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Oakland A's series preview: The Texas Rangers in 1,333 more words

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The Athletics visit the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park for a brief three-game road trip.

This is Joey Gallo. He hits balls far when he hits them.
This is Joey Gallo. He hits balls far when he hits them.
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics (31-41) head to Arlington, Texas with a 6-4 advantage in the season series against the Texas Rangers (37-33). The Rangers have done about as well as the A's in scoring runs in 2015, but they're doing so in the somewhat easier run-scoring environment that is Globe Life Park while the A's contend with the foul ground and marine layer at the Coliseum. The Rangers have lost three of their last four, but have won four of their last five at home.

The Rangers are in second place in the American League West. They trail the Houston Astros by three games. The A's trail the Astros by 10. The Rangers are one game behind both the Twins and Yankees for the two Wild Card spots.

Besides the league standings, all statistics and rankings are as of the end of Sunday, June 21.

On the mound

Starter Ranks
A's AL Ranks Rangers
1st (3.00) ERA 3rd (3.57)
1st (3.40) FIP 9th (4.07)
5th (3.78) xFIP 14th (4.47)
Through June 21

The Texas Rangers starting rotation owns the third-best ERA in the major leagues despite basically losing an entire starting rotation to the 60-day disabled list. Underperformer Ross Detwiler was quickly returned to the bullpen. Phil Klein and Anthony Ranaudo were returned to Triple-A. In their steads, free agent signee Wandy Rodriguez and trade acquisition Yovani Gallardo have been performing swimmingly alongside prospect Chi Chi Gonzalez and incumbents Nick Martinez and Colby Lewis.

Tuesday vs. RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez
Tuesday (5:05 PM PDT)
Jesse Chavez vs. Chi Chi Gonzalez
3.40 ERA 0.90
3.38 FIP 4.17
3.92 xFIP 5.04
14.9% K% 8.6%
2.33 GB/FB 1.71

Against the A's on June 11, Chi Chi Gonzalez gave up just one run over seven innings despite conceding three walks and eight hits. It was the Texas bullpen that let get the game get away from the Rangers in their 0-7 loss. He's made four starts now, and has the Rangers' only complete game shutout.

Gonzalez is throwing a 93 mph fastball, sinker, slider, change, and curve, according to Brooks Baseball. One thing he has not done yet is strike out a lot of batters, which continues a trend that started in his time at Triple-A, where he has struck out just 13.8 percent of batters. He has also maintained a rather high walk rate that would rank third if he qualified for pitching titles.

Wednesday vs. LHP Wandy Rodriguez
Wednesday (5:05 PM PDT)
Kendall Graveman vs. Wandy Rodriguez
4.02 ERA 3.20
4.82 FIP 3.77
4.26 xFIP 4.17
15.1% K% 18.2%
1.69 GB/FB 1.38

The A's will have to send the 12th-worst offense by wRC+ (85) in the American League to the plate against southpaw Wandy Rodriguez Wednesday. Rodriguez has yet to face Oakland in this campaign.

Brooks Baseball says Rodriguez throws an 89 mph fastball, knuckle curve, sinker, and change. His walk rate of 8.4 percent is a little elevated, ranking 12th highest out of 62 American League pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched. Rodriguez has done well to keep the ball in the park, his 0.70 HR/9 is 15th lowest out of 62.

Thursday vs. RHP Colby Lewis
Thursday (11:05 AM PDT)
Sonny Gray vs. Colby Lewis
1.95 ERA 4.08
2.64 FIP 3.46
3.35 xFIP 4.33
22.7% K% 18.6%
1.69 GB/FB 0.76

Right-hander Colby Lewis has faced the Athletics twice and thrown two quality starts. On April 7, Lewis allowed just three hits, two walks, and one run while striking out four to earn a 3-1 victory. On May 1, Lewis allowed just two hits, two walks, and no runs while striking out eight but earned no decision in a 5-7 loss. Lewis is currently riding a streak of four consecutive quality starts that was immediately preceded by a three-game stretch of conceding 19 earned runs in 14⅓ innings.

One thing Lewis continues to do well is not give away free passes. His 4.6 percent walk rate is sixth lowest amongst 54 qualifying American League starting pitchers.

