Decipher the two-way meaning of this post title, and win ... uh, well, nothing, but to be honest, we could all use something else to think about right now other than that story which is dominating the news cycle right now:
● I don't have the fortitude to carry forth with a full-scale dissection of Derek Holland's evening (6.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 HR), so here are three numbered points that should kind of impart everything you would want (or need) to know:
(1) Holland on his sinker on Friday night (via ESPN Dallas): "It just wasn't sinking," Holland said, shaking his head. "It had no action. It was pretty straight."
(2) Holland, per ESPN Stats & Info, allowed nine "hard-hit balls" on the night -- his highest single-start total of the season. His 18 total bases allowed was tied for the second-highest mark of his major league career, as he allowed 19 total bases in a May 2009 start against the Yankees, and 18 total bases in a September 2009 start against the Angels. If you want to make the case that the Angels hit him just about as hard as he has ever been hit in his major league career, well, there's your evidence stack. Go wild.
(3) Holland amassed a grand total of two swinging strikes over 98 pitches, and induced just nine chases at pitches out of the strike zone. I won't sit here and tell you that a starting pitcher can't experience success on a micro level with such low marks, but I think that when you view all of these numbers in conjunction, it becomes quite apparent that Holland didn't have much else in his bag other than "here's some flat pitches in the zone, try and hit them." It happens, I guess, and I still feel confident that Holland will settle back into mid-rotation form at some point here, but hostilities are running high right now, and he isn't exactly ripping the adhesive target off of his back.
● Here's a depressing synopsis of that killer third-inning sequence that was something of a microcosm of the way this offense has been going over the last several weeks: With nobody out in the top of the third inning, and with the game knotted at 1-1, Mike Napoli dinked a lead-off single to right field, and Craig Gentry succeeded him with a liner to left field that Mike Trout seemingly misjudged and ultimately misplayed, thereby advancing runners to second and third base with nobody out -- a base/out state where the Rangers' expected run total for the inning, per 2012 major league averages, was 1.90 runs. You were also looking at a base/out state where, over the course of the last 60-plus years, the average team has managed to score at least one run around 85 percent of the time.
So, in other words, you should have expected Texas to plate both runners there, and, at a bare minimum, scratch at least one run across and retake the lead, which perhaps materially alters the space-time continuum and, at the very least, makes this a much closer game in the end, or possibly opens the proverbial floodgates for the offense and ignites a Rangers win ... you get the point I'm going for. But, of course, there was no positive outcome there, as Ian Kinsler whacked a first-pitch pop out on a pitch that he has historically hit quite well, Elvis Andrus rebuilt some hope with a nice walk, and Josh Hamilton battled his way into a 3-2 count before smashing a pitch right down the heart of the plate out to second base for the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Immediately after that maddening sequence, I erroneously equated the two outcomes on Twitter in calling both outcomes a function of lacking execution, and that wasn't correct -- Hamilton, like Kinsler, attacked a hittable pitch, but unlike Kinsler, he put a charge into the product of his swing, and while it sucks that he didn't get any lift under the ball and ended up hitting a ground ball, it was a well-struck ground ball that easily scores a run or two if not for the fact that he laced it right at the second baseman. Regardless of where you want to apportion the blame, though, that ended up being the Rangers' last, best chance to do any real offensive damage ... and so it goes.
● Another telling statistic emanating from this game: in the nine individual spots where the Rangers' hitters stepped to the plate with a leverage index north of 1.00 (or, in other words, where the game situation was more urgent than your average game situation), Texas went 2-for-8 with a walk. Both hits were courtesy of Craig Gentry, and both hits advanced Mike Napoli -- who mustered his first three-hit effort since May 13th -- into scoring position, but neither hit actually plated a run, and, well, that doesn't leave you with much else to work with. Ultimately, the Rangers' top six hitters went 3-for-23 with just one walk, including the Andrus home run/walk, a sixth-inning Adrian Beltre single that went nowhere, and an eighth-inning Josh Hamilton single that was, by that point, meaningless. I get that Jered Weaver's a great pitcher, but ...
● I now present to you all each of the four outcome pitches (and results) from what I can only assume was one of the worst offensive nights of Ian Kinsler's major league career:
So, that's a swinging strikeout on a 2-2 slider in the dirt, a first-pitch popout on a pitch right in his wheelhouse, a 1-1 "fly out" -- it was, for all intents and purposes, a pop out that carried just beyond the infield boundaries and returned to earth in shallow left field -- on a pitch even more down the middle than the one before it, and another infield pop out to the first base side on an up-and-middle heater. For what it's worth, Ron Washington himself endorsed Kinsler's decision to attack the first pitch in his third-inning plate appearance, but sounded less than overjoyed with the approach that produced the harmless pop out: "We didn’t really need a ball in the air there. He was just trying to get under it and lift it. His job right there is to just stay on top of the ball."
And with that 0-for-4 showing, Kinsler is now batting just .272/.336/.433 (105 wRC+) on the season, which, for me at least, has triggered some hardcore cognitive dissonance. The valuation metrics (specifically, fWAR) suggest that Kinsler was a worthy All-Star this year, and that, even with all of his recent struggles, he's still on track for a 3.5-plus-win season, but it's nevertheless extremely difficult to take a good, hard, objective look at Kinsler right now and come away truly satisfied with his overall performance this year.
I like Kinsler, I think Kinsler's been a good-to-excellent player for quite a few years now, and I still bristle at baseless speculation about his purported laziness or how he doesn't really care now that he got paid or other snide remarks along those same lines ... but I won't defend this particularly nightmarish performance, and while there's still plenty of time for him to cease spinning his wheels in place and pick things back up, I'm concerned by the extent of his offensive drop-off this year relative to his career norms, and admittedly just a bit unnerved by the fact that the Rangers still owe him at least $75 million beyond the end of this season. I hope he gets himself right again soon.