Lowly Rangers Sweep Actual Weekend Series

I feel bad for the Braves. Heading into Friday's tilt in Texas, they trailed Pittsburgh by two games in the race for the NL's second wild card. After leaving Arlington Sunday afternoon, that deficit has doubled. 

The Rangers, the unlikeliest sweepers in MLB, accomplished the feat for just the second time in 2014, and the first since taking a three game set on the road in Oakland at the end of April. Between then and now, Texas have gone 43-84 (.339) -- easily the worst mark in baseball. Unironically, the Rangers now travel to Oakland for a three-game set starting Tuesday. 

It only took 149 games -- 92% of the season -- for Texas to record their most prolific offensive output, at least in terms of hits (18), during the 2014 season. Every Ranger sans Adrian Beltre, by far the best hitter on the team and one of the best overall players in MLB this season, recorded at least one hit on Sunday, and aside he and J.P. Arencibia every starter recorded at least two hits. 

Luis Sardinas went 3-5 with two doubles and 4 RBI, Michael Choice went 2-3 with a double and 3 RBI, and Leonys Martin and Robinson Chirinos recorded three hits as well. It was an awesome display of what I imagine a lineup is supposed to look like when everything is clicking, something the Rangers haven't shown a lot of this season through no fault of the suspect talent on its roster. Aside Martin, Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and probably Chirinos, there's a solid chance everyone else in the lineup is either in Triple-A or a different organization in 2015, except perhaps Ryan Rua who could crack the Opening Day roster as a 4-corners utility man. 

Colby Lewis did what Colby Lewis has been doing during the second half, providing seven strong innings while allowing just a run on five hits. He has been really, really impressive lately and odds are progressively growing that he returns to the starting rotation next year. That makes me happy. 

A sweep is a sweep, which is cool and all, but with Colorado being swept themselves this weekend, Texas's stranglehold on the #1 pick in the 2015 draft is getting weak. With just 13 games remaining on the schedule, they possess a minute two-game advantage on the Rockies -- a tough pill to swallow in wake of arguably the Rangers most impressive series of the season.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty jazzed about Texas winning baseball games again, but I consider myself rational in most instances and the rational in me can't bring myself to root for finishing anything but last place this year. To the layman it's probably not a proper thing to wish for from my favorite team, but as I've written ad nauseam, the incentives are too great to wish for anything else at this point. The Rangers have been too bad for too long that I almost feel like they deserve it. 

Either way, this weekend was probably the last hurrah of the 2014 season, as their final 13 contests come against Oakland (seven times), Houston and Anaheim. 

The Rangers are 56-92

I'm confused, is this what winning baseball looks like? I think I forgot. 

Congratulations to Lisalverto Bonilla on collecting his first big league win in his first major league start, though he owes a hat tip to his offense for providing the deciding three runs after Bonilla had already completed his night the half-inning before. 

With 14 games to go, the Rangers must play .500 ball the rest of the way to avoid 100 losses. In more damaging news, with Texas's sudden/miraculous two-game surge in the win column, their stronghold on the #1 pick in 2015 has lessened. They now lead Colorado by a mere three games for ownership of the worst record in MLB in 2014. 

Should the Rangers surrender the bottom spot -- which for some reason wouldn't at all surprise me -- the collapse would be consistent with the way they operated during September in 2012 and '13. 

I'm kidding, but not really. 

At this point in the season, baseball is on the back-burner. I don't want to speak for everyone, but I'm fairly certain most of us just want some resolution with the recent Ron Washington saga; wins and losses don't mean very much. Unless, of course, the Rangers keep winning. 

The Rangers are 55-92

Derek Holland is a sight for sore eyes. 

For the third time in as many appearances, Derek has gone seven innings, with each start displaying an eerily similar stat line:

9/2 vs. KC: 7.0 IP/6 hits/1 run/6 Ks/0 BBs

9/7 vs. SEA: 7.0 IP/6 hits/0 runs/5 Ks/0 BBs

9/12 vs ATL: 7.0 IP/8 hits/1 run/6 Ks/0 BBs

He's surrendered just 2 runs on 20 hits in 21.0 innings of work, with an outstanding 17:0 K/BB ratio. In three starts, Holland (+0.9 fWAR) has leapfrogged every arm on the Rangers staff not named Yu Darvish (+4.2) or Colby Lewis (+1.7) when it comes to Wins Above Replacement, which is both a testament to how brilliant he has been and an indictment on how many inept arms Texas have had on its roster in 2014. (Joakim Soria generated +1.7 fWAR in 2014 -- tied with Cobra for 2nd on the club -- and he hasn't thrown a pitch since mid-July.)

Perhaps more important than anything, though, is that Derek Holland is evidence that in spite of everything else that has gone wrong this season, moving forward the Rangers are not faced with impending doom. These are the types of starts talented major league starting pitchers are capable of. With Holland and Yu Darvish manning the front of a rotation, we're going to like our chances of winning that particular baseball game more often than not. As we glance ahead to 2015, the goal will be to figure out which starters constitute the remaining 60% of the workload. 

Colby Lewis, for instance, has grown stronger as the season has worn on. In his last 9 starts he's held his own with a 3.75 ERA, but more impressively he's made it through 6.0 innings in 8 of them. With a 43:12 K/UIBB ratio in 62.1 IP, to boot, Lewis appears more and more likely to receive some sort of one-year contract from the Rangers following the season. Probably in the same $2 million range he collected from the Rangers before 2014.

