Rangers Begrudgingly Snap Losing Streak


See, why can’t every game look so easy?

The Rangers ended a brutal 7-game losing streak — spanning three teams, two sweeps, and obviously some very ugly baseball — defeating the Rays 7-1 on Tuesday night. The unassuming troika of Ian Kinsler (12), Elvis Andrus (3) and Leonys Martin (8) all went deep, and Alexi Ogando provided 5.0 solid innings and arguably the 69 most important regular season pitches of his career.

In an attempt not to overdose on hyperbole, this was probably the biggest win of the Rangers season to date.

i-17The scoring got started on the game’s opening pitch, a Jeremy Hellickson fastball that Ian Kinsler leaned on and deposited into the left field seats (because what other direction is Kins going to hit the ball?). With a 1-0 lead, and the vague promise that Texas might hold on once they possessed it — for the first time since beating the Angels two Sundays ago — I was slowly becoming engaged in a Rangers game. Shocking, I know.

In his second at bat, Kinsler delivered the Rangers’ 2nd and 3rd runs of the game, ripping a single to center to score Mitch Moreland and Leonys Martin. The next hitter, Elvis Andrus, bombed away to left-center for his 3rd homer of the year, and at 5-0 it was a form of the “floodgates opening” that has become completely foreign to Ranger fans this season.

Being the Ian Kinsler apologist that I am, I still don’t think there’s a way I can frame his 2013 season in a light other than “disappointing” or “underwhelming.” I can cycle through all the tepid language at my disposal, but in the end all I am really describing is a bland, average year. Compared to his 2012 — where he finished at a pedestrian .256/.326/.423 (100 wRC+) — Ian now sits at .273/.338/.404 (also a 100 wRC+). Essentially, he has a marginally higher on-base percentage and marginally lower slugging percentage in 2013.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a 2nd baseman who hits league-average, but when you consider this is Ian Kinsler we are talking about — who posted wRC+’s of 102, 108, 133, 105, 114 and 123 between 2006 and 2011 — then it’s hard not to expect more. While 2012 was almost universally viewed as an aberration, it now may be looking like this is the hitter Ian Kinsler will be moving forward. Again, there is nothing especially problematic about an average offensive player, however, with Jurickson Profar going from no-shit shortstop of the future to franchise’s 2nd baseman of the future (now that Elvis Andrus is extended longterm), Kinsler’s shift to 1st base in 2014 seems inevitable, a position where offensive production is required more than any other on the diamond. A 100 wRC+ doesn’t do the trick.

I say this as a mild precaution moving forward, but right now the only thing that matters is that Ian Kinsler is still one of the team’s most reliable bats, and if the Rangers are to maintain their current stake as one of the American League’s two wild card teams, Ian will need to produce as he produced tonight against the Rays.

Other noteworthy performances on Tuesday came from Leonys Martin, who went 3-4 with two doubles and a home run, and Elvis Andrus, who went 2-3 with a homer, a walk, and 3 runs driven in. The Rangers 9, 1 and 2 hitters combined to go 7-12 with 3 HRs, 2 2Bs, and all 7 of the team’s RBI. The rest of the lineup was 3-28.

Alexi Ogando reportedly had a strict 65-pitch limit, though it appeared he was running out of gas as early as the 3rd. With men on 1st and 2nd and only one out, he retired the final two hitters in the 3rd, and managed to efficiently throw two more frames unscathed.

The bullpen was lights out, with Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan throwing 4 shutout innings while only surrendering 2 hits. It was a reasonable facsimile of what the postseason is going to look like if the Rangers happen to make it.

With Cleveland’s win in Kansas City, the Rangers and Rays are only a half-game in front in the wild card race, making these next two games in St. Petersburg all the more critical.

Tomorrow Derek Holland looks to turn his September around facing off against Chris Archer.

 

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Wednesday, Aug 2727 Aug12:40at Seattle MarinersBuy Tickets

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  • primi_timpano

    Nice to see the Rangers play well and win. I hope it continues.

    You also write about Kinsler’s seemingly lackluster season,
    noting that his current OPS+ is the same as he earned last year. I believe a central component of Kinsler’s
    individual decline, as well as that of the team, rests with poor
    baserunning. In 2012 the Rangers posted
    a 7.0 UBR, fourth in MLB and second in the AL (behind the LAA’s 11.1. This year is not so good. The Rangers are 25 in MLB at -7.1 (yes,
    negative).

    So what happened?

    First, Hamilton is not here producing 4.8 of UBR. Kinsler has also declined, with a 2013 UBR of 0.9, versus the 4.7 UBR posted in 2012. Other significant player differences in UBR between ’12 and ’13 are as
    follows:

    Murphy –2.5

    Moreland –2.1

    Soto –4.4 (how on only about 165 PAs?)

    Andrus +1.1

    Neg MY +1.0

    Neg Yorvit +1.8

    Baker –2.2

    AJP –2.5

    Berkman –1.3

    Leonys +2.6

    Note, these are the differences between the last two seasons.

    Kinsler’s SB success rate in 2012 was 21/30 (.70); in 2013
    it is 14/24 (58.3%).

    Overhanging these running and hitting deficiencies is the
    question what time of a team should the Rangers build? We are used to the ampped up power stats attributable to the RBiA and its jet stream, but apparently changes to the stadium may be responsible for dissipating our El Nino. If this is a permanent change, the days of the low OBA power hitter may be gone and the Rangers will have to decide how much they wish to focus on among power hitters, OBA batters, speed and defense. Right now both the speed and power are down. JD has to decide the kind of team will be best
    in Arlington and competitive on the road.

    • Eric Reining

      Interesting. I don’t personally use OPS+, or OPS as a stat, because I don’t like OPS+ very much.

      The baserunning is something I hadn’t considered. Good stuff.

      • primi_timpano

        I still don’t understand UBR enough to understand Soto’s horrific UBR with so few PAs. Is not UBR a counting stat?

        I also wonder to what extent Wash’s running/bunting proclivities contribute to this year’s poor UBR.