The Bullpen with Tepper: Week 6

DALLAS - Welcome to The Bullpen, a weekly collection of Rangers thoughts from Greg Tepper. Let him know what you think on Twitter, and please be gentle.

It’s the May 10th, 2017 edition of The Bullpen, the real reason Mark DeRosa was known as Dumpmaster D.

Leading Off

The Rangers’ bullpen is bad. I know you tune into this column for hard-hitting analysis, and there it is, see you next week!

The Rangers’ bad bullpen — 26th in baseball in WAR, 29th in ERA, 23rd in xFIP — got me thinking about the worst relievers in Rangers history. So I looked them up.

According to Fangraphs WAR, Jeff Robinson is the worst reliever in Rangers history. Who is Jeff Robinson, you may ask?

Signed by the Rangers in January 1992 (after he was traded straight-up from Detroit to Baltimore Mickey Tettleton a year earlier), Robinson was the long man/spot starter. And it started off OK! His first start, he went 8 innings, scattering eight hits and allowing just one run in a 9-1 win over the Angels.

After three more nothing-special starts (and a de facto start, relieving a terribly ineffective Brian Bohanon in the first inning of an eventual win), Robinson was sent to the bullpen as a long-man. He was bad, ballooning his ERA as a reliever to 6.46 over 11 more appearances.

But a 6.46 ERA isn’t that bad, right? Well, WAR tries to dig into the details, and that’s where Jeff Robinson’s devil lives.

First of all: Jeff Robinson walked a ton of guys. His 6.46 walks per 9 innings as a reliever are a lot (though not astronomical).

Second of all: Jeff Robinson didn’t strike out many people. Just 3.42 strikeouts per 9 innings. Again, not terrible, but it’s basically like Ross Wolf (remember him?).

Third of all: he gave up A LOT of home runs — 1.9 homers per 9. Remember how bad Shawn Tolleson was in 2016? Robinson’s 1992 season is in spitting distance of that.

And finally: Jeff Robinson has no excuse of being unlucky. The opponents’ batting average on balls in play (or BABIP) was just .224 — the same as actual good relievers like John Wetteland, Neftali Feliz, CJ Wilson and Joe Nathan.

When you combine all of that, you get a reliever who was worth -1.1 WAR — the worst season for a reliever in Rangers history. Some have had higher ERAs. Some have walked more, or struck out fewer, or given up more homers, or been less lucky. But literally nobody had the combo platter like Jeff Robinson did in 1992.

Jeff Robinson was waived by the Rangers in June of that fateful season. The Pirates picked him up, give him seven starts, and released him a month later. The Tigers took a flier on him, but he never saw the majors again.

The last pitch Robinson threw as a Ranger — capping off literally the worst career for a relief pitcher in franchise history — was a 3-2 pitch to the Twins’ Jeff Reboulet, who hit it for a double to left field, scoring Kent Hrbek. He gave way to Lance McCullers, the father of the current Astros pitcher by the same name. That RBI double made the score Rangers 10, Twins 7 in the top of the 5th.

The Rangers would lose that game, 15-12, with Jeff Robinson sitting on the bench, receiving no part in the decision.

Jeff Robinson moved back to his home state of California after his baseball career, but eventually migrated to Kansas, where he spent his remaining days teaching baseball to kids. He died in 2014, at the age of 53.

That is the tale of the worst reliever in Rangers history.

Three Numbers

+10 — The Rangers’ run differential through 34 games. The Rangers are 14-20. Last season, the Rangers’ run differential for the entire season was +8; they went 95-67. Baseball, man.

4,721 — Days elapsed since the Padres took Matt Bush with the No. 1 overall draft in the 2004 Draft. Since he did not appear in one of Texas’ two games in San Diego, he has still never appeared in a MLB game at Petco Park.

94.9 — The average exit velocity of a ball hit by Joey Gallo this season, the 9th highest in baseball.

Forgotten Ranger of the Week

Hey! Remember Chuck Jackson? A 7th round pick by the Astros out of the University of Hawaii, the utility specialist broke into the majors with Houston in 1987, notching a .609 OPS — and playing five different positions — in 81 games over two seasons.

The next few years are a bit of a blur — a Rule 5 pick by the Giants, a release, signing with the Mariners, a release — until December 3, 1991, when he was signed by the Rangers. He toiled in AAA for the entire 1992 season (including pitching two bad innings for Oklahoma City!), and was released. He got picked up by the Marlins, and was released in the middle of the 1993 season when the Rangers came calling again.

On June 14, 1993, the 31-year-old Chuck Jackson made it back to the Majors for the first time in nearly six years. With the Rangers down 6-4 in the bottom of the 9th, Mariners closer Bobby Ayala walked Jose Canseco to load the bases with nobody out.

Texas manager Kevin Kennedy put Jackson in to pinch-run for Canseco, and suddenly, Chuck Jackson represented the winning run. After Juan Gonzalez struck out, Will Clark (pinch-hitting for first baseman Rusty Greer) dribbled a weak grounder to first, scoring Oddibe McDowell from third and advancing Jackson to second. Up stepped Baseball Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez…and on 0-2, Ayala uncorked a wild pitch, allowing David Hulse to scamper home from third to tie the game, and putting Chuck Jackson just 90 feet away from an improbable victory.

