To be or not to be? That is the question every Texas Rangers fan and writer is thinking. It’s that fantastic time of year where we find out who the contenders or pretenders are.
What a turnaround season for the Rangers going from dead last and looking like a fish out of water in May to now contending for a wild card spot and possibly the division! The Rangers have overcome extreme diversity and making their way back from the dreadful injury bug from the past two seasons. With the addition of Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman the Rangers front office gave themselves the opportunity to win this season and not just in 2016 and beyond.
Hamels has been less than stellar but can still give that dominating performance. The real bright spot and credit to the front office is the addition of fireball hurler Jake Diekman! This guy has come in and been nothing short of fantastic. He gives their bullpen a left-handed power arm which was needed in the worst way. He has the occasional lapses in control leading to some runs, but his K rate is very good with 59 punch-oust in only 49.1 innings this season.
Since joining the Rangers, he has a 2.45 ERA to go along with 5 holds in 11 innings of work.
The rest of the Rangers roster has improved for the most part in belter finally started hitting better but still way below his career averages across the board. Hamilton can’t stay healthy, Andrus has had some big hits but is still under performing, Choo has really turned in his old self in the 2nd half with a OBP that ranks in the top 10 since the break, and the offense really goes when DeShields gets on base to start the running game. Overall the lineup is treading enough water to make some noise coming down the stretch but will it be enough?
Let’s do a little “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” section:
The Good: The Rangers currently own the best road record in the major leagues this season and of their remaining 37 games, 16 are on the road while playing 6 games against teams with winning records (Houston and LA Angels). The winning % of the teams remaining on the schedule favors the Rangers at a .489 clip. Take away the Astros and that percentage is around .478 and that’s very favorable to the Rangers.
Also the Rangers own the Lone Star Boot series so far this season at 8-4 against the Astros.
What a pleasant surprise from Chris Gimenez, he’s come in and done a commendable job handling the pitchers while producing at the plate with 3 homers and 9 RBI’s. The pitching rotation continues to gain strength and now with the addition to Derek Holland back from injury, it gives the Rangers a very formidable 1-2-3 punch of Hamels, Holland and Perez. Not to mention Colby will give you good games and Gallardo has the capability to shut down offenses now and then. This team has the talent to certainly make the playoffs but will they play up to it down the stretch?
The Bad: The Rangers are surprising not very good at home this season with a 28-32 record. With 21 of their remaining 37 games at home, one has to wonder if they will keep up the bad play or actually play like they used to at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are the only teams in the majors that have a negative double-digit run differential but yet still right there in the thick of things. This could come back to haunt them if they continue to walk batters and give teams easy runs.
The Rangers have struggled against its partners in the AL West (20-29) and with 27 of their remaining 37 games are against the West. The Rangers combined 12-25 against the A’s, Angels, and Mariners which is cause for concern down the stretch. Team ERA is not where you think it would be for a team in contention but to their credit it’s vastly improved since June so the 4.42 season mark is skewed a little but still a concern moving forward.
Ugly: The Rangers haven’t had too many ugly spots this season but let’s start with that April record of 7-14, ouch! Not only did they have a few ugly months but their fielding has been abysmal this year with Andrus leading the way with his subpar performances. Rangers are next to last in errors (93) and Andrus with his (19) doesn’t help the cause.
The injury bug hasn’t hit them as hard in recent years but losing Darvish, Holland, and Perez will hurt no matter what team they play for. Home attendance has been on the decline for the past 2 seasons and this year has the potential to be worse than last. The Rangers have one of the lowest percentages of home attendance for a team in the playoff hunt this season. Several factors can be blamed or do the fans know something we don’t?
Prediction: The Rangers have played fantastic baseball and I see no reason that can’t continue and we’ll get a pretty clear picture in 2 weeks when they face the Astros in Arlington. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way it gets them to 82 wins (which is what I said to begin the season). I see them playing a hair under .600 and winning 85-88 games with the season to be decided on the last week. I don’t think they win the division but I do say they get the last wild card spot with 87 wins.
Yankee’s vs. Rangers anyone?
*Note: I fully expect the Rangers to call up Gallo when the rosters expend and he gives them the pinch hit presence of the 470-foot long ball. He’s still learning and may strikeout a little too much but one mistake is all it takes in a game that could decide sitting on the couch or in the playoffs.