Monday, March 31 1:05: LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Tanner Scheppers
Tuesday, April 01 7:05: RHP A.J. Burnett vs. LHP Martin Perez
Wednesday, April 02 7:05: RHP Kyle Kendrick vs. LHP Robbie Ross Jr.
I must admit, even a week or so ago, this series preview would have had a much different tone. It would have been about the anticipation for seeing Prince Fielder targeting the upper-deck at The Ballpark. It would have been about the potential transcendent qualities Shin-Soo Choo brings to the lead-off spot in the lineup. It would have been about Yu Darvish and his quest for the first Ranger Cy Young Award. It would have been about Jurickson Profar's ascension to keystone mainstay for the next 15 years. Then Spring Training 2014 happened and everyone died.
Now it's survival mode for the April Texas Rangers. And for us fans, we're left wondering if Donnie Murphy is enough to bridge the team back to Profar or if Robinson Chirinos is a legitimate big league backstop option. We can only cross our fingers that the likes of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis actually return from injury when the Rangers are telling us they'll return. Because as of right now, we're about to see two guys who were supposed to comprise a large part of the back of the bullpen try to keep the rotation together long enough for the cavalry to arrive.
One of those guys, Tanner Scheppers, will make the start tomorrow on Opening Day. This will be his first big league start. Since 1945, the only other time a guy made his first big league start on Opening Day was Fernando Valenzuela for the Dodgers in 1981. I guess that worked out pretty well. The Rangers could use something like Scheppersmania.
Where once the bullpen looked like a set-in-stone strength, it's now occupied with three guys the Rangers picked up off waivers over the off-season -- one of whom is a Rule 5 draftee, and Neftali Feliz, the presumed closer, couldn't even win a spot. You'd have had a better chance of winning a billion dollars from Warren Buffett for your perfect March Madness bracket than guessing a Ranger Opening Day roster with Seth Rosin, Shawn Tolleson, and Pedro Figueroa on it.
The fifth starter, Nick Martinez, was ranked as the 15th best prospect in the system by we LSBallers and had already literally packed his bags for Double-A Frisco (where he made all of four starts to end last season) when he found out he'd be pitching for the Rangers in April.
How bad did things get in the last week? Chris Gimenez is on the Opening Day 25-man roster simply because the Rangers were so desperate for catcher depth that they claimed Gimenez too late to outright him and now have to leave him on the roster for at least one day into the regular season.
Yes, spring training wasn't kind to the Rangers. But man, it did wonders for suppressing expectations!
It's not all bad, however. I can tell you why in three simple words: Lance. Berkman. Retired. The 2013 Rangers are not the 2014 Rangers and that's a blessing even if new utility infielder Josh Wilson will be making more starts for the Rangers than is otherwise reasonable.
Here is your official 2014 Texas Rangers Opening Day 25-Man Roster and my thoughts on them:
Jim Adduci - Wash wants him to be the new Craig Gentry but doesn't realize that he's the new David Murphy.
Elvis Andrus - This is the year. This is the year he hits 7 HRs.
J.P. Arencibia - He's going to hit several walk-off home runs and become a fan favorite with an OBP of .250.
Adrian Beltre - Still the #1 reason to watch the Texas Rangers.
Robinson Chirinos - If he's good, we'll call him Honey Nut. If he's bad, we'll call him Malt-O-Meal.
Michael Choice - The future Mr. Billy Beane's Worst Mistake.
Shin-Soo Choo - Sure, $130M is a lot. But so is 130 BB.
Prince Fielder - Your 2014 American League MVP. (Most Vindicated Player)
Chris Gimenez - The name we'll forget when AJM posts a Sporcle quiz on the Rangers 2014 Opening Day roster.
Leonys Martin - Every time a player runs on Leonys, a human trafficker gets arrested.
Mitch Moreland - I was so ready for the Mitch Moreland era to end. Now it's the Mitch Moreland: Outfielder era.
Donnie Murphy - We will never be free of D. Murphy.
Alex Rios - An even year Alex Rios means a 30 HR/40 SB Alex Rios.
Josh Wilson - I used to make fun of the Mariners for employing Josh Wilson.
Martin Perez - He's the ancient veteran of this group.
Robbie Ross Jr. - Let's all hope that adding Jr. to his name isn't like Joe Ortiz demanding to be called Joseph Ortiz.
Joe Saunders - The God of our dark timeline wears a Saunders shirsey.
Tanner Scheppers - I'm legitimately excited to see what he can do as a starter even if I'm terrified for his arm.
Neal Cotts - There's virtually no way Neal Cotts will be as good in '14 as he was in '13. Let's try to be nice about that.
Alexi Ogando - As busted up as the rotation is, the bullpen is where Ogando needs to be.