Pudge Rodriguez struck out swinging on the next pitch.

Now tied at 6-6 in the 10th, Kevin Kennedy had a dilemma. With Greer out, he needed a first baseman, and didn’t have anyone left on the bench. To make it work, Billy Ripken, the third baseman, moved to first, and Chuck Jackson took over at third. Only problem is: Jackson pinch-hit for Canseco, who was the designated hitter, meaning Jackson entering the game meant the Rangers gave up their DH. Good going, Chuck.

The ball was not hit to Chuck Jackson in the 10th inning. Nobody scored.

The ball was not hit to Chuck Jackson in the 11th inning. Nobody scored.

With one out and the bases empty in the bottom of the 11th, up stepped Chuck Jackson, facing a fading Bobby Ayala now working in his third inning. This was his moment. His first at-bat in the Majors in nearly six years, with a chance to walk it off. He had some pop — 71 homers in the minors in his career, and two in the majors — so this was his chance.

Bobby Ayala threw him a fastball on the first pitch. Chuck Jackson swung.

Chuck Jackson grounded out to second.

The ball was not hit to Chuck Jackson in the 12th inning. Nobody scored.

In the top of the 13th inning, Ken Griffey hit his second homer of the game, giving the Mariners a 7-6 lead.
Rich “Goose” Gossage, who had come in for Seattle in the 12th, took the mound to close it out in the 13th inning. By this time, the Hall of Famer was 42 years old and in the final year of his career. Billy Ripken laced a leadoff double to right-center, putting the tying run on second. Oddibe McDowell laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Ripken to third, and Gossage walked David Hulse on four pitches.

Goose Gossage was probably pitching around David Hulse, because Chuck Jackson was on deck.

Here was 31-year-old Minor League journeyman Chuck Jackson, facing a Hall of Famer, needing only a medium-deep fly ball to tie the game and — after Hulse stole second on the first pitch — a base hit to win the game.

Chuck Jackson worked the count to 3-1 on the Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

On 3-1, Chuck Jackson swung. He swung with a fury fueled by a thousand bus trips and a thousand per diems and a thousand cheap hotel rooms and a thousand games played in front of empty stadiums in Asheville and Tucson and Omaha and Calgary.

Chuck Jackson grounded to shortstop Felix Fermin, who threw home to catcher Dan Wilson to tag out Billy Ripken.

A hit-by-pitch later, Junior Ortiz grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game. SEA 7, TEX 6 (13).

Chuck Jackson never saw another Major League game. He went back to Triple-A Oklahoma City — where he was four years older than the average teammate — and even threw another inning on the mound. His career minor-league ERA is 12.

Chuck Jackson is now 54 years old. He’s the Vice President of West Coast Construction for Moffitt International, an executive recruiting firm. He’ll celebrate his 20-year anniversary with Moffitt in September. 

Arbitrary Top 5

The five oldest Texas Rangers pitching staffs, by average age:

5: 2005 (30.5 years old)
4: 1996 (30.5 years old)
3: 2004 (30.6 years old)
2: 1995 (30.6 years old)
1: 1980 (31 years old)

Ballpark Food of the Week

The Fritos Kimchi chili dog. It’s a beef hot dog topped with Kimchi chili, cilantro, teriyaki sauce and Fritos. It costs $10.50 and a piece of your integrity, and can be found outside sections 22 and 58.

Former Ranger Watch

Kyle Blanks played 18 games for the Rangers in 2015, hitting three homers and putting together a wholly respectable .875 OPS. He got released after the season and was picked up by the Giants. After missing 2016 due to injury, the 30-year-old Blanks now playing for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, where his teammates include former Rangers Drew Stubbs and Justin Ruggiano.

Unrelated YouTube Video of the Week

Here is a Simpsons scene I think about very often. 

Elvis Andrus Twitter Emoji Watch

Elvis Andrus loves emojis, so we’ll keep track of them by drawing a Tweet at random and counting the emojis.

Once again, Elvis Andrus is seriously threatening this section of the column due to his silence on Twitter. If you know Elvis, please let him know that people are counting on him.

In any case, today’s Tweet comes from January, when he thanked his fans for the nice words (I believe) after his girlfriend announced she was pregnant. He used four emojis — praying hands, a thumbs up, champagne and a ghost.

Through five weeks, the Elvis Andrus Emoji Count is at 19, averaging 3.8 emojis per sampled Tweet.

Words of Wisdom from Jose Canseco

Every week, we’ll close out The Bullpen by taking time to enjoy the thoughts of former Ranger Jose Canseco, because we have so much he can teach us.

“Wow my great Dane just farted....help”
” — Jose Canseco, via Twitter

See you next week in The Bullpen!

 

Even if you didn't remember Jeff Robinson or Chuck Jackson, you can still follow Tepper on Twitter @Tepper.

Β© 2017 WFAA-TV


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