The Texas Rangers are off to a surprising start to the season. Their record is 20-13 entering play on Monday night and they are currently in 1st place in the AL West by two games over the Angels. They are scoring runs in bunches, winning blowouts, and playing good baseball. One area that I do not feel like fans are talking enough about is their run differential. The Rangers enter play on Monday night with a run differential of plus-85.
They have scored 85 more runs than the teams they have played. I do not feel as if it is getting enough attention due to Tampa's absurd run differential of plus 115. I think we need to put some perspective on how great the Rangers' number is and what it means for the ceiling of this team.
What is Run Differential?
Run differential presents a depiction of how good a team is. Teams with positive run differentials normally, but not always, have a winning record. Teams with a negative run differential normally, but not always, will have a losing record. Teams that have a winning record, but a negative run differential are normally looked at as lucky teams that will endure an eventual regression to the mean. Teams with a high positive run differential are looked at as World Series contenders.
The Rangers have had a weird relationship with run differential in the last several seasons. Through much of the first half in 2022 they maintained a positive run differential despite having a losing record. That showed that the Rangers were losing close games, but winning blowouts.In 2016 they finished with the best record in the American League and only had a positive run differential of plus 8 to end the season. That team won close close games, but lost blowouts. A team that can do both is one that will normally be playing deep into October.
One year ago at this time baseball experts were marveling over the Dodgers run differential. I looked it up through 33 games to remind myself what it was. Through 33 games in 2022 the Dodgers had a 21-12 record and a run differential of plus 70. The Dodgers would go on to win 111 games and finish with a run differential of plus 334. It did not lead to World Series glory as they were eliminated in the divisional series by the Padres. It will go down as the most wins the organization has had in its history dating back to 1883.
What does the Rangers run differential say about this team?
It is safe to say Texas is now being seriously considered as a true contender. Their record is not as good as Tampa, Baltimore, or Boston. Their run differential has their expected record as being 23-10 which would be good for second in the AL. Right now they only have one glaring flaw and that as I wrote about over the weekend is the bullpen. If they can address their pen by bringing in a couple of high-velocity arms then just making the playoffs will be the floor for this team. They are on pace currently for 99-100 wins which would put them in the conversation to win the American League pennant.
As fans it is time to change the conversation from hoping to see the Rangers contend in 2023, to thinking about how good this can be. They have suffered major injuries to key pieces in Corey Seager, Mitch Garver, and Jacob deGrom. In their absence, Ezequiel Duran, Jonah Heim, and Dane Dunning have taken steps forward. That is what the best teams do. They do not dwell on what they have lost. They focus on everyone stepping up and picking up the slack. If you are not already on the bandwagon there is still plenty of room. It promises to be a bumpy ride between now and October, but it is better to be on the bandwagon than to be left behind.