Offense and pitching, the two qualities folks turn to when evaluating a team. Unfortunately, most overlook defense, and you’ll see players who are deemed liabilities play at any position to get their bat in the lineup. People viewed that on Joey Gallo (before they saw him play in the field). In the past, Joey mentioned how much he prides himself on his defense, even more so than his hitting ability. “You focus on hitting, but defense is a huge part of [the game],” Joey Gallo told me. While the Rangers offense heated up during the previous homestand, the defense showcased their abilities too, especially during the Royals’ series. “We got a great defense,” Kyle Gibson voiced to me after last Saturday’s game. “We got young guys who play hard on defense.”
On the defensive side, almost every single position player made some highlight-reel play on the previous homestand. From Charlie Culberson’s outstanding barehanded play at first to Adolis García’s game-saving catch in right-center, it’s a continued effort among all eight guys that step onto the field. It starts with the captains of the infield and outfield. “There’s a lot to be said of whose anchoring that infield, and that’s Izzy at shortstop,” Jordan Lyles said after his outing Sunday. “He’s the anchor of our infield, Adolis in center; he’s been doing his thing.”
— Isiah Kiner-Falefa (@Isiahkf11) June 27, 2021
Statistically, the Rangers are a top-half fielding team (based on errors committed). They’ve converted the tenth most double plays and the 2021 season range about league average regarding defensive runs saved (while having the fourth most opportunities in MLB). Keep in mind; this spans among all 2021, where the defense suffered during a few Rangers’ skids. In 2021, the Rangers’ overall defensive metric weighs in at +2.1 compared to last season, where the club finished at a -9.8, despite two gold glove winners. The bottom line, the Rangers are a much improved defensive club with guys like Eli White, Nick Solak, and Nate Lowe still improving.
The Rangers outfield stacks up. Eli White is a freak of an athlete, Adolis is showing his range and his arm throughout the season, and oh yea Joey Gallo has a gold glove in his pocket. Add to that the fantastic plays Willie Calhoun (who’s on the injured list now) made, and David Dahl isn’t half bad. “We may have one of the best defensive outfields out there,” Kyle Gibson said. “It’s awesome to see our outfield play the way we do,” Gallo said. “It’s great to have those guys out there being able to cover ground and throw guys out.”
On the infield side, Isiah Kiner-Falefa showcases why he won a gold glove in 2020, but it’s a collaborative effort among the entire infield. “[Nick] Solak has taken some strides since last year defensively at second,” Lyles said. Nate Lowe was a player that many didn’t view high on defensively. Chris Woodward told me he’s been working on getting off the ball on right-handed hitters as well as some picks at first. “If [Nate] can get off the ball, he’s good as far as the glove work goes making plays,” Woodward said. “[The] infield they work hard, they are taking groundballs a lot trying to get better,” Gibson said. Oh, and don’t forget Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim too. “The catchers have been phenomenal, by the way. Let me just throw that out there,” Joey said.
Nick Solak, good at defense. #StraightUpTX | @Rangers pic.twitter.com/hmEzNYi5CR
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) July 3, 2021
Does the offense dictate the defense?
Think of a day when you go into work, and things in your personal life are going well, or if they aren’t. Your personal life likely dictates your work performance. It falls similar to how a players’ offensive production correlates to their defense. “A lot of times as players, we value ourselves by how we hit,” Chris Woodward told me. “That’s the nature of the game. Typically when you’re hitting well, it elevates every part of your game. When we start hitting better, we feel a little more confident in every aspect, and defense is a big part of that. ”
The Rangers hovered around the league average most of the season, which is a testament considering the club couldn’t buy a run at certain times, something the pitchers take notice of. “They don’t let negative results at the plate impact their defense at all,” Gibson said. “We have to play defense regardless of how we’re hitting, and I think that’s a good test for us early in the year when we were struggling for that long stretch offensively that we have to rely on [defense] in tough times,” Woodward said.
Is this a top-tier defense? Well, I can safely say it’s a top-tier outfield mixing in the JAE combination (Joey, Adolis, and Eli). The infield is seeing improvements at second and first. Of course, you don’t need to convince me about Isiah’s shortstop abilities. Third base is going well for two guys who hadn’t played much third base in their careers (Charlie Culberson and Brock Holt). Finally, the organizations view Jonah Heim and Jose Trevino as highly defensive catchers even before entering the big league roster.
Eli White joins the party with an incredible catch of his own! 💯@Rangers | #StraightUpTX pic.twitter.com/AIyVNfuJ2I
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) June 24, 2021
Regarding top tier overall in the league, the potential is there, and the Rangers are on the right track. However, the final step isn’t there yet. “It’s something we have to be really good at,” Joey Gallo said. It saved the Rangers early on Friday, then came back to haunt them late in their loss late in Friday’s game in Seattle.
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