Over the past 30 days, Elvis Andrus has been the second-worst hitter in baseball.
That span has featured 119 plate appearances and 22 hits, and just a single extra-base notch among them - a double on June 29th. Ian Kinsler has been 47th worst, A.J. Pierzynski 56th, and David Murphy 74th. I’m not including Mitch Moreland (who has only been back for half of those games), but he has rocked a .160 average, .228 on-base percentage, and .200 slugging percentage -- even worse than Elvis.
The Rangers, as a team, sat third-to-last in offensive production over the same time period before thumping the Astros over the weekend, and mediocre output on Saturday. The only teams worse than the Rangers? The struggling Yankees and the Houston Astros.
The offense is in trouble. Compounding the issue has been questionable lineup construction.
Manager Ron Washington finally acknowledged Elvis’ struggles at the plate this season by temporarily bumping him down to eighth in the lineup. His replacement? David Murphy, whose season-long .222/.283/.385 line is among the worst on the team.
For whatever reason, the year's one breakout star, Leonys Martin, has been relegated to the end of the lineup, leaving one of the Rangers' most productive players with his bat in a cubby hole in the dugout one extra time, on average, per game.
While Washington has shown more willingness to shake up the lineup this year than in the past (Michael Young was #41 in plate appearances last year while ranking in at #133 of 143 in offensive production), the obvious construction seems simple enough. Move Elvis to ninth to maintain the speed threat around the ends of the lineup, shift Murphy to eighth, and Leonys Martin into the two spot.
This won’t provide a revolutionary fix to the Rangers’ offensive woes, but it will help.
Protect your big hitters in the middle of the lineup by clumping them together (Cruz/Beltre). Keep your high OBP guys up front (Kinsler/Martin), and keep your lower slugging “productive” at-bat guys near the end. Runs are produced by stringing together hits, not by stringing together stranded runners and wasted opportunities.
Don’t expect the Rangers' offensive woes to last forever, or to remain this bad. We have, however, progressed from temporary outlier to possible trend status regarding the fairly inept status of the offense.
Ignoring the problem won't make it go away any more than an arbitrary allegiance to a particular player’s position in the batting order. If you don’t make the spots in the lineup seem unquestionably the property of a particular player, then you don’t run into the problem of being afraid of the negative backlash of moving players around in said lineup.