Joe Nathan high-fives catcher Mike Napoli after another victory

Texas Heating Up Heading Into All Star Break

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With just 13 games remaining until the All Star break, the Texas Rangers have again reached their high water mark, 17 games over .500 (45-28), and are playing at or around their best baseball of the season. Since the particularly pathetic series they played 3 weeks ago in Oakland, losing three of four after already having dropped two out of three the prior weekend in Anaheim, the Rangers find themselves 12-3 in their last 15, feasting on inter-league competition to the tune of a 14-4 record. Sure, in that span they’ve seen teams like Houston, San Diego, and Colorado, but every game counts the same as the next, and it’s been a healthy amount of time since we’ve been able to consume more positives than negatives.

Like I said, that Oakland series was arguably the lowest point of the year for the same club that opened the 2012 campaign firing on all cylinders, enough to open up with 16 wins in their first 21 games, and enough to open up a double-digit lead on the Angels. In the Oakland series, Texas got outscored 22-8, and one could conceive they were even lucky to win the one game they managed to eek out. But I suppose that’s part of the past, now, and just a minor blip on what has otherwise been a pretty impressive 73-game start.

Joe Nathan high-fives catcher Mike Napoli after another victory

During this current 12 out of 15 stretch, Texas has allowed more than 3 runs just three times, a 5-2 loss in San Francisco, an ugly 11-3 loss in the finale of the Arizona series, and again allowing 11 to the Rockies on a day where Colby Lewis was the victim of some terrible luck on BABIP (batting average of balls in play). Other than that, they’ve allowed exactly 3 runs three times, 2 runs three times, 1 run three times, and have recorded 3 shutouts. Think about that for a moment. Because that’s more who the Rangers are than the team that barely treaded water for so long between the end of April through the beginning of June.

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A few thoughts:

- With the emergence of Leonys Martin, I’m beginning to wonder what David Murphy’s role on this team is, or if he is on the July 31st chopping block as a player who might be able to bring in some type of valuable bench asset. With the fragility of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, conflated with the relative full-time inexperience of both Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, it would behoove the Rangers to stick with Murph in some capacity. But it’s my belief that Martin will start Game One of the World Series in center field, with Hamilton and Cruz on either side of him. That would render David Murphy expendable, so it’s something to ponder.

- If you take a look at any number of posts I’ve made, you’ll quite transparently see me railing against Michael Young in some form. As it stands today, he sits at a triple slash line of .270/.299/.351. Or, in other words, completely unacceptable for a DH. Combined with being relatively slow-footed on the bases, and possessing a weak glove at all four infield positions, his WAR value for the season rests at -0.6 — below a replacement level player. Lately he’s started to spray the ball a little harder, but still. It’s not good that the club is basically losing $16M this season for a guy bringing back very little in return.

- Around the All Star break, the Rangers should again have Derek Holland back in the rotation, which will send Justin Grimm back to AA (or to AAA, if Texas feels he’d be better served against better competition). And in successive weeks, we should be seeing Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, and Neftali Feliz back in the fold, giving the Rangers their most formidable 25-man roster up to this point. Barring no injuries from the rotation until then, the pitching staff will remain with Darvish, Lewis, Holland, Harrison, and Oswalt, and the bullpen will carry all of Scott Feldman, Robbie Ross, Uehara, Feliz, Ogando, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan. That’s the best collective of talent in the big leagues, and I’m not sure if the next-best is all that close.

So, in essence, the best is still yet to come.

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