The Rangers are having a mysterious season. On the one hand, they are tied for the Major League lead in victories with the New York Yankees. On the other, I can’t help but succumb to the growing feeling I have that they are much, much better than this.
Over the last month, the Rangers offense ranks 18th out of 30 Major League franchises in wRc+, a metric that defines the value of each individual plate appearance. For the season, the Rangers are 3rd in baseball in this category, behind only the Cardinals and Yankees. Even with this tailspin, or extended slump, or whichever way you choose to put it, Texas still leads the Majors in runs scored (450), batting average (.278), and is tied for first with the Cardinals in OBP (.340). So where are the issues coming from?
For starters, there are a few positions that have underperformed for the large majority of the season. The days of Michael Young being an above-average hitter, adequate fielder, and instinctive baserunner are over. And he’s not coming back. His batting average has bottomed out in the .270 range for the better part of the season, and his on base percentage has been anemic, hovering around the .300 mark. His slugging percentage? Should I even mention it? The job of the designated hitter is to get on base and do bad things to the baseball. Bad, terrible things. Michael Young has never developed any sort of propensity to drawing walks, and home runs aren’t something we particularly expect from him. But I’m curious as to just how long he will survive as an everyday player for the juggernaut organization the Rangers have become, and, perhaps more pressingly, how long Ron Washington will continue utilizing him in the 5th spot of the lineup. Because right now, he’s sitting at the worst triple slash line of his career, and his $16M has been good for -1.0 wins above replacement. Essentially, he’s been performing as a below-replacement player.
Due to Mitch Morland’s hamstring injury in San Diego a little over a month ago, Young has been asked to take over the primary 1st base duties, where his defense pales in comparison to Moreland’s. I never thought I’d find myself actually missing Mitch Moreland, but I do. In plugging Michael Young in at first base, we’re losing both offense and defense at the position, and forcing the underperforming Mike Napoli (.225/.339/.414) to spend more time at DH.
Speaking of Mike Napoli, what the hell is going on? I don’t think anyone in their right mind would expect a repeat performance of last year’s 2nd half, or during the playoffs, but he’s lightyears better than he has showed. A part of me thinks this is all a poor aberration of production, and another, smaller part of me believes his ankle injury from Game 6 of last year’s World Series still has some kind of impact on him. I suppose no one knows for sure except he himself, but these are things to pay attention to going forward.
Despite the offensive woes, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison each put together shutout starting performances (Harrison’s of the complete game variety) in their first starts back from the All Star Break. So that’s good to see. Of course, each of those was wedged around Yu Darvish’s 3rd bad start against Seattle this season (in three tries), but I’m still of the opinion that Darvish won’t truly show his best stuff until the playoffs roll around.
Otherwise, even with the team not playing at their most optimal, we still have a fairly sizable 5-game stranglehold on the division, and this week’s West Coast road trip features two games in Oakland, and three in Anaheim over the weekend. In that time, Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehara will be back in the fold, so the help is beginning to come back.
We’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.