DALLAS — Maybe you have done this, maybe you haven’t, but follow along. You’re sitting in traffic, listening to music. You flick on your turn signal (because it’s the right freakin’ thing to do, okay?). Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. At some point, while you’re waiting to move, you realize that the turn signal has synced up perfectly with the beat of the music. It doesn’t last long. For a few seconds, the signal is just off from the beat. Then the signal is perfectly on the off-beat. Then it’s just off of that. Then it syncs back up. Welcome to your 2018 Texas Rangers.
April 27-May 2
- Opponents: @Toronto Blue Jays, @Cleveland Indians
- 6-Game Record: 3-3
- Overall Record: 12-20, 8.0 Games Back of Houston
- Injury Report: Rougned Odor (10, hamstring), Elvis Andrus (60, fractured elbow), Carlos Tocci (10, hip contusion), Adrian Beltre (10, hamstring), Chris Martin (10, Forearm Irritation), Martin Perez (10, right elbow discomfort)
- Notable Stats: Pitching Staff ERA with Robinson Chirinos (5.84) vs. Juan Centeno (3.60), Home Runs by Joey Gallo (10, 2nd in AL), Runs and Hits Surrendered in the 7th Inning (24, 41).
On the Mound
Here’s where the signal gets in such discord it almost drive you nuts. On just two occasions on this six game road trip, Rangers starters and relievers were on the same page. Didn’t they win three games? Yes, but in their one win in Cleveland, they had to overcome their own four-run lead that was blown by closer Keone Kela. We’ll start with the bullpen.
Something awful has happened to Alex Claudio. Whether it’s that the league has adjusted to him or he’s feeling the effects of the severe overuse of the last couple of years, the “2nd Year Rangers Effective Reliever” curse might have finally found Claudio.
Sporting a team-leading 1.800 WHIP over a team-leading 15.0 innings, Claudio seems to have fallen out of that role of reliable, multi-inning, high-leverage reliever. He’s also allowed 10 runs in those 15 innings. That puts his ERA at a very robust 6.00.
Also with an ERA of 6.00+? Closer Keone Kela. Admittedly, a 6.30 ERA isn’t exactly something to judge Kela off of just yet, as that number was inflated due to the game-tying grand slam he gave up in Cleveland. But it’s not exactly a smooth ride. To that end, the grand slam he gave up to Michael Brantley was his first blown save of the year. This was after saving the two wins in Toronto in convincing fashion.
Chris Martin had been fairly reliable in the first month of the season, but a massively bad series opener against Cleveland, in which he allowed four runs in 2/3 of an inning revealed a problem. Martin had been battling forearm issues. With nothing much to lose or gain by being cautious, the Rangers placed him on the DL after the game.
But on four of these games on the road trip, the Starting Pitching really performed as well as could have been expected at the beginning of the season. Even though Mike Minor gave up four runs in the opener in Toronto, he did go six innings deep.
Bartolo Colon continued on Saturday with seven innings of three-run ball. Cole Hamels only went five innings on Monday against the Indians, but gave up just one earned run, two total. Even Doug Fister, after having only gone four and two-thirds in Oakland, rebounded to give up only two runs in six and two-thirds. The clunkers? Matt Moore and Martin Perez.
Perez gave up four runs in just four innings in the finale against Toronto. Perhaps more frustrating was how frustrated Perez appeared. The mental strength of the once-highly-touted lefty was called into question again. Even after the game, when his apparent drop in velocity was questioned, his response seemed like more of a flimsy excuse than a firm reason.
When he said he was purposely decreasing the speed on his fastball to increase his control had at least ME skeptically looking around the virtual room. At any rate, that excuse didn’t fly with management, it was a failed strategy, and it landed him on the disabled list with supposed non-throwing elbow issues; a residual effect from the bull incident.
Matt Moore was made to wear one in the series finale against Cleveland. After giving up nine runs in two innings, Moore was left in there to get through two more innings and try to give some rest to the bullpen that had gone extra innings the night prior. I wrote a few weeks ago that the equivalent of 100 at-bats for a pitcher is about six starts.
Wednesday was start number seven for Matt Moore. If this team intends on contending at all this season, a pipe dream for most of the fan base, then Moore has to go. He can go once Perez comes back (perhaps the lesser of two evils), but Moore either has to figure things out in the minors or on another team. The strategy of abandoning the cutter hasn’t worked, and in the one start that Moore won, against Tampa Bay, he actually used his cutter more. What a headache.
At the Plate
Consider this to be a positive: the hitters you’re expecting to produce are producing. The ones you’re expecting not to produce aren’t producing. The hitters in the 1-6 spot are slashing .263/.339/.431. Hitters 7-9 are hitting .180/.233/.324. Think about your usual 1-6 hitters and usual 7-9 hitters and that makes sense, doesn’t it?
Continuing to produce, somewhat surprisingly, is Isiah Kiner-Falefa (.278/.316/.417 over 20 games…with two homers already!). He’s going to force management to make a very tough decision when Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre come back. There’s every chance that Kiner-Falefa falls off a cliff by the time that happens, but for now, he’s an integral part of keeping this team competitive.
Joey Gallo continues to be an asset in the lineup with more than just the long ball. He’s even featured in national radio drops for Rangers games (“Joey Gallo and the Texas Rangers” has a nice ring to it). It was always said that if Gallo could hit .220 with his power stroke intact that we would take that. Well, Gallo’s slashing .225/.306/.508. The strikeouts are still there, but he’s still walking, and he’s hitting the ball to the opposite field. Of his 27 hits, 20 have been up the middle or to the opposite field.
Right now, the offense isn’t the problem.
In the Field
The defense isn’t the problem either. The problems that plagued the team in the previous few series are starting to recede. We’ve seen some stellar defense in the field, most notably from Ronald Guzman. The Condor continues to be a huge asset in saving some less than stellar throws. He may not be perfect at the plate, but his defense is going to cause Jon Daniels and Jeff Banister to think about roster spots when the regulars get back.
As for the rest of the defense, they only allowed three runners on errors and three unearned runs in the previous two series. That’s a more manageable pace than one per game.
An interesting dynamic on the 2018 Rangers is the one behind the plate. The pitching staff ERA for Juan Centeno is 4.34. With Robinson Chirinos behind the dish, it’s 5.17. Centeno’s catcher ERA is a little inflated after Matt Moore’s clunker, but the results are the same. For whatever reason, the pitching staff in general is better with Centeno catching. Chirinos is the better offensive player, by far, however.
All that said, the Rangers made an acquisition after the series in Cleveland to get catcher Carlos Perez off of waivers from the Braves. He’ll join the active roster when the team gets back to Arlington to face the Red Sox. This begs the question: Who’s out? It doesn’t necessarily have to be Centeno or Chirinos, although carrying three catchers who are limited to catcher is highly unusual.
Offensively, Perez isn’t much better than Centeno. Chirinos has taken a lot of abuse behind the plate lately, which has led some to believe that he’ll once again hit the disabled list. At any rate, my question is just why did Texas grab Cameron Rupp from the Phillies if they weren’t going to use him as a first man up?
The biggest takeaways from these two series is that Texas was truly in a position to win every game on this road trip. The timing and rotation didn’t line up for the matchup against Kluber, but Texas even managed to slug three homers against the two-time Cy Young winner.
With a pitcher that wasn’t Matt Moore on the mound, maybe that game could have started and ended differently. Texas just needs to get all of its phases on the same beat. Maybe that has to come by getting rid of dead weight.
- May 3-6: Boston Red Sox
- May 7-9: Detroit Tigers
Do you see the Rangers syncing up any time soon or is it going to be the same story in May? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.