It's Never Too Early For Spring Training Knee-Jerk Reactions

Categories: Texas Rangers
Ian_Kinsler_catch_Andrus_Merten.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
Ian Kinsler could be gearing up for a career year.
You hear it every year around this time: Spring training stats are meaningless. And, sure, while that can be true for guys like Doug Deeds -- the 29-year-old career minor leaguer who's hitting .357 with two homers and four RBI for the Texas Rangers at the moment -- there are plenty of players whose numbers signal what can be expected when they start playing games that count in the standings.

For example, Ian Kinsler's scorching hot bat is worth noticing. He's simply ripping the cover off the ball, while hitting .500 with four home runs and seven RBI in just 14 at-bats. Even though he somehow made his way onto the All-Star team last year, Kinsler was hardly the .319 hitter we saw in 2008 or the 31 homer-31 stolen base threat we saw in 2009. This could be the season he finally reaches his potential if -- let's say it all together -- he can stay healthy for crying out loud.

And let's not forget that malcontent Michael Young has arrived in camp seemingly happy, while hitting .571 with a double and two triples. That's great news any way you look at it.

Newbie Mike Napoli's early stats (.455, one double, one homer) are also encouraging, as are center fielder Julio Borbon's (.500, two double, one triple, two steals). And Mitch Moreland is seizing his opportunity to become the club's full-time first baseman, hitting .421 with two bombs, six RBI and three walks, even though Chris Davis (remember him?) is pushing Moreland for playing time with a .421 average, two home runs and eight RBI of his own.

In short, the offense looks like it could be one of the best in baseball, especially since I haven't even mentioned the middle-of-the-lineup sluggers -- Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre. The pitching, however, is a different story.

It's really early to tell much of anything, but the starting rotation -- again, let's say it together -- is suspect. The team's only offseason acquisition, Brandon Webb, won't be ready for Opening Day. And he might miss the first month of the season. Heck, even when he does take the mound, who knows how effective he'll be? Will he regain his Cy Young form, or will he be this year's version of Rich Harden?

The top two in the rotation -- C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis -- have just one year of success under their belts as bona fide starters. Wilson has surrendered four earned runs in just five innings, and Lewis has four walks in his five innings thus far. Honestly, I'm not terribly concerned about either one performing well once the season begins, but who really thinks these two are No. 1 and No. 2 starters?

Tommy Hunter had a nice outing (two innings, no runs, two strikeouts), but he'd be a solid No. 5 starter -- not a No. 3.

The final two spots are up for grabs, but Neftali Feliz struggled in his first start and really shouldn't be jerked around a la Joba Chamberlain, and Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman have been so-so at this point. Matt Harrison and Dave Bush (a combined 10 innings and two earned runs) have pitched decently, but if either of those two find their way into the rotation, this team is in serious trouble.

The bottom line: Too many things need to happen for the rotation to match up well with other teams in the division. Wilson and Lewis must replicate last year's success. Hunter needs to keep the wheels on for the entire season. Holland and Kirkman need to establish themselves as reliable starters. And Webb needs to come back healthy and pitch like he did before his shoulder problems.

That's a lot to bank on, especially when the club also has to keep its fingers crossed that perennial disabled-listers Kinsler, Hamilton and Cruz can stay healthy.

Yes, it's too early to knee-jerk. But it's hard not to look at a staff full of question marks and feel good about a repeat of last year's World Series berth, especially since the arms that might have been available at this year's trade deadline have already found new homes (Zack Greinke and Matt Garza).

With three weeks and a couple days left until Opening Day, there's definitely time for the rotation to fall into place. But there's also plenty of time for general manager Jon Daniels to work the phones in search of help.

Now might be as good a time as any to test the market for Kinsler. With Chase Utley's status seemingly worsening combined with the Phillies' need for a right-handed bat, it certainly would be worthwhile to find out what it would take to nab Cole Hamels.

*Note: Until this morning, I was unaware that Richie had handed over the keys to Sportatorium to me for the week. Prior commitments to the paper and Unfair Park will make it difficult for me to do so, but I'll be chiming in when I can.

Follow the author on Twitter @SamMerten.

