Archive for the 'Texas Rangers' Category

Texas playing for more than just a division

Now that the Astros have reached the World Series, the Texas Rangers have inherited the title of Least Successful Expansion Era team. But that could change this year. If this team can stay competitive in the American League West through June, a 43-year-old savior could swoop in and deliver them elusive October success.

In 1961, the Texas Rangers — then the second Washington Senators team — were the new kids in town. The original Washington Senators had just pulled up stakes and moved to Minneapolis, and Major League Baseball awarded Washington another Senators team and Gene Autry got his Angels in Los Angeles. These two new additions to the Major League Baseball roster kicked off a period of expansion that would see baseball go from 16 teams in 1960 to 30 teams by 1998. The sport’s rapid expansion was a testament to the ever-growing population in America (and eventually Canada) and its increasing popularity in society.

Eleven unremarkable seasons after their creation, the second Washington Senators team left the socially struggling and stagnant District of Columbia for greener (or is that whiter?) pastures in Arlington, Texas. By 1994, after 33 seasons of futility, October baseball games seemed to be in Texas’ future. Even with a 52-62, the Rangers on August 11 were one game ahead of the second-place Oakland Athletics.

But fate in the form of a lockout intervened, and the Rangers would not see October ball until 1996 when they were swept by the Yankees in the Divisional Series. The Rangers would make the playoffs again in 1998 and 1999, but they would be on the receiving end of the great Yankee Dynasty of the 1990s. They managed just one playoff victory in 1996 and went 1-9 against the Yankees during their three futile attempts at reaching the ALCS.

Since losing in 1999, the Rangers have finished last in the division four times and third twice. Despite an explosive offense, the Rangers just haven’t found the pitching they need to win in the highly competitive American League West. But this year the stakes are higher: Roger Clemens’ return to baseball looms large in the minds of the Rangers…

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Teixeira, Giles deals don’t match up

Let’s look at two players who avoided arbitration today: Rangers’ first baseman Mark Teixeira and Braves’ second baseman Marcus Giles.

These two days were announced within hours of each other. Giles signed a one-year $3.85 million deal with the Braves while MVP candidate Teixeira got a two-year $15.4 million deal from Texas. Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto opined that Teixeira’s signing suggested that Marcus Giles is underpaid.

While he may not have matched Teixeira’s .301/.379/.575 43-homer season, Giles’ .291/.365/.461 line from the second base position is worth more than half of one year of Teixeira’s deal. Or at least that’s how the argument goes. Let’s look at some other numbers.

For this chart, I’m going to compare Teixeira and Giles across three sabermetric measurements. The first is Win Shares, a Jamesian stat that relates a player’s individual stats to the number of wins he contributed to the team. Three win shares is equal to one win.

The second is VORP or Value Over Replacement Player. VORP is defined thusly: “The number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances.” A replacement player is the next available option; that means, either the first guy called up to the Majors from AAA or the option the waiver wire.

The third is WARP-3, a Baseball Prospectus stat, that looks at Wins Above Replacement Level. The rational is similar to that of VORP.

Win Shares VORP WARP-3
Marcus Giles 23 48.8 8.1
Mark Teixeira 33 73.1 10.5

What we see first is very little variation across the three statistics. Based on Win Shares, Giles contributed 7.6 wins while Teixeira contributed 11. Based on VORP, Teixeira’s value was approximately 1.5 times that of Giles’. Based on WARP-3, Giles was 8.1 wins better than replacement while Teixeira was just 2.4 wins better than Giles.

So what these numbers show is that David Pinto’s original feeling was correct. These salaries do not match up with the production offered by these two players. Either Teixeira is being overpaid or Giles is being underpaid.

It’s hard to say that Teixeira is underpaid simply because he will be 26 in April and has gotten steadily better each year. He ought to be a perennial contender for the MVP award and has a Gold Glove, for what that’s worth, as well. The Rangers’ doling out $7.7 million a year for his services seems more than reasonable.

Giles on the other hand is certainly underpaid. He’s one of the game’s top second baseman and, at 27, is entering his peak player years. He doesn’t enjoy the same home park benefits that Teixeira enjoys in Texas. Even so, his production is clearly not that inferior to Teixeira’s.

With two players near the top of their respective positions locked up to contracts on the same day, it’s interesting to compare them and wonder what happened. Here’s one solution: Maybe Scott Boras, Teixeira’s agent, is really that much better of an agent that Joe Bick, the man representing Giles. For all the hype and negative publicity surrounding Boras, he really just might be that much better at getting his clients the deals they deserve (and sometimes even the deals they don’t deserve).


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