October 2010

They Made It!

-Nick Parson, Front Office Assistant

 

After all these years (51 of them to be exact), the Texas Rangers are heading to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. After beating the New York Yankees 4-2 in the best of seven ALCS, the Rangers are about to go where no Ranger has ever gone before.

Ever since the Rangers won Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, the list of firsts for this ballclub has gotten longer and longer. Prior to this season, the Rangers had only won one single playoff game in history. They had made it to the post-season three times prior to this year, facing the Yankees on all three occasions, and were swept twice and lost 3-1 in the best of 5 series the other time. 

Although the Majors can feel a ways away from Hickory, Crawdads fans should be excited about the recent fortune of the Rangers. Not only is being an affiliate of a successful team something to be proud of, but it gives our players something to look forward to and something to look to for inspiration. In Single A, we are the foundation for the talent that will someday rise to the MLB ranks. In the years to come, when we see former Crawdads on the starting roster of the Texas Rangers, we can all take pride in the fact that we were with these players from the beginning. With the dark days of inadequate pitching and uni-dimensional lineups seemingly behind the Rangers, we can look forward to the numerous ways that Crawdads players might contribute to a championship caliber team someday.

Given that our affiliation with the Rangers is still somewhat fresh, there are no former Crawdads on the Rangers roster during this remarkable playoff run. The lone Crawdad that has made it to this year’s Fall Classic is Aaron Rowand of the San Francisco Giants. Though he has seen limited action this postseason, (seven PA’s thus far), we are all proud to see a former Hickory Crawdad on baseball’s biggest stage, and wish him luck.

All this excitement has given us some good fodder for water cooler chats here in the front office. We hope that all you ‘Dads fans out there embrace and root for the Rangers, even if your beloved Braves or Yankees missed out on the action. The World Series is baseball at its absolute best, and we hope that the next time you come visit us here at L.P. Frans, you’ll keep in mind how exciting the possibilities of the future could be for our players here in Hickory.

Texas Takes Early Lead in ALCS, Bumgarner to Start Against Phillies

-Nick Parson, Front Office Assistant

The Texas Rangers stand with a 2-1
advantage over the New York Yankees in the 2010 ALCS. Had it not been for one
horrific inning for the Rangers bullpen in Game 1, they would be poised for a
sweep of the AL Wild Card winning Yankees.

As is often the case with the playoffs, the pitching
performances have been headline worthy. For Texas, mid-season acquisition Cliff
Lee has been stunning the baseball world with his continued dominance of
otherwise fierce lineups. In three games, two against the Tampa Bay Rays and
one against the Yankees, Lee has gone a combined 24 innings allowing only
thirteen hits, two runs, and one walk. As for his strikeout pace, Lee has set a
major league record by notching over ten strikeouts in each of his first three
postseason appearances this postseason. By deciding to wait until Game 3 to
send Lee to the mound, Rangers manager Ron Washington now has the comfort in
knowing that if there is a Game 7, he will have Lee on hand to face the Yankees
at the Ballpark in Arlington.

For the Yankees, their starting pitching has been
disconcerting at best. In Game 1, Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia was hammered early,
giving up five runs in only four innings pitched. He was able to escape the
loss column due to a dramatic 8th inning implosion of the Rangers
bullpen, however this is surely not something the Yankees want to count on for
future games. In Game 2, the young Phil Hughes was even more ineffective than
Sabathia, giving up a total of seven runs on ten hits in only four innings
pitched. The only quality start of the series for the Yankees has come from
Andy Pettitte, an October veteran who is looking for his 20th
postseason win. With 19 postseason wins already to his credit, Pettitte holds
the major league record. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Pettitte’s sole blemish
of allowing a two-run shot in the first inning to Josh Hamilton was all that
the Rangers would need while riding the back of Cliff Lee’s performance.

As one can imagine by the pitching numbers, there are many
Yankees who have had no offensive impact yet whatsoever. There are only two
Yankees that have greater than two hits in the series, those players being
Derek Jeter with three hits, and Robinson Cano with five hits. Cano is leading
the Yankees in all offensive categories for the series. He has slugged New
York’s only two homers, knocked in three of the eight runs that have been
scored during the series, and scored three of those runs himself. Beyond Cano,
the Yankees are desperately searching for answers.

For the Rangers, the offensive attack has been well rounded.
With the exception of Pettitte, the Rangers have had no trouble getting through
past Yankees pitching.  Josh
Hamilton has provided the most spark for the Rangers thus far with his two
home-runs, five walks, and five RBI, all the while striking out only three
times. Vladimir Guererro is the only player with greater than six at-bats that
has yet to knock in a run for the Rangers.

