I know, I know. Many of you didn’t think it was possible for the Texas Rangers to be near the .500 mark when the month of May began. At 23-24, the bounce back has been more than just a surprise, especially after a 7-15 start to the season that saw the Rangers put up the worst batting average in the American League. Nevertheless, Jeff Banister‘s ball-club has responded, going 19-9 in May and were riding a nice 7 game win streak before losing 12-3 to Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon. This loss should be considered an anomaly, as this Texas team is much different than the one we saw in April. So, what has changed, and why are these Rangers looking like the Rangers of old?
I’ll start with the obvious. The Rangers have hit much better in May than in April. Prince Fielder, who leads the Rangers in every offensive category (average, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage), also leads the American League in batting average and has been on an absolute tear. Shin-Soo Choo, who at one point was batting a grim .096, is now batting a much more modest .233, belting five home runs in May. His ability to draw walks and consistently get on base is a reason he has found his way back to the top of the order.
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Mitch Moreland, who was on the Disabled List for the first week of May, has been a completely different player since returning and has been an absolute force at the dish. Batting .308 with 5HRs and 18 RBis, Moreland has steadied the middle of what used to be quite an unpredictable order.
Before Wednesday’s loss and during their 7 game win streak, Texas averaged just over 7 runs per game and hit for .301. In April, Texas had the worst offense in baseball and now, are ranked 5th in total runs at 209.
Next, we’ll look at pitching, starting with the most shocking performer of the season, Nick Martinez. The righty has started 9 games, going 6 innings or more in seven of them, and has an unblemished 4-0 record to go along with an ERA of 1.96, good enough for 2nd best in the American League. After an offseason and spring training that saw the Rangers lose Yu Darvish for the season and Derek Holland until at least June, Martinez has done his job and then some to keep the Rangers afloat until the cavalry arrives.
Others, like Colby Lewis and Wandy Rodriguez, have shown flashes of brilliance and for the most part have gotten the job done. Lewis has gone 4-3 and despite leading the team in strikeouts with 46, has an ERA of 4.70. Rodriguez, whom the Rangers signed back in April, has gone 2-2 in 7 starts but has looked dominant in some outings. If the Rangers pitching staff can harness consistency, by the time guys like Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison return from injury, we could have baseball to play come October.
Now, as I close please hold back the eyerolls. I’m not saying the Rangers are a championship caliber team or even a playoff contender. This club isn’t without flaws. The bullpen is a mess. Just a few nights ago on Sunday Night Baseball John Kruk said, “The Rangers don’t have labels in their bullpen,” and unfortunately, it’s true. There is no designated closer, especially with Neftali Feliz on the disabled list, and too many times the Rangers have squandered solid outings, especially from Yovani Gallardo, with spotty bullpen support. Elvis Andrus continues to be mediocre, despite collecting his 1,000th hit on Monday, and the second base position is still up for grabs, even though Delino DeShields is playing well.
When GM Jon Daniels began rebuilding a few years ago, he was committed. The Rangers front office bet on their youth, especially in the farm system. The last 2 seasons, it didn’t necessarily pay off. Now, for the first tine since their last playoff appearance, Texas appears to be trending in the right direction.