- T.R. Sullivan evaluates all 27 Rangers position players who have appeared in 2014, but I found what he wrote of Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo most interesting.
Of Elvis (emphasis mine): "Three factors shaped the season for Andrus: being on a losing team, a different cast of characters around him and poor offseason preparation." I can't speak for his offseason preparation because I wasn't there, and a new cast of characters shouldn't affect a player's performance, but I've posited before that losing baseball probably saps motivation from veterans. It won't surprise me to see a minor breakout -- more in line with Elvis's 2011 and '12 seasons -- if and when the Rangers are back in contention next season.
Of Choo: "He had a difficult season because of his injuries. Thirty-something outfielders often do." It's not good that Shin-Soo was playing hurt in 2014, but it's encouraging that a prominent beat writer acknowledges his rough year was likely do to that fact. He could provide a 5-win upgrade in 2015.
- The Athletics have gone in the frigging tank since they traded for Jon Lester and everyone pretty much reserved a spot for them in the ALCS to play the Tigers. They're 16-25 since that happened, after owning the best record (and best run differential) in MLB.
For narrative purposes, many blame the absence of Yoenis Cespedes -- who was traded to Boston in the Lester deal -- as the cause. I call BS. Cespedes is a nice player and all, but his OBP was only .303 in 2014, which currently ranks 9th on the club for everyone with at least 250 plate appearances. Cespedes had some pop (17 HRs this year), and his arm in the outfield is world-class, but the explanation for Oakland's demise down the stretch is far simpler than being without one hyped bat: Baseball is just streaks.
The A's have been on a magical run over the last few years, but as Ranger fans we're all too aware of freakish, inexplicable things happening down the stretch. No team is immune. Oakland got better when they acquired Jon Lester, but baseball is a 162 game season and getting "better" doesn't mean very much by the time the games get played. Small samples sizes mean anything can happen; the worst team in MLB can beat the best any day of the week; it stinks for the A's, but it's reality nonetheless.
- At age-35, Adrian Beltre (+5.1 fWAR) is the 10th-most valuable player in the American League according to FanGraphs. In four seasons with the Rangers, Beltre has produced +22.0 fWAR, about 31% of his Hall-of-Fame career output. He's currently hitting .322/.385/.488 (138 wRC+), meaning top prospect Joey Gallo can wait a little longer before he ascends to the throne.
There will be a day when Beltre is no longer manning 3rd for the Rangers -- perhaps 2016 -- and that will be a very, very sad day. Along with the acquisition of Yu Darvish, and the Mark Teixeira trade, Adrian has been the greatest coup for the Rangers organization during the Jon Daniels Era.