Last night I criticized Ron Washington for allowing a two-run deficit to turn into a blowout loss while closer Neftali Feliz sat in the bullpen unused, but it was far from the first time the Rangers’ manager has failed to get his best reliever into a close game.
In fact, Game 3 of the ALDS versus the Rays is the only time this entire postseason that Washington has actually brought Feliz into a close game.
Here are the circumstances of Feliz’s other four playoff appearances:
• Game 1 of the ALDS: He pitched the ninth inning with a four-run lead.
• Game 2 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with a five-run lead.
• Game 3 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with an eight-run lead.
• Game 6 of the ALCS: He pitched the ninth inning with a five-run lead.
Feliz was one of the elite relievers in baseball this season, posting a 2.73 ERA, .176 opponents’ batting average, and 71/18 K/BB ratio in 69 innings. Yet because Washington is focused on managing his bullpen around the save statistic Feliz has pitched in just five games all postseason and four of those appearances came when the Rangers had a lead of at least four runs.
And there have certainly been no shortage of key late-game spots where Washington could have called on Feliz, beginning with the eerily similar eighth-inning bullpen implosions in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees and Game 2 of the World Series last night. In both of those vital situations Feliz went unused and the Rangers let games slip away while Washington turned to just about every other reliever in the bullpen.
Texas has played 14 playoff games and Feliz has faced a grand total of 20 batters, just four of which came in a close game. To put that ridiculous usage into some context, consider that Darren Oliver has faced 32 batters while appearing three more times than Feliz. Heck, even Darren O’Day (19 batters faced) and Alexi Ogando (18 batters faced) have been used nearly as much and in more crucial situations than Feliz.
Instead of doing everything he possibly can to save the Rangers’ season Washington has been more focused on holding his best reliever back for so-called “save” situations that may never arrive.
Bud Norris has found a home for his attempt at a bounceback season, signing a one-year deal with the Braves. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says it’s worth $2.5 million, which is a huge cut from his $8.8 million salary this year.
Norris had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter from 2009-2014, but had a brutal 2015 season split between the Orioles and Padres with a 6.72 ERA in 83 innings and a late-season move to the bullpen.
In announcing the signing the Braves referred to Norris as a starting pitcher, so joining the rotation for a rebuilding team gives him a chance to get his career back on track with an eye on hitting the open market as a free agent again next offseason. And if he fares well, the Braves could use him to add a prospect or two at the trade deadline.
The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:
Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.
Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.
Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.
He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.
Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.
Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.
He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.
In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.