After winning two consecutive series the Rangers are swept by the division rival Seattle Mariners and fall into last place in the American League West.
The Texas Rangers are now off to their worst start since the 2006 season. After winning two consecutive series to pull within one game of .500, the Rangers get swept by the Mariners and fall to 4-8.
While the season is still early, the Rangers now find themselves in last place of the American League West, four games behind the surging Houston Astros.
On the bright side, we are only 12 games into the season. No division title has ever been won in April. It also seems most of the Rangers problems are fixable ones.
1. The Rangers may be better off without an official closer
It seems like it’s become a tradition to talk about Sam Dyson after each series. The ‘closer’ blew his third save of the season and has yet to convert an attempt.
His four meltdown innings are the most in baseball and his -2.61 win probability added is on pace to be the 42nd worst in baseball history.
It was surprising to see Dyson get the nod from Rangers manager Jeff Bannister in a one-run save opportunity only five days after his collapse against the Angels. Especially since Bannister said they would weigh their options after the game.
Removing Dyson from the closer role for the time being isn’t just the right move, it’s the only move. The hard part is determining who the Rangers turn to from here on out.
Jose Leclerc has been the teams best reliever. His -.23 FIP is the 5th lowest in baseball and his 0.5 WAR is the highest among relievers. However, he only has 21.1 big league innings to his name and has had a history of serious control issues.
Matt Bush may have the most electric stuff out of the bullpen. He’s struck out 8 batters in 4.2 innings. But he’s also giving up a 77.8 hard hit percentage and may be too inexperienced to rely on as a full-time closer.
Jeremy Jeffress was a full-time closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016 before being traded to the Rangers. His 2.43 FIP is the second lowest among Rangers relievers and his 38.9 soft contact percentage is the best. However, much like Dyson he relies heavily on getting ground balls and does not generate swings and misses.
For the time being, the Rangers may be better off using a closer by committee.
2. Jurickson Profar is the early favorite to start in left field
One of the biggest questions heading into 2017 was who was going to see the bulk of the time in left field? The Rangers are now 12 games into the season and are still without a definitive answer.
Delino DeShields has looked completely lost at the plate to start the season. He has yet to get a hit in his nine at-bats and has struck out six times. With his poor performance a season ago, his early season struggles are concerning.
Ryan Rua had the best season of the three a year ago. However, his only two hits the season have come against left-handed pitching, further strengthening the notion that he may be a platoon only player.
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Jurickson Profar has received the bulk of the playing time so far. His .211 average is the highest among the three. While the average is low, Profar is currently on a four game hitting streak where he’s hitting .364 with a 172 wRC+.
The production from Rangers left fielders has been some of the worst in baseball. They’re one of only left field units without an extra base hit so far. Their .136 average and 11 wRC+ are both the second lowest in baseball while they’re 37.3 strikeout percentage is the highest.
Neither of the three have stood out positively to start the season. But with Profar’s current hot streak he may see most of the playing time.
3. Andrew Cashner’s debut was positive
The Rangers took a chance on Andrew Cashner this off-season, signing him to a one-year prove it deal worth $11 million. Coming off the worst season of his career, both Cashner and the Rangers hope he could return to his 2013-2015 form.
After missing the first two trips through the rotation due to bicep tendinitis, Cashner made his season debut this past Saturday in Seattle.
While he received the loss and gave up three earned runs in 5.1 innings, there were some positive takeaways from his first outing.
His fastball averaged 93.1 MPH and after sitting out most of spring, that average should only get higher. He looked very comfortable throwing his changeup, throwing it 25 percent of the time and relied heavily on his two seam fastball.
I wrote in the spring how important Cashner’s two seam fastball would be this season. In 2014, the best year of his career, he threw his two-seamer 36.8 percent of the time. In comparison, he only threw it 15.1 percent of the time in 2016, relying far too heavily on his slider.
While it’s hard to find much to takeaway from one start, Cashner showed enough positives to not worry.
The Rangers finish off their road trip with a three game series against the Oakland Athletics. The two teams meet for already the second time this season after the Rangers took two out of three only a week ago.
As always, the goal will be to stop Khris Davis who went 4-13 against Texas with one home run in their first matchup.