Apr 23, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez (33) celebrates after the win against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. The Texas Rangers defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
After sweeping the Oakland Athletics yesterday, the Texas Rangers are now in first place in the American League West. Your Texas Rangers also currently (as of this posting) hold the best record in the American League period.
So far the A.L. West is shaping up to be exactly as I had predicted on The Ranger Report podcast the day before the Texas Rangers Opening Day. I know there is still A LOT of baseball left to play, 140 regular season game for the Rangers to be exact. However, after today’s win I thought we’d go over the standings as of today.
FIRST PLACE: Texas Rangers (14-8)
After what many have considered a “plagued by injuries” start to the 2014 season that had every Texas Rangers fan hovering, if not pressing, the panic button I think we are breathing a bit easier tonight. Although the Rangers, like every other team in baseball will have their ups and downs, I am hoping for more ups than downs and a strong finish to the season.
Two of the biggest losses on the field have been Jurickson Profar at second base and Adrian Beltre at third. Wash brought in Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson to fill in at 2B and Kevin Kouzmanoff for Beltre.
My pick for “breakout player” of the Texas Rangers came as no surprise to anyone as I had picked Michael Choice. The few games (9) he played with the Oakland A’s in 2013 Choice looked pretty decent. When I was at Spring Training, I became more impressed with him. He showed up and worked hard to get a spot on the team. Michael Choice has proven that he deserves to be a Texas Ranger.
However, there have been a few pleasant surprises. When word came that Adrian Beltre would be placed on the DL and Kevin Kouzmanoff was called up I knew that the Rangers fans would fall in love with him. He has great defensive skills. Kouzmanoff does have a heavy swing, but he’s also a team player. He understands that the game, despite individual stats, is a team sport. He’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get the runs scored. Again, I witnessed this at Spring Training.
But, the two that have surprised me the most I must say have been Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson.
Donnie Murphy has 42 assists and turned 5 double plays at second base. In his 18 games played, Donnie Murphy has 4 runs in 12 hits which include 3 doubles and one home run. He has driven in 7 RBI with a batting line of .240/.310/.360 not too shabby for the 31 year old who is a temporary replacement.
I have heard fans laughing at the thought of ever saying “Josh Wilson helped the Texas Rangers” or “Josh Wilson helped the Texas Rangers win.” When in fact, Wilson has done just that. He has played at second base, third base and even shortstop for a total of 48 assists while turned 12 double plays with only 1 error while at 3B. Josh Wilson has 5 runs in 13 hits which include 2 doubles, 6 RBI and 1 stolen base. The kid has done everything he can to help the Rangers in their time of need.
SECOND PLACE: Oakland Athletics (13-8)
What can I say, I am EXTREMELY happy to be writing this. The A’s have had their fair share of injuries as well, although not to the extent of the Rangers. Many analysts had predicted that the Rangers and A’s were practically doomed for the entire season due to the injuries.
The Oakland Athletics started their season with 6 players on the DL: RHP Ryan Cook, CF Craig Gentry, RHP A.J. Griffin, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, RHP Jarrod Parker and RHP Fernando Rodriguez. Despite having also been bitten by the injury bug, the A’s have also risen above it and proved why they are Texas’ biggest challenge.
No surprise that my two “who to watch” picks, third baseman Josh Donaldson and outfielder Josh Reddick, are doing well. Donaldson is batting .269/.313/.484 and has already hit 4 homers. Reddick is batting decent with a line of .210/.290/.274 with one home run, but that isn’t why I chose him.
Josh Reddick is a fielding machine for Oakland. In spring training he looked like freaking Spider-Man in the outfield as he literally climbed the fence to catch should-have-but-I-just-robbed-you home runs. In 18 games this season he has 33 putouts in 34 chances and a fielding percentage of .971. Needless to say, he serves as a threat to those “just barely” homers for us.
