Last week was rough. It was, for the lack of a better way to describe it, a lost week as far as all things baseball-related were concerned. The product suffered, and I'm at peace with that. For everyone who stuck around through that rough patch and kept reading, much love. I'll see if I can get back on the road to recapturing my old rhythm with a few observations:
● As a direct consequence of what ended up being a self-imposed week-long blackout, I largely missed Yu Darvish's gem in Toronto, and was instead treated to a command-marred Darvish yesterday in a deflating series ender. I hesitate to call that a bad thing, because even Darvish sans plus command is something special to watch purely on the basis of his pitch movement, but ... yes, it was frustrating. Cleveland put little in the way of legitimately good wood on the ball (Jason Kipnis's solo moonshot notwithstanding), but Darvish was betrayed by a few balls that found the outfield and a few more that his middle infielders either gloved and promptly threw away (Elvis Andrus) or never even saw (Ian Kinsler). Of Darvish's six 3-2 counts yesterday, three resulted in walks. That's not a conversion rate conducive to long-term success.
There are a couple of things that stand out to me with respect to what Darvish has been doing lately, though: first, no pitcher in baseball has amassed more swinging strikes than Darvish (48) since April 23rd. Second, Darvish has managed to amass 16 or more swinging strikes in two of his last three starts. To wrap that inside some meaningful context, Cliff Lee never amassed that many swinging strikes in a regular-season start for Texas. Alexi Ogando, wielder of some of the most devastating stuff on the current staff, has done it only once. C.J. Wilson only did it twice while he was in Texas. Derek Holland has done it three times, albeit spaced over a three-year period. Swinging strikes aren't the end game, obviously, but Darvish is obviating any and all lingering questions about whether he can miss major league bats consistently, and if the rest of the total package clicks into place, look out.
● A little less than 36 hours ago, Adrian Beltre rocked a go-ahead pinch-hit home run in the 11th inning that, by at least one measure, was the second-biggest hit of his regular-season career. On the win probability added scale, Beltre has matched the 0.48+ WPA generated off that single swing of the bat only one other time in more than 8,100 career plate appearances -- and, coincidentally enough, the one other time in question also came in Cleveland nearly two years ago, when Beltre smashed a go-ahead ninth-inning home run off Kerry Wood as part of the 2010 campaign that helped him secure franchise player-type money from the Rangers.
That, in and of itself, is sort of interesting, but not to an excessive degree. What makes this sort of stand out on the page, though, is the contrast of Beltre's heroics against his relative non-clutchness over the last few years. Between 1998 -- his first season -- and 2012, Beltre has produced a "clutch" rating of -6.17 (the 13th-worst mark out of 722 qualifying players), meaning that on the WPA scale, Beltre has hemmoraged nearly 6-7 wins of value over the course of his career as a result of his lacking performance in high-leverage spots. From 2008-2011, Beltre's -5.72 clutch rating ranked as the worst among 298 qualifying major league hitters. The historical record did not favor Beltre in that particular spot, and the odds were further stacked against him in light of the harsh offensive penalty that pinch hitters face ... and Beltre did it anyway, en route to possibly saving Texas from a road sweep. Not a lot has gone right lately for Texas, but you take whatever you can get.
● This may have been a function of being out of touch with the world for the better part of last week, but I was a tad shocked by the observed amount of pessimism and discord among Rangers fans during yesterday's series finale. I get that the team hasn't sustained its world-destroying pace from the season's first couple of weeks and that a substantial chunk of the hostility is more snarky than serious, but it's still strange to witness this kind of turnaround in public sentiment -- sarcastic or not -- towards a team with back-to-back pennants in its back pocket, a winning percentage near the two-thirds mark, and a solid existing grip on the division. But seeing as how I spent the better part of this last week out of the loop, perhaps the public is more in the right than I think it is.
Here, for what it's worth, is the basic framework of the plan I'm aiming for over the summer: with the spring term in the books, there will be a substantial boost in the amount of time available for me to concentrate on the Rangers. It may not be on the level of the 2010-11 era where baseball was -- for both better and worse -- a focal point in my life, but I expect that the quantity and depth of my output will improve going forward. I'm also intending to bring a few new fresh voices into the mix going forward. It's not a fully developed plan as of yet, but it's a start, and I thank you all for hanging in there with me as I finish getting back up to speed and getting back to where I want to be with BBTiA.