Are Former Rangers Making Texas Look Bad?
By Lee Stitzel
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Watching the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians this weekend was an interesting and painful experience for a Texas Rangers’ fan. No other team seems to have as many former Texas Rangers as the Orioles. The Indians also have a former fan favorite in Arlington; David Murphy. Both Murphy and Nelson Cruz, now of the Orioles, terrorized the Texas Rangers over the past seven games. Each hit a homerun against Texas and came up with big hits. Watching the Rangers play Murphy and Cruz had to remind Rangers’ fans of all the talented former Rangers now playing for other clubs. Rangers’ fans might even be inclined to question the decision making of the front office.
The Rangers have lost many players over the last three years. Some of them are inconsequential. Some players are retired; some injured and some are not playing meaningful roles or even playing in the majors. However, there are more than a few ex-Rangers that are making large impacts for their current teams. Given that the series with the Indians has concluded it seems an appropriate time to check in on some notable ex-Rangers.
The list of ex-Rangers even from only the three previous years is incredible. It includes former All-Stars, and even MVPs. Players like Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Mike Napoli, Chris Davis, Koji Uehara, Scott Feldman, and Matt Garza have all moved on from Texas despite being stars. To be fair, some of them did not play well for the Rangers.
Three years ago the Rangers lost C.J. Wilson and Chris Davis. Davis did not seem like a big loss at the time but has since made the Rangers look very foolish by hitting 33 homeruns in 2012 and a massive 53 in 2013. Wilson has been quietly solid for the Angels posting a 3.83 ERA followed by a 3.39 last season.
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Losses from two years ago include, Josh Hamilton, Koji Uehara, Scott Feldman, and Mike Napoli. Hamilton was a big loss for the Rangers in the 2012-2013 offseason. Much to the delight of Rangers’ fans around the world Hamilton struggled in 2013. He had only a 250 average but a passable 104 wRC+. This year, Hamilton had been crushing the ball until his finger injury sidelined him for several weeks. Hamilton was hitting at an unsustainable 220 wRC+ clip before the injury, and was on pace to have a great year. Injury has always been a problem with Hamilton so whether the Rangers will regret him likely depends on how much time he actually spends on the field.
Koji has been the best closer in baseball since he won the job by default part way through the 2013 season. He is 39 of 41 in save opportunities since he took the job and thus far in 2014 has an insane 0.68 ERA. Koji was awful for Texas down the stretch in 2011, so much so he did not make a playoff appearance, although he was much better in 2012. Since moving on from Texas Koji has been a top notch reliever. Scott Feldman has been better since leaving Texas but by no means was he stellar. His ERA was 5.09 with Texas and has had 3.86 and 4.12 ERAs since.
Mike Napoli was a legend in Texas for the 2011 season. He had perhaps the best half season in the history of baseball and followed up with a decent 2012 campaign. His championship campaign in 2013 was better than his 2012 season as a Ranger but not as good as his 2011 season. So far in 2014 Napoli has been even better than in 2013.
This past off-season’s losses, Cruz, Kinsler, Murphy, Joe Nathan, A. J. Pierzinski, Mike Olt, and Craig Gentry have almost to a man made the Rangers regret parting with them. Cruz has made the most noise by leading the majors in homeruns and RBIs. His defense has been awful as usual but Cruz just does not seem to be cooling off like he usually does. For those not watching Texas on a regular basis over the past few years Cruz has always had hot streaks where he was the best hitter in the AL but it would only last a few weeks and then he would spend a month in a slump. However, this year has held no such slump for the slugger.
Kinsler’s production has also been around his career production since the beginning of the season. He started incredibly hot but his 2014 wRC+ of 113 is in line with his career 111. David Murphy is having a nice season for the Cleveland Indians. His wRC+ is well above his career numbers at 123, compared to his usual 104. He is on pace to have roughly the same number of long balls as his final season with Texas.
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Craig Gentry has played approximately to his usual level, hitting with below average overall production but stealing bases at a healthy clip. A. J. Pierzinksi has also been near his career average 93 wRC+, everything except his homeruns are on a pace to be around last year’s production. One interesting Rangers’ loss is Mike Olt. Olt has flashed power with 9 homeruns, but his average is a paltry 158 and his OBP is similarly bad at 237. Joe Nathan’s struggles have been well documented as he sports a 7.04 ERA with a -0.2 WAR.
Murphy’s and Cruz’s hot starts have made Rangers’ fans question the decisions made by the front office. It may be a valid concern given that Jon Daniels has missed horribly on Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and Chris Davis. However, Kinsler, Gentry, Wilson, Garza, Feldman, Pierzinski and other small pieces have performed as expected and although those are good players their losses were expected. It may not be fun to hear but Texas knew what it was letting go with Kinsler, Garza and others. It is valid for fans to question these decisions but that is a question for another day. On the other hand, Daniels looks vindicated about Joe Nathan and Josh Hamilton, if that is any sort of consolation.
In the end, teams like the Texas Rangers teams of the Rangers’ golden era end up losing many great players because it is impossible to hold onto that many top players. It is tough to blame the Rangers’ front office for not holding on to all those players but given that some new additions to the team have struggled it hurts when ex-Rangers outperform their current Texas counterparts. I would implore fellow Rangers fanatics to not judge the front office too harshly, the losses look worse than they are because of the freakish number of injuries Texas has sustained in 2014. With any luck the Rangers will be healthy in 2015 and we will be reminded why Texas does not need these former Rangers.