Paint by numbers: A look at the Rangers' slow start

DALLAS - Ron Washington used to tell the media, early in a season, that he wouldn’t make any judgments on his lineup or individual hitters until about 100 at-bats were under their belts. 100 at-bats, he said, was a good benchmark by which to measure how a hitter was feeling at the plate. No panic, no excitement, nothing set in stone until 100 at-bats.

We surpassed that mark right around the time Kyle Seager punched us in the gut (or other body part) in a loss to the Seattle Mariners. Jonathan Lucroy (91 Abs) hasn’t quite hit that mark, while Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus have surpassed it by 30 or so. It appears that most of Twitter has made up their mind, but just to make sure, let’s take stock of where the 2017 Texas Rangers are, by the numbers.

Who’s in good shape? Who’s in awful shape? What should the Rangers start looking at doing?

22 – Quality Starts by Rangers Starting Pitching
Let’s start off on a high note. One of the biggest question marks coming into the season has actually become one of the least combustible elements of the team. Out of the 36 games that the team has played, 22 have had starts of at least six innings while surrendering three or fewer runs.

That trails only Washington in the Major Leagues and is tops in the American League. Who leads that pack? Yu Darvish, with six. Make note, though, if not for his “Big Innings,” Martin Perez, who has four currently, could easily be the leader.

3.38 – Starter ERA
I’m feeling like we need a little more good mojo. The 3.38 Starting Pitching ERA is good for second best in all of baseball and second best in the American League. Leading the way here? A.J. Griffin with an ERA of 2.45 and fresh off a complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres.

Second? Andrew Cashner. After being charged with just one run in his last start against Seattle, Cashner has a pretty gutsy 2.63 ERA. Cashner, in four starts, doesn’t have a win. That might have to do with…

8 – Blown Saves
Yes, it seems like there have been dozens of these, but in truth, the Texas Rangers relievers have only registered 8 blown saves! Oh, but that puts Texas in a four-way tie for second worst in ALL of baseball. Sam Dyson leads the team in blown saves with four, but check this out…

12 – Save Opportunities
36 games have passed and only 12 have had opportunities for the bullpen to come in with a lead of 3 runs or fewer. You might think that this is because…

163 – Runs Scored by Texas
Which is about middle of the pack. But the Rangers score their runs in bunches, usually towards the beginning of the game. Their offensive production is closer to…

.220 – Team Batting Average
That’s 29th out of 30 teams. The team leader is Elvis Andrus, sporting a paltry .277 average. At the other end, Thursday night’s hero Mike Napoli is hitting .172. Nobody else with at least 100 at-bats is hitting greater than .259. In other words, there is some kind of adjustment that needs to be made in the team approach at the plate. Namely, patience. Why patience?

323 – Strikeouts by Texas Batters
323. That’s second in the American League behind Tampa Bay and fourth most in baseball. Combine that with seeing just under FOUR pitches per at-bat, and you’ve got all the makings of an impatient, swing hard, and don’t-always-swing-in-the-zone approach.

One wonders what happened to a player like Nomar Mazara, who earned an AL Player of the Week award earlier in the season. He told media that he had changed his approach to just be aggressive in the strike zone, and when his pitch came, he’d go get it. Something’s changed, whether that’s his timing, his vision or the overall desperation of a team that is living on home runs.

52 – Home Runs by Texas Batters
Home runs are cool and they light up fireworks. The Rangers are tied with the New York Yankees for most home runs in the American league and they’re in a far better spot than Texas is. Home runs can be debilitating to the opposing team, but on the other hand, they can quickly be negated by the phenomenon on the other side of the ball – far more frustrating and far less exciting…

130 – Walks Allowed by Texas Pitching
That is tops in the American League. 84 have been allowed by starters and 46 by relievers. As broadcaster Eric Nadel so frequently seems to have noted already, “That’s going to frustrate…somebody.” 30% of these walks have been issued to hitters leading off an inning. Walks lead to runs and that leads to…

+6 – Run Differential
Is it weird that I count this among the good stats? The run differential for Texas is actually pretty decent. But with such a small differential, while being six games under .500, it can only signal something we already covered…

8 – Bullpen Losses
Yes, eight is not just the number of blown saves, but also the number of bullpen losses. If the bullpen is able to hold those leads, the Rangers are in first place. But bullpen losses equaling blown saves is indicative of something else…

1 – Wins When Trailing After Five Innings
While five comeback wins seems encouraging, remember that comeback wins are classified as coming back from a deficit at any point in the game. The Rangers are scoring 67 runs in innings 1-3, 52 in 4-6 and only 41 in 7-9. The batting average for the lineup as a whole drops from .266 to .198 from the beginning to the end of the game. Let’s try to bring some positivity back.

27 – Stolen Bases
That’s good for a tie for second in the American League. Delino Deshields and Elvis Andrus have six apiece. The Rangers are doing their best to be aggressive on the base-paths. They have a 49% success rate on taking an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. With the positive comes the negative…

27 – Outs on the Bases
25! That’s right behind Houston for most in the Majors. It includes caught stealing and pickoff stats and suggests that the Rangers are taking a lot of chances that aren’t exactly calculated risks.

All of the above numbers lead to the set that matters the most, obviously:

16-20 – Record
It’s not impossible to climb out of an eight-game hole in May. It’s not. But the saying is, “You can’t win a division in April, but you can certainly lose it.” There’s a lot of depending on other teams to help you get to where you want to be. In this case, the Rangers are depending on four other teams to start falling off. All of that, and Texas has to start improving, too.

Right now, Jeff Banister’s team might all be pulling in the same direction, but they’re going about it in different ways. Some are trying to pitch to contact, some are trying to strike them out, some are trying to hit the ball out of the yard, some are trying to just get on base – none of it is happening in harmony, though.

Right now, the Rangers are the equivalent of a concert orchestra – you know there’s the potential for greatness, but they’re tuning up right now and the cacophonous sound is grating to the ears. Once everyone’s on key, and we’ve seen it precious few times this season, the concert’s going to be great.

But if they don’t get on the same page, there’s two more numbers we’re going to have to remember.

2020 – Proposed Opening Year for the new Rangers’ Stadium
It’s all about timing. If the team can bring home a World Series trophy in the next two years, that’s a great memory to leave with Globe Life Park in Arlington.

The odds seem to vastly favor the opposite result, and while it’ll be sad to not have won a title in Globe Life’s 25 year history, the goal needs to switch to how to bring excitement and interest to the team that will take the new stadium’s field in 2020. With that in mind…

Zero – Times that Jon Daniels has had to rebuild his team
Let me clarify: The team that Daniels inherited was not his. It was John Hart’s. Mark Teixeira was a John Hart guy. Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Neftali Feliz were all Jon Daniels guys. This 2017 Texas Rangers team, this seven-year run of winning and competitive baseball is all Jon Daniels.

If this concert has to be canceled and new players brought in, how Daniels goes about rebuilding this franchise will go a long way towards determining his future with this club.

Daniels has had a good track record of obtaining winning pieces and cultivating a good farm system before. Can he pull the trigger on the right players to get this team ready for its new home?

1 - The number of follows you need to make to @FisherWritesMLB on Twitter for his latest thoughts on the Rangers.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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