How Do the Texas Rangers Fix Their “One Run” Dilemma?

Jul 25, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Glenn Otto (49) walks to the dugout after handing over the game ball to manager Chris Woodward (8) during a sixth inning pitching change against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim (28) stands on the mound with Woodward. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 25, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Glenn Otto (49) walks to the dugout after handing over the game ball to manager Chris Woodward (8) during a sixth inning pitching change against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim (28) stands on the mound with Woodward. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Rangers fell 4-3 to the Seattle Mariners on Monday evening, dropping their record to 43-52 on the season. Stinks.

The salt in the wound, however, is that they are now 5-22 in games decided by a single run this year. Sports teams are not supposed to be 5-22 in one-score games, especially not in a sport like baseball – which is so fundamentally dependent on chance and things going your way every once in a while.

Easily enough, one could immediately point the finger at the manager and place the responsibility of righting that ship on him alone. I, myself, have been guilty of said accusations often this year. But is it an issue that can be boiled down to simply bad management? Is it bad luck? How much of it factors in struggles at the plate as opposed to pitching? Texas finished their 102-loss season in 2021 with a 15-19 in one-run finishes. They finished 7-6 in the same situations in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

The Texas Rangers are just 5-22 in one-run games in 2022

So, make no mistake, it’s a matter that has gotten definitively worse for a team that is trying to turn the corner into competition. It’s a very frustrating problem to deal with.

The Texas Rangers are almost a really good baseball team, and yes, they need better pitching and corner outfield depth and so on and so on.

However, if you completely flip the script to a 22-5 record in one-run games – which, yes, would be insanely fortunate and probably top the league, but humor me – the Rangers would be within a few games of the Astros in first. Even a marginal improvement to, say, 11-16, probably has them still in the thick of the wild card hunt.

It’s a frustrating problem to have. On the one hand, you’re building a team to compete soon. There are still levels of development, trades, and acquisitions to go before the Rangers are able to square up with the league’s big boys, but one can’t help but wonder what a 2022 Texas Rangers squad that at least sometimes comes through on thin ice would look like. Why are they so “unlucky” and how do they fix it? To find the answer to this conundrum, let’s hit up ol’ reliable and do the math.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Texas Rangers’ offense actually ranks fourth in all of baseball in 9th inning runs scored this year? In fact, they average 0.45 runs per 9th innings; essentially, every other game in which the Rangers hit in the 9th, they’re scoring a run. For a team with such a dismal record in close games, that’s promising in the slightest.

In 2021, Texas ranked dead last in the Majors when they put up 1.07 runs per game in the 7th to 9th innings of offense. This year, they are 13th in the league at 1.30. The team is on pace to finish with about the same amount of one-run finishes, so there is tangible improvement in that area. The Rangers currently have a better OPS than San Diego and Tampa Bay, who are both playoff competitors.

So we can feasibly assess that it’s not the offense anchoring down this fiasco. So now let’s flip the script. Texas allows 0.91 runs per game in the 8th and 9th innings combined, which is “good” for worst in the American League West and 7th worst in baseball. We already know how dire the need to address pitching is for this team is; it’s no secret, and it’s cost them a great deal of momentum in a year that has shown flashes of promise and electricity that fans haven’t felt in years.

Martin Perez has been a shutdown pitcher this year. Borderline untouchable in most of his starts. Jon Gray had a catastrophic start to the season with bad injury luck, but he’s bounced back with a 6-1 record, 1.85 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in his last seven starts.

The Rangers bullpen is not bad. They’ve over-performed to an almost silly degree at points, but they are not the dumpster fire a lot of fans might think of at face value. Pretty much all of their bullpen rankings fall amongst the middle of the pack in the Majors; they rank 12th in ERA, 15th in WHIP, 13th in strikeouts, and 16th in earned runs allowed. They’re fine!

And let me be perfectly clear when I say that I don’t wish to come across as deflecting, because even as a writer who tries to be as objective as possible to stay reputable, I’ve been frustrated with many of the shortcomings of this team this year. I want fun, competitive baseball deep into the fall back in my veins just as much as any of you do. The answer to getting over this hump is simple; the team just needs more reliable arms.

It’s a dead horse and I get it. The Rangers have Gray, Perez, and a whole lot of inconsistency everywhere else. Matt Moore has been phenomenal with a 247 ERA+ (!!!) this year, but for every Matt Moore there’s a Taylor Hearn 1.649 WHIP against 325 batters faced to swing right back.

You can pin the blame on manager Chris Woodward and say a 5-22 one-run record falls on team discipline. Fine. You can blame it on the front office and anticipate getting better players. Also fine! But the cold hard truth of not having a really competitive pitching staff – particularly only half of a legitimate rotation – is that two to three of every five games, the Rangers simply cannot enter the ring with American League competitors like New York, Houston, Seattle, and Toronto, who have circumstantially spent the last few seasons building up fearful rotations. Texas can, and very well should, enter that conversation in the next few years with prospects like Leiter, Rocker, and Winn on the way, not to mention some money to spend in the winters still.

The aforementioned must be factored into these closes losses. These teams are equipped to win in close games – and do it frequently – and Texas simply is not. The Yankees and Astros have surged with an astounding amount of comeback and close wins this year, and it is due to their careful crafting of depth at nearly every position. The Rangers have some pieces of the puzzle, but they’re just not there yet.

I choose to believe this will resolve itself in time. I don’t think Chris Woodward has instilled the proper mentality in this team of #NeverEverQuitting, not to sound facetious. I think the Rangers, more than any specific positional upgrade, need an injection of energy and spirit so badly. A competitive manager has his team, roster be damned, ready to go out there and strap in for nine innings of war any given night.

This team, for lack of a better term, sometimes seems to just go through the motions and rely on pure skill alone to get the job done. They’re placing a lot of trust in young guys like Leody Taveras and Josh Smith, which is great, but again, there’s two sides to that coin, and unfortunately many of the younger investments on the mound simply can’t compete with their opponents who are a couple steps ahead in terms of organizational competitiveness.

I leave you with a reminder that getting better players will also do you some favors. Chris Young is getting the Texas Rangers better players. Help is on the way.

Happy Trade Deadline week!

Next. The argument for and against a Rangers-Juan Soto trade. dark