There are a considerable number of you who will shrug your shoulders and proclaim "who cares?" at the sight of a loose game recap more than 12 hours after the game itself. Just be aware that it's not my intention for that to be the M.O. of the posting schedule going forward, and that until I hit my comfort zone again, the mechanics of the bullet points may not be especially tight. After all, public self-critique is the hot new thing, right?
● After one month and a grand total of 21 plate appearances, Brandon Snyder is rocking a pristine .421/.476/.789 triple-slash line, is coming off the greatest performance of his nascent major league career (3-for-5 with a homer and six runs batted in, although you should have realized by now that RBI is virtually dead to any respectable saber-leaning website), and seems to be generating at least a little grassroots support for a larger share of playing time -- or, at the very least, a start tomorrow, on the basis of the oft-cited "hot-hand theory," and the notion that somehow, someway, Snyder's career game has more predictive value where tomorrow is concerned than his true offensive talent level.
Snyder was a monster last night. You could go so far as to call him a hero, insofar as that game was concerned. He's been a disappointment relative to his first-round pedigree for most of his professional career, but disappointing quantities put together great games and great runs and, occasionally, even great seasons. If an injury materializes at a position of need, he's doing enough right now to ensure that he's called upon as a first line of defense. But that's where you have to draw the line. Snyder may yet have a major league career stored up inside of him, but you can't use a handful of good games at the plate as justification for stripping playing time away from one of your regulars. Take the strong performance and embrace it, but be very careful about trying to extrapolate it.
● By the conclusion of the top half of the ninth inning, Matt Harrison had almost been rendered something of an afterthought -- the happy and willing "victim" of more run support than he (or his overachieving bullpen) knew what to do with, perhaps, given that the offense had turned the affair into a double-digit slaughter by that juncture. But seven frames of efficient three-run ball is sturdy enough to bestow a high status upon Harrison, and in the process of collecting those 21 outs on a crisp 86 pitches, a few things came to light:
(a) Harrison required only about 12.3 pitches per inning to retire the Orioles over those seven innings, making this only the second time in his major league career that he finished out a start with such a favorable pitch-per-inning ratio (with the only other instance being a nine-inning, 102-pitch complete game against the Mariners on May 14th, 2009).
(b) Harrison earned some post-game accolades after it was revealed that his bounceback performance was partly a function of him incorporating Mike Maddux's advice to keep his head still during the delivery (successful implementation of prescribed adjustments tends to get people all hot and bothered). That adjustment was pinpointed as the catalyst behind his ability to hammer the strike zone, and while Harrison hammering the strike zone is nothing especially new or exciting, it's still worth noting that Harrison's fastball strike percentage of 75 percent (45-of-60) last night was tied for the best such mark in any of Harrison's starts dating back through the 2009 season. Strike rate isn't everything, because hard-hit balls and base hits also count as strikes, but Harrison was in control of the heater last night, and even sans his best velocity, it was more than good enough.
(c) Through his first five starts of the 2012 campaign, Harrison had been hammered at a .298/.346/.468 clip on his array of off-speed pitches, which I suppose you could consider a slightly alarming deviation from his .218/.277/.355 performance with off-speed pitches in 2011, or his .188/.226/.306 showing in 2010. Last night, the Orioles only went 1-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts against his same secondary pitches. Consider this a stark visual explanation of why this turned out to be the case, as I've embedded Harrison's 2012 off-pitch frequency heat map (before last night's start) on the left, and Harrison's off-speed pitch frequency heat map from last night on the right:
I don't know that this same "don't throw a breaking ball worth hitting" game plan will translate especially well across multiple future starts and varying levels of fastball command, but it worked last night, and I suppose that's the only thing that really matters.
● With the addition of two more scoreless frames -- and an absurd five strikeouts -- from Alexi Ogando and Mark Lowe, the Rangers' bullpen now boasts a seasonal strikeout-to-walk ratio of 72-to-7, as well as the second-best ERA in the league (2.02, behind only Baltimore's 1.54, which was severely dinged during last night's ninth inning), the best FIP in baseball (2.61), and the best xFIP in baseball (2.62). Throw out the numbers compiled by long man Scott Feldman and spot reliever Neftali Feliz, and you're left with a marginally more ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio of 68-to-5. Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, and Koji Uehara have combined to throw 34 strikeouts against zero walks. Those numbers are obscene enough to merit an act of Congressional intervention.
I don't expect that these double-digit -- and, in the cases of Ogando/Adams/Uehara, undefined -- K/BB ratios will hold up for too terribly much longer, but this is the kind of early showing that tends to get people wondering about the possibility of dealing from that overwhelming strength over the next few months, as a means of improving upon one of your other major league roster deficiencies and/or infusing the farm system with a little more promise. But Lowe and Uehara are, in all likelihood, the only two arms that the Rangers could stand to part with, and the back-of-the-mind fear that the Rangers have to deal with there is whether one of the two could come back to haunt them later in a post-season context. It may not be the most rational fear, but I don't imagine the Rangers' front office is particularly enthused by the notion of improving another World Series contender's bullpen.
Submitted for your consideration:
I fear Adrian Beltre's hamstring is going to explode in a great burst of energy if he's forced to try and run full bore— Joey Matches (@BBTiA) May 7, 2012
No, but seriously, watching Beltre try to run with any kind of effort right now is painful to watch. I get that he's a warrior and that he doesn't want to abandon his team during its fight, and I even get Beltre's assertions that he'll be back on the field in relatively short order ... but given the oft-lingering nature of hamstring injuries, and his degree of gingerness on the basepaths right now, I won't be surprised if he doesn't resume being the Adrian Beltre we've all fallen in love with for quite a while.
● From the Department Of Statistical Minutia That Ninety-Five Percent Of You Won't Care About: Dating back to the birth of the Rangers franchise, there have been only five seasons where the Texas offense collected at least three 19-hit games on the road: 1994 (three times), 1999 (four times), 2005 (three times), 2008 (four times), and 2010 (three times). After last night's 19-hit outburst, 2012 marks the sixth such season, as the Rangers have already collected 19 or more hits on the road on three separate occasions this year ... and we're not even 20 percent of the way into the season.
Maybe there should have been a pre-existing expectation that they would kill the Orioles last night, given the two extra-inning marathons they were subjected to over the weekend. Maybe the Rangers were supposed to do that. Whatever. It's all the same in the box score, anyway.