Last night, in the bottom of the 9th inning against Baltimore, the Rangers found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-run game, trailing 6-5. After a Shin-Soo Choo double play grounder put the Rangers one out from another loss to drop the club below .500 again, Luis Sardinas hit a single to right. With the 3rd spot due up in the lineup, Ron Washington called for a pinch-hitter. He sent Michael Choice to the plate, and in the process asked Mitch Moreland to sit down on the bench for the remainder of the game.
This is where the Rangers find themselves now. It's a time in which the roster has been so ravaged by injuries and a lack of production, that Moreland was moved up to the 3rd spot to begin with. What's more is that he's been so ineffective there that there was no hesitation to pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the 9th in a 1-run game.
Moreland initially captured the hearts of many fans way back in 2010 during the World Series. Chris Davis had struggled so much that it was Moreland that got the shot at 1st base. So when Moreland posted up a 1.303 OPS on the game's biggest stage, many assumed that the Rangers had found their 1st baseman of the future. It's a job he's been given an opportunity to seize every year since, and he has yet to do it.
You see, when Moreland had that tear in the World Series, many ignored that his .625 BABIP was never going to hold up over any kind of extended stretch. Further complicating things is that, at age 28, Moreland still can't even have competetive at-bats against lefties.
So far on the 2014 season, Mitch has posted up a line of .256/.302/.365, good for an OPS of .667. As the 3rd hitter in the lineup, his RE24 of -0.96 has literally provided zero to negative net value to the ball club. For all the griping and complaining about the lack of production from Prince Fielder prior to losing him for the season, and talk that perhaps Moreland would provide the team a spark, both players have the same fWAR on the season at -0.4, and Moreland has accomplished the feat in fewer plate appearances.
So, the next time I see or hear someone say that Mitch Moreland is about to heat up, this is the year he'll finally put it together, I'm going to throw my hands up and simply walk away. Mitch Moreland is what he is, and I'd say with about 95% certainty that won't change.
He still can't hit lefties, with just 3 hits off of them this season and an OPS of .374. When he's not hitting for any kind of decent power, Mitch just isn't providing much in the way of value, and his 2 home runs on the season aren't exactly indicative of a guy that's going to start tearing the cover off of the ball anytime soon.
As far as this season is concerned, it's hard to say how much Moreland's struggles will weigh into the decision of whether or not to pursue Kendrys Morales after today's draft. It's certainly possible that he's on the radar, but I'm not sure I see him as a piece that would make the entire lineup click and function more efficiently.
Chances are, at some point in the near future -- maybe this week, maybe next, maybe next month -- Mitch Moreland is going to go on a hot streak. He'll get a big hit off of a lefty, drive a couple of home runs, and in the process, he'll instill false hope once again into a desperate fan base.
To that, I say, don't fall for it. Odds are, what you see is what you get. Mitch Moreland has peaked, and the ship that had him being the everyday 1st baseman for the Texas Rangers has sailed. Well, except that, due to injuries, we're going to be subjected to watching him for a little while longer.