Date: Monday, May 1st
Rangers’ Record: 11-14 (4th place, 5.0 games behind Houston)
Tonight’s Opponent: Houston Astros
Tonight’s Starters: Andrew Cashner (0-2, 2.93) vs. Lance McCullers, Jr. (2-1, 4.34)
First, yesterday’s results: the Rangers dropped the third game (and consequently the series) to the Angels. The score was 5-2.
It’s no longer April. We no longer get to look at team record, strikeout-to-walk ratio, runs scored, or any other measurement of success and say “it’s still just April”. And sure, that seems like a meta statement (“we can’t say it’s still April because… it’s not still April? Well done, you ephemeride sleuth!”) but the flipping of the calendar page is a quasi-arbitrary but convenient time to take inventory and see where you stand.
For the Rangers, it’s absolutely a mixed bag. It’s the May 1st Baseball Texas Daily!
The total number of runs the Rangers have scored while Andrew Cashner is on the mound in his three starts. As you can imagine, this has not translated to a good record, either for Cashner (0-2) or for the team while he pitches (1-2). So when Cashner says, as he did the day before his last start, “as soon as we get some timely hitting, we’re going to definitely be a team to beat”, it’s not so much sour grapes as it is just… the truth.
The Rangers rank in the AL in stolen bases. The obvious contributor is Delino DeShields (who is starting in left field today for the fifth consecutive day today) with 5, but Elvis Andrus also has five, and Joey Gallo has four. That puts Gallo roughly on pace for a 25-steal (and a 45-home run) season which puts him in some elite company. The last time we saw a 40-20 season was in 2012, when Ryan Braun actually went 41/30. The last one in the American League was the year before that, when Curtis Granderson went 41/25 (Matt Kemp missed 40/40 that season by one home run). And sure, projections are tough for a guy who is manning third base until the Hall of Famer gets back, but let’s not pooh-pooh the first 25 games for the Rangers Player of the Month. After all, it’s not April anymore.
The total number of saves recorded by the Rangers bullpen in April. One by Jose Leclerc, and one by new closer Matt Bush. I’m a fan of the recent article that suggests a replacement stat for the save (the “Goose Egg”), the save can be a useful stat when shown side-by-side with the “blown saves” stat. In this case, that number is 5. If the Rangers could have even flipped that ratio to 5:2, their record would be 14-11 rather than 11-14. They would be in second place, 2.0 games out of first, and the whole season would feel different.
The number of left fielders the Rangers had when they broke camp from Spring Training. After an “extended opportunity”, Jurickson Profar first lost his job, and then lost his roster spot. He has been optioned to Round Rock to get regular playing time while he works through his early-season slump. Profar hit just .135 / .289 / .135 in 15 games (37 at-bats). Three is also the number of runs he drove in before his demotion. The Rangers have claimed Pete Kozma off waivers from the Yankees, and he is expected to report today.
Incidentally, three is also the number of at-bats that Ryan Rua received as a left-fielder after his manager proclaimed him to be next in line to get an “extended look” before giving way to Delino DeShields. Of course, Rua did play three of the following four games at first base, giving Jeff Banister the opportunity to work a Napoli / Choo / Mazara rest triangle in right field and DH.
The number of pitchers tied for the MLB lead with 4 losses: those pitchers are Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jesse Chavez, Jose Quintana and Martin Perez. Sure, Perez has been beset (as have all the Rangers not named A.J. Griffin) with some spotty run support, but more often than not, he has been beset by the inability to get batters out. Perez spent Spring Training looking (and sounding) the part of someone who had matured and grown up. The early struggles don’t change that, but they will test that. Here’s Perez at his locker after yesterday’s loss.
The number of errors committed at shortstop by Elvis Andrus, which leads the team and trails the league leading shortstop (Tim Anderson) by one. Elvis also had a blazing hot start to the season at the plate, so this isn’t so much an indictment of him personally as it is pointing out that he’s not an anomaly on this team, which ranks 4th in AL with 18 errors, and is 18th of 30 MLB teams in FanGraphs’ DEF rating. The Rangers still lead the league in double plays (35), but they lost Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland from the 2016 team, both of whom performed well on defense last year. This year, Mike Napoli has been off to a bad start, not only defensively, but offensively. Ryan Rua has played first base in three of the last five games (counting tonight) at first base, and if Napoli continues to struggle, you might just see his at-bats start to dwindle.
The number of pitchers in the rotation right now, it would appear. The Rangers announced today that Nick Martinez will start on Wednesday, the starter is “TBA” (translation: To Be AJGriffin) on Thursday, and Darvish will start on an extra day’s rest on Friday in Seattle after throwing 125 pitches in his last start (and 113 before that). The six-man rotation isn’t likely to be a permanent thing, but it is an interesting premise, especially when Tyson Ross returns.
The number of Rangers currently on the disabled list:
- Prince Fielder (who, of course, isn’t returning)
- Hanser Alberto (who, if healthy, probably blocks Pete Kozma from becoming a Ranger)
- Adrian Beltre (The offense has struggled, right?)
- Jake Diekman (The bullpen has struggled, right?)
- Chi Chi Gonzalez (not in the starting rotation, but is the Ace of the staring rotation.)
- A.J. Griffin (he’ll be back Thursday)
- Tyson Ross (Could legitimately be the third starter when he returns)
8. The number of games that Jonathan Lucroy has not played in this year, out of the first 25. No fewer than 21 catchers have played in more this season. (Houston has two, though Evan Gattis skews that; he’s not always playing catcher). Some of the time off has been due to the day-games-after-night-games. Jeff Banister reminded us that Lucroy got an unscheduled day off after catching 13 innings last week. But some of it is because Robinson Chirinos has been hitting the ball like a maniac when he gets into the lineup: he’s hitting .320 / .433 / .840 with 4 home runs in just 30 plate appearances. That amounts to an absurd 1.273 OPS. Meanwhile, Lucroy has only just gotten his batting average back up over .200, and has only three extra-base hits this season. Of course, Lucroy’s primary value to the team is defense and game-calling...
It is May first. It’s the time of the year where you certainly aren’t overreacting to be disappointed in an 11-14 start, but it’s still too early to go selling off your Darvishes and Napolis and Lucroys and Rosses and Cashners just yet. The team hasn’t been good, but they are still talented. Jeremy Jeffress has pitched in too many games and Tyson Ross has pitched in too few. Rougned Odor's batting average still reflects his patience, but his power has shown it's not a fluke. It’s been a disappointing start, but there have been more than a few reasons to look towards the future with optimism. I have to say "Cole Hamels" at least once before I finish because it seems weird to review the first month of the season and not mention him even once. The best or the worst is yet to come: after all, it’s still just May.
Time moves fast. I can’t believe the Yeah Yeah Yeahs haven’t released a record since 2013. Secondly, I can’t believe that “Fever to Tell” came out 14 years ago. Remember Maps? Yes you do. It’s the one where Karen O leans into the “Wait… they don’t love you like I love you!” line before the band goes into a bridge that sounds like the best 150-capacity rock bar in New York City and being young.
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