Series Preview: Rangers/Pirates

The Pirates return home after a Bronx Beatdown at the hands of the New York Yankees. The Bucs proved to be just what the doctor ordered for New York, as the previously struggling Yankees pummeled the Pirates by a combined score of 27-13.
Next on the agenda for the Pirates are the Texas Rangers and, believe it or not, one of these teams must actually win. The Rangers enter the series with the worst record in baseball (23-40, .365), “leading” the Kansas City Royals (24-40, .375) by 10 percentage points. The Rangers have been getting a hideous contribution from its starting rotation. Texas starters enter the series with a combined ERA of 6.87. Granted, The Ballpark at Arlington is a hitter’s park, meaning that it makes the position players look a little better than they are, and conversely makes the pitchers look worse. But 6.87?! As if things weren’t already looking bleak for the Rangers, star First Baseman Mark Teixeira was recently placed on the Disabled List with a groin injury.
Caution: This series is not for the faint of heart.
Tale of the Tape
Texas Rangers
Record: 23-40
Runs Scored: 312 (6th in the AL)
Runs Allowed: 372 (14th, last in the AL)
Pythagorean Record (Expected team record, based on runs scored and runs allowed): 26-37
Defensive Efficiency (Perecentage of balls put into play that are converted into outs): 0.689 (25th in MLB)
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 26-37
Runs Scored: 262
Runs Allowed: 314
Pythagorean Record (Expected team record, based on runs scored and runs allowed): 26-37
Defensive Efficiency (Perecentage of balls put into play that are converted into outs): 0.688 (26th in MLB)
Probable Starters
Tuesday
RHP Kevin Millwood (44 IP, 7.57 ERA, 6.75 K/9, 3.89 BB/9, 1.43 HR/9, 13.30 H/9)
VS.
LHP Zach Duke (72 IP, 5.75 ERA, 2.75 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 1.13 HR/9, 13.00 H/9)
Wednesday
RHP Robinson Tejeda (64 IP, 6.47 ERA, 6.75 K/9, 4.22 BB/9, 1.83 HR/9, 9.84 H/9)
VS.
RHP Ian Snell (86.2 IP, 2.91 ERA, 7.37 K/9, 2.80 BB/9, 0.73 HR/9, 7.58 H/9)
Thursday
RHP Brandon McCarthy (50.1 IP, 5.90 ERA, 5.54 K/9, 4.47 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, 9.66 H/9)
VS.
LHP Tom Gorzelanny (84.2 IP, 5.31 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, 8.72 H/9)
Series Notes
Rangers
– As we’ve established, the Rangers starters have been putrid thus far. In a ballpark like Arlington, which inflates home run totals (112 home run index from 2004-2006; 100 is neutral, anything above 100 benefits the hitter), flyball pitchers are especially punished. Brandon McCarthy (0.67 Groundball-To-Flyball Ratio) and Robinson Tejeda (0.66 G/F Ratio) are among the flyball pitchers on the Rangers staff.
Sammy Sosa is back. With 10 home runs this year, Sosa has proven his doubters wrong and re-established himself.
Not so fast.
While a return to glory for Sosa is an intriguing story, It hasn’t been the case in 2007. Sosa is hitting just .242/.299/.447 (BA/OBP/SLG) and has continued to get blown away by righthanders (.214/.250/.399). As a lefty-mashing half of a DH platoon (he’s hitting .340/448/.617 against lefties), Sosa has his uses. But at this point, Slammin’ Sammy should not be in the vicinity of a righthanded pitcher or a glove.
Pirates
– It’s pretty clear that Ian Snell has become a more complete pitcher in 2007, relying more on his secondary pitches as opposed to trying to blow fastballs by every hitter.
Snell’s two biggest problems in his first few seasons in the big leagues were his struggles with lefthanded hitters (lefties hit .304/.429/.522 against Snell in 2005, .305/.386/.526 in 2006) and his propensity to allow home runs (1.0 HR/9 in 2005, 1.2 HR/9 in 2006.)
Snell has improved his changeup, which has led to dramatically better results against lefthanded hitters ( .192/.271/.311 in 2007.) Also, sticking with our groundball/flyball theme, Snell has utlized his sinker more often in ’07, which has likely contributed to his increased groundball rate (1.31 G/F ratio in 2007, up from 1.17 in 2006 and 0.85 in 2005.)
With great stuff, improved secondary pitches, and the ability to make adjustments, Snell is showing ace-like qualities.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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