Some early-morning musings after a depressing rain-abridged loss:
● I suppose that rekindling the philosophical leave-him-or-yank-him debate concerning Matt Harrison -- referring to the catastrophic eighth inning of Thursday afternoon's series finale in Cleveland -- might be an exercise in pointlessness, especially since we're already 36-plus hours removed from that game's decisive climax, but it's still relevant in the sense that effective rotation/bullpen handling is such a fundamentally important aspect of the manager's and pitching coach's on-the-job performance. Here, I don't know that there was necessarily a "right" answer as far as how the situation should have been approached, but I personally would have erred on the side of caution.
Harrison did, of course, enjoy the lefty-lefty platoon advantage in his abortive showdown against Shin-Soo Choo (who popped a hanging slider for the game-winning three-run shot moments thereafter), but my issue with permitting him to remain in the game stemmed from my innate distrust of Harrison -- the enhanced velocity/quicker delivery/cutter inclusion might all synergize and ultimately render him completely different from what we knew him to be in the past, but he's still not somebody I'm comfortable rolling with beyond the 100-pitch mark, much less the 110-pitch mark. I might well be obstinate and close-minded in this regard, and I understand the reasons why Ron Washington and Mike Maddux stuck with him, but I would have turned elsewhere at the outset of the frame.
On the subject of pitch counts, the Rangers' rotation-wide average of 106 pitches per start leads the entirety of baseball; while that's partially a function of elite-level earned run prevention by the starting rotation during this opening 10-game stretch of the regular season (and a small sample, to boot), I have to wonder if the push-for-one-more-inning philosophy so vigorously espoused by team president Nolan Ryan is going to result in staff pitch counts remaining in the metaphorical stratosphere over an extended period of time, and whether that, in turn, will culminate in heightened levels of pitcher attrition. Remember, the Rangers are still baseball's experimental guinea pig in this regard.
● On the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) defensive scale, runs saved/allowed above average on the basis of a team's component defensive range explains approximately 80-90 percent of the variance in a team's UZR, whereas so-called "error [defensive] runs" have a far lesser impact on UZR. Worded more simplistically, great defensive range is quite a bit more important than error avoidance, and one could infer from the Rangers' already strong showing in the other preeminent defensive metric (plus/minus) that the defense is again shaping up to be a major asset in the season-long battle for run prevention.
That said, defensive statistics -- yes, even on a team-wide level -- are not exactly reputable or telling in nature with just 10 games of data, and while this team's composite defensive range might end up being great again, there are error-rooted defensive issues already sprouting up. Two costly back-to-back infield errors preceded Choo's game-winning homer on Thursday, and last night's lenient scorekeeping in Yankee Stadium obscures just how bad things were: Joaquin Arias, Michael Young and Chris Davis all committed mistakes in execution or judgment and should have collectively amassed four errors, but were instead only tagged with one.
The Davis miscue was excusable in that he was forced to (a) make a diving stop just to prevent the ball from squeaking into right field and then (b) make a split-second decision on whether to attempt the force out at second base or take the guranteed out at first base; unfortunately, he chose the former and fired the ball right into Robinson Cano's back, resulting in no outs. More disconcerting was the Joaquin Arias flub on a grounder hit virtually right at him, which he failed to even lay a glove on, and Michael Young's second error-inducing low throw in as many days. With Young already being something of a liability range-wise, he can hardly afford to cede ground in terms of what he is good at, that being his ability to properly execute the plays that he does get to make.