12 following starts do (19.66%), along with a similar percentage of flyouts (15.28/14.58) and pop outs (4.17/4.07). Strikeouts, though, are down (20.83/15.93) with a spike in extra base hits of 4.58% taking up a good chunk of the 4.9% drop in K’s. Factor in the jump of 1.97% in lineouts and the answer to Grimm’s struggles is a simple one. His pitches are getting hit more often and harder as he works deeper into the season.

A special thanks to TexasLeaguers site for creating easy access to a wealth of this data.

All Star Blues - The final update on AL All Star voting came out Monday, and as expected there were no Rangers leading the vote at any position. The Ranger closest to earning a starting spot on the AL squad is Nelson Cruz, sitting 420,433 votes behind Jose Bautista for 3rd place in the OF vote. Even a late push by Cruz would mean passing Nick Markakis (Orioles) and Tori Hunter (Tigers). Not bloody likely for a key member of club Biogenesis.

What may be more alarming to Rangers fans than the teams first All Star Game without a starter in the lineup since 2007, is the very real possibility that this will be the first All Star Game played without a single position player from Texas since 1989. Jeff Russell being the lone Rangers rep from that year’s team.

Ian Kinsler seemed a shoe in for a bench role before his rib injury, and Adrian Beltre may fall victim to Josh Donaldson’s career year. Cruz is the only OF on the team even close to worthy of being picked by Jim Leyland, but he’s likely to select Hunter for one slot, limiting the chances for Cruz further. Leyland may even get some pressure from the league office to omit players linked to the Biogenesis investigation.

That leaves A.J. Pierzynski as the remaining option for Texas, but Carlos Santana is having a better year at the plate. Plus, the Astros Jason Castro looks to be the best bet for their only All Star participant.

Welcome Manny Mania - Breaking as I write this for the masses: Manny Ramirez Is A Rangers Minor Leaguer. I have to admit that when the Rangers Breaking News push notification from The DMN came across the phone I expected it to be about a trade for Ricky Nolasco. Not in a million years did I expect this, and I’m betting you’re right there with me.

You may remember that Ramirez received a 100 game suspension for PED use five games into the 2011 season as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. That suspension was reduced to 50 games and he served it as a minor leaguer in the Oakland organization in 2012, after returning from a one year retirement.

What to expect from Manny? He hit well in Taiwan before coming back to the US in June, and did enough to earn one last (maybe?) shot at a return to the majors. My guess is this is the backup plan to Lance Berkman’s bum knee and/or a Nelson Cruz suspension should Texas fail to acquire a bat before the trade deadline passes. My official prediction is that Ramirez never again sees an at bat in Arlington or any other major league ballpark.

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