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The 2014 season is largely irrelevant to the upcoming 2015 season for the Texas Rangers. One should not determine the necessary improvements for 2015 based on the team’s 2014 season performance. By now any serious Rangers fan does not need to be reminded of what an aberration the 2014 season was. Outside of the potential lingering injuries, or players proving to be injury prone, there is little learn from 2014 that we did not already know.
Often analysts will start by taking a team’s performance from a previous year and then extrapolate that performance into the next season. A phrase you might hear this offseason is, “The Mariners finished 87-75 and one game out of the wild card. They need to find a couple more wins this offseason.” The author/commentator might then go on to say they need to upgrade at shortstop or add a power bat to the outfield.
This is very reasonable.
Usually, a team’s past performance is a good starting place for estimating their future performance. Not so with the Texas Rangers. Your Rangers were 67 and 95, meaning the same analyst would say the Rangers need to find at least 21 more wins this offseason, meaning Texas could break the bank; land Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Rameriez, Yasmani Tomas, and still come up short. Based on giving Tomas 2 WAR and then replacing Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch, all of the DHs, Andrus, and Alex Rios that amounts to a 19.7 WAR improvement. (numbers via Fangraphs) This would give the 2015 Rangers an 87 win (rounding up) campaign. They would finish a game out of the second wild card and get blown away by the Angels in the division race.
Let me preempt the coming comments about trading Andrus, converting Tepesch and Martinez and so on, by saying my point with this rough calculation is to point out how much the Rangers would need to do to find 20 more wins based on WAR next season; not to precisely estimate what the improvement in wins might be if the Rangers landed all of the high profile free agents.
Imagine that Jon Daniels really did land all five of the top free agents. Would you really expect that team to not make the playoffs? Of course you would. Using last year’s wins to project next year’s wins ignores the flukish nature of the 2014 season. 2015 should feature full seasons, or at least a normal rate of injuries, from many key players including some of the best players on team such as; Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Prince Fielder, and Shin-Soo Choo. If these four players were free agents this offseason they would be considered top free agents and Texas is essentially adding them to the roster in 2015.
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Let’s be clear about what is being said here. The 2014 season happened, and it will effect 2015. Martin Perez and Matt Harrison could be gone for 2015. Prince Fielder may never recover. Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross may be ruined. Obviously, the damage to the roster from 2014 will have lingering effects but between getting players back and a different use of those players, the 2015 season should not resemble the 2014 season. You simply cannot use the number of wins from this past season as a starting place to evaluate the potential of 2015.
To paraphrase Nassim Taleb; the random history that occurs is not the necessarily the most relevant one. If the 2014 season were redone the Texas Rangers would not finish with 67 wins. They would have far more. The 2014 Texas Rangers could have easily been in contention in September with a normal rate of injuries.
If the Rangers fix left field and add a middle of the rotation pitcher they could easily be right back in the hunt for the West Division crown.