Pedro Figueroa - I hear he throws hard. That is the extent of my Pedro Figueroa knowledge.
Jason Frasor - Bizarrely sky-rocketing up my list of favorite Rangers.
Seth Rosin - Whatever, Seth. It's Roz-in, not Ro-zeen.
Joakim Soria - I'd take him being half as good as Joe Nathan was coming back from TJS to become closer.
Shawn Tolleson - I hope he took Clayton Kershaw off his Christmas card list.
So there you go. This is the 2014 Texas Rangers. Except not really. A bunch of the 2014 Texas Rangers won't be there just yet. If these Rangers can hang on for just a little while, before we know it, the actual 2014 Texas Rangers will arrive. If it takes a Josh Wilson to get there, so be it.
P.S. Oh yeah, the Phillies are old.
Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the team that had better traffic than we did:
- Tanner Scheppers: (Last season, all from the bullpen) 6-2, 6.93 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, .252 BABIP, 84.4% LOB, 3.74 FIP, 3.88 xFIP, 0.8 WAR
- Cliff Lee: (Last season) 14-8, 8.97 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, .287 BABIP, 76.7% LOB, 2.82 FIP, 2.78 xFIP, 5.1 WAR
Advantage: Yu Darvish vs. Cliff Lee was going to be so special. Now it is special simply because it's Opening Day. Please be nice to Tanner, Cliff. He's a good kid.
- Martin Perez: (Last season) 10-6, 6.08 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, .292 BABIP, 77.0% LOB, 4.23 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 1.6 WAR
- A.J. Burnett: (Last season) 10-11, 9.85 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 71.8% LOB, 2.80 FIP, 2.92 xFIP, 4.0 WAR
Advantage: Martin Perez was going to be Johan Santana good. Then he was going to be 'You Don't Mess With The Zohan' bad. Then he was going to be a warm arm in the 2013 rotation soup. By season's end, he looked like he was going to be a Mark Buehrle of our very own. But that seems too simple. There are many more iterations of Martin Perez to go before we see the finished product. Needless to say, if you had told me on Opening Day 2013 that Perez would be the Rangers' longest-tenured and most stable starter heading into the 2014 season, I would have slapped you and then maybe kissed you on the mouth.
At least A.J. Burnett will get to see firsthand just how horribly the Rangers treat the family members of players and why he should be glad he avoided signing here. On a similar note, at least Kristen Lee will have to wait in traffic leaving the game tomorrow.
- Robbie Ross Jr.: (Last season, all from the bullpen) 4-2, 8.37 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, .326 BABIP, 81.1% LOB, 3.18 FIP, 3.39 xFIP, 1.1 WAR
- Kyle Kendrick: (Last season) 10-13, 5.44 K/9, 2.32 BB/9, .306 BABIP, 66.6% LOB, 4.01 FIP, 4.15 xFIP, 1.7 WAR
Advantage: Because National League baseball is super lame, the only thing I really know about Kyle Kendrick is that time he was pranked by the Phillies and thought he had been traded to Japan. That happened several years ago. Like, Milton Bradley was a Ranger when that went down. I should learn more things about Kyle Kendrick, probably.
As for Robbie - You've come a long way, kiddo:
Philadelphia Phillies (Last season: 73-89, 4th Place in NL East)
Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Phillies: These teams haven't played since 2011 (I think the last time the Phillies played in Arlington, Eric Hurley was in the rotation.)
Philadelphia's Recent Results: 9-18 in Grapefruit League play
Philadelphia's 2013 Road Record: 30-51
The Ballpark 2013 Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 108/101 - Runs: 112/109
SB Nation Phillies Blog: The Good Phight
|Match-up: (as of 03/31)||Rangers||Phillies||Advantage|
|Batting (RAR)||Better (1st)||Old (30th)||Prince Fielder!|
|Base Running (RAR)||P Good (1st)||Old (30th)||Alex Rios!|
|Starters (RAR)||Hurt||Cliff Lee and also old||Cliff Lee :(|
|Bullpen (RAR)||Basically the rotation (1st)||Old (30th)||Jason Frasor!|
|Defense (UZR)||It says Fielder in Prince's name. How bad could it be? (1st)||Old (30th)||Elvis!|
|Overall (UZR + RAR)||Survive||AARP||Rangers!|
Questions to Answer:
- Who leads the 2014 Rangers in the follow categories: Wins, WAR, Dongs, SBs, wOBA, and subject of most .gifs?
- Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Donnie Murphy. Why not?)
- Over/Under: 11.5 combined innings pitched by Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross in this series?
- What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Scheppers tomorrow in his debut in the rotation?
- What is your prediction for number of Ranger wins, in which position do they finish in the West, and on which date do they play their final game of the 2014 season?