The Rangers headed to D.C. to take the National League leading Nationals. Can a sweep help propel the Rangers to a playoff push?
The Texas Rangers kicked off a tough six game road trip this past weekend, taking on the National League’s best team, the Washington Nationals.
Despite the Rangers recent struggles, an impressive series sweep brings them within two games of .500 and two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card chase.
Heading into the series, Washington was the second highest run producing team in all of baseball. The Rangers managed to hold them to only six runs, the lowest amount scored by any team over the course of the weekend.
1. Shin-Soo Choo has quietly been one of the Rangers best players
Perhaps it’s the fact that Shin-Soo Choo doesn’t put up the eye popping sexy numbers that demand your attention. But he’s quietly been putting together perhaps his best season as a Ranger.
He’s reached base in 17 of his past 20 games putting up a .396 OBP over that stretch. In fact, Choo has consistently gotten on base all season. His .375 OBP is currently the best on the team and 30th in all of baseball.
This should come as no surprise, he’s made a living off his ability to draw walks. But his 15 percent walk rate is currently the second highest of his career. However, his 19.3 percent strikeout rate is the second lowest.
His .78 walks per strikeouts is the 18th best in all of baseball and above and beyond the best of his career since joining the Rangers.
The biggest question mark for Choo is wether or not he can finally put together a healthy season. He’s already surpassed his games total from a year ago and is on pace to play over 150 games for the first time as a Ranger.
2. Can Andrew Cashner get back to being consistent?
Andrew Cashner had yet another great outing Friday night, as he allowed only one run over seven innings. Based on FIP and gamescore, it was his best outing of the season.
In fact, his two best outings have came in his past three starts. However, it’s Cashners inconsistency that is begging to grow worrisome.
On May 17th Cashner allowed only two runs over the course of seven innings in a dominant win over the Phillies. His next start he allowed five runs in five innings, walking seven batters in a loss against the Red Sox.
On May 28th he pitched a gem against the Blue Jays, allowing only one run and five hits in seven innings pitched. However, he would give up five runs and allow 12 base runners in his next start against the Astros.
Cashner is slated to pitch on Wednesday against the Astros hoping to find consistency.
3. Jose Leclerc is one of baseballs premier young relievers
What is Jose Leclerc’s ceiling? He’s currently preforming like one of the games best relievers. He certainly has the stuff to become a staple in the back end of the bullpen for years to come.
His numbers and makeup remind me of a young Dellin Betances, who made his full debut in 2014. Both feature a fastball in the mid to upper 90’s but both have a devastating off-speed pitch they go to more than their fastball.
Betances pitched to a 1.40 ERA in 2014 striking out 13.50 batters per nine innings. Leclerc currently has a 1.84 ERA striking out 14.73 batters per nine innings.
Not only has Leclerc been one of the best young relievers in baseball, he’s been one of the best in general.
Among relievers with at least ten innings pitched, Leclerc currently has the fifth lowest FIP, the ninth highest strikeout percentage. Furthermore, he is one of only 30 relievers to have yet to give up a home run.
Most importantly, Leclerc brings electric swing and miss stuff to a bullpen that has desperately needed it.
Among relievers with at least ten innings pitched Leclerc has the lowest contact rate and highest swing in miss rate in all of baseball. He’s also getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone at a 39.1 percent clip, the ninth highest.
Perhaps Leclerc is the future for a bullpen that has lacked a consistent shut down closer for the past decade.
The Rangers finish off a two city road trip with a tough three game set against the MLB’s best, Houston Astros.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams with the Astros currently dominating the season series. The Astros are ahead winning six of seven.
The Rangers will hope to build on their impressive sweep of the Nationals and potentially do what has seemed impossible so far, gain ground on the first place Astros.
Game two – TBD vs. Lance McCullers (6-1, 2.58 ERA)
Game three – Andrew Cashner (3-5, 3.17 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock (3-1, 3.15 ERA)