Two plus months into the season and the AL West has been a one horse race, with the other four teams vying for second. Currently, the leader in the race for silver, and ideally along with it a wild card spot, is the Texas Rangers. While not completely lighting the world on fire, the Rangers have been quietly competent and competitive this year. At 32-28, the Rangers would make the postseason if the campaign ended today, having gotten themselves into the position by beating up the teams they need to beat up, and, by and large, holding their own against some of the stiffer competition. However, a series sweep, a tall task with four games to play, at the hands of the A’s would cause the teams to switch places in the standings yet again.
As a collective unit, the Rangers have slightly above average hitting and slightly below average pitching, something that would be expected given the Rangers’ ballpark conditions are much more conducive for offense than defense. While there are some standouts on offense, the key to the Rangers’ success has been the lack of holes in the lineup from top to bottom, with one notable exception. While the starting rotation has some problems to say the least, deft use of the bullpen and openers have kept the Rangers in many different games the team should have fallen out of.
On offense, Joey Gallo has the fifth best OPS in all of the MLB, currently sitting at 1.074. This places him above such notable stars as Mike Trout, George Springer, and Nolan Arenado. Having long been thought of as Jack-Custian as a defender due to his extreme three-true-outcomes approach to offense (this season Gallo reached 100 career home runs before reaching 100 career singles), this association is a false one, as he is also capable of playing average-to-plus defense at a premium up the middle position in center field. The A’s won’t have to contend with Gallo’s brutal bat this series, however, because he is currently on the IL with an oblique strain.
In lieu of Gallo in the Rangers’ lineup, a player who can cause some damage is Hunter Pence, who is having a nice rebound season after years of sharp decline. He is currently the second best hitter on the team according to OPS, where he currently sits at .924 with twelve home runs and forty RsBI. Willie Calhoun has long been considered one of the stronger hitting prospects in the minor leagues but hasn’t settled in on a position he could thrive at, but in limited action this season his bat may just force the issue, as he has ten hits, three for extra bases, in twenty three at bats this year. Unfortunately for him, shortly after finally being handed an opportunity to thrive, Calhoun got injured and is currently on the IL, just like Gallo.
The Rangers’ pitching staff has been much less dependable than the offense, and there are no thriving Joey Gallo-esque saviors to pick up the slack. Eleven different pitchers have started or opened a game for the Rangers this season, and only four of those eleven pitchers have made the majority of their appearances as a starting pitcher or opener. Two of those four pitchers, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller have ERA’s of 7.93 and 9.25 respectively and really shouldn’t be seeing much more action at the big league level if it can be helped. The reason the Rangers haven’t sunk completely is due to aggressive and savvy bullpen use, with fireballers like Joey Leclerq figuring things out after a slow start and former Athletic Shawn Kelley picking up where he left off last season with the A’s.
The race for silver heats up in the Texas sun this weekend. This should be a competitive series, with the A’s and Rangers playing four games in three days. There is going to be a morning-evening double header on Saturday to make up a game in mid April that was postponed due to rain. Depending on who emerges victorious, the AL West landscape can potentially look very different.
Delino DeShields — CF
Logan Forsythe — 1B
Elvis Andrus — SS
Nomar Mazara — RF
Hunter Pence — DH
Asdrubal Cabrera — 3B
Danny Santana — LF
Rougned Odor — 2B
Jeff Mathis — C
Brett Anderson vs Lance Lynn
Paul Blackburn vs Joe Palumbo
Chris Bassitt vs Adrian Sampson
Frankie Montas vs Drew Smyly
Game #64: Friday, June 7th at 5:05
Game #65: Saturday, June 8th at 11:05
Game #66: Saturday, June 8th at 6:05
Game #67: Sunday, June 9th at 12:05
All games are available to watch on NBCSCA.