The case of the Texas Rangers and the incredibly shrinking strikeout rates

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One of things that really stood out when I was doing projections over the last month was how the 2011 Rangers had a bunch of guys that didn’t strike out anywhere near as much as usual. In fact, seven of their nine veterans with at least 400 plate appearances last season set new career-lows when it came to their strikeout rates.

Here’s this list, comparing their 2010 strikeout rates (K/PA) to their 2011 marks. I’m also adding their previous career lows.

Ian Kinsler: 12.4% to 9.8% (previous career low: 11.5%)
Adrian Beltre: 12.8% to 10.1% (previous career low: 12.8%)
Elvis Andrus: 14.2% to 11.1% (previous career low: 14.2%)
Michael Young: 16.0% to 11.3% (previous career low: 12.0%)
David Murphy: 15.1% to 13.9% (previous career low: 15.1%)
Yorvit Torrealba: 18.5% to 15.5% (previous career low: 16.5%)*
Mike Napoli: 26.9% to 19.7% (previous career low: 23.8%)

Josh Hamilton: 16.6% to 17.3%
Nelson Cruz: 18.2% to 22.6%

Torrealba came in at 12.9% in 136 at-bats as a rookie in 2002. 16.5% was his low mark in any of his six previous seasons with at least 200 at-bats.

I didn’t include sophomore Mitch Moreland in the above list. His strikeout rate went from 20.8% in 2010 to 18.0% last season, but given that he had just 145 major league at-bats entering the year, I didn’t think that was a big enough sample. Besides, I hardly needed him to help make my point. Seven career lows. Five of the team’s seven most important hitters (tossing out Murphy and Torrealba) lowered their strikeout rates by at least 20 percent.

That’s just incredible, in my opinion. Andrus is the only one of the seven players who is still on the upswing of his career. The others should be holding steady at best.

As for the two who declined, Hamilton still beat his career average. Cruz’s mark was slightly worse than his career average.

The data is so stark that I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the Rangers were getting some help. Maybe they could have been stealing signs at home? The team as a whole had a K rate of 14.0% at home and 15.7% on the road. That’s a significantly larger gap than the league home-away splits (17.7% at home, 18.3% on the road), but not a big enough difference to suggest that something fishy was going on, not when they were still so much better than average on the road.

It will be interesting to see if the Rangers can keep it going this year. Napoli, Young, Beltre and Kinsler all have to be viewed as candidates to decline after exceeding expectations in 2011. I think Kinsler may avoid that fate and the Texas offense could make up for some of that production with better health (Beltre, Napoli, Hamilton and Cruz all played in fewer than 125 games last year), but barring a Prince Fielder signing, it’s going to be difficult to score quite so many runs again.

Padres sign Clayton Richard to a contract extension

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The Padres announced on Wednesday that the club signed pitcher Clayton Richard to a contract extension through the 2019 season. It’s a two-year, $6 million deal, per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell.

Executive VP and GM A.J. Preller said, “Clayton has been a steadying presence in our rotation, both on and off the field. He has provided veteran leadership for our young ball club, and his tireless work ethic sets the standard among his peers. We’re extremely excited to have him in a Padres uniform for two more years.”

Richard, 34, is tied for the league lead in losses at 14. Along with that, he has a 4.82 ERA with a 136/55 K/BB ratio in 185 innings. The lefty earned $1.75 million in 2017 and was eligible to become a free agent after the season.

Report: Raul Mondesi sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption as mayor of San Cristobal

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Former major league outfielder Raul Mondesi has been sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 60 million pesos for corruption as mayor of San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, Hector Gomez reports. Mondesi served a six-year term as mayor from 2010-16. He initially ran on the ballot of the Dominican Liberation Party, but switched to the Dominican Revolutionary Party over a year later.

Mondesi, 46, played parts of 13 seasons in the majors for the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Angels, and Braves. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1994 with the Dodgers, made one All-Star team, and won two Gold Glove Awards. He is the father of the Royals infielder of the same name.