With third baseman Adrian Beltre on the disabled list for at least two weeks, the largest vulnerability in the Texas Rangers lineup could easily be exploited. Manager Jeff Baister’s batting order is almost entirely dependent upon the production of left-handed hitters and with the lineup’s only true right-handed threat out, the production the team enjoyed at the plate during May might be lost in June.
The performance the Rangers are getting from left-handed regulars, DH Prince Fielder, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Mitch Moreland, CF Leonys Martin and LF Josh Hamilton dwarfs the output of right-handers currently in the daily linup (SS Elvis Andrus, OF Delino DeShields, INF Adam Rosales, C Robinson Chirinos, C Carlos Corporan and INF Hanser Alberto.)
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The lefties in the current lineup have hit 27 homeruns: Fielder (10), Choo (7), Moreland (5), Martin (3) and Hamilton (2). Meanwhile, the right-handed hitters have just 11 total: Chirinos (5), Rosales (3), Andrus (2) and Corporan (1). Even if we were to add Beltre’s six homers, the team’s primary right-handed hitters would still have ten fewer long balls than their teammates that stand in the other batter’s box.
The problem extends beyond just power. The previously mentioned left-handers are hitting .281 while the every-day righties are hitting a meager .250 (including Alberto’s average of .364 which is inflated by the fact that he’s played in only 3 games).
The top five left-hand hitters currently on the active roster are responsible for 98 RBI (19.6 per player) while the active righties have only 61 RBI (12.2 per player). It is easy to see that the team’s production has been too one-sided and while adding Beltre’s numbers to the output of the righties doesn’t make a tremendous difference it does negatively change the look of the lineup.
The Rangers have now lost their most dangerous and only middle-of-the-order right-handed bat, meaning that Banister now must decide whether to hit lefties Choo, Fielder, Hamilton, and Morleand in the 2-5 spots making late-inning bullpen decisions elementary for opposing managers or put a weaker hitting righty in a run-producing role just to balance the order.
Andrus has had his opportunity to hit second this year and he did not capitalize, eventually being moved to the bottom half of the order. Texas could put Rosales behind Fielder or Hamilton but that would essentially guarantee pitchers would work around the sluggers knowing Rosales is unlikely to make them pay for pitching carefully. Chirinos does not make enough quality contact to be trusted in situations with numerous men on base and even if the wildest fantasies of Texas’ fans comes true and the team’s top minor league prospect Joey Gallo is the next coming of Babe Ruth, he is also a lefty which does not alleviate the problem.
In the upcoming three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, Texas will see two southpaw starters including Chris Sale, one of baseball’s best lefties who enters his start on Wednesday at 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA and 66 strikeouts in only 59 innings pitched. The Sox also have three left-handed options in their bullpen giving them a strategic advantage coming into the series.
It takes no baseball genius to understand Beltre’s importance to the Texas lineup and most readers will not believe that I had been planning on writing this article about the lack of balance in the order prior to Beltre’s injury, but I have been concerned about the one-sided nature of the Texas lineup all season, even during May’s offensive resurrection. Now, facing the absence of its only right-handed power threat, Texas will have to survive with an unbalanced lineup and hope that the righties in the lineup can pick up the slack.