So, do you reckon that the Rangers can possibly sell out tomorrow night's game while touting Cliff Lee, the Yankees and dollar hot dog night as its prime attractions? Because if they can't sell out the Ballpark with that perfect storm of promotion and fortuitous timing, I really won't know what to say:
● Despite being nearly a week removed from last Thursday morning's arrhythmia-inducing climax to the bankruptcy auction (the exact time of the 12:40 a.m. ending is going to stick with me for a very long time in a do-you-remember-where-you-were-when sort of way, even though such striking memories are typically associated with tragedy), it seems that we still can't shut up about Mark Cuban. That being the case, I guess we might as well go ahead and purge all such thoughts on Cuban at the same time so that we can more intently focus on the actual incoming ownership consortium -- and while doing so, perhaps separate rumor from cold, hard fact.
Cuban affirmed last week that he had no intention of moving the Rangers if he had won the team (despite abundant rumors to the contrary), but did want to attempt to alleviate the heat problem at the Ballpark by coming up with some sort of shading solution for the bleacher seating in center field; I'm envisioning something in my head akin to the wavy pavilion roofs at Dodger Stadium, only wider and not quite as ... ugly? Cuban's absolutely right when he says that the heat does hurt attendance to some degree, but a large-scale retractable-roof solution simply isn't cost-effective, and I have a very difficult time imagining that there's much that can be done to resolve this "problem" until serious talk gears up in another 5-10 years about erecting a new ballpark.
● Is Vladimir Guerrero toast? The trendy and fashionable way to answer this question -- which, like many things in life, is more complex than it appears on the surface -- is to factor his age/injury history/horrid post-June performance (.213/.278/.336 in 133 plate appearances) together and proclaim that yeah, he's done, or at the very least falling back to league-average earth. However, simply knowing that Guerrero has fallen off the wagon tells us very little, and not knowing what the underlying cause is how misinformation and propaganda end up spreading. So, why has Guerrero's offense gone in the tank?
Well, the answer isn't to be found in his plate discipline numbers; he was actually more patient during the month of July than his seasonal averages (including swing rate, contact rate, etc.), so the culprit isn't here. Part of the issue seems to be horrendous luck, as the gap between his BABIP (.223) and expected BABIP (.312) over that 133-plate appearance span is more than 90 points. That would certainly account for his struggles to a significant degree. However, a more bizarre abnormality shows up when you break down his batted-ball locations: Guerrero has been terrible in 2009-10 when hitting the ball to right field (think along the lines of a composite .285 wOBA), and it turns out that he's been doing this way too often lately, largely eschewing his trademark pull power in the process.
What could possibly account for this? Now there's a valid question. I don't think it's deterioration in Guerrero's raw power or bat speed, per se (although it would be easy to infer that from the batted-ball chart). Theoretically, it could be Guerrero actively striving to somehow change his approach, but that doesn't make very much sense, because his new "approach" -- and I don't think it actually is one -- is yielding sub-replacement results. The best answer to this riddle begins and ends with the luck component, and I think there's a pretty sturdy chance that this all ends up balancing out, but the dearth of pull-side power since the beginning of July ... well, it's interesting to say the least.