On the Rays and Rangers, Hunter Pence and Bucknell pitchers

It’s tempting to pick against the Rays in Monday’s prelude to the wild-card game — the playoff to the playoff to get into the playoffs.

The Rays may have a reputation of small-market overachievers, but they’re not the latter. They missed the playoffs in 2012 when they should have made them, they underperformed by seven games from 2009-2012, according to baseball-reference.com’s Pythagorean formula, and they’ve lost 12 of the last 17 postseason games they’ve played.

Since reaching the World Series in 2008, the Rays haven’t achieved much. They’ve lost three straight postseason series — two to Texas, today’s opponent. Plus they’re at Texas, and had a long plane flight to get there.

Of course, that’s the rub. The Rangers’ postseason history is sorrier. They had the World Series within reach of Nelson Cruz’s glove in 2011 and didn’t extend, and managed to lose the wild-card game in 2012 to the Orioles, who hadn’t been in the playoffs in 15 years.

This is a postseason game that would be at home in the NFC East. But the Rays have David Price and they don’t need home-field advantage — they don’t have one anyway.

If the Rays lose, however, you have to wonder if they’ll regret having let rookie outfielder Wil Myers languish in Class AAA for 64 games this year. Myers didn’t debut in the majors until June 18; he hit .293 and slugged .476 from then on, a mite better than anything produced by Luke Scott, Sam Fuld, Shelly Duncan in their 483 at-bats.

Being a small-market team doesn’t excuse small-minded decisions.

  • The Giants didn’t have a very good season, winning just 76 games.

    Their offseason isn’t starting any better, either. This weekend the Giants agreed to re-sign outfielder Hunter Pence for five years and $90 million, or about twice as much as he’s worth.

    Maybe the Giants felt they couldn’t afford to lose Pence — he hit 27 homers and 35 doubles, batted .282, walked 52 times and stole 22 bases in 25 attempts — but they can’t afford to keep him at those prices.

    Pence is a better-than-average outfielder who had about the best year of his career at age 30. He may not have it again, and he’s almost certain not to have five more of them.

    This was Pence’s seventh full season, and his career WAR is 23.6. He’ll be 31 soon after Opening Day next year, and his production is likely to decline as his salary rises.

    That’s not a winning formula.

  • Is it still a no-hitter if the opponents have no hitters in their lineup? Or only a few hitters? The Marlins’ Henderson Alvarez threw a final-day no-hitter against the Tigers, who played most of their regulars but sat Miguel Cabrera — anyone think Alvarez throws a no-hitter vs. the Tigers if Cabrera gets a few swings? — batted Don Kelly leadoff (0-for-4 predictably) and Justin Verlander ninth. Verlander went 0-for-2 and is now 0-for-26 lifetime. Between Kelly and Verlander, that’s more than 20 percent of the outs accounted for.

    It was certainly nice for Marlins fans, who had little to cheer on days Jose Fernandez didn’t pitch. But they shouldn’t expect much from Alvarez next year. He’s a 23-year-old who came in the Jose Reyes trade which hurt both teams.

    In his first 344.2 innings, Alvarez has averaged a strikeout every other inning and given up 370 hits, including none in the last nine, and a home run every nine.

    That’s no more a winning formula than paying Hunter Pence $18 million per.

  • Matt Daley was the winning pitcher in the final game of the Yankees’ season (and, yes, there will be a next Yankees season even if it doesn’t include Mariano Rivera). It was Daley’s second major-league win — it counts as such, even if it was against the Astros — and first since 2009.

    (The Astros’ 111 losses were the most since the Diamondbacks lost the same number in 2004; the last team to lose more was the Tigers in 2003, when they lost 119; Mike Maroth lost 21 and Jeremy Bonderman 19).

    Daley is an oft-injured reliever from Bucknell University. Among pitchers from Bucknell, Daley’s win puts him only 371 behind the all-time leader, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who won 373.

    There’s not too many in between, but Daley is no Weldon Wyckoff, who seems to be fourth among ex-Bison with 23 wins in a career from 1913-1918. Of course, Wyckoff also lost 34, including 22 in 1915, after Connie Mack sold off most of his 1914 AL pennant winners. Wyckoff went from 11-7 to 10-22, the A’s went from 99-53 to 43-109.

    The Yankees won’t fall as far in 2014, though a Red Sox fan can only hope.

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    2 Responses to On the Rays and Rangers, Hunter Pence and Bucknell pitchers

    1. S Williams says:

      Bucknell grad Bob Keegan won a lot more than 23 games.

      Daley, btw, had a spectacular season in AAA this year. Looks fully recovered from a couple of arm injuries/surgeries. He should be in a major league bullpen next year.

      • Reader Williams is, as readers often are, correct, and the entry has been updated to reflect it. Thank you for the correction.

        Bob Keegan won 40 games, including 16 in a fine 1954 — a 3.09 ERA, 14 complete games and 82 walks to 61 strikeouts in 209.2 innings. Yes, times have changed.

        Unofficial research on baseball-almanac.com says Keegan is 3rd and Wyckoff 4th among all-time Bucknell winners, behind Billy Rhines, whose 114 victories all came in the 19th century. Rhines won 28 for the Reds in 1890 with a 1.95 ERA (though he pitched only 401.1 innings — that included 45 complete games) and 21 in 1897. Of course, Mathewson’s 373 is more than all other Bison combined.

        I would also concur on Daley’s 2013 and possible 2014. Daley’s last big-league appearance before this September was in May 2011, and he didn’t pitch at all in 2012. His 2013 was promising: 74 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 2.02 ERA in 53.1 minor-league innings, six two-hit shutout innings for the Yankees, with eight strikeouts, in September.

        You can wonder if Daley might have been more useful to the Yankees this summer than Joba Chamberlain (4.93 ERA, .825 OPS against), who lost one game and helped lose another to the Red Sox on back-to-back nights in early September. But that decision was probably based on contracts and not performance.

        Relievers often have sabbaticals because of injury or ineffectiveness. If Daley is healthy, and can upgrade a bit vs. lefties, he could be a solid major-league piece next season. He’s certainly worthy of an invite and an opportunity.

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