And so it’s done.
After winning a meaningless exhibition game filled by two rosters of kinda-but-not-really All-Star’s, the American League secured a 3-0 shutout win to give themselves home-field advantage in the World Series. Because that’s the way MLB rolls and This Time It Counts.
A couple days ago I wrote a piece explaining the state of the Rangers’ rotation in the 1st half. This article will be of the same concept, except this time I’ll be talking about the lineup.
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If we view the Ranger offense through an objective lens, we’re looking literally at a league-average unit in 2013, per FanGraphs. Of 30 Major League teams, the Rangers rank 15th in fWAR (+11.3), and collectively have hit .260/.321/.418 (96 wRC+).
Has there been precipitous decline in the 2013 production of Elvis Andrus and David Murphy? Most definitely. Have the 1st-half injuries to Ian Kinsler, Jeff Baker, and Craig Gentry cost the team a few wins? Sure, probably. But with the departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and to a much lesser extent, Michael Young, one could easily argue that this is the offense that more or less was expected from the Rangers in 2013.
Adrian Beltre (+3.3 fWAR) has generated the most production, and I shudder to think where the team would be today without his .316/.358/.543 (139 wRC+) in the lineup everyday. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, Beltre’s defense (+0.7) has taken a minor step in the backwards direction, but with how important his bat is to the middle of the order, his defense becomes forgivable, if not totally negligible.
Nelson Cruz has also been vital. To date he sits at .277/.334/.517 (124 wRC+), and his 22 HR’s lead the team. On the year he’s accumulated +1.4 fWAR — meaning he’s on pace for roughly +2.0-2.5 wins in 2013 — but again, we’re talking about a guy — because of his presence in a weak lineup — who has probably been worth more to the Rangers than cumulative stats like Wins Above Replacement seem to indicate.
Aside those standouts, Texas is ultimately a collection of hitters hovering anywhere from slightly below average, to slightly above average. And what’s funny about the Rangers, is that they seem to get more offensive production from non-traditional “power positions” on the diamond; for example:
Ian Kinsler’s 114 wRC+ is a figure you’d take from your 2nd baseman all day.
Leonys Martin — who is currently 2nd on the Rangers in fWAR at +1.6 — has provided a wRC+ of 102 from the defensive-heavy CF position.
Even A.J. Pierzynski has a wRC+ of 101. And he’s like 57 years old.
The point is, these numbers aren’t sexy. Hell, they probably aren’t even worth mentioning. But I did anyway, and did so because that has essentially been the blueprint of the 2013 Ranger offense: Supplement production from a few key positions and disperse it equitably throughout the entire order.
The two rotten apples in the 2013 have undeniably been David Murphy and Elvis Andrus. I don’t particularly care if Murph goes to church every Sunday and is a fantastic human being, and I don’t care if Elvis plays patty-cake with Adrian Beltre during popups in the infield (I mean, yeah, it is pretty fucking cool to watch; I’m not gonna lie). But this is strictly about 2013 production;
I think we can all agree that David Murphy’s .304/.380/.479 (128 wRC+) from 2012 was an aberration, yes? His BABIP last year was .333; that helps. This year he’s sitting at .219/.278/.373 (70 wRC+), and would you guess that his BABIP has trended in the opposite direction? Because it has. It’s .221 on the season.
Since we’re still on the topic of bad news, let’s get to Elvis Andrus! If you thought Murph-dawg’s line left something to be desired, then you can just skip this paragraph if you want. Andrus’s slash line reads .242/.300/.280 (54 wRC+), and his wRC+ is 2nd-lowest in all of baseball (behind, or in front of, depending how you look at it, Jeff Keppinger). Elvis’s primary value has been and always will be in his defense and speed, and yeah, his 19 SB’s and +5.2 UZR don’t completely go unnoticed. But although his speed is good, it’s not a weapon if he’s not getting on base, and although his glove is very good, it’s not elite;
Elvis’s secondary tools are not good enough to where he can get away with hitting for what essentially amounts to nothing at the plate.
All told, if the empirical data suggests Murphy and Andrus are better than this, then I’m rolling with that. I won’t say I expect big 2nd half’s from either player, but easily better than they’ve shown. If all else fails, you can just use the logic that says it can’t get any worse. Because it can’t. It just can’t.
The one question that remains is: Where do we go from here?
First and foremost, it will be a major help to get Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry back in the lineup. The Rangers have been starving for right-handed bats, as they’ve been forced to use left-handed platoon hitters like Murphy and Mitch Moreland in the everyday rotation.
Once Baker returns, he should platoon everyday with Moreland at 1B; once Gentry returns, slide Leonys Martin into LF, play Craig in CF, and have Murph join Mitch on the bench. That is how the Rangers maximize their assets with the roster as it currently stands.
The DH is also interesting. With Lance Berkman‘s status on the team being indefinite, to say the least, it appears the Rangers will continue rotating Jurickson Profar around the diamond, giving an occasional half-day off to Beltre, Andrus and Kinsler in the process. And sure, Profar will get his random starts in the OF.
Don’t expect Manny Ramirez anytime soon.
That leaves us to the trade market. If I had to handicap the odds of the Rangers acquiring some sort of bench help, I would say somewhere close to 90%. If you asked me to handicap the odds of Texas acquiring an impact bat, the odds would be dramatically less. Maybe 10 or 12%. But that’s really to say there just isn’t very much out there.