Supposedly, one of the big motivations for signing Sammy Sosa was that the Rangers needed a legitimate righty bat in the #5 spot so Mark Teixeira could have "protection."
Now, I'm not a big believer in the notion of "protection." I don't think a hitter is going to do better overall if he has a strong hitter in behind him, versus a weak hitter.
However, the Rangers apparently think this is important. And it was why the Rangers needed Sosa, rather than, say, Jason Botts in the lineup...because teams wouldn't respect Botts, and he wouldn't give Teixeira any protection.
Now...here's the problem...
Teams still aren't pitching to Teixeira.
You can see the pitch data here. So far (and admittedly, there are some sample size issues, given that we are 9 games into the season), 52% of the pitches to Teixeira this year have been strikes. Last year, when Teixeira was "protected" by the likes of Phil Nevin and the one-armed Hank Blalock, he saw strikes on 58% of pitches. It has been 60% over the course of his career.
Just as telling, to me, is that 35% of those strikes have been called strikes, compared to 29% last year, and 25% over the course of his career. If Teixeira is getting more called strikes right now, but fewer strikes overall, that seems to suggest that pitchers are throwing more borderline pitches, because they aren't worried about being punished if they walk him.
(Just as a point of reference, 67% of the pitches Michael Young has seen this year have been strikes, and 66% of the pitches Hank Blalock has seen this year have been strikes).
And before someone tells me to get my nose out of the statbook and watch the freaking games, this dovetails with what I've observed during the games...pitchers aren't giving Mark Teixeira anything to hit.
So...if Sosa has been brought in to provide Teixeira with protection and give him better pitches to hit, that plan has been a miserable failure. Teixeira, so far, over this admittedly relatively short stretch, is getting fewer pitches to hit than he has in any other season of his career.
Sosa is providing less "protection" to Teixeira than Phil Nevin, the one-armed Blalock, et al provided to Teixeira last year. And Sosa has looked, and performed, terribly, so pitchers aren't being punished for pitching around Teixeira.
Which means that Teixeira has a .400 OBP right now and is 4th in the American League in walks, but has only 4 runs scored on the season. If you want to play the "on pace" game, Teixeira is "on pace" to score 72 runs on the season.
Which leads me to my next point.
I keep hearing that Sosa needs 100-150 plate appearances to get in his groove, that Frank Thomas sucked last year for the first six weeks then started tearing things up, that the Rangers aren't expecting Sosa to really do much the first few weeks.
Okay. Fine. I think the Thomas comparison is a fallacious one, since Thomas, unlike Sosa, had hit the previous few seasons when he was healthy, he just hadn't stayed healthy.
Here's what I don't get.
Why in the hell does Sosa have to get his groove back while hitting 5th in the majors?
Why isn't he getting adjusted and comfortable down in AAA, while someone who might actually contribute to the offense is in the majors in the meantime?
Is Sosa too good to go to AAA? Are the Rangers really afraid that, if they wanted him to go to Oklahoma to get the rust off, that some other team would snatch him up and plug him in their lineup?
And if you don't want to send him to AAA, if for whatever reason, that isn't a viable option...
Then why is he hitting 5th? Why not stash him in the 7th or 8th slot, and let him provide "protection" for Brad Wilkerson or Nelson Cruz or Gerald Laird until he either figures out how to catch up to 89 mph fastballs (like the one he was behind on yesterday) or the team gives him up as a lost cause?
I just don't get it.