Over the course of this strange, arguably uneventful offseason, I’ve loosely chronicled what it would take to bring this Rangers team from around the 80-82 win benchmark, up into the position where we could comfortably say making the postseason is realistic. That was before Zack Greinke slipped away to Los Angeles, before Josh Hamilton sold his soul to the Angels, before Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara and Mike Adams signed elsewhere, and even before everyone’s unimpeachable hero, Michael Young, was traded away to the Phillies.
Oh, the places you will go.
At the time of the article, I opined that Texas was In Search Of 15 Wins. My presupposition dictated to me that, since the Rangers lost roughly 12.0 fWAR off a 93-win team, we were basically a .500 team if we’d made no other adjustments before the start of the regular season. Obviously operating at between $20-$30 million under the perceived budget, Jon Daniels was going to have to do something, and he since has.
Away from the two relievers he’s inked — Joakim Soria (2 years, $8 million) and Jason Frasor (1 year, $1.5 million) — the only main signings have come by way of 1-year contracts to mid-to-late 30-something year-old veterans, catcher A.J. Pierzynski ($7.5 million) and DH Lance Berkman ($10-$11 million, depending on the source).
To look at the value Pierzynski and Berkman are expected to offer, we first must look at the players they will primarily be replacing. Last year, Mike Napoli (2.0 fWAR), Yorvit Torrealba (0.0 fWAR), Geovany Soto (-0.2 fWAR) and Luis Martinez (-0.3 fWAR) created a net gain of 1.5 Wins Above Replacement. In the 2012 interval, Pierzynski — by himself — generated a WAR of 3.4. So you could say, theoretically, that A.J. should be an upgrade of about 2 wins in 2013.
The problem with a hypothetic is that it isn’t reality. Reality says that your best bet on Pierzynski is that he’s about a 2.0-2.5 fWAR player in 2013, which would still be an upgrade of about a win. We’ll take that. Conflate that by platooning he and Geovany Soto versus righties and lefties, and that’s where the extra win (hopefully) comes from. 3.0-3.5 wins from our catching tandem will be greatly appreciated next season.
Secondly we’re looking at Lance Berkman, who figures to see the most limited field action for a Rangers designated hitter since Vladimir Guerrero played here three years ago. That’s the problem when you employ athletes with glass knees.
Berkman will be replacing Michael Young, who was statistically the least valuable player in the Major Leagues in 2012, accumulating a putrid -1.4 fWAR. If Berkman gets on base at a reasonable .360-.380 clip, and pops 15-20 home runs, he should stand to generate something in the range of 2.0 WAR. The net gain of having Berkman > Young would be somewhere between 3.5-4.0 wins.
If you add the expected gains of having Berkman, along with a catching duo of Pierzynski and Soto, the Rangers will add on roughly 6-7 wins to the projected 81-win total. If Frasor and Soria combine for something between 1.5-2.0 wins, Texas will then be looking at a near-90 win season.
For what it’s worth, before the Berkman signing, Dan Symborski’s ZIPS projection had the Rangers at 87 wins. This computer-generated paradigm also included Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt as part of its prognostication, so make of it what you will. It’s certainly worth the five minutes to read.
Even at that, the Rangers appear to be just short of the postseason. As it stands, 88-90 wins will certainly make us a legitimate threat to at least get our hands on a wild card, but with the new 5-team playoff format, we know wild cards aren’t as valuable as division wins, since we’re basically at the mercy of the dreaded short sample of a one-game playoff. We experienced this last year.
To me, and I’ve been preaching this since August, Justin Upton is our ticket to the postseason in 2013. He would safely add between 3.0-5.0 wins, which would bring us closer to a division title than a wild card berth.
At least that’s how I see things.