There are a number of different ways one could approach the Rangers lineup this year. On one hand the Rangers have the third highest batting average as a team in Major League Baseball hitting at a cumulative clip of .264. On the other hand the Rangers slide to 14th overall in team OPS at .715. The Rangers have benefited from impressive performances by Alex Rios, Rougned Odor, Chris Gimenez and more. Yet the Rangers have been hit by injuries to intended starters Prince Fielder, Geovani Soto, and Jurickson Profar. So how has the offense really done? Setting the Rangers aside next to the rest of Baseball helps us better examine what has and hasn’t worked out to this point.
First Base: Major League OPS – .770, Rangers OPS – .697 (Diff: -.073)
Here the Rangers have clearly suffered from Prince Fielder’s performance and injury (injury and performance?). The exact same can be said for Mitch Moreland. As a result, the Rangers have fallen to 23rd in baseball and Carlos Pena looms.
Second Base: Major League OPS – .685, Rangers OPS – .667 (Diff: -.018)
The Rangers rank a bit below league average and rank 20th overall. The conglomerate of Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson, Rougned Odor, and Luis Sardinas has worked out enough to keep the offensive output from the position afloat at least. Still, one has to wonder how Jurickson Profar would look now with 250 PA under his belt. Regardless, things are looking up as Roognod has played well and is genuinely exciting to watch play.
Shortstop: Major League OPS – .692, Rangers – .681 (Diff: -.011)
Despite being below league average, the Rangers rank 14th overall from this position suggesting outliers exist at the top of the shortstop heap (Troy Tulowitzki anyone?). Elvis is hitting well these days (.324 in his last ten games) but seems more destined to be a light hitting shortstop with other more valuable assets like his speed, play-making ability in the field, and charismatic influence in the clubhouse. Still, Elvis has already hit 18 doubles this year and is capable of streaking at the top of the order and sparking the lineup.
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Third Base: Major League OPS – .718, Rangers – .824 (Diff: +.106)
Here the Rangers sit 2nd in MLB thanks to Adrian Beltre (and Kevin Kouzmanoff in part). Not enough can be said about Beltre. He is in his age 35 season and continues to produce and support the offense at a position that is demanding defensively and one that not many teams are getting great production at these days. Hopefully Wash will have a chance to get Adrian a few more DH days down the stretch to give his legs a bit of a rest.
Left Field: Major League OPS – .733, Rangers – .677 (Diff: -.056)
This, to me, was the most surprising differential of all the positions. Despite Shin-Soo Choo’s slump I predicted the Rangers to have placed considerably higher from Left. This is not so primarily for two reasons: first, Choo has played just 46 of 72 games for the Rangers in left due to his bad ankle, second, Michael Choice has spent the most time in left otherwise. Choo has been nursing his ankle since a series early in the year and his performance has dropped off considerably of late (7 for 53 in June), the full correlation between his eroding performance and the bad ankle is largely unknown. Choice, despite being a talented, focused young player, has hit just .194 this year in 57 games. He will have to improve for the Rangers to get closer to league average production in left while Choo continues to try and ride out his injury.
Center Field: Major League OPS – .723, Rangers – .662 (Diff: -.061)
Leonys Martin has also had an increasingly tough year at the plate. His monthly OPS totals slide from .735 in April to .621 in May and finally .588 up until now in June. Martin has proven himself to be a strong defender with a great arm (14 assists last year and four until this point in 2014) and speed to be a weapon on the bases. For these reasons he is a valuable up the middle player but ideally he will eventually establish himself to be a stronger hitter at the plate.
Right Field: Major League OPS – .738, Rangers – .799 (Diff: +.061)
Alex Rios has done a great job this year being a constant in the lineup, helping to provide a core to the lineup, and getting on base consistently. Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Rios make a formidable middle of the lineup. Rios too plays a traditionally offense heavy position so he has done a good job (second highest positional OPS) to ensure the Rangers have a good bat in at a corner spot.
Catcher: Major League OPS – .701, Rangers – .664 (Diff: -.037)
The Rangers rank 21st here in OPS but they would have ranked a lot lower a few weeks ago and a decent amount higher should JP Arencibia not struggled so mightily while he was still around. Chris Gimenez and Robinson Chirinos have stepped up to keep the Catchers offensive output decent (and rising). Hopefully that trend continues throughout the summer.
Designated Hitter: American Leagues OPS – .757, Rangers – .783 (Diff: +.026)
Here, the Rangers data is skewed and benefits from Shin-Soo Choos injury. It also benefits from Mitch Moreland’s better play earlier on this season before his own ankle injury. Today, Michael Choice leads the depth chart at designated hitter so he, again, will have to improve over the course of his first big league summer for the Rangers to get that valuable output.
OPS is a generally crude but useful tool to utilize when taking a look at the Rangers’ performance this season. The Rangers were better than league average at three positions and worse than average at six. The biggest negative differential comes at first base (surprise, surprise) where injury woes have dominated this year. The Rangers have also failed to utilize the long ball this season, ranking 27th overall with 51 homeruns this year (Oakland has 93, Los Angeles has 82 for comparison). The power outage and lack of patience (20th in baseball with 204 walks, Oakland has 305 for reference) has me questioning Dave Magadan’s ability. Still, the Rangers offense has shown resilience this year. A veteran core of Choo, Beltre, and Rios are holding up a younger top and bottom that is still has a chance to become more cohesive and string together some really good performances. Lets hope one of those big performances comes tonight in Anaheim.