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The Leadoff

My biggest issue with the whole ordeal yesterday was Jose Bautista’s slide. I thought it was dirty and unnecessary. More than that, I thought it was selfish, costing his team a critical out in the eighth inning of a one-run ballgame.

At the same token, I thought it was a bold strategy to put Bautista on as the tying-run in the eighth inning. It worked out and there is something kind of cool about the no-nonsense confidence it takes to do that and get out of the inning unscathed.

I’m not sure why the Rangers waited until late in the final game to re-open the “case” and I think it is a fair complaint from the Blue Jays, but, regardless of when what happened happened, it doesn’t change Jose Bautista’s years of building a reputation that earns him zero leeway among his peers as well as the dirtiness of his slide.

Stats of the Week

*Ian Desmond, who leads the Rangers in runs (28), has scored 49% he’s reached base, 2nd highest rate among A.L. players with at least 100 plate appearances. League average is 29%.

*Rangers catchers, by name, are ordinary on a good day. Rangers catchers, by production, have been nothing short of spectacular. Check out their ranks within the American League:

BA: 2nd (.260)
OBP: 3rd (.329)
SLG: 1st (.488)
OPS: 2nd (.817)
HR: T-2nd (6)
RBI: 2nd (23)

*Of players drafted before 2013, Matt Bush was one of three first overall selections to have not made the Majors. By debuting earlier this week, he’s removed himself from that list.

Quote of the Week

“It’s a miracle I’m here.” -Matt Bush on not just having the opportunity to fulfill his Major League dreams, but take that next breath.

Minor League Spotlight

*Ronald Guzman was signed the same day the Rangers signed Nomar Mazara, July 2, 2011. On that day, Nomar Mazara received a $4.95 million bonus while Guzman “settled” for $3.35 million. Injuries, immaturity, and a tragic car accident derailed his professional journey.

Now, 21, Guzman is back on the right path with plenty of time to live up the the hype that’s still bigger than his 6-5 frame. The first baseman has gotten off to a great start with Double-A Frisco, batting .319 with a .911 OPS highlighted by 5 HR and 20 RBI through 32 games. Scouts have raved about the progress he’s shown this year and are again excited about his future.

Covering the Bases

*Matt Bush’s Major League debut came with a 5-0 deficit, but against one of the best trios in all of baseball: Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion. He retired them in order with a strikeout and two weak popouts flashing electric stuff. I’m not sure what his ultimate role will be other than that he will pitch in high-leverage situations.

*The Rangers added Kyle Lohse to their pool of starting pitchers, signing him to a minor league contract with a June 1 opt-out. That means that if he is not in the Major Leagues by June 1, he has the right to opt out of his contract. My guess is Lohse, at best, makes a few starts with the Rangers, but I’m not betting on even that. Nonetheless, this is a prudent move that has almost no risk. You can never have too much starting pitching depth.

*When we discuss a player’s tools, their mental makeup is technically not one of them, but it may as well be. In a lot of cases it is as important as the physical tools over which we often salivate and it is certainly a big reason why I think Nomar Mazara’s career will be long and successful. It is also why i don’t think Jeff Banister hesitated when writing Maz’s name in the 3-spot for the first time Wednesday afternoon. It is a big responsibility–one a Ranger of his age has not undertaken since 1993–but one I certainly think he can handle.

*The Rangers optioned Delino DeShields this week. I think he has the ability and the tools to return this year and become a valuable member of the Rangers party. One thing I think is lost in this move is that it is really only possible because of Ian Desmond’s immediate and highly successful transformation to the outfield and, specifically, centerfield.

*I still think the Rangers should upgrade their catching position with Jonathan LuCroy if the opportunity presents itself within reason, but the Rangers’ catchers this season have done a phenomenal job offensively.

The Walkoff

Shawn Tolleson has blown three saves and it is only mid-May. A change not only needs to be considered. A change needs to be made.

I’ve been a loyal backer of Shawn Tolleson, never believing that he was this team’s best reliever, but defending the strategy of utilizing him as the team’s closer. While I do believe the final three outs are tough, I’ve adopted the idea that the best relievers should pitch in the highest leverage situations, which often times come before the ninth inning. With that said, I was all about Tolleson getting the ninth, leaving the team’s two best relievers entering the year, Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson, getting the tough outs and working the tough situations in the inning before.

Now, it’s time for a change. And it isn’t really the three blown saves that has changed my opinion as much as the peripherals that have led to this mess.

Last year Shawn Tolleson held opposing hitters to a .239 average. This year? Opposing hitters are batting .323! Last year’s opposing OPS was .675. This year? How about .944! It’s like every batter he faces is a Hall-of-Fame bound hitter. Beyond that, Tolleson demonstrating more dominance last year striking out more than a batter an inning, possessing a K:BB rate of 4.47. This year it has dropped to 2.75 K:BB.

My solution? Make Sam Dyson your primary closer but don’t commit to reserving him exclusively for the final frame. In the past, I’ve been stubborn in wanting to keep Dyson and Diekman for the important situations before the ninth inning, but that was before Matt Bush joined the mix. Bush’s presence allows the Rangers to still have two dynamic relievers available outside of the ninth inning in himself and Diekman.

It should be pointed out, though, that neither Diekman nor Dyson have demonstrated the dominance this year that they did last year. Last year after joining the Rangers, Dyson allowed batters on base just 24.6% of the time. This year they’re reaching about 33% of the time. He’s striking out about two fewer batters/nine innings, which is a significant drop, and is walking more than twice as many batters/9 innings, another substantial difference. He’s also inducing just 66.7% ground balls, as opposed to 75.9% last year.

So, why do I want Dyson over Diekman? For one, Diekman has struggled lately and I think it is important for the next guy who throws in the ninth to have so momentum behind him. Diekman’s most recent appearance was a scoreless two-thirds of an inning, though he was unable to complete the frame versus the bottom-third of Toronto’s lineup because of his struggle to throw strikes. It isn’t necessarily reflected with walks as much as it is a bad habit of falling behind not only late, but this year. Over Diekman’s last seven outings, he’s allowed four runs (6.75 ERA) on nine hits (.360 opponents batting average, .928 OPS).

Secondly, by keeping Diekman out of the primary ninth inning role, you allow yourself a dynamic righty and lefty reliever to matchup before that inning.

As far as Matt Bush, there’s no denying he has dynamic, closer-like stuff. Before he’s thrusted into that role, however, I want him to log more than one MLB inning. As he gets more time, I would absolutely be open to committing to him in that role.

Let’s make the Rangers’ bullpen great again!

Until tomorrow, Peace Be the Journey

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