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Despite the rumors, Valentine's job is not in jeopardy. He is close to general manager Tom Grieve, and Ranger part-owner George W. Bush has told both not to panic. The plan is to rebuild Texas with young prospects in the organization. Not everyone, however, is convinced that the Rangers' farm system is loaded. "I hear about all this major league talent they're supposed to have," says one scout. "I want to know one thing: Where is it?"
One reason teams have been slow to dump managers is that many of them are looking for a replacement with major league managing experience, and few such prospects are available. Three coaches who could get a shot are Gene Lamont of the Pirates and Dave Duncan and Rene Lachemann of the Athletics. But they may have to wait. As one general manager says, "No names really jump out at you."
The latest team to adopt the Tony La Russa approach to bullpen management—which involves giving each pitcher a clearly defined role—is the Twins. It seems to be working. Through last week, Minnesota's relief corps was 14-2 with 17 saves and a 2.93 ERA. Indeed, until June 1, when Minnesota fell 2-1 to the White Sox, the Twins had won seven one-run games and lost none. The 1940 St. Louis Browns are the only team to have gone deeper into a season without a one-run defeat. Their streak lasted until June 5.
The Twins' pen is nothing if not diverse. Closer Rick Aguilera (15 saves through Sunday) doesn't throw just heat; he has a slider and a forkball. Setup man Juan Berenguer (29-8 in four years as a Twin) throws mostly 90-mph-plus fastballs. One lefthanded middle reliever, Gary Wayne (1.84 ERA), has a funky motion, and the other, veteran John Candelaria (6-1, 4.37 ERA and two saves), slings the ball toward the plate. And righthander Terry Leach (2-1, 2.32 ERA) throws submarine-style. The only reliever with a standard repertoire is righthander Tim Drummond (0-1, 3.77 ERA). "This is the best pitching staff we've had since I've been here," says first baseman Kent Hrbek, a Twin since 1981. Better than the championship staff" of '87? "A lot better," he says.
Trying to evaluate a pitcher? Take a look at his walk ratio, as well as his winning percentage and ERA. The best pitchers are almost always the ones who have given up the fewest walks. As of Sunday, for instance, 11 pitchers had seven or more wins: Jack Armstrong, Roger Clemens, Doug Drabek, Chuck Finley, Kevin Gross, Neal Heaton, Barry Jones, Dave Stewart, Dave Stieb, Frank Viola and Bob Welch. Together, they had allowed 2.25 bases on balls per nine innings, an outstanding ratio.
What makes Clemens, in particular, so good is his ability to throw his 94-mph fastball wherever he wants. Mark Langston, on the other hand, has always had difficulty pinpointing his 90-mph fastball. As of last Sunday, Langston had walked 702 batters in 1,442? career innings for a walk ratio of 4.38 per nine innings. By contrast, Clemens had given up 392 walks in 1,373? innings for a 2.57 ratio. Not surprisingly, the Rocket's lifetime winning percentage was .689, while Langston's was .524.
"If I were a pitcher, I'd learn to throw a first-pitch strike on the outside corner until I turned black and blue," says Red Sox manager Joe Morgan. "Too many pitchers are too fine on the first pitch. The odds are with you when you get ahead on the count." Last season hitters batted .229 after falling behind 0-1 in the count and .267 after going ahead 1-0.
OUT OF CONTROL