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DFW Quick Hits 5/17

May 17, 2012

Darvish: Suffice it to say that about 5 starts ago when I began my twitter updates of Darvish’s Cy Young Candidacy I had fully bought into the Darvish phenomenon. Yet since then he’s wowed me even more and I am beginning to think that, outside of Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver, he’s the best pitcher in theAL. Last night was a prime example of his dominance as he allowed 1 run in 7 2/3 innings yet the one run was about as flukey as you could get as it was hit by the leadoff batter (hitting around the mendoza line by the way) and barely stayed fair as it went over the 3rd baseman’s glove then caromed off the wall at an odd angle causing Hamilton in left field to misplay it and turn a lucky single into an extremely lucky double. The next batter moved him to 3rd on a very weakly hit grounder to short and the third batter got him home on a sacrifice fly. It’s about as lucky of a run as you will see and Darvish responded to it by not allowing another runner advance to 2nd until his final pitch late in the 8th inning. In between he allowed 3 singles over the next 25 batters and showed a dominance one would expect when an elite pitcher faces a poor offense. Some might look at the Athletics offense and say this wasn’t that impressive of a start but to me Darvish is becoming more exciting by the day as the hoopla surrounding him grows by the day yet his demeanor never changes. For a 25 year old rookie he has the look and feel of a 10 year veteran who knows his craft, doesn’t take notice of the pressure, and has an inner confidence that he’s better than the player he’s facing. He still gives up an occasional walk now and then but it’s due to him trying to incorporate all of his pitches into the game. Some would say that’s a negative but I disagree as the more pitches he can throw at a batter the less likely they can sit on a specific pitch or even a specific combination of pitches. It’s a key reason why a supremely talented pitcher like Neftali Feliz is so dominant in the first 3 innings but struggles from the 4th onward as it’s the second time through a lineup and hitters are ready for what he brings. Darvish is just as dominant on the 2nd or even 3rd time through a lineup as he is the first time due to his ability to throw numerous pitches at varying speeds and with differing breaks. One time he might throw a 95 mph fastball, then he’ll follow it up with a 75 mph slow curve, a slider, an 85 mph curve with an extremely late break (his favorite out pitch), and then might toss in a change up or one of his other couple of pitches I haven’t mentioned. It’s impossible to sit on a pitch when he has such a large repertoire and it’s the reason why I think he’ll be an All-Star pitcher this year and have 16-18 wins to go along with a sub 2.50 ERA once all the dust has settled on his first season in the big leagues.

 

Mavericks Free Agency: The majority of the media attention has gone to Dallas’ upcoming quest to bring back one of the best active homegrown talents from the DFW area in Deron Williams but whether he signs or not the Mavs will still be left with a decent amount of salary cap room, assuming they amnesty Brendan Haywood, and a huge hole at center that was glaringly obvious in the first round series vs. the Thunder. Luckily there will be one center out there that not only is a good rebounder and defender but has the leadership and intensity that the Mavs so dearly missed whenChandler left forNew York last summer. His name is Kevin Garnett and this season he’s had a renaissance of sorts looking healthier and more athletic than in previous years. Some might say that Garnett will undoubtedly re-sign with the Celtics at the end of the season but if they struggle in the playoffs and Danny Ainge decides to blow the team up like he’s discussed numerous times this season then Garnett almost surely will leave for another team. 13 of the players on their books this season are free agents at the end of the year and would leave a team comprised of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass, and Avery Bradley. With Derron Williams added to the core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion I could see Garnett decide to jump ship and play out his final years in Dallas. Other options thatDallas could consider this offseason are:

Steve Nash-if Williams doesn’t sign he’d be a spectacular fall back plan.

Ray Allen-what a coup it would be to add Williams, Garnett, and Allen to Dirk and Marion.

Nick Young -underrated SG who could help fill the Jason Terry void of scoring off the bench and clutch play down the stretch.

Chris Kaman-better rebounder and much better scorer than Haywood but doesn’t fix the defensive issues in the middle thatChandlerdid so perfectly.

Marcus Camby-better defender than Haywood but equally worthless offensively and injury prone as well.

Jermaine O’Neal-two years ago he was the apple of my eye but he wasn’t nearly as impactful with the Celtics as I expected him to be and 2 years later I question whether he’s even a starting center anymore.

 

Craig Gentry: The backup centerfielder who has a career OPS under .700 is having a spectacular year and in my opinion has outplayed David Murphy for the 3rd outfielder spot. WithHamilton having the flexibility to play any position in the outfield it really comes down to who is the better player and Gentry is making his case this season that he, not Murphy, deserves to be the everyday starter. Gentry has a higher average than Murphy (.310 vs. .271), OBP (.365 vs. .327), and OPS (.779 vs. .765) at the plate to go along with far superior base stealing skills (5 vs. 1 despite being on base 16 fewer times) and elite range in centerfield (as seen last night when he caught a ball in the gap that most players would have allowed a double on). His career stats give a team pause but to me he’s shown enough this season to warrant a longer look as a starter and I would start Gentry in centerfield until he begins to struggle and then go back to David Murphy. Murphy has been the team’s #4 outfielder for basically 3 seasons now so the role would be a disappointment to him but something he could adjust to and with Gentry being younger and cheaper than Murphy he might fit better into the team’s long term plans once Hamilton and/or Cruz get their hefty extensions. Last night Gentry was the team’s offensive MVP with two hits including the infield single that drove one run in and kept the inning going so the Rangers could take a 4-1 lead. On a team with so many power bats (Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli, Beltre) adding the dimension of speed makes the team more balanced and even more dangerous as Gentry in the 9 hole would allow a speed inning with Gentry, Kinsler, and Andrus all having the ability to bunt, steal, or work a hit and run play to perfection. HopefullyWash will begin to lean more on Gentry as the season progresses as he’s having a career year and it shouldn’t be wasted on the bench.

 

Rangers #4 and #5 starters: First off I want to say that when the season began the rotation in my mind was Feliz as the ace, Holland as #2, Darvish as #3 and then Harrison, Lewis, and Feldman battling for the 4th, 5th, and long reliever spots. Lewis’ recent struggles haven’t surprised me nor have Harrison’s as neither has great stuff and Harrison’s good stuff is overshadowed by his inability to keep the ball down and the fact that he has little movement on his fastball. Right now this looks like the Achilles heal of the Rangers team and I’m betting that in 2-3 weeks people will begin wondering when Feldman replaces one of them in the rotation or if Martin Perez is ready for a call up yet. Neither are probably the answer this year, I’m betting Perez doesn’t come up full time till 2013, so I think the Rangers will begin to look at possibly adding another arm to their staff via a trade. The farm system is well stocked for Daniels to go after a middle of the rotation type arm and as long as he can avoid giving up Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, or Martin Perez then I would be happy with the trade. This year the top 3 guys (Darvish, Feliz,Holland) are pitching well, the bullpen looks spectacular, and the lineup is lethal so it’s important to solve the one problem I see in this team by adding another quality starter to the rotation. The Rangers will have to overpay to get one but this is the year to do it and I expect it to be done as early as June.

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