Improved discipline has the Texas Rangers offense on a great path
By Taylor Cruse
The Texas Rangers are in the midst of a process with their offense, but they are yielding improved results early in 2019.
We are one month into the 2019 MLB season and your Texas Rangers lead the majors in runs per game, averaging 6 going into their two game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Rangers are just ahead of the Seattle Mariners who currently average 5.94 runs per game. Outscoring the Mariners 29-2 over the last two games of a four game set certainly helped, but even prior to the series with Seattle, the Rangers ranked in the top 3.
Currently, the Rangers are walking more than in years past. In 2019, They’re walking 9.9% of the time, which is a jump from 9% in 2018 and 8.9% in 2017.
This may seem like a very small improvement, but the best team walk percentages in 2017 and 2018 were 10.2% and 10.5%. The team that led both years in the category? The Los Angeles Dodgers.
In line with this more disciplined approach, the Rangers are tied for 9th best in the league at avoiding pitches outside the zone. Last year they ranked 18th and in 2017 were 24th.
The best team each of the last two years at not chasing outsize the zone and taking their walks? The Los Angeles Dodgers.
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On their way to two World Series appearances, the Dodgers showed more discipline than any other team in baseball. This is part of the “process” and impact Chris Woodward and hitting coach, Luis Ortiz, are bringing to Texas from LA.
The Texas Rangers are choosing their pitches more carefully and it is paying off so far with not only more walks, but more hits. They’re currently 8th in the league in hits per game. This is a massive improvement even if we’re only one month into the season, as the club finished 27th and 26th in the statistic in 2017 and 2018.
Many of their hits are also resulting in extra bases. The Rangers are tied for third in extra base hit percentage this season at 9.8%. That number as a team was 7.9% in a season ago. The only other teams with a more drastic jump in extra base hit % from 2018 to 2019 are the Mariners (18-13 record this year), Twins (16-9) and Diamondbacks (16-13).
It will be interesting to track how these numbers continue to play as the season progresses for Texas. They’re offense appears to not only be a more disciplined, but one that is ready to compete on a nightly basis.
In TR Sullivan’s latest inbox entry, he conveys the same sentiment and advocates for the Rangers to keep guys like Mike Minor and Lance Lynn as the season moves forward.
The offense is ready to compete as indicated by early positive results. Though, the process for pitching still has some work to do. Despite having one of the best offenses in baseball, the Rangers are just barely above .500 (14-13) going into Tuesday’s game against the Pirates.
This is because they are fourth in opponents runs per game at 5.59. The only teams worse in this category than the Rangers are the White Sox (11-17), Mets (14-13) and Orioles (10-19). Texas is also 6th worst in the league in opponent hard hit percentage and 5th in opponent exit velocity according to Statcast.
This is where many Rangers fans often complain about the lack of quality free agent pitching signings over the last two years by Jon Daniels. The Rangers have made two significant signings over the two years, however, in Mike Minor and Lance Lynn.
There was some skepticism with each signing, but both appear to be working out. Lynn’s ERA is a bit misleading as 15 of his 21 earned runs have come in just two games. He is currently well on his way, though, to his best strikeout to walk ratio as a starting pitcher in his career.
Meanwhile, despite a shaky first start by Mike Minor on Opening Day, he’s becoming a legitimate top of the rotation arm, if not an actual ace.
Lynn and Minor were the right type of free agent signings for the Texas Rangers, especially in a thinner market for free agent pitchers this past offseason. Two of the top arms (Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel) remain unsigned, as the Rangers are not the only team being cautious with older players who require a long-term commitment and the forfeiture of valuable draft assets.
All of this is to say — The Rangers’ process for their pitching still has further to go, but the offense might be yielding some encouraging results earlier than expected. The season is still young, but with their offense, Texas could be in position to compete as soon as next season, if not for a wild card spot this season.