The Texas Rangers are 2.5 games back in AL West, but only 1/2 a game out of the jam-packed Wild Card race in the AL. This is a team that has surprised me this year. I didn’t think they could lose the offensive production of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, and continue to produce offensively the way they have. Granted, the cloud out in RF surrounding Nelson Cruz does look ominous, but we’ll see how that plays out. The Rangers have had a great deal of success of late, but they haven’t been able to win it all, in spite of back-to-back trips to the World Series in 2010 & 2011. Could this be their year?
3 Reasons Why
- Matt Garza – if the Rangers are a threat to win it all, it will have a lot to do with the trade they made with the Cubs. They already possessed the 5th best team ERA in the AL (3.72). But, in his first 3 starts with the Rangers, Garza has allowed just 7 earned runs in 22.1 innings. No, he isn’t their new ace, but consider how much he bolsters their rotation. Instead of Darvish at #1, Derek Holland at #2, and Justin Grimm at #3 (thanks to several injuries), they’ll have Darvish at #1, Garza at #2, and Holland at #3. That’s a much more formidable 1-2-3 portion of your rotation. And as well as Garza has been pitching of late, he looks to contribute in a big way.
- Closing It Out – if the Rangers are ahead late in the game, then their opponents might as well start packing it up. The Rangers’ bullpen has blown a total of just 6 save opportunities this season – 3 pitchers around the league have blown that many, or more, on their own! Only the Yankees have blown fewer saves (and, having a future HOFer there kinda helps). With games in the postseason tending to be much tighter than in the regular season, a strong bullpen is essential to going deep into the playoffs.
- Plate Discipline – the Rangers have seen the 3rd most strikes pitched to them in the strike zone (45.6%), which tells me they’re waiting for the right pitch to hit. They also have the 2nd best swing-and-miss rate in the AL (8.1%). The more strikes you can see, the better off you are. And, the more pitches you can make the opposing starter throw, the quicker you can get into the bullpen. It’s a method the Yankees and Red Sox used masterfully in the years they were constantly battling each other for the AL crown.
3 Why Not
- PED’s – the heart of the Rangers’ lineup is Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Cruz leads the team in HR (25) and RBI (73), and has an .840 OPS. If MLB suspensions come down (which everyone seems to be expecting very soon), the middle of the lineup will go from Beltre/Cruz to . . . Beltre/Moreland? or Beltre/Pierzynski? Opposing pitchers may find that to be too tempting to just pitch around Beltre and force whoever’s behind him to make the clutch hit. And, that’s not exactly good news if it’s someone with an OBP hovering around .300 or worse.
- GDP’s – the Rangers are 2nd in the AL in total number of GDP’s (grounded into double-plays), with 95. Only the Angels have grounded into more. In the playoffs, you can’t always rely on the 3-run HR, since the pitching quality tends to be so much better. So, in order to sustain a rally, you have to keep the hits coming. Texas has had some trouble doing that this year. Winning games, and winning series’ in the playoffs means keeping baserunners on – not GDP’s.
- wRC+ – weighted runs created plus is a statistic used to measure a player’s (or team’s) overall offensive production compared with the rest of the league. It’s adjusted for ballparks and other things that will influence a player’s production. With a team like the Rangers, who are 4th in the AL in home runs, and who are tied for 5th in the AL in SLG, you would expect that they are producing at a hight rate. Unfortunately, their wRC+ score as a team is 97 – good for 10th in the AL. This also tells us that they are producing runs at a rate 3% below the league average. Once again, run production has to be more than just home runs – especially in the postseason.
How do you think the Rangers’ season will end? Vote below!