Currently, the Texas Rangers hold a less than stellar record of 38-38 as they approach the All-Star break. Right now, the club sits in third place in the AL West below the Los Angeles Angels and the team who has surprised most critics around the league, the Houston Astros.
The Rangers limped through the first month of the season, finishing off April with a 7-14 record, but it looked like they were in for a turnaround after a strong month of May that saw them finish with an overall record of 26-25.
Their 19-11 record in the month of May gave hope to the Rangers faithful as they seemed to be hitting their stride after a bumpy start to the season. Unfortunately, it looks like that stride was short-lived, as the Rangers continue to hobble into the All-Star break, having scored just 20 runs in their past 10 games.
The Rangers look to close out the first half of the season with their upcoming four game series against the Baltimore Orioles, who are vying for a wildcard spot as well.
Potential Rangers MVP
Prince Fielder seems to be back to his former self as he bounces back from a subpar 2014 where he was limited to only 42 games due to a serious neck surgery. Not only does it seem like Fielder is back to his stellar hitting ways, but he is even outplaying his former self from his days in Milwaukee. Through 74 games this season, Fielder is hitting a league-leading .351 and is second, only to Miguel Cabrera, with a .418 OBP. Even though his home run numbers are not what they have been in the past, it seems like Fielder has adjusted to a new type of game, possibly the result of last season’s injury. He is clearly hitting more for contact this season as he leads the AL in hits and is currently in the top ten in the AL for both RBIs and doubles.
Injuries are o’plenty
The Rangers, on paper, have more than enough established bats in their lineup; the only issue is actually keeping those bats in the lineup. The Rangers have been hit with a myriad of injuries that have not only kept them from serious contention so far in the AL West, but also, has kept them from establishing a consistent lineup throughout the season.
While the Rangers are no doubt happy to have third baseman Adrian Beltre back, they are hoping to get more out of their other marquee names such as Shin-Soo Choo. While Choo performed well in his first season with the Rangers in 2014, his batting average has slipped mightily as he continues to suffer from a high amount of strikeouts.
After what looked like a resurgence in his first 7 games with the club, Josh Hamilton was unable to stay off the DL and is currently undergoing a rehab in the minors. Hamilton is slated to return from the DL some time during the upcoming series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Rangers are certainly hoping they can get Hamilton back to his old hitting ways during his first tenure in Texas as he looks to recover from what has been a questionable past few months. I am convinced throughout his career, Texas is where Hamilton has most thrived, so manager Jeff Banister is certainly hoping for some notable production from the outfielder.
While the usual names on the Rangers roster include, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Shin-Soo Choo, the interesting player to watch out for in the second half of the season will be Joey Gallo. The rookie started off the season on a tear at the plate but has regressed as of late.
It will be very interesting to see how Banister looks to add the young player back into the lineup to get him some ABs and shake him out of the clear funk he is in. With a possible lineup of Fielder, Beltre, Andrus, Choo, Gallo, and Moreland, the Rangers could be one of the most offensively gifted teams in the AL come the second half of the season.
Unfortunately, the Rangers have had to rely heavily on their top two pitchers, Yovani Gallardo and Nick Martinez. While both Gallardo and Martinez lead the team in Quality Starts, for them to succeed they need the defense behind them to be healthy and able to produce. Gallardo and Martinez each sport sub 3.50 ERAs, but have very mediocre K/9 ratios, signifying a need for defensive fortitude through the rest of the season.
The Rangers third starter, Colby Lewis has been solid by overall record, but currently has a 4.10 ERA something clearly to look out for. Lewis’ poor ERA but good record could be attributed to strong run support during his outings or possibly a string of three straight starts in the month of May, where he gave up more than 5 earned runs in each. Where the Rangers really struggle is in their back end starters as well as mediocre relief pitching. If the Rangers really want to compete for the AL West or a Wildcard spot, they will need to solidify their rotation and relief pitchers. Shawn Tolleson and Keone Kela headline a bullpen that really needs to step their game up after the All-Star break.
The Rangers have been able to maintain a .500 record even through their countless injuries. If a player like Choo or Moreland is able to increase his production in the second half of the season, while players like Fielder and Andrus are able to support theirs, the Rangers look to be a scary team come September.
The forthcoming series with the Orioles promises to be an interesting one, but also one that may be extremely important to the Rangers as they look to head into the All-Star break under winning terms. Similar to the Rangers, the Orioles have one of the hardest swinging lineups in the league but have too been hit with the injury bug in the first half of the season. Both teams head into this series looking to take all four and make up some ground in their respective divisions and the wildcard race.
Barring any future serious injuries, the Rangers surely look to make a serious run at the AL West Division title. If that does not seem possible relatively soon after the All-Star break, they undoubtedly have the tools to make a proper run for one of the two AL wildcard spots.