Because the sun always seems to shine a little bit brighter after a rousing Rangers win ... and, for that matter, after listening to the 13th weekly installment of the Goldstein n' Parks podcast extravaganza:
● Here's a fun little morning-after game for you to play: Punch up this video of C.J. Wilson's superb 8.2-inning, 12-strikeout performance last night -- which was far and away the best start of his major league career to date, with a superb game score of 89 -- and count how many times he put the decisive strikeout pitch right on Taylor Teagarden's glove. If that's not Cliff Lee-esque command of the strike zone, it's pretty damn close, and looking a little closer at the statistical minutia, it's apparent that his start was similar to those of Cliff Lee in more ways than one: whenever Wilson fell behind in the count to any respective Orioles hitter, his next pitch was a strike an astonishing 85 percent of the time, well above the league-average 66 percent rate.
About six months ago, I posited that Wilson might only be good for about 120-130 innings of No. 2 starter-caliber pitching this season. In hindsight, that was significantly underselling him, as he's now logged 158 high-quality innings (3.65 FIP) and, if anything, seems to be growing sharper after some early-August turmoil, posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 20-to-2 in his last two starts alone. I'm not sure whether there's abundant predictive value in his recent performance, as we're still not sure how he's going to perform down the stretch, but between his great conditioning and inclination to pitch in the heat and realization that he can't pitch at maximum intensity, Wilson may actually represent the perfect storm in terms of being able to make a seamless bullpen-to-rotation transition.
● Of the meager run support that the Rangers' offense did conjure up for Wilson (a whopping two runs), Mitch Moreland singlehandedly furnished half of it, launching a second-inning Jake Arrieta fastball -- a 95 mph heater outside the strike zone, no less -- the opposite way and just above and beyond the 333-foot marker near the left field foul pole. An identical blast at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington might not have even cleared its 14-foot-high left field wall, but the glimmer of opposite-field power from Moreland was a rather welcome sight nevertheless, as it's been in particularly short supply at first base since Chris Davis's major league career stalled out along a desolate Texas farm-to-market road. Or something. I hope you enjoyed that last metaphor.
After gaining something of a reputation as a power hitter to all fields during his sparkling 2008 run (and yes, the spray charts affirm that the results matched the perception), Davis's opposite-field power output collapsed in 2009, which is hardly the main reason why his season ended up going to hell but still proved noticeable all the same. I wouldn't expect Moreland's overall power output to rival that of Davis, but it makes some sense on an intuitive level that his advanced batting eye and short, quick swing path to the ball would enable him to roll with some outside pitches and drive them the opposite way with authority. It's still too soon to say exactly what Moreland's going to be in the long-term scheme of things, but already there are some promising indications that he's a more complete package as a hitter than Davis ever was.
● From the "surprise, surprise" department comes word that the Rangers are interested in picking up exiled Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe, a Metroplex native (of course!) and presumed all-around nice guy ... but also a guy with one of the absolute worst defensive track records in baseball and, as far as this season is concerned, a very replaceable bat. It turns out that hitting .255/.343/.432 (.336 wOBA) while playing half your games in the majors' most hitter-friendly environment and logging all your playing time at power-producing defensive positions actually doesn't ingratiate you with your employer. Colorado, per reports, "aren't seeking much in exchange" for Hawpe. What a shock.
The thing about Hawpe is that, yeah, maybe he does a reasonably okay job of bridging the gap between now and whenever Nelson Cruz returns, but it only makes real sense if the Rangers want to roll with a Murphy-Hamilton-Hawpe defensive alignment and keep Borbon warming the bench. In that case, however, Hawpe is likely hemorrhaging runs defensively at a similar rate as he's producing them offensively, and my uneasiness about running with Hamilton in center field remains present. Maybe Hawpe has something left in the tank, but there have been a few unsettling shifts in his plate discipline profile this season (he's swinging quite a bit more at out-of-zone pitches), and there's nothing very enthralling about the Hawpe-to-Texas idea if he ends up costing Texas $1-2 million and a mid-level prospect. The Rockies aren't cutting him loose just for the fun of it.