Sunday, June 28, 2009

Feliz Unrest: An (Ir)Rational Rant

Ok So there has been a bit of a scrum on about the decision to transition Feliz to the pen this year. In short, I don't buy the public explanations being proffered by JD and CO and I certainly don't by all the various contorted explanations by people defending the perceived company line. I just came across Z's defense of the move in the DMN based on a concern for pitch limits. So I wanted to address pitch limits and suggest that defense is a canard and then move on to other things.

Feliz pitched 127ish innings last year. If you agree that an acceptable increase in innings this year would be 25-30 innings that would put him at 150-160 innings ideally. At present he has 63, if pitches 6 innings per start the rest of the way, the gets you to that limit, and you could modulate that down for July just to be safe. He has been on a pitch count ranging from 85-95 for most of the season so his arm hasn't really been abused. So I would have to say that i disagree with this as a justification for moving him to the pen especially in light of the fact that Feliz just finished his best month of the season.

Given that June has been by far Feliz's best month then, why would anyone want to forestall the possibility of adding a front-line caliber starter to a rotation - say 8/1ish - that is now teetering on the brink. Whose to say he's not about to go on a roll? Why not take a chance and wait until the eve of the trade deadline to make a decision? It all seems a bit premature given the current health problems with the staff and relative youth of 2/3 of them. Do you really prefer the likes of Jennings, Benson, Hunter, or Nipper to Feliz pitching 6 innings every fifth day? Beyond even this, do you think that the fragile shoulders of Harry and Mac can gird the responsibility of pitching for a contender through October? Count me among those that think our chances are better with him in the rotation given all the exigencies that are likely to occur ( and are occurring).

Finally, given the potentially fatal problems with the rotation, one can't possibly believe that adding anyone, much less a rookie starter, to the bullpen is going to play a critical role to ushering this team into the playoffs. In addition, do you think that Feliz is gong to displace Wilson, Oday, and Frankie from their late inning duties? Do you even think that Wash will actually trust Feliz over those three in a close game? If not, then you would have to grant that Feliz will likely be relegated to a 6th/7th inning middle relief role, a role that has been filled adequately since the middle of April by whoever has filled it. In the end, any relative improvement that Feliz might bring to the pen in a MR role won't be so much greater than what the MR core is already doing, has already done.

Ok so clearly, I think all the blogospheric justifications for this move are bogus, especially to the extent that they defend some perceived, publicly articulated logic that has not in fact been made or defended by the club. To be clear, and I only just realized this tonight after arguing these points again and again, what I actually disagree with is the public explanation put forward by the organization. The ensuing debate has not issued from the organization at all as the Rangers have have been completely cryptic about the whole affair. Basically, almost anything reasonable can be inferred from their public pronouncements which really leave his future as a closer or a starter completely up in the air.

So what I would like to argue instead is that the club is actually concerned about the health of Feliz's shoulder, which troubled him at the beginning of this year and sometime last year as well. However, they must, I guess, dissemble on this concern publicly, and play it off as a tactical move instead: "Oh, we're leaving no stone unturned to improve this club". I think the unarticulated reason for this unexpected decision to convert him to the pen given the dire state of our rotation - and given the unlikelihood that we can trade for starting pitcher without getting rooked - is for this reason alone. And I don't think this is the same as being concerned about his yr-end innings totals, totals that Feliz is currently right on target to meet. This is different in my estimation.

So instead of merely debating why this is or is not a good move, and attributing this debate, and our conclusions, to some official club stance, I think this situation requires a little parsing between the lines of JD's cryptic prose. So, coming full circle now, I AGREE with this decision to move Feliz to the pen: If the Ranger's are dissembling about a fundamental concern with Feliz's health, I am also very concerned. If they think that his short-term and/or long-term health is best preserved by a temporary or even a permanent move to the pen, then I am all for it.

I can only hope that my interpretation is way off-base, paranoid, irrational, whatever, as loosing a potential #1 starter would be quite a blow even though he might quickly become an elite closer in the end. Every team has a closer but few teams have a legit #1 and any of our other prospects who have that ceiling - Main, NeRa, Perez - are a couple of years away from revealing their true ceiling to us.

Not sure how much sense this makes as I am sick of debating the issue, I refuse to edit this for clarity, and I'm going to bed - Have fun mulling it over or treating it as background noise emanating from just _one_ more sports blog...


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