Wherein we celebrate the Rangers' magic number plunging to 24, my discovery of brilliant hip-hop group Binary Star ("Reality Check" has already rocketed nearly to the top of my all-time favorite tracks list) ... and Baseball Time in Arlington's name finally impacting the age 25-54 demographic in a way that it never quite has before:
● Josh Hamilton was swapped from center field to designated hitter before Monday evening's series opener in Kansas City due to "aches and pains" in his troublesome right knee; despite the one-night setback, manager Ron Washington believes he could return to the outfield on Tuesday (Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com)
[Here, we have a good example of how you can reconstruct timelines of all sorts if you pay close enough attention to the right sources. Hamilton was primed and ready to receive his second -- and final -- cortisone shot of the season back on August 1st, but team physicians wanted to refrain from administering that shot so early, as the inflammation-reducing effects of the medicine might wear off during the middle of a post-season run or (even worse) before the conclusion of the regular season. Despite that, however, he received the shot at some point during that same day and the Rangers effectively crossed the point of no return. Now, with more than a month left in the season, his knee tendinitis is yet again flaring up, and while one major newspaper is downplaying the situation and the other is evidently panicking, it seems apparent that the problem is chronic and not easily remediable.
One could easily question why the Rangers didn't plop Hamilton on the disabled list at that point and save the final cortisone bullet in the chamber for late August/early September, but the truth of the matter is that we're not in the room and aren't privy to the exact medicals; in any event, the disabled list can't be ruled out if the knee is yet again producing the sensation that it's going to "give out." Cortisone is not the panacea. It addresses the symptoms, not the root cause, and if it's already losing effectiveness with this much time left in the season, Hamilton's likely going to require ample final-month rest to fully guarantee his post-season availability.]
● Derek Holland has officially supplanted Rich Harden in the starting rotation, a move to which the latter consented; the entire starting rotation will receive an extra day of rest as a result of Thursday's off day (Jeff Wilson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
[This should quiet down some of the folks pleading for Cliff Lee to receive extra rest. The bigger story here, though, is the Harden-to-relief move, largely because of what I wrote on the idea a month and a half ago: "Four years ago, Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus [...] found that starting pitchers who (a) post high walk rates and (b) low isolated power rates have a tendency to enjoy better performance gains upon conversion into relievers than other starters-turned-relievers. Harden clearly fits part (a), but perhaps not so much with part (b). However, given that he's effectively a two-pitch guy at this point, perhaps there's some degree of sense to assigning him to the bullpen upon his healthy return [...] and seeing what he can do."
On the surface, this is still an interesting idea, but Silver's theory was premised on such bullpen prospects wielding strong strikeout rates in addition to the high walk rates and low isolated power totals. I don't know if anyone's noticed, but his strikeout rate -- one of the few good things he had going for him earlier this season -- has now also gone to hell as of late, so there's no longer much reason to believe he's going to see a sizable performance boost from this move. Of course, there wasn't much reason to believe he'd see anything resembling high-leverage work in September anyway, so this is the part where we stamp Harden as a lost cause, sadly shake our heads and wonder where things went so terribly wrong this year.]