Kauf Drops: Friday Morning Notes

by Todd K | Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012

Mitch Moreland - Texas Rangers v Cleveland Indians

Image: Jason Miller/Getty Images

By Todd Kaufmann

Sr. Columnist

toddmkaufmann@att.net

The Texas Rangers started the 2012 season as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Lately, they’ve looked like anything but that.

If you put a seven game series together with the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals, and Oakland Athletics, wouldn’t you expect this team to be better than 3-4 over that home stand? Yeah, so would most everyone else you would have asked prior to that stretch taking place.

But that’s not what happened.

After taking two of three from the Angels, and in impressive style I might add, the Rangers decided to take the rest of the week off losing both of a two game set to the Royals and splitting a two game set with the Athletics.

This team has gone from looking completely unbeatable to lackluster at best.

Ladies and Gentlemen…Mitch Moreland

Before the season began, there was one argument in particular that raged on between a lot of Rangers fans and it had to do with the player occupying the first base position.

Nevermind the fact Rangers’ CEO Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels had both said they were committed to Moreland through the 2012 season and beyond, the fans wanted Prince Fielder and would come up with just about any excuse to want Moreland out of town. Or at least out of the starting lineup.

He’s had his ups and downs through the first month and a half of the season but if you expected him to hit over .300 with 10 home runs at this point, your expectations were a tad too high.

If the Texas Rangers, at the end of the 2012 season, get a .270 – .280 batting average with 18 to 20 home runs from the young first baseman they will take that every day of the week. They don’t need him to be a offensive catalyst or the guy driving in all of the runs. That’s what they have Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and a few others for.

But there are still those who aren’t sold on him and while I’m not going to take anything away from their opinion I think Moreland deserves the benefit of the doubt after playing half of the 2011 season with an injured right wrist. Which, as any of us would know, would make swinging a bat a difficult achievement.

The Rangers continue to run him out there and, over his last six games, Moreland is beginning to show why the front office had so much faith in the kind of player they knew he could be.

Over his last 18 at bats, Moreland has seven hits, three of which have left the ballpark, and eight runs driven in. Not a bad stretch for a guy some fans didn’t want.

In a game of poker…Yu Darvish has ace high

When the Texas Rangers won the bidding rights to negotiate with 25-year old Japanese right-hander, Yu Darvish, there were some who couldn’t believe that this team had spent that much money on an “unproven commodity.”

Through eight starts (6-1), those who were skeptical have started to inch their way towards the Yu Darvish bandwagon. There is plenty of room for you to hop on board because it’s one that a lot of people have been on from the very start.

He has seven or more strikeouts in each of his last five starts including double-digit strikeouts against New York Yankees (10) and Cleveland Indians (11).

While he might not be at the top of the Texas Rangers rotation at this point of the season, he is pitching exactly how an “ace” of a staff would be expected to pitch. Nolan Ryan had told the media prior to Darvish ever making his first regular season start for Texas that the young right-hander had “ace type stuff.”

That should say all you need to hear.

Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and the ups and downs of baseball

If you didn’t think good pitchers had their rough times during a 162-game season, you need not look any further than right-hander Colby Lewis and young left-hander Matt Harrison.

Through Lewis’ first five starts, he looked exactly like the ace of the Rangers’ rotation. He was unbeaten (3-0) and sported a 1.93 earned run average, not to mention he had already piled up 29 strikeouts (5.8 K’s per game) and had given up a grand total of seven earned runs (1.4 runs per game) through that stretch.

But that’s when the fun came to a screeching halt.

Over his last three starts (19.1 IP), Lewis has 19 runs (14 earned) and a staggering eight home runs including five of which coming in one game against the Baltimore Orioles. His earned run average from the first five starts to his last three has gone from 1.93 to 3.63, almost a full two runs higher.

As for Matt Harrison, he looked every bit the part of a solid left-handed starter in the Texas Rangers’ rotation. Maybe better than his teammate, Derek Holland.

Through his first three starts of the 2012 season (21.2 IP), Harrison was flat out dominate. He was 3-0 with a 1.66 earned run average and had given up just four walks.

Then the trouble began.

In his fourth start of the season, against the Tampa Bay Rays, Harrison lasted just five innings giving up 14 hits and seven runs (6 earned). His next start, coming on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays, didn’t go much better.

The left-hander lasted just three and a third innings and gave up eight earned runs on eight hits.

Over his last three starts, Harrison has looked a tad shakey but not nearly as bad as his two really rough outings. He’s given up at least three runs in each of those starts and has lasted seven innings just once.

There are those who know I haven’t ever been the biggest fan of Matt Harrison. But I’m not going to sit here, eight starts into the 2012 season, and rip him up one way and down the other. He’s still young and still has a lot of room to grow. This young man has good enough stuff to work with pitching coach Mike Maddux and figure out whatever has gone wrong with his mechanics.

The Rangers will still need him in the rotation and will allow him plenty of time to work out the problems that have been plaguing him. If these kind of struggles continue, then it becomes a question of whether or not Harrison can pull himself out or just can’t seem to figure out what the problems are.

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