This week, Dallas Sports Fanatic is taking a midseason look at the Texas Rangers. Earlier in the week, staff writer Zach Schueneman took a look at the pitching staff’s up and down performance so far this season. This time Zach and Dylan Duell are looking at the offense and handing out a few first half awards.
The Rangers 43-45 record at the All-Star Break is pretty indicative of the team they’ve been so far this season: middle of the road. There isn’t a clear strength of this team so far. Anytime the offense clicks, the pitching begins to fade. The offense seems to put up 2 runs or fewer just as often as it gets everyone half off Papa Johns pizza with #Rangers7. Fans never know what to expect when heading into a Rangers game this season.
The way the Rangers have been scoring runs in this first half has been via the long ball. Texas is 8th in MLB with 444 runs scored and a good chunk of those come via the 135 home runs they’ve hit so far this season, good for third in all of baseball. Eight different Rangers already have double digit homer totals on the season and that includes the surprising power surge of shortstop Elvis Andrus with 11 dingers, his previous career high was 8 last season, and 13 from Robinson Chirinos, who has only played in 38 games so far this season.
This swing for the fences mentality might be the reason the Rangers are striking out a record place. They’ve endured record breaking streaks of games with 10+ strikeouts already this season and are averaging about 9 per game through the first 88 contests in 2017. Their 819 K’s on offense this season is the 5th most in baseball.
With so much reliance on the long ball and an extreme amount of strikeouts, the Rangers batting average is in the tank as well. Their .240 team average is 27th in baseball and 15 points the league average. A lot of that is because the first month or two of the season saw them struggle insanely on offense. Frankly, it was surprising to find their average to even be that high thanks to their improved performance in June.
As a whole, the offense has shown signs of life the last six weeks thanks to improved health. All signs point to a more consistent performance in the second half. When completely healthy, this team should be one of the top 10 in Major League Baseball. It’s just a matter of lowering the strikeouts and completely depending on the home run to put runs on the board.
First Half Offensive MVP
Dylan: Elvis Andrus. The new daddy has been a beast in the first half of the season and really deserved to be an All-Star, in my opinion. His development into a better hitter the last few seasons has come to full bloom this season.
To me, he’s the only player who has positively impacted the offense in pretty much every way possible. He’s hitting for a high average (.300), showing decent power (11 homers) and getting on base and moving himself into good positions with his team leading 20 stolen bases. He’s not only making an impact himself, but setting up others to drive him in more than anyone else on the team.
Elvis Andrus is currently on pace for a 20 home run/90 RBI season. Ask Rangers fans if they thought they’d ever see that. Most would say no.
Zach: Part of me is tempted to hand this award to Adrian Beltre. The veteran third baseman essentially missed the two months of the season, but he hit seven round trippers and drove in 20 runs in 35 games. Beltre leads all everyday players with an on base percentage of .384 and he is slugging .538, second only to the aforementioned Robinson Chirinos.
But alas I cannot ignore the career pace that Elvis is on. Elvis is the only player in major league baseball with a .300 batting average, 10 homeruns, 20 steals, and 50 RBIs. He is the first player to accomplish this feat since Mike Trout in 2013, and, according to Baseball Reference, is only the 26th player in all of baseball to do so since 1922. Elvis almost single-handedly held this offense together through April and May and he has remained consistently productive since. Due to his steady play and career offensive pace, I have to select Elvis Andrus as the team’s first half offensive MVP.
Photo: Klay Kuban/Dallas Sports Fanatic
Dylan: Is it cheating to say Elvis again? I’m doing it anyway. Even after having a career year in 2016 with new career highs in batting average (.302), homers (8) and RBI (69), he’s shown that he could be even better this year. After seeing his first seven full seasons in a Rangers uniform, to say I’m surprised by this new version of Andrus would be an understatement.
Zach: I have to go with Robinson Chirinos. When the Rangers traded for Jonathan Lucroy prior to the trade deadline last year, it appeared that Chirinos was going to be an afterthought. But there is no denying that Chirinos’ solid play on both sides has Jeff Banister and company looking for ways to get him in the lineup more often. It could also make it easier for the Rangers to shop Lucroy if the right deal came along, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Chirinos is only hitting .218, but he has displayed considerable power this year, as evidenced by his 12 homeruns and 25 runs driven in in only 38 games. In addition, Chirinos is slugging a team high.546.
Dylan: Mike Napoli. 2017 is Mike Napoli’s 12th season in the bigs, so it’s pretty well known what he is by this point. Big time power. Limited hitting for average. Subpar fielder you merely give a glove so that he can stay in the lineup. However, Napoli hasn’t even been that in what is now his third tenure with the Rangers.
Nap hit .239 with the Cleveland Indians last season. I would do anything for him to be hitting a measly .239 right now! General Manager Jon Daniels brought Napoli in on a low-risk/high-reward contract that isn’t going to hurt the team long-term, but it’s safe to assume that Daniels and manager Jeff Banister want more.
In addition to hitting just .194, his ability to draw walks has disappointed too. The 35 year-old has just 24 walks in 72 games this season. So once every 3 games Mike Napoli is drawing a walk. On the flip side, he’s striking out a ton. His 92 strikeouts on the season are 2nd to Joey Gallo’s 112, but at least Gallo can boast about having 15 more walks on the year. Napoli has 21 games with 2 or more strikeouts this season. As a guy who’s depended on to drive in runs in the middle of the lineup, it’s just not going to cut it. His lack of timely hitting is apparent in him only having 39 RBI off of 18 home runs. Nap has come up empty in some important at-bats so far this season. Here’s to hoping better things are coming in the second half for the major fan favorite.
Zach: Before the season began, the Rangers agreed with 23 year old Rougned Odor on a six-year contract worth at least $49.5 million (and two horses). The deal looked to be a bargain on opening day when Rougie belted two home runs in a tough loss to the Indians. But the rest of the first half was a rough one for the young second baseman. Odor finished the first half hitting just .220 with a paltry on base percentage of just .260. Odor certainly demonstrated his power potential, hitting 17 homeruns in the first half, but his impatience at the plate has been noticeable. Not only has Odor only drawn 14 walks in 88 games this season, his propensity to swing at pitches outside of the zone can lead to weak contact and easy outs. Odor however did finish the first half strong. He hit .370 with four homeruns in the eight July games leading up to the All Star break and was a key contributor in the Rangers winning four of five to close out the first half. The Rangers are looking to Rougned Odor as one of the primary keys to making a push for 162+. If he can maintain his red-hot hitting in the second half of the season, he may be the stabilizing presence this offense needs.
Entering their series against the Kansas City Royals on Friday, the Rangers sit just three games out of the second wild card spot in the American League. A turnaround and playoff push isn’t out of the question for the team. Especially if it can just find some semblance of (positive) consistency in the batter’s box.
Stay tuned to Dallas Sports Fanatic as Dylan and Zach continue to cover the Rangers as the trade deadline approaches and second half of the season continues.
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