As a snobby, Saber-slanted, occasional writer of baseball, it's hard for me to use words and justify just how well the Rangers have played over the last month and a half. I mean, anyone could pull anecdotal evidence out of their back pocket and flower up some Team Of Destiny stuff, but truly. Why have Texas been as good as it's been this year? What, other than a narrative, can explain it?
I only ask these questions rhetorically, because I can't find the answer in the numbers.
At 36-30, the Rangers' run differential currently stands +17, 6th in the American League. Texas is 2.5 games behind the Astros (who are currently tied at 3 in Colorado), and hold the WC1 spot in the greater AL standings.
Speaking in terms of Wins Above Replacement, Prince Fielder (+1.6) has been the Rangers most valuable position player according to FanGraphs, though he is only #58 among all position players in MLB. Mitch Moreland checks in at +1.4, the injured Adrian Beltre at +1.2, and no other Ranger who has appeared in the lineup in 2015 is above one full win.
On the pitching end, the four regular rotation members -- Yovani Gallardo (+1.3 fWAR), Nick Martinez (+0.8), Colby Lewis (+1.5) and Wandy Rodriguez (+1.1) -- have been steady on the whole, though lately they've been outstanding. Including Chi Chi Gonzalez's continued brilliance, no pitcher in the rotation has an ERA north of 4.37; everyone else is 3.2 or below. I can't really speak on how sustainable it is -- because all the data suggests it won't continue -- but as I've mentioned many times, this amazing production over the last month is in the bank. We'll worry about tomorrow when we get there.
All the while, I've kind of had the impression that this Ranger team is having a lot of fun playing together. And as a fan of the Rangers, I really like that. I don't know about the chicken or the egg theory (if it applies), like did it only seem like Texas was having fun after they started winning, or were they having fun all along and the wins came about in a very natural sort of way? Again, this is the narrative in me speaking, because I have to find intangible reasoning to get me to the conclusion that this Rangers team might just have a shot this year.
Jeff Bannister, for whatever it's worth, has a group of guys who appear excited to play for him, which is all you can really ask for out of a manager. Seemingly all the young guys who have been up, whether it's the incomparable Joey Gallo, Chi Chi, Delino DeShields, Hanser Alberto or lately Rougned Odor, they all seem very comfortable. As if the big leagues is right where they belong.
No contribution has been minor this year. Prince Fielder's bounce back has been surreal; Shin-Soo Choo has been hot at times, but mostly cold; Elvis Andrus has his moments, but his bat has been awful again; and for some reason guys like Mitch Moreland and Robinson Chirinos have found their lane. And however it's worked out, whether it's been the offense carrying the pitching staff, or lately the pitching staff carrying the offense, it's worked. When you are 7-16, you take your wins whichever way you can get them. When you go 29-15 over your next 44 games, a sizzling .659 winning percentage, you tend not to care as much about why it happened, and instead just enjoy that it happened. It's happening.
Tonight the Rangers go for the 4-game, home-and-home sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers.