DALLAS — It was a long 20-game stretch in which we were blessed with baseball every day, but we were also subject to baseball every day. The Texas Rangers did really about as well as one could expect, with a few surprises and a few letdowns here and there. Just perhaps, with all of its planned pieces functioning at 100%, that run could have been so much better.
That sentence could potentially sum up the season for the 2018 Texas Rangers. Then again, it could just be wishful thinking. If you extrapolate the team’s 20-game record of 9-11, a winning percentage of 45%, the Texas Rangers look like they’ll finish the season at 73-89, probably good for last place in this stacked AL West. Was that where you had them?
May 24-June 3
- Opponents: Kansas City Royals, @Seattle Mariners, @Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- 11-game Record: 5-6
- Overall Record: 25-37, 13.5 Games Back of…Seattle? Seattle.
- Injury Report: Elvis Andrus (60, Fractured Elbow), Martin Perez (10, right elbow discomfort)
- Notable Stats: Strikeouts-to-walks by offense over this stretch (2-to-1 – 100-to-50), Runs Scored to Runs Allowed (39-to-50), Runs Allowed by Starters vs. Relievers over Stretch (45 to 5), Starters ERA vs. Relievers ERA Overall (5.38 to 3.72), Rougned Odor during Stretch (.289/.308/.395, 9 strikeouts), Shin-Soo Choo during Stretch (.324/.468/.676, 3 home runs, 14-to-10 strikeouts-to-walks, 10-game hitting streak)
On the Mound
One look over the last three series Texas has played will tell you that there is a stark difference between the rotation and the bullpen. It’s what makes the pending decision on Tim Lincecum so difficult. Lincecum must either be purchased and called up or given the option to stay in the minors on a new deal or go into free agency by Wednesday, June 6th. That’s when his rehab assignment from his blister ends.
There are three problems here – 1) Lincecum hasn’t exactly been glittering in Round Rock, sporting a 5.68 ERA over 10 games with the Express. He did finish his last outing with a scoreless innings, throwing 7 of 10 pitches for strikes, but that might be too little too late.
2) The Rangers would have to open a 40-man spot for The Freak. Someone will have to be designated for assignment or sent to the 60-day DL – and there’s nobody really eligible to send to the 60.
There aren’t really any great potentials to kick off of the 40-man, either, although Brandon Mann, Nick Gardewine, or Matt Moore stand out off the top of my head (Moore is just wishful thinking and the Rangers like what Mann and Gardewine provide in depth). Texas could give Carlos Tocci back to Philadelphia because of the Rule 5 restrictions, but they don’t seem too keen on doing that either.
3) The Rangers would have to open a 25-man active roster position in the bullpen and right now, that bullpen is absolutely meshing. The relievers are sporting a ridiculous 1.98 ERA over the last 14 days, including just 5 runs allowed in the last three series.
The most obvious candidate to be sent back down would be Matt Bush, who still hasn’t regained effectiveness, but Lincecum’s stuff doesn’t come near what Bush has the potential to offer.
One reliever you’re definitely not getting rid of is Jesse Chavez, who might take the title of Rangers’ Most Valuable Pitcher by the end of the season. After throwing 11 pitches in a scoreless outing against Seattle, Chavez came back the next day in relief of an ineffective Bartolo Colon and went five innings on just 60 pitches to save the bullpen.
That performance stands out as a prime reason why you might not want to shift Chavez to the rotation in lieu of Matt Moore. Moore, by the way, in his return from the DL against Seattle was relatively fine. He went 5 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, but that’s certainly a better line than what he did before he went on the DL.
Cole Hamels has been inconsistent, giving up five runs in 6 1/3 innings against Kansas City, but shoving for 7 innings, giving up just two runs against a much better Angels team. Colon had a decent outing against Kansas City, but had an awful outing against the Angels – in 8 1/3 innings combined against New York and Los Angeles, two teams that seek and destroy things like 85-89 mph fastballs, Colon has given up 12 runs.
Doug Fister has actually been the Rangers’ best pitcher of late, going six innings in each game against better division rival teams and giving up five runs across those two starts against the Mariners and Angels.
At the Plate
Nowhere was it more evident that the Rangers were running on fumes at the end of this 20-game stretch than in the bats. After a 9-run and 7-run pair of games against Seattle, the Rangers sputtered for just five runs in their last four games.
In that run, the Rangers collectively slashed .194/.276/.295, striking out 38 times and leaving 29 men on base. All things considered, if you take away the wild and wacky top of the 9th in Anaheim, like Carlos Tocci tried to do and almost did, Texas only scored four runs over its last four games. Either way you look at it, this offense needed a break.
There were bright spots, however, as Rougned Odor looks to be coming out of his black hole, contributing on a couple of different key, run-scoring plays. Nomar Mazara is becoming a model of consistency, going .275/.370/.550 in this last stretch of 11 games with 3 homers and 11 RBI.
Shin-Soo Choo continues to go along his own rhythm, perhaps accepting that he can’t be a full-time right fielder anymore and transitioning, as Adrian Beltre will be, to a part-to-most-of-the-time DH.
Speaking of Beltre, The Captain made his return to the lineup, just a few games after re-straining the hamstring he had hurt earlier in the year. Since coming back in the series finale against Seattle, Beltre has only logged 2 hits and played one game at third base.
This new regiment is going to be a transition period for Beltre as well. It’s something he’s never really experience before, the idea of not playing every day, on top of the idea of not playing at third base every time out there.
There may be a lack of production from the plate while Beltre develops a rhythm, but if anyone can just come back after 16 games off and get two hits, it’s Adrian Beltre.
In the Field
It figures, doesn’t it? Now, with the offense seeming to have dropped off a cliff in the last few days, the glove-side of the ball is tightening up for this Texas team. They have only committed three errors in the last 11 games, a marked improvement from the rest of the season.
Two were by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but one of those, an errant throw, came after a remarkable diving stop. The one bone-headed one was on Delino Deshields in a game against Kansas City, as he overran a simple ground-ball single to him that allowed two runs to score.
Texas has a couple of series before it’s possible that Elvis Andrus makes his return to the field and the lineup. While his presence is certainly a welcome one, it’s not any kind of slight to Jurickson Profar, who has been playing good baseball as of late.
On top of roster decisions, the return of Andrus will present another defensive question for the Rangers. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been playing some more-than-serviceable third base, and Profar, as mentioned, has developed a rapport at short. Does Profar slide over to third to continue his regular reps? Does Kiner-Falefa get sent down because of that, or does he remain as the primary utility infielder?
Jeff Banister has already said that Profar won’t see any time in the outfield at all, so that rules out moving Joey Gallo back to first base – that’s all well and good, because Ronald Guzman has still been a superstar at first base.
Coming off of a grueling 20-game stretch, Texas now gets a June riddled with off-days – the one yesterday, two more in the next 10 days, and then the next two Thursdays. Can the defense maintain its focus? Can the offense recharge its batteries and get back to producing, especially at home? What happens to Tim Lincecum?
- June 5-6: Oakland Athletics
- June 7-10: Houston Astros
Do you think the Rangers will have a better month of June than their month of May? Share your red hot Texas takes with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.