The Texas Rangers’ Infield Problem


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers’ infield is a problem. The Rangers’ outfielders have been superb and the pitching has held its own until recently. This infield, however, is a problem. It has underperformed across the board. Comparing the three mainstays of the infield, Prince Fielder, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre to their major league counterparts highlights this franchise’s infield struggles in 2014. The Texas Rangers have had a lot of injury trouble and that has undoubtedly held them back but had these three played more like their usual selves this team would be well over .500 and would be challenging Oakland.

Prince Fielder has been particularly bad over the course of the season. His wins above replacement (WAR) (Fangraphs) is -0.4 making him the fourth worst first baseman with at least 50 plate appearances. His wRC+ is 75 and is the sixth worst number among first baseman. The Rangers hoped that the addition of Fielder to the lineup would be a serious improvement but the big guy has simply let us down. Strangely enough Prince’s defense has been above average. His overall defensive rating from Fangraphs is negative but is also the tenth best among qualified first baseman. His ultimate zone rating (UZR), which measures a player’s range, is positive and also tenth among first baseman.

Fielder has been a little better over the last two weeks. His WAR has been 0, meaning he has been exactly replacement level. That makes Fielder a very expensive bench caliber player. Fielder is still in the bottom ten of first baseman by WAR over the last two week period. Prince’s wRC+ climbed to 94 but this is still good for 4th worst. Prince has improved just to reach major league average offensively, which is still far below what is expected of a first baseman.

Elvis Andrus got off to a decent start but has been slumping lately. His season long WAR is 0.5 and good for 17th among qualified shortstops. Both the WAR and the ranking are respectable but hardly what Texas was hoping to get in exchange for 100 million dollars. Andrus’s wRC+ is 81 and ranks 27th of 50 qualified shortstops. Andrus’s defensive rating from Fangraphs is 0.8 which 16th of 27 qualified shortstops. This is disappointingly low for a glove first guy like Elvis. Texas knows his offense will be average at best but they are looking for him to be a stud

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

defensively and he has not been that in 2014. The obvious conclusion would be Elvis’s unusually high number of errors would be the factor driving down his defensive rating. This, however, seems not to be the case. Andrus’s UZR is negative at -0.9 and is only 16th of 27 shortstops. Everything in Andrus’s game right now points to him being pedestrian. He has been average at best all year. The last two weeks have been no different with Elvis. He is 17th of 26 in WAR and 18th of 26 in wRC+.

Somehow Adrian Beltre has been even more disappointing than Fielder and Andrus so far in 2014. Beltre has been a consistent producer for Texas. This is his team and he has been letting them down so far in 2014. His WAR is -0.2 and just six spots away from being the worst number in baseball among third baseman. His wRC+ is 84 and 28th of 43 third baseman.

Interestingly, Mike Olt is 27th in wRC+ and his WAR is three spots better than Beltre’s. Olt was dealt away last year in one of the worst deals of Jon Daniels’s career. It is always fun when former Rangers immediately outperform the guys who are still on the team. Of course in this case it is even worse because the Rangers presumably dealt away Olt in order to win now. Perhaps the worst part of Beltre’s season is his atrocious defense. It is obvious while watching Beltre that he has lost a step. He has not been getting to the same balls he used to.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers bear this out. Beltre’s Fangraphs defensive rating is -3.1; third worst in baseball.  His UZR is also third worst. Beltre is perennial gold glover and one of the steadiest defenders in baseball. This year though he has really struggled and has been a terrible on both sides of the ball.

Beltre’s past two weeks are nearly as bad. Beltre is second worst in WAR over the past two weeks at -0.3 with only Trevor Plouffe having a worse two weeks. Over this same period Beltre’s wRC+ is 52 which is 5th worst among qualified third basemen.

The Texas Rangers currently stand in fourth place in the AL West with a .500 record. This is fortunate given that three of their biggest stars and the core of their infield has been terrible. These players have been a complete disaster. It is nearly unbelievable that Texas is even remotely in the race for the division given their infield meltdown. Even more distressing is that none of these three really seem to showing much improvement. All of them have had to improve just to approach being average starters.

This analysis should make Rangers fans both excited and nervous. On one hand, if these three do not bounce back and be the players they have been over their career, this season is likely to be doomed. Without Beltre, Fielder and Andrus playing the kind of baseball they are capable of, this team will find it impossible to win the AL West. On the other hand, the Rangers have treaded water effectively and remain within striking distance of Oakland despite having three top flight stars not performing at all. Players with track records tend to adjust and play to their potential over time. Prince, Elvis and Adrian will catch fire soon and carry this team back to the top of the West. Have hope Rangers Republic this team is going to bounce back, get healthy and make a big run.