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34 comments
Richie's hair plugs
Richie's hair plugs

How does Richie keep his job when he doesn't even tell Sam that he is supposed to fill in?

kergo
kergo

No, fail will be Kinz hitting .260 and hitting 25 homers in a leadoff position......then his frickin' wheels are gonna fall off (like every year!) and he'll play maybe, meh, 100 games. Beltre's not playing for a contract....you gotta love a guy who gets injured while streching!

Note to Kinz:

Spray the ball around the field.

ps-methinks dr. g, Scott, Boomer and Rob M are the same person?

Mishon
Mishon

OK, I have seen all i need to see. I want RW and his 3 'meh' posts back.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

My turn to knee jerk. This rotation as constituted w/o feliz or ogando SUCKS!!!! I suspect the Rangers will make some sort of trade. Are we really going to expect one of these flyers we picked up is going to come through again this year? only getting good years from the top 2 wont win us enough games to sniff the division much less finish second or 3rd. I hope JD has another move up his sleeve.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I too worry that Kinsler will try to go all Brady Anderson and try too hard to hit for power, fly out all the damn time, never go opposite field, and have an average that will make us wish Borbon was leading off. I'd also be willing to trade him and some pitching prospects for a proven starting pitcher and take my chances with Profar at 2nd, but that may be an unrealistic pipe dream on my part on par with The Fail's desire to not suck.

What's the story with Feldman? Dude has dropped off the radar completely.

And thank you for not trying to continue Richie's non-storyline of Beltre's supposedly bum legs being a turd in the punch bowl. Perhaps Hamilton's spring training slowness is related to the fact he was in the hospital for pneumonia too. I say in jest.

Rob_Em
Rob_Em

"I want to take them coattails and tie your hands together..."-- kergo

Sounds kinky. Sure you want to keep calling me the gay one? Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett

I'd be reluctant to get rid of Kins, but if we could package him for Hamels, I'd probably do it. From what little info I saw, it looks like Ogando had a very nice outting tonight.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Piss pour communication RW/SM. Hmm, Kinsler is a very valuable trade piece and could be on verge of superstardom..wonder who said that? (not SM) Also, I'll head out on this limb alone....I like Harrison. I say starting rotation is CJ, Colby, Holland, Hunter, and Harrison but wouldn't mind Kirkman or Ogando sneaking in and remember Feldman and Webb and maybe Scheppers will be coming..seems like the pitching is deeper than the beginning of last year. (looks like Feliz is the closer, good w that? Yep, me too)

McDoom
McDoom

Ian kinsler is by far my favorite Ranger. And my 3rd favorite Jew behind Bar Refaeli and Wilonsky. LookIng forward to a week of your posts Sam, limited as they may be.

sporty
sporty

Would the Phillies want a full-time 2B or a utility guy they could play at 2B and 3B? Perhaps this could be a possibility for Michael Young, although I don't think the Phillies would giveup more than Joe Blanton realistically. They'd do Oswalt before Hamels if any big trade happened I would have to think.

Sam, are you of the opinion Neftali should stay in the pen? I think this team, as you point out, is in desperate need of rotation arms and this transition makes a lot of sense to me. Scheppers, Ogando, Lowe, somebody I think will come along and be fine I think. But as far as aces go, Neftali had the upside scouts thought to be a legitimate rotation ace. And with CJ a free agent next season and a lot of uncertainty top to bottom this seems like a worthwhile experiment.

kergo
kergo

Welp Mertie, were are up to 8 comments....I tried! My advice is have a round table w/Rob M, Scott, and dr. g-and watch everyone fall asleep.

kergo
kergo

mertie....mertie.......mertie.......two post until I got on here? I'll help!

BTW, spring training numbers mean NOTHING, NOTHING; the fact that Kinz is hitting homers is actually a bad thing....he needs to spray the ball.

Kergi Out.

Scoreboard Don't Lie
Scoreboard Don't Lie

"Note: Until this morning, I was unaware that Richie had handed over the keys to Sportatorium to me for the week."

that, my friend, is proof positive that you're not 1 of the 17 listeners the Fail has.richard whitt did announce on air all last week that you would be filling in this week.

