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Fultzing Around The Texas Rangers
2003-01-02 00:56
by Mike Carminati

Fultzing Around

The Texas Rangers finished in last place, 18 games below .500, 31 games behind Oakland, and 21 behind next-to-last Seattle, in the AL West last year. And yet the Rangers decided to pass on often-injured backstop Pudge Rodriguez though they have no viable replacement. They have a hole seemingly at every outfield position, and all they did to sign it was replace Todd Hollandsworth with Doug Glanville. They have a starting rotation that ranked in the bottom third in the majors last season (23rd in Baseball Prospectus), and all they did was trade the god-awful Aaron Myette for the just plain awful Ryan Drese while probably staff ace Kenny Rogers to free agency. They also have a rather weak-hitting second baseman.

So where is Texas investing all their time and money in the offseason? Their bullpen. The 2002 Ranger bullpen was very bad (ranked 25th with -22.9 Adjusted Runs Prevented by Baseball Prospectus). The Rangers set relievers Hideki Irabu, John Rocker, and Juan Alvarez free in the offseason. That was wise. Rocker made $2.5 M last year and had an evil 6.66 ERA and 1 save and 3 blown saves in 30 appearances. That was 26% worse than the adjusted league average. He also had a -4.9 Adjusted Runs Prevented. The other two weren't much better: Irabu at $550 K had a 5.74 ERA, 16 saves, 4 BS, 86% adjusted ERA (i.e., 24 points worse than average), and a -0.3 ARP. Alvarez at around the league minimum had a 4.76 ERA, 0 saves, 3 BS, 103 adjusted ERA (3 points better than average), and a -4.3 ARP.

However, the Rangers have opened up the Tom-Hicks-mandated tight purse strings to acquire three questionable relievers this offseason: Esteban Yan, Urgueth Urbina, and now the abysmal Aaron Fultz. In two of the three deals, the terms were not disclosed, but Urbina was signed at $4 M, a $2.7 M cut from 2002. So what will Texas be getting? Urbina was good last year in Boston with a 3.00 ERA, 40 saves, 6 blown, 148 adjusted ERA, and 9.6 ARP (good but not close to the top 30 in the majors). Urbina is a decent pitcher but not the consistently dominant one that most teams demand in the closer spot, but they could spend their money in worse ways.

Yan and Fultz are, as they say, another story. Yan was very average in 2002. He had a 4.30 ERA, 19 saves, 8 blown, 104 adjusted ERA, and 1.2 ARP. He also made $1.5 M. Fultz was poor: 4.79 ERA, 0 saves, 1 blown, 79 adjusted ERA, and -8.0 ARP.

The Rangers correctly identified a deficiency in their team, the bullpen (aside from Francisco Cordero and Jay Powell). But instead of viewing it as an organic issue for their team, that is that their pitching is poor overall, they have decided to jettison the shoddy parts for new average parts. It doesn't seem a winning strategy.

Then again given their starting pitching woes, maybe they are taking the opposite approach to the Yankees' apparent strategy. Whereas The Yankees may go in the season with 8 or 9 starting pitchers on their staff, perhaps the Rangers want to go into spring training with a staff of relievers. It could even be a commendable strategy, if they got some good relievers.

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