It’s time to get our hands dirty and dissect the 2018 Texas Rangers. Overall, it was a pretty dismal season at 67-95 (the same record as the infamous injury prone 2014 Rangers). There were many downs, but you could say there were a few ups as well. There were many factors that played into this struggling campaign, but here are a few of the big ones:
Situational hitting and pitching
Yes, we all know about the strikeouts this team accumulated in 2018. However, digging even deeper into the stat sheet, the Rangers hit for a poor .205 average with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. That was 2nd worst in the AL. The Rangers also tied the White Sox with 191 strikeouts in the same situation. On the other side of the spectrum, the Rangers pitched in more “runners in scoring position with 2 out” situations than any other team in baseball. The club posted an MLB worst .267 opponent batting average with 244 runs allowed. I’m not an expert per se, but I can tell you when you can’t drive runners in with 2 outs, but you give them up; it’s a recipe that spells out disaster.
It’s quite obvious that the Rangers pitching staff was the reason for their demise. The club posted a 4.92 ERA, third worst in baseball, and a 5.37 starter ERA, second-worst in baseball. To be fair, it was a makeshift rotation that didn’t live up to the expectations. Opening Day starter Cole Hamels finished his Rangers reign with an ERA of 4.72 and a WHIP of 1.37, a career high for Hamels. In September, the Rangers designated Martin Perez to the bullpen due to his inconsistency on the mound. Perez spent time on the DL between May and the All-Star break due to an elbow issue. Doug Fister was lost for the season in early June due to a knee injury. The Rangers also placed Matt Moore in the bullpen in mid-June because of his ineffectiveness. Moore posted a career-worst 8.02 ERA as a starter in 2018. Mike Minor was an exception. Minor finished with a 4.18 ERA and a WHIP of 1.12. Since the rest of the rotation had its issues, Minor’s performance stood out in a positive way.
The Rangers were statistically the worst fielding team in the American League. The Rangers committed 120 errors, and only the Phillies and Cardinals had a worse fielding percentage than the Rangers. Jurickson Profar led the league with 25 errors on the season, which I would say is a point of emphasis in the offseason. I believe Jurickson’s ability in the field can make him a solid infielder at any position on the diamond, but the consistency needs to improve. If you want to add some sugar to that bland mess, the Rangers did convert the second most double plays in baseball as an infield with 168.
Now the 2018 season was not a complete wash. There was a major positive to this 2018 campaign: the young talent that emerged. If you pinpoint the Rangers’ roster in the season’s final month, the first thing you’ll notice is that these players are young. 29 of the 40 players on the final roster were born in 1990 or later. The injuries earlier in the year to Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus gave youngsters like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jurickson Profar, and Ronald Guzman to step up and make an impact. Profar played in 146 games this season (56 more than his previous career high) and posted a solid .254 average, 20 home runs, and 77 driven in. Profar reached career highs in average, slugging, and on-base percentage.
Ronald Guzman provided an impressive rookie season with 16 home runs (4th amongst AL rookies). The aspect of Guzman’s game that impressed me was his defense at first base. Guzman’s range factor finished at 8.23. Only 10 other first baseman that logged 100 innings or more had a better range factor than Guzman. The Rangers utilized a beneficial technique in inserting Kiner-Falefa as an infielder and a second catcher. That utilization helps simplify the Rangers bench and provides more depth next year for young talent. With the rebuilding process beginning, the Rangers will continue with the young utility players that can play more than four positions (Kiner-Falefa, Profar, Gallo).
Let’s even take the young pitching into consideration. Jose LeClerc had a fantastic run with the closer role. LeClerc did not give up a run in the last two months of the season and converted all 12 save opportunities. A great contender for a starter role in 2019 is Adrian Sampson. Sampson started four games in September and allowed nine runs in 22.2 innings. If the Rangers are looking to add some in-house pieces to the rotation, Adrian Sampson is one of the top candidates considering his performance to end the season.
My diagnosis: The Rangers have some work to do in the offseason. The main headlines will be with the Elvis Andrus opt-out contract situation, the new manager decision, and what Beltre’s retirement decision will be. However, there are other improvements this team can accomplish this offseason. If the Rangers can create some consistency in their roster, and add some experience to these young players, the Rangers can definitely bid for an improved 2019 season.
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