Since Martín Perez likely won't be ready to return from Tommy John surgery until around the All Star Break next year (and even if he does return, not much should be expected from him), righty Nick Tepesch would seem another obvious candidate to eat up innings. Nick's 2014 hasn't been anywhere near as encouraging as his rookie year in '13, as his putrid 10.8% strikeout rate (compared to 18.7% in '13) has severely regressed, and his 7.8% walk rate (compared to 6.6% in '13) has taken a step back as well. His earned run average (4.47) is marginally improved -- it was 4.87 last year -- but strictly by looking at his peripherals, he has not been the same pitcher in 2014, and it's tough to bank on fringy 5th starters of his ilk.

This winter's free agent class is strong, which is basically to say it's strong at the top. Max Scherzer is a true top-of-the-rotation starter, and Jon Lester and James Shields easily qualify as sharp #2 options. If the Rangers were to add one of those three to team up with Darvish and Holland, it would matter a lot less which other two guys fill out the starting five. 

I probably shouldn't be worried about 2015 quite yet, but since 2014 has been so abysmal on so many fronts, I'm not really sure what else I'm supposed to be thinking about. 

What I know is, Derek Holland is really good. As Rangers fans, we have a helluva lot to look forward to. 

The Rangers are 54-92

Since Texas began the season 15-9, they've managed a remarkable 39-83 mark over their last 122 games, netting a winning percentage of .320. For the better part of four months, the Rangers haven't only been uncompetitive, but unwatchable. 

Currently five games behind (or ahead depending how you look at it) the next-worst record in MLB (Arizona, Colorado), the Rangers are in a commanding position to lock down the #1 pick in next year's draft. To relinquish that spot will require an abundance of W's in their final 16 games, and as it stands they will have to finish the year 9-7 just to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1973, a herculean task for a roster depleted of most of its relevant talent. 

One player who hasn't folded down the stretch is Leonys Martín, whom I wrote curiously about less than a month ago. Since that article, Martin has been produced a world-beater .373/.407/.508 triple slash line, and has generated roughly +1.0 fWAR. Small sample sizes notwithstanding, it's a positive sign to at least know that type of ability is there in his bat, which has been the only thing that's held him back from being a 4-win type of center fielder at the big league level through his first two years. This is more the player the Rangers were expecting when they signed him back in 2009.

As it stands, only superstar Adrian Beltre (+5.2 fWAR) has generated more Wins Above Replacement than Leonys Martin (+2.7 fWAR) among Rangers position players. 

The season is 16 games from being over, which is sad and not really sad at all. 

Addressing Manager Scenarios

In case you've been sleeping under a rock and haven't seen the news, the Texas Rangers are currently without a manager. After Ron Washington's resignation last Friday, bench coach Tim Bogar was given the interim manager tag for the time being.

Heading into the offseason coming off of quite possibly the worst season in franchise history -- let's be honest, for a team that started with so much promise to be this terrible nearly entirely due to injuries, it's been brutal -- among questions about the starting pitching, DH, and the outfield, the Rangers will be able to add a manager search to their laundry list of things to do. So where do they go.

Tim Bogar will get a chance over the coming weeks to put his stamp on the team and show that he's a coach that the team can grow under and grind with. Given his varied experience throughout baseball, he brings a unique approach to the organization.

As a player, he was a "student" under Clint Hurdle. At various levels of coaching, he's worked for Terry Francona, Joe Maddon, John Farrell, Bobby Valentine, and Ron Washington. To say he's experienced and incorporated parts of each coaching style would be an understatement, and at the very least, the only one on that list that never had anything nice to say about Bogar was Bobby Valentine. On second thought, no one gets along with Bobby Valentine, so it all works out in the end. Promoting Bogar to manager by removing the interim tag would leave the Rangers needing to fill the role of bench coach instead of manager.

Another internal option would obviously be Mike Maddux. In a sense, Maddux would make the most sense to me from an organizational standpoint. That's not a slight on Bogar, either. As Evan Grant pointed out recently when the Houston managerial job came open, both Bogar and Maddux figured to be potential candidates for the position.

Now that the Rangers have a managerial opening of their own, promoting Maddux would allow the organization to promote other coaches within the organization. Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, minor league pitching coordinator Danny Clark, and Triple-A pitching coach Brad Holman are all coaches that have spent time grooming many of the pitchers that have come through the Texas system, and are likely all deserving of promotions. Moving Maddux up would allow for each of them to potentially be promoted, and hopefully keep some organizational consistency during a time that the Rangers just might need it the most.

That, of course, says nothing about what would happen with Bogar if indeed Maddux were moved up to the manager role. It's unclear if Bogar would simply return to his role as the bench coach. My gut says yes, but then again, another organization very well could hire him away this winter instead.

Moving along, we can step out and look at external candidates. Names like Manny Acta, Jason Giambi, and Gabe Kapler have been thrown around a bit out in the wild, and each name would seem to be a guy that, if I were a GM, I might be interested in talking to. In case you're thinking it, no, Michael Young is not going to be managing the Rangers, at least not at the present time. With that said, hiring externally, at this point, doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Don't get me wrong, it very well could happen. I'd put a lower than 25 percent chance on it, however, simply because hiring externally would seem to run the risk of much higher organizational turnover in the short term.

While it's a good "problem" to have, building a respected organization with the kind of overall continuity that Texas has had in recent years tends to end up with pieces of that organization getting consideration for higher roles in other organizations. At the end of the day, you like to see that, and it's something we've already begun seeing with San Diego hiring A.J. Preller and Arizona reportedly looking to interview Thad Levine for their own GM opening.

For now, the most important non-player decision the Rangers will have to make in the coming months will have to do with hiring a new manager. Whether it be internally or externally, it needs to be someone that the organization feels is ready to come right in and compete in 2015, when (hopefully) the roster is back to full strength.