Less than two years ago, the Texas Rangers completed back-to-back division titles, winning 95 games. This season, they’re on pace to win only 68 and finish last in the AL West, a spectacular fall from grace. What happened? Several things. First, the 2016 team were this decade’s version of the 2007 D-backs: incredibly lucky to win 95 games. They only outscored their opponents by eight runs, and by fWAR, ranked 16th for hitting and 22nd for pitching in the majors. But they went a staggering 36-11 in one-run games that year. Over the season and two-thirds since? 24-39.
That said, neither their hitting nor pitching are as good: the former ranks 18th, and the latter is 26th. It has mostly been the rotation (27th) rather than the bullpen (11th) which has been a problem. Over the winter, the Rangers added a number of new starting pitchers who were expected to sit along Cole Hamels and provide a decent foundation. But Matt Moore, Doug Fister, and Mike Minor have combined to go 9-19 with a 5.52 ERA: Fister is currently on the 60-day DL with a knee strain, and Moore was moved to the bullpen in June, where he is currently operating as a $9 million mop-up man. Bartolo Colon has thrown more innings for the 2018 Rangers than anyone else. This is likely not a good thing.
On the position player side, we have the enigma that is Joey Gallo, who can destroy baseballs... if he makes contact with them. He has a real shot at a 40-homer season, which would be great, if he wasn’t batting .190 and on pace for 215 strikeouts. Fun fact. Over his career, Gallo has a .197 average and an .800 OPS. The next-highest OPS by any player in baseball history with a batting average below the Uecker Line (min. 1,000 PA), is two hundred and thirty-three points lower, at .567. Who is second on that list? Amusingly, it would be Jeff Mathis. Unfortunately, we don’t get a Zack Greinke/Gallo match-up here. I’d love to see Greinke throw up nothing but 65-mph eephus pitches, purely to troll.
Instead, it’s outfielder Shin-Soo Choo who has been their most valuable position player thus far by bWAR, worth 2.9 wins. That’s almost good value for the $20m he’s getting paid this year. Mind you, his balance is still likely in the red: over the first four seasons of the seven-year contract, Choo got paid $68 million and was worth only 4.8 bWAR. There have been suggestions he may be moved before the trade deadline tomorrow, but the $42 million remaining on Choo’s contract would be a significant impediment to that. Young infielders Rougned Odor (1.9 bWAR), and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (1.7) are both also having decent seasons for the Rangers.
Texas’s current closer is Keone Kela, though again, whether he still will be after tomorrow is anyone’s guess. His name has been mentioned as a potential bullpen upgrade for a number of teams, including the Diamondbacks. We are also report to have interest in Jose Leclerc, and that would make more sense to me: his ERA and FIP are both better than Kela’s (he has struck out 53 over 38.2 innings this season), and Leclerc’s stats are without all those shiny and expensive saves. However, he has four more years of control after this season, and so is still not likely to come cheap. But since he’s going to be in Arizona anyway, why not just leave him behind when the Rangers depart on Tuesday?
Monday: Martin Perez (27, LHP, 2-4, 7.08) vs. Robbie Ray (26, LHP, 3-2, 4.90)
Over his last six outings, Perez has alternated good and bad. Over the three “good” starts, he has a 1.89 ERA; over the three “bad” ones, it’s 11.48. Happily for Arizona, he’s scheduled for a stinker, having tossed six innings of one-run ball last time out, against Oakland. He missed 21⁄2 months with an elbow issue; weirdly, not his throwing arm, but he broke it on his Venezuelan ranch this winter when startled by a bull. I suggest we pipe loud mooing through the Chase Field PA system between innings, as psychological warfare. Ray will seek to build on a very solid outing in Chicago, where he held them to one run over seven innings. He deserved better than a no-decision, and has now gone five starts without a W.
Tuesday: Bartolo Colon (45, RHP, 5-9, 5.02) vs. Zack Godley (28, RHP, 11-6, 4.73)
This should be fun. Colon will be 45 years and 68 days old. Since Randy Johnson retired at the end of 2009, only Jamie Moyer has pitched in the majors at a more advanced age. When Colon made his major-league debut, in 1997, Ketel Marte was three years old. We’ll also get the joy of watching Bartolo bat: over his career, he has put up a strikeout to walk ratio of 164:1, having K’d in more than half of his trips to the plate. That said, however, he has a home-run, having gone deep off the Mets’ James Shields in 2016. That’s more than can be said for Godley, who has also struck out in more than half of his trips to the plate, though does have a better K:BB ratio, at 64:5. #PitchersWhoDontRake
How many wins in this short series?
This poll is closed