Posted on July 16, 2014 at 5:47 PM
Wednesday, Jul 16 at 6:06 PM
On Monday, Rangers' GM Jon Daniels hopped on a local Dallas radio show to answer questions about the struggles of the team, struggles in the front office and his thoughts on moving forward with the ball club. Several revealing facts came to light in the interview, including the willingness to look at trades, the imbroglio with Ian Kinsler and his wave to the dugout and a profound statement on Mitch Moreland.
Daniels was asked about Nelson Cruz not returning to Arlington as a Texas Ranger. JD went on to explain that Cruz turned down two offers from the club (a one-year deal and a two-year deal respectively) and then expounded on Mitch Moreland: "And we wanted to give Mitch Moreland an opportunity. We made the decision to see if he was up to the challenge to produce in our lineup. Obviously he struggled, then he got hurt. And that’s unfortunately the nature of this business — it hasn’t worked out.”
Unfortunate is correct when speaking of Moreland, who has struggled with both production and health. Moreland is a career .252 hitter with 65 home runs in 494 games. Looking at Mitch's statistics, his average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all trending downward. Mitch did have a big year in 2013 with 23 home runs, but a career low .232 average and 117 strikeouts dampened the power numbers. The 117 strikeouts led the team and his K rate of 22.6 percent trailed only Nelson Cruz (23.9 percent) for the 2013 Rangers. From the statement JD made on Monday and the tone of his voice during that interview, it is a good bet that Mitch Moreland will not be hitting baseballs for the Rangers next year. It looks like the experiment may be over. Before we say goodbye to Mitch, lets examine one other thing he can do...pitch.
Yes, it's out there, but it isn't as crazy as it seems. Several pitchers have converted from position players and had very productive careers. Former Cardinal pitcher Bob Forsch, A's reliver Sean Doolittle and St. Louis' Jason Motte immediately come to mind as a converted position players. Let's at least examine the possibility for Moreland.
Mitch Moreland was a part-time pitcher in college at Mississippi State where he compiled a 3.75 ERA in 2006, including 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. In 2007, Moreland pitched 19.2 innings with 28 strikeouts and only three walks in. In 2008 at Low-A Clinton, Moreland pitched two innings in relief, struck out three hitters and walked one. Moreland's pitching days were over after those two appearances and he became a full time hitter and the rest is history. That is, until May 6th in Colorado in a 12-1 loss to the Rockies. Moreland was called on to pitch the 8th inning in a blowout and pitch he did, touching 94 mph twice and he sawed off All-Star Charlie Blackmon to end the inning. Mitch faced the minimum in his one inning of work which was to say the least, exhilerating to see a 1B/DH hit 94 on the stadium radar gun.
According to BrooksBaseball.com, Mitch threw an assortment of four pitches in his inning or work: a fourseam fastball (92.09 avg mph), a sinker (94.02), a cut fastball (91.68) and a change-up (78.85).
This idea has been thrown out on Twitter by WFAA's own Peter Ellwood for quite some time and believes Mitch can make the change to a reliever, as do I. Moreland would not be able to step right in and take a spot on the staff. He'd go through an extended process of converting himself into a pitcher, which would entail off season instruction and pitching on the back fields in spring training. One thing Mitch does have that could speed up the process of a return as a pitcher, is knowledge and ability. He does, however have limited innings and this would be a big undertaking. Can it work? Peter Ellwood places a 65 percent chance of success on it. Honestly, that is probably greater than Moreland's ability to turn it around at the plate.
The Rangers it seems, are likely done with Moreland as a hitter, and Mitch is probably not real keen on the idea of converting to a pitcher, but that may be his only chance to stick around the game longer than the current pace that he is on. A first baseman that doesn't hit is not long for a Major League career, however, with the lack of power in a new era of pitching, a guy that can hit 20-plus homers is a valuable commodity. Pitching is still THE commodity and Moreland moving into that role could keep him in Texas. If he wants to be a hitter, it looks like that will happen elsewhere.
Patrick Despain has been writing about the Rangers for several years in the DFW market. Before WFAA he was a writer at Shutdowninning.com and frequent guest on 1340 AM radio in Lubbock.