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Rangers Hitting Preview, Part II

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Continuing the Nicholl Fellowship-winning series, here is part two of the Rangers lineup preview:

Nelson Cruz

Toot! Toot! Thirty-eight percent of the time, I pick out diamonds in the rough every time. Please don’t look at those other names from that post.

Cruz is a late bloomer, a guy who didn’t get regular at-bats until he was 26 and wasn’t able to translate his gaudy minor-league numbers into major league success until he was a September call-up a year after that. By law I’m required to mention John Bowker here, though more as a curiosity than a formal complaint these days because of the success of Javier Lopez.

He’s never had any serious platoon splits, other than his penchant for roughing up dookie-ballers. Dude’s good, and UZR has him as a consistently plus fielder.

Ian Kinsler

Last year he hit 31 home runs; this year he finished with nine. That’s like going from Jeff Kent to Mark Ellis. Kinsler’s walk rate went up, and so did his ground ball rate. I have no idea what to make of him, but I have a strange feeling that he’s the likeliest player on the Rangers to cody the Giants. Maybe that’s just because the only at-bat of his that I can remember this year was the ALDS home run he hit off Rafael Soriano that just landed.

Bengie Molina

Now we’re getting somewhere. Big Money Molina. The clutchiest clutch who ever clutched. Just because he had a .240/.279/.320 line after joining Texas doesn’t mean that he’s forgotten how to drive in those runs. Mmmm. He can smell those runs out there. They nourish him. All he wants to do is bring them home.

Molina is the litmus test. This is how the Giants will be able to tell if the franchise has been unlucky since moving to San Francisco, or if they’re legitimately cursed. If the Giants lose because Josh Hamilton – or any of the previous six hitters that were profiled, really – goes nuts well, that would stink, but there’s no shame in getting beat by good hitters. Molina, though, is quite possibly the worst hitter in baseball now that he doesn’t hit for power. His gravity-of-Jupiter speed is crippling and his on-base percentage is wretched. He’s everything you don’t want in a hitter.

But it’s the playoffs. A short series. Molina could go 10-for-14 with three doubles and two inside-the-park home runs. That’s when you’d know you’re part of some cosmic experiment. That’s when you’d know that you’re just a character in a teleplay that’s being narrated by Rod Serling. My first instinct would be to quit watching baseball if Molina ends up being the reason the Rangers win the World Series, but a part of me thinks I’d keep watching just to see what the baseball gods would do to top that. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to find anything, and Giants baseball would start resembling the decline of "24." How can you top atomic bombs and presidential assassinations in a format like "24"? You can’t. So think it over, baseball gods. Think about if this is the right time to go all-in on a Giants curse.

Mitch Moreland

The Rangers would probably explore a Chris Davis for Matt Cain deal again if you asked really nicely. Yeah. Watching a team score 650 runs every single year causes brain damage. Those threads are painful.

Moreland’s production was perfectly timed. When Davis and Justin Smoak didn’t hit, Moreland came up and earned a starting spot. He was the kind of player that never showed up for the Giants over the past decade – a quietly competent, homegrown placeholder that helps more than he hurts*. As an eighth-place hitter, he’s more than acceptable.

Others

  • David Murphy is what we were hoping Nate Schierholtz would become. He’s a solid player who will get a lot of playing time when the series moves to Texas.
  • Jeff Francoeur is what weren’t hoping Pablo Sandoval would become. Sadly, Sandoval was like six Francoeurs duct-taped together this year. That’s not good. Here’s hoping that Ron Washington is still enamored of Francoeur’s small-sample success after the outfielder came over from the Mets.
  • Jorge Cantu is not on the Giants somehow, which is like a puddle of caramel going years without attracting ants.
  • Julio Borbon is the go-to defensive replacement in the outfielder, as well as the default pinch-runner when Brian Wilson walks someone with a one-run lead. The Rangers are far scarier when they put Hamilton in center and start David Murphy, but Borbon might get some starts in San Francisco’s big outfield.
  • Matt Treanor is a catcher, and the interesting thing about him is

It’s a good offense almost the whole way through. And yet the name that really scares me is Bengie Molina. Being a Giants fan is weird.