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Series Preview #31: Diamondbacks @ Rangers

Two evenly matched teams face off for a two game set

Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

When we last saw the Rangers it was at Chase Field for a two game series April 9th and 10th. In the first game Jarrod Dyson hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th giving the Dbacks a 5-4 victory, one of the happier moments this season. In the 2nd game Robbie Ray handed off a 1-0 lead after 5, but the bullpen proceeded to allow runs in each of the next 4 innings, resulting in 5-2 loss.

This series will be in Texas. You have to hope the heat and mugginess of St. Louis was not a factor in the DBacks playing flat and sluggish on both offense and defense. That’s because it’s going to be 97 degrees with 60% humidity and a “feels like” temp of 104 at game time tonight in Arlington. The weather may also be a factor in the Ranger’s strong home record as well.

Ranks are MLB ranks

These two teams have a lot of similarities. Their place in the standings and trade deadline choices are almost the same. The Rangers are 9 back of the Astros and 3 back of the A’s in the AL West. But they find themselves just 3 games out of the AL Wild Card. There is only one team , the Red Sox, between them and the A’s, who are in 2nd WC slot. As such, their buy/sell/stand pat paradigm is not dissimilar to the DBacks, who are 1 game out of the wild card with only the Brewers between them and the Phillies and Cardinals. Standings Link

Texas GM Jon Daniels recently said he would not rule out a trade of staff ace Mike Minor. But he is not “shopping him”. The Rangers are trying to rebuild and reload their young talent pipeline while trying to be competitive at the same time. Sound familiar ?

From the table above you should note that The Ballpark in Arlington has consistently been one of the best hitters parks in MLB, even more so than Chase. The park factors showing there are multi year factors. However the single year numbers have been less hitter friendly than years past. Also notable are the Payroll and attendance ranks, which are very similar to Arizona as well


Alex Young is making his third start of the season. Last time out he threw 6 hitless innings against the Rockies. You can’t do much better than that. He throws a Cutter, Four Seam, Fastball, Curve, and Changeup. He relies on location and varying speed to keep hitters off balance, as nothing he throws averages over 89 MPH

Lance Lynn has been a steal for the Rangers. Signed to a 3 year, 30 million dollar contract, he’s been one of the best starters in the American League this year. He throws a Four Seam, Sinker, Cutter and Curveball. The Tommy John survivor is throwing his 4 seamer harder than ever, averaging 94.3 MPH.

Robbie Ray is coming off one of his best starts of the season. He went 6 13 against the Cardinals allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, 2 walks and 8 K’s to pick up his 7th win. While nobody is going to mistake him for Randy Johnson, he’s been getting deeper in games of late. He’s gone 6 Innings or more in 7 of his last 8 starts, and averaging exactly 6 IP Ironically perhaps, his ERA is 4.10 during that span. In his first 12 starts he worked 62.2 IP, or 5.2 IP per start, but had a 3.59 ERA. Is it worth the extra two outs ?

Journeyman Jesse Chavez has been working as a swingman for the Rangers this year, having made 8 starts and 30 relief appearances. He throws a Sinker, Cutter, Slider, Four Seamer, Changeup, and the kitchen sink up there. A hard thrower when he first came up, the 35 yr. old now averages around 91 and tops out at 93 on his various fastballs. His cutter has not been as effective as in years past and he’s getting most of his outs with this Sinker/Slider.

Interesting little split, since DBacks are starting two lefties and Rangers starting two righties:


The Rangers have scored more runs than the DBacks, but once you bake in ballpark factors, their OPS+ of 96 is exactly the same. The oWAR figures are a perfect match. Two very evenly matched teams on offense

Joey Gallo has a 160 OPS+ on a .266/.406/.626 slash line, and a .384 BABIP. Gallo came in with a .203/.317/.498 career line and a .256 BABIP

Shin Soo Choo is having a year reminiscent of his time in Cleveland. Hunter Pence is on the IL with a strained groin. EDIT: Hat Tip to edbigghead, Pence should be coming off the IL today for this series. STORY LINK

Ketel Marte (135 OPS+) and Eduardo Escobar (124 OPS+) continue to bet the best hitters on the DBacks. David Peralta, on the IL with a sore shoulder and no return date, is really missed. Jarrod Dyson (78 OPS+) Tim Locastro (83 OPS+) and Adam Jones (90 OPS+) are not providing enough offense and all three have slumped lately.

Regardless of the metric or website you prefer, the DBacks are a significantly better defensive team than the Rangers. Choo has been a butcher in the outfield and Elvis Andrus at 30 years old is no longer the defender of his younger days. Nick Ahmed has looked shakier than normal of late, but still leads all MLB Shortstops with 17 Defensive Runs Saved.

This table is really interesting to me and requires some explanation. On the surface many would think that it just doesn’t make any sense that the Rangers lead MLB in Baseball Reference Pitching WAR. It’s certainly debatable. But when you look closely, it actually begins to make more sense.

BB-REF WAR begins with RA-9, or runs against per 9 innings. (So all runs, earned and unearned). Then calculates what an “AVERAGE” pitcher would do in same circumstances.

It takes into account the defense behind the pitcher. Better defense hurts the pitchers WAR and worse defense helps the pitchers WAR. The Rangers have one of the worst defenses in MLB, so their pitchers, who are laboring in front of this bad defense, are getting credit for that.

It takes into account Ball Park Factors. The Rangers Ballpark is the 2nd most hitter friendly ballpark in MLB. But note the park factor shown in the WAR tables is individually calculated for each ballpark pitched in. Bottom line, Rangers pitchers have the 2nd toughest overall environments to perform in .

It takes into account the strength of competition faced. The Rangers pitchers have faced the 3rd toughest competition of any team in MLB.

So pitching in front of bad defense, in a hitters paradise, against the toughest lineups turns out to make things tougher for pitchers to keep their ERA down. Make sense ?

This calculation states that an average Rangers pitcher in those ballparks, with that defense against those opponents should have an RA-9 of 5.92, which is the toughest of any team in MLB. Go to THIS LINK which is sorted by “RA-9 Avg”. The Rangers actual 5.22 RA-9 is significantly lower than that, and is why their WAR is leading MLB.

The Dbacks by contrast, have an RA-9 AVG of 4.29, meaning that they’ve had the 26th EASIEST environment for pitchers. So while their actual 4.47 RA-9 is lower than the Rangers 5.22, it’s actually higher than what an average pitcher in Chase field should produce, and therefore gives a much lower WAR figure than

Jose LeClerc was the closer early on, (He is the one who gave up the Dyson walkoff). He lost the job in late April to veteran reliever Shawn Kelly. Kelly has been ok as closer, with 11 saves, but 4 blown saves. He has a 3.00 ERA.

Overall the Dbacks pen has been a bit better than the Rangers, while the Ranger have had a better starting rotation. The offenses are pretty equal, and the DBacks have better defense.

The Rangers are home, and it’s very hot and muggy.

A Series split is a reasonable outcome for these two very evenly matched teams.


Rangers Baseball Reference Home Page

Rangers Fangraphs Page

DBacks Baseball Reference Home Page

DBacks Fangraphs Page