If the Yankees hope to continue their bid for ring 28, it is
clear that they have a host of issues to address with both their pitching and
their hitting. For Texas, they can only hope that their starters keep doing
what they have done so far, and that the bats stay alive against a Yankees team
that has tremendous potential, even if they haven’t had the results yet.

In other news, local boy Madison Bumgarner is the likely
starter for the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the NLCS. Bumgarner, a
graduate of South Caldwell High, was a dominant starter for the Spartans during
his tenure. As the 4th pitcher in the Giants’ postseason rotation,
Bumgarner had an impressive outing in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves,
going six innings allowing only a pair of runs on six hits. Bumgarner will
likely face Joe Blanton, who did not pitch in the NLDS for the Phillies as they
went on to sweep the Cincinnati Reds.

Rangers Advance to ALCS for First Time in Franchise History

-Nick Parson, Front Office Assistant

And then there were four. The League Division Series has
come and gone, and for the first time in franchise history the Crawdads’ major league affiliate, the Texas Rangers, came out of it with the win. The Rangers were able to vanquish the Tampa Bay
Rays 3-2 in the best of five series, relying heavily on the dominant pitching
of Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson.

Cliff Lee, who was nearly acquired by the Yankees prior to
the non-waiver trade deadline, has stepped into the role of being the foundation
on which the Rangers are hoping to build their first championship season. In
his two starts in the ALDS, Lee allowed only 2 runs on 8 hits over 16 innings
pitched. That, combined with Wilson’s 2 hit, no run performance in Game 2,
finally got the Rangers past the first round of the playoffs. Prior to this
year’s ALDS, the Rangers had made it to the first round three times. In those
three appearances, they were swept twice, and lost the series 3-1 on another
occasion. All of these losses were suffered at the hands of the New York
Yankees.

With their first hurdle behind them, the Rangers now go on
to face the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees,
fresh off a sweep of the Minnesota Twins in their ALDS matchup, are firing on
all cylinders after a September slide that had many people questioning whether
this Yankees club is built for a title defense. In typical fashion, the Yankees
have thus far silenced their critics in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Rangers,
who would have finished in third place had they been in the same division as
the Yankees, are the team that will have to prove their mettle to the critics.
There is one thing that has already been proven however, and that is that these
are not your typical Texas Rangers. 

In recent years, the Rangers have developed a reputation of
imbalance. They are known for having outstanding power numbers at the plate,
but not much else. For example, in 2008, the Rangers led the American League in
hits, runs, slugging, and were second in OBP. In addition, their pitching staff
had the highest ERA, the most hits allowed, and the second lowest number of
strikeouts. Regardless of the offensive attack that the club mounted in that
season, they finished with a losing record of 79-83.

Now, just two years removed, the Rangers enter the ALCS with
a staff that appears up to the challenge of the vaunted New York lineup. Having
pitched a complete game on three day’s rest to knock out the Rays, Cliff Lee is
not projected to start again until Game 3. In tonight’s series opener in Texas,
the Rangers will send C.J. Wilson to duel with fellow lefty C.C. Sabathia.

This is Wilson’s first season as a major league starter,
getting his innings as a closer for the past four years. Wilson’s
transformation from mediocre closer into impact starter has been nothing short of
extraordinary. Wilson was able to log over 200 innings this season, and came
out of them with a 3.35 ERA. It is this recent body of work that gives Rangers
manager Ron Washington the confidence to start Wilson against an extremely
capable Yankees offense in Game 1.

With pitching being the highlight of the 2010 playoffs thus
far, the Rangers look to continue the trend and contain the Yankees as much as
possible. In addition, the Rangers will have to find their own ways of beating
an equally impressive Yankees pitching staff. With playoffs veterans C.C.
Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, and young gun Phil Hughes, the Yankees are just as
formidable a foe on the mound as they are at the plate. They will have to be
careful though, as the Rangers have demonstrated their ability to punish teams
for their mistakes. In Game 5 of the ALDS, the Rangers were able to score two
runs while the pitcher had his back to the plate while attempting a play at
first base. In another instance, Nelson Cruz drew an errant throw from Rays
catcher Kelly Shoppach while making an aggressive steal of third base. The
throw sailed past Evan Longoria into left field, and Cruz scored easily.

Considering that the Yankees have one of the best defenses
in the game, the Rangers cannot count on mistakes to win games. If the Rangers
are hoping to finally advance past New York in the postseason, then they will
have to do so on the backs of their starters. For the first time in many years
however, the Rangers feel as though they finally have the right men for the
job.