Okay, with the first half of the season over, time to hand out mid-season grades...
I'm doing positional players first, and will follow up with pitchers tomorrow.
We're grading on something of a curve here, taking reasonable expectations into account as well as performance.
With that in mind...
Solid defender, except when it comes to catching balls thrown to home plate when a runner is trying to score. A .258 EQA for the season, better than I would have expected, although it took a hot June to get him to that level. Overall, we've gotten probably our best-case reasonable scenario from Barajas in the first half, a solid major league catcher, and to my surprise, someone who has arguably been worth the money he's getting paid. At the same time, he's played about as well as Gerald Laird would reasonably be expected to have played, had he been up here as well...
What I said about Teixeira before the season? That's all still the case.
Great player. Great professional. Still getting better. Becoming a gold-glove caliber defensive player at first base. A guy who, as was discussed at length, the Rangers need to lock up long-term.
I'm a Mark Teixeira fan.
Grade: A- (only because he's just outside the top 10 in RARP...crack the top 10, and he gets an A).
Soriano evokes extreme reactions from folks, both positive and negative. The positives are obvious...he provides great power numbers from a position where you don't normally get them, and is a very good basestealer. The negatives...a lousy OBP, and bad defense at second base. BP has him at 19 runs below average defensively for the season, a pace that would make him one of the worst defensive players ever if it continues over the course of the season. And the lousy defense means that, even with his .286 EQA, he's not terribly productive...his WARP2 is currently below even Barajas' WARP2.
BP probably overstates Soriano's defensive liabilities. But the lousy OBP is lousy, no matter how you slice it. And when you look at the whole package with Soriano, you really have to wonder...is what he brings to the table really, at the end of the day, all that significant?
Another tough call, and one that is made harder by sentiment, because I am an unabashed Hank Blalock fan. But one of the problems with creating great expectations is that, sometimes, very good results are viewed as a disappointment.
And such is the case with Hank, who seems to be following the Eric Chavez/Scott Rolen career pattern...establishing himself as a very good major leaguer early, but seeming to plateau at a relatively young age (although Blalock hasn't been as good as Chavez or Rolen were, at the same age). So if Blalock isn't the next George Brett, but is instead another Robin Ventura, or maybe Richie Hebner or a super-charged Graig Nettles, are we going to appreciate him for being the very good player that he is, or damn him for not being the superstar we were promised he would be?
Blalock is still just 24, younger than Angels' third base "phenom" Dallas McPherson. And he's definitely out-paced his prospect-twin, Sean Burroughs, for whom being the next Richie Hebner would be a step up. There is still plenty of development time left for Hank, who would probably be the best third baseman in the league if Alex Rodriguez were put back where he belongs.
But those great expectations make it hard to find "very good" acceptable...
One would think that I'd have learned by now. Every season, I say Mike Young is going to regress. And each season, he gets better.
Young is currently 6th in the A.L. in RARP, behind Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Alex Rodriguez, Travis Hafner, and David Ortiz. Most of the sabermetric measurements for his defense indicate that he's not a good defensive shortstop, but hitting the way he is, it doesn't really matter that much. The team's MVP for the first half.
Oh, Menchie. You get no love. Once again, you start off the season in a part-time role, as Buck tries to find ways to keep you on the bench. You can't come to terms on a multi-year contract, and so management renews you for the same amount you made last year, rather than giving you the raise you are entitled to. Your name keeps popping up in trade rumors, every time there is a Tomo Ohka or a Mike Sweeney or a Danys Baez on the market.
Still, you go out and hit. And keep hitting. After posting a .286 EQA last season in sort-of-almost-full-time-play, you've got a .303 EQA this season.
And yet, one gets the feeling you'll be out there next spring, scuffling for playing time, with no guarantee of having the starting left field job.
There was an article on the Texas Rangers website recently, trumpeting the play of Laynce Nix. It struck me as odd, because while the Rangers' young positional players have generally made progress, Nix is someone who has regressed over the past few years.
Nix has a half-season at AA, in 2003, along with a couple of weeks at AAA this season under his belt. The rest of his experience has either been at A-ball or lower, or in the majors. He's been sub-replacement-level at the plate again this season, hitting for a poor average and drawing no walks, becoming an OBP black hole in the bottom of the order. And yet, he seems to be exempt from criticism, even though he's been the worst offensive outfielder on the team this season.
He gets high marks for defense (although I don't know that he's anything more than an average centerfielder with the glove), and for his makeup, character, good face, and all of that. Still, his average, OBP, slugging and EQA have all gone backwards since he arrived in the majors, and one has to wonder if he wasn't rushed, and wouldn't be better served spending a season at AAA. I didn't have a problem with the Rangers sending him to Oklahoma at the start of this season...and now, I'm thinking that it was probably the right thing to do, and that their mistake was in bringing him back as quickly as they did.
What can you say? The beat writers say that the club is happy with the fact that he plays quality defense and is running out ground balls. Unfortunately, he isn't hitting worth a lick. I guess he's the anti-Soriano...
I was on board with signing Hidalgo, and thought it was a good gamble to take. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out. Time to cut bait and move on...
The strange case of David Dellucci. BP today analyzes his breakout (scroll to the Rangers, at the bottom), and they make an apt comparison of Dellucci 2005 to John Vanderwal 2000, a role player who has a career year with a huge surge in his number of Three True Outcomes. BP also notes that the total of just 6 doubles, against 17 home runs, screams fluke, in terms of his power numbers...but after Dellucci's average, OBP and slugging all dropped each month from April to May to June, he's rebounded with a 1030 OPS in July, on the strength of almost half his hits in the month being homers.
So whither David Dellucci? Beats me. I still would like to get a Craig Wilson or a Mike Sweeney for the DH role, and let Dellucci go back to a 4th outfielder/platoon type position. Of course, he only has 15 plate appearances all season against lefties anyway, so he's pretty much relegated to a platoon role as it is.
If I had to guess, I say he comes plummeting back to Earth in the second half...but then, I guessed he was going to come plummeting back to Earth in May, and he didn't, so who knows...
Sandy Alomar, Jr.
On to the bench. Alomar can't throw, his .242 EQA suggests that he's hitting over his head, and his presence here is keeping Gerald Laird stuck in AAA. He's been a serviceable backup, and the fact that he's stayed off the d.l. is a minor miracle, but his days are numbered.
He doesn't hit, and like Alomar, he's blocking a better player at AAA who should be up here in his place. But supposedly the players like him, and he hit a couple of big home runs, which should keep his spot safe for a while.
Gary Matthews, Jr.
An acceptable fourth outfielder. I have no idea whose idea it was to give him the starting centerfielder's job out of spring training, but whoever it was should have had to sit in the corner wearing a funny hat for a while. He isn't going to hit very well, and he's not acceptable defensively in center, but as a fourth outfielder, he's not bad, if you can keep him from being overexposed.
Of course, there's not much point in having both Dellucci and Matthews on the same team, since they both function as acceptable fourth outfielders. But since Dellucci is doing a great imitation of an All-Star caliber DH right now, we can ignore that problem for the time being...
When he was here, predictably awful. I'm still not sure why he stuck around as long as he did.
Adrian Gonzalez, Andres Torres, Gerald Laird, Marshall McDougall
None of these guys played enough to really be graded, although special recognition has to go to Marshall McDougall, who was called up, hit a line smash off of Billy Wagner that same day in a pinch hitting appearance that was just barely flagged down, and then seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth.