Close but no cigar could be the mantra for the 2022 Texas Rangers. The struggles in one-run games are staggering, and Monday’s loss to the Mariners surpasses 2021’s one-run loss total (21). The Rangers are 11 games under .500 yet post a positive run differential of +3. According to MLB.com’s algorithm of expected win/loss (based on runs scored and runs allowed), the Rangers should be one game over .500. The one-run struggles put the Rangers five games below where they should be. What’s the reasoning for the club’s one-run struggles?
First, I want to point out that not all one-run losses are created equally. For example, Friday’s loss at Oakland was a game where the Rangers had no momentum until the eighth and ninth. They entered the eighth trailing 4-1 and made it a game until the final. Those one-run losses are more encouraging because the team ultimately fought to fall short. Then you have the two one-run losses at home against the Mariners. One was an extra inning, one where the Rangers couldn’t scratch a run in the tenth, and the other was a game the club led 5-1 and gave up five in the final three innings.
Here’s a breakdown of how the 5-22 record in one-run games shapes up. Keep in mind that one game may have more than one of these features.
|Rangers’ 23 one-run loss breakdown|
|Team led at any point||14|
|Team led in the 7th||5|
|Team led in the 8th||7|
|Team led in the 9th||5|
|Extra inning losses||5|
|Rangers scored a run in the 9th||8|
|Walk off losses||3|
Seven games in which the Rangers led in the eighth inning, five in which they led in the final inning, and 14 of 23 losses they’ve led at one point in the game. The conclusion is the team struggles when they are leading, correct? Well, the Rangers are in the bottom ten in opponent batting average and WHIP with a lead, but they’re also in the bottom ten in walks allowed with the lead. The club is in the middle of the pack in on-base percentage with the lead. Therefore, it’s not that the team steps off the gas pedal when leading. The Rangers hit well with runners in scoring position, but not with two outs. On the pitching side, it’s vice versa. Rangers’ pitchers struggle with two outs with runners in scoring position as opposed to two with one and none out.
It all stems from one thing, ill-advised mistakes. In the stat sheet, a walk is a walk, an error is an error, and a wild pitch is a wild pitch. However, the timing of these things matters. Sunday’s win is a good example. Brett Martin allowed three solo home runs to Oakland. It’s the most runs he’s allowed all season. However, many won’t remember that because all it did was cut the score from 11-5 to 11-8. Meanwhile, Martin was the losing pitcher in the extra innings loss to the Mariners before the All-Star break, or if Brett blows a save in his next outing by allowing an unearned run on a hit. It doesn’t look awful on the stat sheet, but it counts in the record book as a loss.
|Rangers’ 5 one-run win breakdown|
|Team trailed at any point||2|
|Extra inning wins||1|
I talked to Rangers’ third base coach Tony Beasley about the team’s defense. Statistically, the team’s fielding percentage slightly lowered from .986 to .983 from 2021 to 2022. However, the defensive runs saved have drastically gone from +86 (tops in MLB) to -8 (23rd in MLB). “Overall, we haven’t taken care of the ball like we set forth as our goals in Spring Training,” Beasley told me. “I don’t think anyone that’s a part of our team, staff, [and] players were happy with the way we’ve played so far.” Again, I’m not saying the defense is the only reason the Rangers are on a historic pace for the worst one-run winning percentage in MLB history, but I would say it’s a huge factor.
The Mariners are 22-12 in games decided by one run. The Rangers are 5-22 in games decided by one run.
Seattle is 5-1 vs. Texas in one-run games this season.
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 26, 2022
The Rangers are second in MLB in stolen bases and caught stealing, both trailing different teams. Texas likes to run, but they’ve made outs on the bases. “Overall, we’ve been good on the bases, but we are always looking for ways to improve all aspects of the game,” Beasley told me. “We’re never going to be satisfied thinking that we’ve conquered something, but that’s one thing that we have been, aggressive on the bases. We’ve been good at taking advantage of what other teams are presenting to us.” The bullpen suffered the most pitching losses in MLB yet it’s the 12th best bullpen ERA in baseball and 10th best in opponent batting average.
There was an aspect I asked Rangers manager Chris Woodward about playing in so many close games. You fear it exhausts your bullpen because the team often uses multiple guys and the same guys. After all, you’re trying to hold the lead or keep it close. But what about the offense? The skipper says, yes, that can affect and wear down the position players. “We play with a lot of energy and passion. Our guys do care, and that can wear you down a little bit. [We] got to find a way to be able to play that way and not let it exhaust you after every game.”
It’s also something I asked Nathaniel Lowe if it’s a positive or negative continuing to play close games, “I think the pessimist in me thinks you’re always one swing away in a one-run game. That’s why it’s frustrating.” But, on the other hand, is it an aspect where the team is trying to do too much? Texas draws the seventh most walks in late/close games in MLB, but they’ve also struck out the third most. “I know that emotionally like that can wear you down physically, but I do worry about that a little bit,” Woodward said.
I don’t know how you can “fix” being bad in one-run games other than playing better all around. Is there luck involved? In some ways, yes. However, a .185 winning percentage says this team can hang with the big boys, but they can’t complete the job. It’s similar to an NFL team that ended up 4-13 but made games competitive against teams like the Chiefs, Bills, Buccaneers, etc. If the Rangers can navigate through that, they can make a run in the final two months, but the clock is ticking, and time is running out.
Chris Woodward speaks on tonight's frustrating one-run loss to Seattle. @Rangers | #StraightUpTX pic.twitter.com/iMoZ9ZgyCo
— Bally Sports San Antonio (@BallySportsSA) July 26, 2022
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