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Rangers Don't Lose To Yankees

Final - 5.7.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
New York Yankees 0 0 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 5 6 1
Texas Rangers 1 4 0 0 0 2 0 0 X 7 14 1
WP: Arthur Rhodes (1 - 1)
SV: Neftali Feliz (6)
LP: Boone Logan (1 - 2)

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Let's talk about Julio Borbon.

Julio Borbon is the Rangers' best defensive centerfielder. He's quite possibly the only person who can be trusted to man the position, as David Murphy cannot handle it, and putting Josh Hamilton there only increase his already gigantic odds of injury. Texas, unfortunately, needs to play Borbon in center, and that means they need him to hit.

Tonight, Borbon hit. He had two hits, including a triple, and three of the Rangers' RBIs. His Win Probability Added was 12%, way behind Michael Young but no one is questioning Michael Young's bat this year, so we can smile about how great he's been hitting and keep talking about Borbon.

So, great, he hit tonight, but he hasn't been hitting on the season, right? Well, right, and wrong.

Borbon's slash line of .268/.312/.338, prior to tonight, is not good, certainly. It's better than it looks once you dive a little deeper, though. That's an OPS of .649, one point behind last season, so that doesn't suggest much improvement. (Update: His OPS is actually up to .703 after tonight.)

The difference is, a .649 OPS in 2011 isn't the same as a .649 OPS in 2010. See, the league wide OPS in the AL is down from .734 last year to .707 this year. While the league has dropped, Borbon, so far, has not. His weighted On Base Average is up to .298 while MLB average is down to an incredibly low .315. While conventional wisdom would say "that's just April conditions," offense actually went down after April last year, and usually does not raise a whole lot from April to October (and Borbon is playing in those same April conditions).

Borbon's offense, while still not good, has improved. At this same rate, even after park adjustments, if you coupled this offense with above-average-to-good defense, you're talking about a solid Major League player. Maybe you could benefit from a platoon (Gentry, perhaps?), but you're not killing yourself by going ahead and playing him in center instead of someone who can't play center.

Oh, and the good signs go beyond that. Borbon is swinging at pitches out of the zone less frequently, and swinging at pitches in the zone more often, two things that you can probably look at as reasonably stable already. He's also whiffing a bit less frequently, which is also something that's not a particularly small sample. He's not walking more, but at least he's making more, good contact. He's also more than doubled his rate of line drives. If it looks like he's hitting more ropes that just go directly to fielders, when they don't turn in to triples, it's because he is. Now, there's a way to go to see if he's really turned in to a hard-hitting machine, but it's also deep enough to believe there might be some real improvement. His regressed wOBA from StatCorner (wOBA adjusted for a player's batted ball profile) places Borbon's expected wOBA at .359 this season, even after adjusting for Arlington, which would be the second best performance by an AL centerfielder so far this year. If that line drive rate doesn't stay up, he won't put up a .360 rate, but he doesn't have to in order to be good, let alone solid. Somewhere in the middle of where he's been and where he may have been without some poor luck is an above-average baseball player. Not an All-Star or an MVP candidate, but someone you can play in centerfield to keep Josh Hamilton healthy and David Murphy from hopelessly chasing down balls.

Because this isn't a Julio Borbon article but actually a game recap, here are some bullet points:

  • Already mentioned Michael Young, but Michael Young's bat has been terrific, and continued to be so tonight. 4-4 with a home run, and he accounted for nearly half of the win himself according to WPA.
  • Bullpens are fickle. They exist in small sample sizes, and thus a couple bad games doesn't mean it's time to panic, as emotional as blowing a lead is. Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver were good last year, they were supposed to be good this year, and they were good tonight. Rhodes struck out both hitters he faced, and Oliver allowed one hit and no runs over two innings. And Neftali Feliz got the save in his glorious return.
  • Let's not talk about Derek Holland. He was plain awful tonight. If you want a silver lining, it's that the awful came in one inning. He was nails through the first two innings, and managed a double play after giving up a baserunner in the third before falling apart. After the first six outs, Holland proceeded to get just three more against five walks. Hopefully (probably?) that's one bad inning which will shrink in meaning as a good season continues, and he still managed five swinging strikes overall, and it came against an awesome offense that leads baseball in walk rate. That inning was bad, but not quite everybody-panic bad.
  • Ian Kinsler had two hard hit fly balls that died at the track. Not a good game, but it's not like he was helpless. It's a slump, players have slumps.

Tomorrow, the Rangers have chance to take more games in a series than they surrender. That is called winning, and it would be a good thing.


FanGraphs Win Expectancy


Biggest Contributions (What is this, I don't even. . . ?)

  1. Michael Young 22%
  2. Darren Oliver 15%
  3. Julio Borbon 12%

Jim Reynolds's Strikezone from Brooks Baseball


Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.