Texas Rangers spring training postcard (cont.)
While the first baseman's power numbers from his first (almost) full season as a big leaguer look impressive (21 homers, 59 RBI), some of his other overall offensive statistics look simply offensive: that .238 batting average; that .284 OBP; those 150 strikeouts in 113 games. It was, however, a tale of two halves for the 23-year-old Davis. Prior to the All-Star break, he hit .202 with a .278 OBP, and struck out once every 2.4 plate appearances. After it? .308, .338, and a strikeout every 3.9 PA's.
The difference, Davis says, sprang from a change in his swing he made immediately upon being belatedly sent down last July 5 to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he stayed for seven weeks. "My bat path was horrible, real quick in and out of the zone," he says. "If the pitcher threw it in a perfect spot and I happened to swing right there, I was going to hit it, but other than that I didn't have a shot. I had to shorten my swing up and make it a lot flatter, to give myself a better chance. We started doing drills that I had done in the minor leagues that I had gotten away from, and I went 3-for-4 that first night and I didn't stop hitting after that."
"Sometimes you gain your experience through failure, and sometimes through adversity," says Washington. "He's had failure, and he's had adversity. He's gonna strike out. He's gonna reach that 150, 160. But he's not a .202 hitter." Davis, with a new-and-improved shorter and flatter swing, is another reason why the Rangers' offense should rebound to its 2008 form.
Not Done Yet
Guerrero is 35 now, and no longer the base stealing, cannon-armed slugger who received at least one MVP vote for eleven consecutive years, from 1998 to 2008. Last season, his sixth as an Angel, was the fourth straight in which both his games played and home run totals declined. But Daniels signed Guerrero to a one-year, $6.5 million free agent deal in January because he saw a driven and fit player when he visited him in California late last year, and because, as Daniels says, "This guy's a likely Hall of Famer. We think he's got more in him. This guy's a presence."
Daniels was also inspired by the strategies of John Hart, the GM of the Indians from 1991 to 2001 (during which time Cleveland made the playoffs six times and the World Series twice) and of the Rangers from '01 to '05, and the man who initially hired Daniels as Texas's assistant director of baseball operations. "Those Indians teams, although they had those huge offenses -- they had Manny [Ramirez] and [Jim] Thome batting 7th and 8th or something -- each year they'd add an Eddie Murray, the right veteran in the middle of the lineup. The reason those offenses were successful was because they had [Roberto] Alomar and [Kenny] Lofton and [Albert] Belle and Thome and Manny. But those other guys added something to it. We think Vlad can do the same thing."
The Rangers could become the first club since the 2007 Mets -- and the 10th since 1990 -- to steal 200 bases. Washington says that Nelson Cruz and Hamilton have the wherewithal to steal 20 bases apiece, and that Borbon, Andrus and Kinsler should all easily swipe 30, and potentially many more, even though Kinsler, who hit mainly leadoff last year, will now bat fifth. "I will not slow him down," says Washington. "He is a threat. I will not take away that threat. I'm not stopping Kins.".... Lewis has only one regret from his otherwise very productive two years in Japan. "I wish I would have tried to learn the language a little more," he says. "[Our team] had three translators, so it wasn't a priority, but I wish it had been."... Daniels, a 1999 graduate of Cornell, is delighted by the success of the 25-4 Big Red men's basketball team, which on Feb. 1 achieved its first Top-25 ranking since 1951 (it was No. 25 in the ESPN/USA Today poll), and was the next week ranked No. 22 before losing at Penn. To win an NCAA tournament game, though, Daniels says, "They need to have one of those days where they shoot 60 percent from the floor."
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