The second half of Matt Harrison's 2011 season was actually better than his first. That bodes very well for the young Rangers starter (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).
Friday, Apr 6 at 3:05 AM
MIke Marshall presents: Five things which could very conceivably come to pass in 2012 despite seeming unlikely now
1. MATT HARRISON WILL BE AN ALL-STAR
Keep in mind, the All-Star game happens roughly 90 games into the season. Harrison's first half will be strong enough to make the AL manager select him. What evidence do I have that Harrison could make such a leap? Honestly, it's not much of a leap. If Harry repeats something similar to what he put together in the second half of last year they'll have no choice but to select him.
Harrison's July and September numbers were absolutely silly. August wasn't terrible but it was skewed by a 7 run game against Boston. His ERA ballooned a touch from 3.04 to 3.84 but a large part of that had to do with his extremely (4th worst) unlucky .315 BABIP (batting average balls in play) against in the second half. The most encouraging numbers that Harrison showed us were his rise in K/9 (5.7 to 6.6), lowered WHIP (1.283 to 1.268), rise in SO/BB (1.78 to 3.00) and he simply did not let batters put the ball out of the park on him as he did in the first half.
Harry allowed 10 home runs in the first half, which is not good (Bartolo Colon territory). The second half he only allowed 3 home runs. He turned those game-changing home runs into manageable doubles and turned himself into a front of the rotation guy. Another observation that is purely eyeball based: Harry has been missing bats this spring unlike any other time in his career. I've never seen so many swings and misses from the hitters he has faced. Called it a next step or whatever you'd like, but Matt Harrison is turning into a very good pitcher.
2. WE WILL BE AT THIS SAME EXACT JUNCTURE NEXT SPRING TRAINING WITH NEFTALI FELIZ. THIS WILL BE A WASTED SEASON FOR HIM.
I don't have very many fancy numbers to back me up on this one. Whether it be injury or him just being a downright failure as a starter, I believe we'll be wondering if Neftali Feliz can be effective in the rotation NEXT SPRING. The last time Neftali Feliz started a game was spring of the 2009 season. You were still listening to Linkin Park.
A comparison to the transition Alexi Ogando made last season is an easy one to make but it's not an accurate one for a few reasons. Ogando was an enigma once he burst on the scene. Neftali is not. The majority of the AL has seen his best stuff for a few years now. Neftali's slider is not as refined as Ogando's was/is. It might be irresponsible to label Neftali just a 2 pitch guy when in all truth he's more like 1.5 pitch guy.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves and claim Ogando's season was all peachy. After August 20th of last year Ogando didn't see 100 pitches in any of his remaining starts.Don't forget his playoff struggles. Every single move this organization has made the last 3 years has turned to gold. I think they're past due for one to go sour on them and it would make sense for the kid that doesn't haven't the temperament or tools anymore to start to struggle in his first crack at it. I'm a big fan of Neftali being in the rotation. I just think it should have been done last spring training, because it most likely will be turbulent.
3. MIKE ADAMS WILL SAVE 25+ GAMES
So a 37 year old closer coming off of Tommy John surgery is going to make it the entire season? And he's not only going to make it, but will be effective enough to be the closer for a contending American League team? I really hope that works out and I'm completely wrong on this one for the sake of my favorite little team but I really don't see a way. Despite what we saw out of Mike Adams the second half of last season, he has a sterling track record.
One might argue that Joe Nathan has one of his own. Well, if you added four years of wear, Tommy John surgery, and getting rocked by every minor leaguer that can breath this spring I'd be skeptical of Mike Adams as well. I simply tally Adams' struggles (if we can even call them that) at the end of last season to adjusting to the AL, a new ballpark, and playoff baseball. One could also make the argument for Alexi Ogando being pushed to that closer role if Nathan struggles. I can't make a strong argument against that but I think Ogando is more valuable as a long reliever/6th starter if anything were to happen to the front 5.
Adams is the best bullpen pitcher the Rangers have, and by keeping him in the set up role they're showing that it is as important to get to that 'save' situation as it is to execute it. They'll be forced to call on him to execute it at some point this season.
4. JOSH HAMILTON WILL PLAY 80+ GAMES IN CF
That really doesn't sound like a lot, but 80 games would be the most Hamilton has played in center since the 2008 season (111) and more than double the time he spent there each of the last two seasons (2011-35, 2010-40). The Rangers have repeatedly shown their lack of confidence in their centerfield options, (Gentry, Borbon, Murphy) even to the extent of giving journeyman Endy Chavez regular run in center last season.
Hamilton may be their best defensive center fielder. He is definitely their best offensive center fielder. When it's late in August with a 2 game lead on the Angels and the AL East is about to run through here you have to lean on your best options. Hamilton is their best option in centerfield right now. You write his name in and cross your fingers.
I think they'll try to protect him from himself early in the season and soon realize they have to give themselves the best opportunity to win ball games. That means the fragile one running around in the big part of the field. I'd expect something like a 35/45 split before and after the all star break in terms of games played in center.
5. THE RANGERS WILL TRADE FOR ANOTHER BULLPEN ARM (IE ADAMS, UEHARA)
I don't mean a closer unless all hell breaks loose out there behind right field. I mean a holds artist. I know that doesn't sound very cool, but it wins games. If you have a guy that can come in and shut down your 7th or 8th inning, you have a truly premium asset. I know the Rangers went hard after Andrew Bailey before he was moved to Boston. They are simply of the belief that you can not have enough good arms in your bullpen and will move serious pieces to make it happen (ie Adams for Wieland/Erlin).
There's also large possibility that they could get some real assistance from a bevy of minor leaguers (Perez/Scheppers/Ramirez) as well. In past years I'd succumb to the fact that none of these dudes would see the light anytime soon but after the great Robbie Ross breaks camp with the big team I think Wash has realized these guys can contribute (either that or he was just overruled).
After/If the aforementioned Nathan collapse happens this situation would be put squarely in play in the front office. Here's a list of names of some quality relievers that are typically undervalued but can make a real difference in your pen; Greg Holland-KC, Antonio Bastardo-PHI, Johnny Venters-ATL, Eric O'flaherty-ATL, David Hernandez-ARZ, Vinnie Pestano-CLE, Jeff Samardzija-CHC, Randy Choate-MIA.