As Eric pointed out this morning, the Rangers are struggling. He went into some detail on some of the various maladies, but what really caught my eye was his point that between Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Rios, the Rangers are getting virtually nothing from what was supposed to be the meat of the lineup.
Eric also covered the woes of Elvis Andrus in the #2 spot yesterday. After last night's thumping at the hands of the Oakland A's, Elvis now finds himself mired in a 1-for-24 stretch and an OPS of .604. Even if Elvis were playing solid defense during that stretch -- and he certainly didn't in last night's 2-error showing -- that kind of production after Shin-Soo Choo's .433 OBP is going a long way toward wasting the very thing the Rangers signed Choo for: getting a guy on base and driving him in.
For as much as I abhor the sacrifice bunt in most situations, it would appear that Elvis has done nothing to give Wash any reason to decline employing the strategy in the future. I suppose that, more than anything, is what disappoints me most about my favorite Ranger right now.
If we look at the #4 spot, we've seen quite the drop-off since Kevin Kouzmanoff went on the DL. We always expected Kouzmanoff to drop off a bit anyways, but what we didn't expect was for the drop-off to be so significant with Adrian Beltre returning to the lineup.
Yes, Beltre's sample size is a bit more limited than the others due to a stint on the DL, but when the ball club is struggling, everything seems to be magnified. Beltre's .686 OPS is much less than what we've come to expect from him, and he has yet to hit a home run. Similar to Elvis, it's all good if he's playing great defense, but on the young season, he's been worth -2 Defensive Runs Saved.
Both his offense and defense figure to turn around at some point, but again, it doesn't make it any easier to think that way when the Rangers are struggling so badly.
Perhaps the most concerning is Prince Fielder. Fielder and Beltre have swapped between the #3 and #4 spots in the lineup, but it hasn't seemed to matter a bit for Fielder. His .206/.331/.314 line has been quite possibly the biggest letdown since the season started. We keep waiting for him to get hot, he'll show flashes, and then we'll see groundout after groundout.
It isn't even just the shift that is causing Fielder so many issues. We can talk all day about how his BABIP of .224 figures to tick up, but his 52.9% ground ball rate is well above his career rate of 41%. His fly ball rate of 28.7% is well below his career rate of 38.9%. Shift or no shift, Prince Fielder just isn't getting the ball in the air, which would figure to make it more difficult to hit home runs, or for any kind of significant power for that matter.
If we really want to look at how bad things really are for Fielder, let's take a look at those intentional walks that he was given. Despite his early-season struggles, Fielder was intentionally walked 9 times, which helped contribute to an OBP of .331.
While it's difficult to project exactly what would have happened without those free passes and the corresponding at-bats -- walks don't count as at-bats, and at-bats factor into figuring OBP -- it's likely that Fielder would be sitting around an OBP of .280. That would make him good for an OPS of .594 after 121 plate appearances, which is certainly a large enough sample size to begin feeling a legitimate level of concern for one of the offseasons big acquisitions.
The current offensive struggles aren't the kind of thing any trades, demotions, or the like are going to help. Andrus, Beltre, and Fielder are here to stay, and would figure to all be in the future plans of the organization due to their contracts, so it isn't a matter of IF they start hitting, it's WHEN. Because if when doesn't happen, it's going to be a very long season, and that's just not somewhere I'm ready to go yet.
It has to get better, because it just can't get worse than the baseball we've seen over the last three days, and I don't imagine the Rangers want to dig themselves such a deep hole at the beginning of May that they can't dig out of it. It's a forumula their next opponent, the LA Angels, have become all too familiar with over the past few seasons, and a formula the Rangers don't want to imitate.
We're still a good ways away from needing to panic, but the heart of the Rangers batting order is bleeding, and until it stops, the offense is going to be tough to come by.