Rob_Em
Rob_Em

I've told Richie numerous times I will gladly write the Sportatorium for him if he needs me to. I guess he doesn't love me as much as I thought. He'd rather just shut the thing down and hope Sam shows up.

Anyway, I'm afraid if Neftali doesn't make it as a starter this year that the Rangers may have erred in not doing more to acquire a starter. I still say the Rangers will be lucky if they get more than 50 innings and an ERA under 4 from Brandon Webb.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I was thinking about that yesterday. Not a huge blog department, I guess RW didn't sent out a calendar invite? I use that excuse when I miss a meeting.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Come on, they gave you the keys to a nice, brick house for awhile. Stay there a bit, you don't have to run back to the trailer right away. Enjoy these times, we'll be back to a video and two sentence posts soon enough.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Feldman is still rehabbing and has targeted early April to begin throwing off a mound.

kergo
kergo

I'd trade Kinz and Beltre for a box of f#cking rocks!

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Whatever miscommunication there was, it's still evident that SM puts more into this blog than RW. SM writes more in one blog than RW usually writes in 3. I'll trade one quality post without any baiting of any kind(religion, race, gayness) for 3 meh's.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Nicest thing anyone's ever said about me. Sam clearly brings out the best in people.

Rooster
Rooster

Feliz - People get blinded by a 100mph+ fastball since not many dudes can do that, and you can't teach someone to throw 100mph.

They forget it takes mastery of more than one pitch to be an effective starter. Its one thing for a guy to see your fastball for one at bat when you're a closer; another for him to see it for 3 at bats. After the 5th inning of staring at the same pitch, dudes will be pounding baseballs so hard they'll reach South America.

The Rangers are desperate for him to start, but If Feliz hasn't mastered his other pitches yet, he can go back to being our version of Mariano Rivera....and that's not a bad place to be either.

Kergo
Kergo

see Rob _M, this guy actually has fluid and valid thoughts; he implies a simple manner of wit, and substance-you f$cking turd!

ps-I think we ALL want you, and dat swoll ass body!? Lobster ass?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I'll address the Feliz situation on the blog tomorrow, and if you re-read what I said about jerking him around, you can guess where I stand.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

You tried indeed. Thanks, Kergo.

Rob_Em
Rob_Em

"Enjoy the literary stylings of Sam Merten in my absence."

He's apparently not one of the 13 readers of the Sportatorium, either. (Note that eight of those 13 readers are all thought to be kergo using multiple accounts.)

Ckergo
Ckergo

you should write the "fuckhead emporiam"!

kergo
kergo

stick with Mav's basketball, you turd!

ps-nothing you mentioned in this post is anything new or insightful....maybe if RW needs a guy to walk his dog?

Mishon
Mishon

I am trying to kill time at work and I need reading material. One post a day is not doing it for me, especially it being a slow news day anyway.

LOL
LOL

Fail.

McDoom
McDoom

Thanks for all that you do Big Bob. I couldn't get thru my workday without Unfair Park.

Rob_Em
Rob_Em

He has a valid point.

When are you going to have one?

Rob_Em
Rob_Em

When I wrote a whopping two sentences on the Rangers, I probably wasn't aiming for "new or insightful". In fact, since you seem to have deficient reading skills, the words "I still say..." means that I am repeating something I have already said, which means I'm not aiming for new or insightful.

You on the other hand, manage to write something novel and profound every time, right?

Anyway, keep being my bitch. It feels good to know that someone wants to ride my coattails on a minor blog.

kergo
kergo

Yeah, I pretty much ascend like Camu everytime I write-yup. Ride on your coattails? I want to take them coattails and tie your hands together, SO, you can't post any additional mundane drivel!

Here is my example of Rob_Em for ya'll:

-Tony Romo needs to throw.-We need the 30 save from Ranger bullpen-Mavs need to winna da title-Dirk big.

In other news:-the world is still violent-North African unrest is bad-Sun....good-Monday.......work day.

ps-good job Rob stating basic crap NONE of us could "ever" think of.......I say Rob-Em, frickin' gay genius!

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