There have been many attempts to explain the reasoning behind the Texas Rangers and their surprising turnaround in May. The Rangers are hovering around .500 after they had a seven game win streak snapped by the Cleveland Indians. The potential reasons include the return of Mitch Moreland, other players on the team starting to hit better, and mixing up of the bullpen highlighted by Shawn Tolleson at closer.
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Baseball is a game that requires incredible talent and hours upon hours of practice to reach the MLB. Even with all the talent and practice in the world, a player to the majors if they do not have a little bit of luck on their side. There are times a player could hit a ball 400 feet only to have an outfielder make a highlight play and rob them of a home run. Alternatively, a player could make weak contact on a ball that barely dribbles into the outfield by somehow finding a way through the infielders. In these examples, the player that hits the ball 400 feet gets an out and a lower batting average while the other player gets on base and has a higher batting average.
Another potential answer to the question is one that could be good for the team or bad is that the Rangers simply have had a little more luck in the month of May. This could be good because as long as they continue to have good luck they can continue to win and be successful. The bad news is that luck will usually run out and could leave the Rangers back where they were in April. If the Rangers are able to hold on to at least a small amount of this luck, they should be able to keep on winning and keep improving.
The best way to demonstrate the luck the Rangers have experience is with their Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). BABIP is similar to batting average but only counts when a player hits the ball in play. A simply formula for BABIP is can be found here. Using BABIP is helpful to be able to see how lucky a hitter has been based on if they have a higher or lower BABIP than league average. Players with a higher BABIP often have had a bit of luck where hits may be falling for them for a variety of reasons that may not be falling for others.
May 24, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Delino DeShields (7) bats against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
According to team data from FanGraphs, the Rangers were last in the MLB in March and April combined with a .248 BABIP which was .098 lower than the leading Kansas City Royals. The Rangers have found their lucky charm in May, having a .317 BABIP for the month which is good enough for third in the league. An additional good example of the variety of BABIP is the Royals, who have had a .286 BABIP in May which is 21st in the majors.
On the season, the Rangers have a .286 BABIP, which is good enough for 22nd overall and sixth in the American League and is just below the league average .292. It would probably not be a surprise to many of you that among the qualifying hitters on the team, the leader is Prince Fielder with a .385 BABIP and is followed closely by rookie Delino DeShields at .367. Most would also not be surprised with the below average BABIPs of the team, including Rougned Odor’s .188 and Leonys Martin’s .243 BABIP. A surprising number would be Adrian Beltre’s .265 BABIP as he has not had a BABIP below .270 since 2003 when he was just 24 years old but has still managed to have success.
A positive note for several players under the average value, including Odor, Martin, Elvis Andrus, and Shin-Soo Choo is that they could all be just a little luck away from turning their season around. The downside of the high values is that it may be difficult for the players like Fielder, DeShields, and Moreland to keep up their high levels of play. The addition of Josh Hamilton will hopefully add a bit of luck for this team that will push them above .500 and continue to climb the standings to catch the division leading Houston Astros.