For me, the biggest surprise coming out of Oakland so far has to be RHP Jesse Chavez. Entering his age 30 season, Chavez has bounced around between five different clubs since 2008. He made his 3rd career start this season but is already showing that you shouldn’t count him out yet. Jesse Chavez has now started 4 games for the A’s and is ranked #2 in lowest ERA at 1.38. In his 26.0 innings pitched his current line is 19 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 HR, 5 BB, 28 K’s. I’m very impressed and yet very worried. Given his age though, I’m not sure how long Chavez will keep at this pace.
THIRD PLACE: Los Angeles Angels (10-11)
Here’s the thing about the Los Angeles Angels their payroll. According to ESPN.com the Angels’ current team salary is $127,062,000. That seems a bit high considering they are in 3rd place. However, they have quality players but can’t figure out a way to win.
It is a bit shocking that the Angels have Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, Josh Hamilton, Howie Kendrick, and David Freese and yet are currently just three and half games in front of the Houston Astros.
Albert Pujols has been playing like everyone expected him to…last year. Granted Pujols did play in pain throughout last season, but he has come back this season rearing to go. Albert Pujols just joined the 500 Home Run Club on April 22, 2014. Many of us at NolanWritin.com imagined that he would have a much better season than he did in 2013 and if he stays healthy he should continue to do well.
I think we all felt that Josh Hamilton would also make a comeback this season. On a personal level I really want Hamilton to be successful; however, on a baseball competition level I want him to play great, but not too great and stay healthy. With that said, it appears Josh Hamilton just can’t catch a break out in Anaheim. As you probably have heard, he had to have surgery on his left thumb due to a torn ligament he suffered while SLIDING INTO FIRST BASE. Yes, that’s correct. He slid into first base. I can’t say anything else about this.
Mike Trout is already a superstar at age 22. We know this. He’s batting .315 with 5 home runs, 7 doubles, 2 stolen bases and 14 RBI. With the amount of injuries on the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, I am amazed at the fact they are performing this poorly. On the 20th the Los Angeles Angels committed 3 errors on ONE play against the Detroit Tigers. Hopefully, for them, they can get it together and play like everyone has expected them to.
FOURTH PLACE: Seattle Mariners (8-13)
Lloyd McClendon became the Seattle Mariners 18th manager in club history. Unfortunately for the skipper, the team isn’t off to a great start. The Mariners are 5.5 games back of first place and just one and half games in front of the Houston Astros.
Before they won their game against the Astros last night the Seattle Mariners were on an 8-game losing streak. However, they do have an Ace starter and an Ace closer in Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney. They also have Robinson Cano who should start hitting REALLY well now that they are back at home. (The Mariners have only had 8 home games this season.)
With that said, McClendon still has some kinks to work out in his lineup if he wants a chance to finish above fourth.
LAST PLACE: Houston Astros (7-15)
This really isn’t a surprise to anyone, I hope. The Houston Astros are in rebuilding mode. The Astros had the youngest roster on Opening Day. According to Baseball Prospectus the Houston Astros have the 5th best farming system, which is a scary thought especially since bringing on Nolan Ryan.
Although in last place I have been surprised by some of their players.
Before being put on the DL, RHP Scott Feldman had 4 game starts. In 26.2 innings pitched he gave up only 16 hits earning 5 runs while striking out 9 and have a 1.69 ERA. I don’t recall him pitching this well when he played for Texas.
In the outfield I’ve been impressed with L.J. Hoes. Although he’s only batting .188, he has been very helpful to the Astros when it comes to outs. Hoes has a fielding percentage of 1.000 with 20 putouts in 21 chances and 1 assist.
Although I don’t think it’s likely that the Houston Astros will finish above last place, I do believe that their winning percentage will increase and that in the coming years we should all be on the lookout.
So, there you have it. Your Texas Rangers are in first with the best record in the league. Although it’s inevitable that they will bounce back and forth, I remain optimistic that the Rangers will finish the season as the Division Champions! I will continue to enjoy this day with my favorite team at the top in FIRST PLACE and I hope you will do the same.