Sure Colby Lewis is a fly ball pitcher, but he's not even particularly good at inducing an infield fly, yet his fly balls just don't leave the park. His 6.2 percent HR/FB ratio is fifth lowest among the 54 qualifiers. Lewis throws a 90 mph fastball, slider, sinker, curve, and change, says Brooks Baseball.

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Rangers
4th (4.43) RS/G 7th (4.39)
5th (104) wRC+ 12th (93)
10th (61) HR 6th (71)
T-5th (.259) AVG 9th (.247)
T-6th (.323) OBP 8th (.317)
T-7th (.397) SLG 9th (.393)
11th (.137) ISO 5th (.146)
5th (45) SB T-3rd (49)
15th (71) Errors 14th (58)
7th (8) DRS 10th (-7)
15th (-10.9) UZR/150 8th (0.2)
6th (.719) DE 10th (.714)
Through June 21

Against right-handed pitching, the Texas Rangers have been pretty meh, ranking 10th in the American League in wRC+ (96). Overall, the Rangers have six players with a better than 100 wRC+, but three of them, Josh Hamilton, Kyle Blanks, and Delino Deshields Jr., are on the disabled list. The very strikeout prone Joey Gallo is another one of those six.

Sogard Line

On the other end of the spectrum we have the Sogard Line. The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup.

Sogard's wRC+ held at 70 after going 2-for-7, with a walk and one strikeout against the Angels. The Texas Rangers have given about 28 percent (736 of 2,664) of their non-pitcher plate appearances to batters batting at or below the Sogard Line, up from 13 percent at the last meeting. The increase is due to Sogard's improvement, bringing Tommy Field and Elvis Andrus below the line. Leonys Martin and his 236 plate appearances are just barely above the line at a 71 wRC+.

Bullpen

Bullpen Ranks
A's AL Ranks Rangers
12th (196.1) IP 3rd (222.1)
15th (4.77) ERA 14th (4.41)
13th (4.23) FIP 15th (4.62)
11th (4.09) xFIP 13th (4.33)
Through June 21

The Rangers played into the 11th inning on Sunday in their walk off loss to the Chicago White Sox. They used six of their eight relievers, but have the benefit of the Monday off day, like the A's.The Texas bullpen remains a weak spot for the Rangers, being charged with 11 blown saves, good for third most in the American League, and 11 losses, tied for fifth most.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 22-Jun 21-Jun 20-Jun 19-Jun 18-Jun 17-Jun 16-Jun
Shawn Tolleson R 32.0 2.53 25.2% 40.9% 37.5% O 20 15
Tanner Scheppers R 21.2 4.98 18.8% 50.8% 33.8% F 16 12 10
Keone Kela R 30.1 2.37 22.1% 49.4% 32.6% F 15 21 21
Sam Freeman L 10.2 5.91 13.3% 50.0% 26.5% 10 26
Jon Edwards R 6.0 6.00 19.4% 11.8% 64.7% 6 5
Ross Detwiler L 4.0 9.00 11.1% 26.7% 40.0% D 20 21 4
Alex Claudio L 14.2 3.07 19.1% 53.5% 32.6% A 18 12
Anthony Bass R 36.1 4.71 13.7% 49.2% 28.0% Y

The games

Fifteen thousand Rangers fans will enjoy a Prince Fielder bobblehead given away at the series opener. Tuesday's game will be preceded by a moment of silence in memory of former Texas Ranger Darryl Hamilton, who died tragically on Monday.

Thursday's day game is another edition of the A's Baseball Breakfast radio simulcasts featuring Vince Cotroneo, Glen Kuiper, and Ray Fosse broadcasting from the radio broadcast booth on CSN California.

Time (PT) Probable starters TV Promotion
Tuesday 5:05 PM Jesse Chavez vs. Chi Chi Gonzalez CSNCA Prince Fielder bobblehead
Wednesday 5:05 PM Kendall Graveman vs. Wandy Rodriguez CSNCA Dollar Hot Dog Night
Thursday 11:05 AM Sonny Gray vs. Colby Lewis CSNCA radio simulcast Wildlife Education Day