I've made vague attempts at writing during the past few nights -- but, whether it's been due to how pathetic the Rangers have been performing, or some transient writer's block I was in, I didn't get around to it. As of this morning, though, Texas is an even 17-17;
So let's write.
All along, we were faced with two truths about the 2014 Rangers: They were going to be banged up out of the gates, and Ron Washington was going to be their manager.
It's been proven that broken players get fixed. They spend time on the disabled list -- sometimes for a year at a time -- but eventually they return. And when they are healthy, they come back to the franchise's only constant down on the field: The manager. There is no fixing Washington, though.
After a 15-9 start, the Rangers are just 2-8 in their last 10 games, and they've been outscored 70-36 in that time. On the season, Texas has allowed 33 more runs than they've scored on their opponents; and in MLB, the only teams with worse run differentials than the Rangers are the Padres (-37), Diamondbacks (-62) and Astros (-65), who own a composite record of 38-68 (.358).
The fact that Texas has even a .500 record is a small miracle considering where they probably ought to be at this juncture of the season.
But let's get back to the truths, and constants.
I've been beating the we have to appreciate all these wins that we're not supposed to have right now drum since the season's first pitch was thrown. Naturally, however, when the Rangers made it to 15-9 there was a growing sense circulating through the fan base that it was supposed to happen that easily, that their record should have been even better than it was! I don't know why.
Over the last 10 games, Robbie Ross and Martín Perez have gotten rocked; Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison have looked like pitchers who are still rehabbing; the offense has averaged only 3.6 runs per game. You can't win with that sort of production.
To make matters worse, Washington has summoned three of his best relievers (Ogando, Frasor, Cotts) to pitch mop-up duty during blowout losses to the Rockies. And, worst of all, he's buried Elvis Andrus down at the bottom of the batting order because of his recent 50 plate appearance slump.
Wash is currently managing the Rangers like he hasn't twice taken his team to the World Series; he either looks new on the job or fearful of his security, but I'm not sure which. All I know is, never during his seven-plus year tenure with the organization has he given the Rangers any tactical advantages during baseball games, so if he can't compensate by being a "leader," or a "great motivator," or whatever, I question what exactly it is that he does there.
I understand that no manager can win when his team is getting bludgeoned by an average score of 10-3 over a ten-game stretch. It's not Washington's fault he has 3 key starters on the DL, plus Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz who could potentially strengthen the bullpen. But he can control which pitchers he uses. It's ridiculous that he's burning an already ineffective Alexi Ogando (who leads MLB in appearances), Cotts and Frasor during blowout losses. He should be saving those guys for high-leverage situations.
As far as the lineup is concerned, his mishandling of Elvis Andrus is somewhat mystifying, even still. By batting Josh Wilson (.277 career OBP) behind Shin-Soo Choo (the team's biggest on-base threat), Washington is wedging his team's best hitter between the bottom of the order and the team's worst hitter, effectively marginalizing Choo's capabilities. Andrus isn't a world beater at the plate, but his 60-point OBP advantage on Wilson is the type of thing that can affect the outcomes of games. And that's, like, important.
For the time being, the Rangers worst-case scenario is being realized: The ineffectiveness of the rotation is taxing a bullpen that can't support them anymore, and the offense isn't scoring enough to take the pressure off. When Texas has lost in 2014, it's generally been ugly; when they have won, the games have been nail-biters.
I'm not blaming this slump on Ron Washington, but when the Rangers start playing well again -- which I expect them to, soon -- I certainly won't be giving him the credit, either.