Ten games into the 2017 season, the Texas Rangers are at or near the top of the league in several offensive categories. The Rangers rank second in runs scored (55), second in home runs (18) and first in RBI’s with 53. The Rangers also lead the league in runs per game at a whopping 5.5.
With these statistics, it should be safe to call the Rangers the best offensive team in baseball, right? Well sometimes statistics can be deceiving and such is the case for the Rangers so far this year. The Rangers have been an offensive enigma so far this season with several big numbers hiding some alarming deficiencies.
In order to find these deficiencies, we have to talk about what good offensive teams consistently do. Good offensive teams draw walks and get deep in the count. Good offensive teams don’t strike-out a ton and hit for a high average. Good offensive teams also get on base, which can pressure opposing pitches into mistakes. So do the Rangers do these things?
When you look at hits, average and on base percentage, the Rangers rank near the bottom third of the league in all three categories. Perhaps the two most alarming trends for the Rangers though are their low amount of walks and high amount of strike-outs. Currently the Rangers sit 26th in the league in drawing walks with a measly 28 total free passes drawn on the season. When it comes to strike-outs the Rangers rank in the top third of the league averaging 8.7 punch outs a game. So why do these things matter if the Rangers are still scoring tons of runs?
The rate and method in which the Rangers are scoring is simply not sustainable. You can’t rely on all your runs to come via the home run, especially against good pitching. When you face an ace, you have to work the count, raise the pitch total and have the ability to score in a variety of different ways. This is not something the Rangers are foreign to as they are traditionally a very good small ball team.
Playing small ball becomes especially important for a team that has a struggling bullpen. The later you get into a ball game, the harder it is going to be to score via the long ball. When you can add on runs in the later innings, you put more pressure on the bullpen. In the Rangers case, that has cost them several games early on in the year. In each of the losses where their bullpen imploded, the Rangers had opportunities to add on runs late and failed.
Despite these uneven offensive statistics, it appears that the Rangers are starting to get their act together. In their recent series versus the LA Angels, the Rangers won their last two games by a combined score of 16-6. The most impressive part of the both of these games was that the Rangers scored in a variety of different ways.
In their Wednesday evening match-up against the Angels, the Rangers started off the game by belting two solo home runs back to back. In the 5th inning, the first sign of a different approach emerged. Ranger’s youngster Joey Gallo came to bat with two runners on. Instead of trying to hit the ball out of the park, Gallo, who has had a much more patient approach this year, lined a ball into the right field corner scoring both base runners. The next batter, Jurickson Profar, took what the pitcher gave him and lined the ball up the middle scoring another run.
Fast forward to the top of the ninth inning and the Rangers leading by a score of 6-3, which given their recent struggles, is not big enough. With two on and two out, Rougned Odor lined a triple into the gap scoring both runners and giving the Rangers the comfortable cushion they needed to get the win. The Rangers showed they can score in multiple ways in this game. They still struck out a bit too much with 8, but they also collected 11 hits and drew 5 walks.
The Rangers followed up that performance with another balanced approach on Thursday afternoon. Just 3 of their 8 runs came via the long ball and the Rangers collected 11 hits for the second consecutive day. Once again, it was the Rangers youngsters leading their patient approach and that can only mean good things for the team moving forward. A large part of the Rangers uneven approach this year has been due to veterans either sitting on the DL or simply not performing up to their potential.
So far this season Adrian Beltre has spent the entire time on the DL, while Mike Napoli, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, and Shin Soo Choo are all off to terrible starts at the plate. Those four regulars are a combined 27-141 on the season which equates to an average of .191. Worse than that, they have combined for 37 strikeouts and just 12 walks on the year. While this may cause some people to panic, it should bring Rangers fans some comfort.
Despite these awful performances from mainstays in their line-up, the Rangers are still scoring and following the lead of the young guys in the process. There are few in the Rangers front office who are worried about Mike Napoli, Shin Soo Choo and Jonathan Lucroy. Carlos Gomez is the only wild card of the bunch and even he showed he could figure things out late last year. The point is, these guys are going to get going and that will only make the Rangers that much more consistent.
So while there are definitely reasons for concern with the Rangers offense, the bad numbers are going in the right direction and will only get better once the entire line-up starts to perform.