On May 3rd, after a 7-1 loss to the Athletics -- Texas 9th over an 11-game stretch -- the Rangers dropped to 8-16, 9.5 games behind the scorching Astros (18-7). The old baseball adage... You can’t win the division crown in April, but you sure can lose it may not have applied to Texas because of its meager expectations heading into the season, but it felt more or less like the season was already over.
Since then, remarkably, the Rangers are 21-10 and (at least temporarily) looking like one of the premier teams in the American League. Understandably under the radar after such a slow start, Texas second stanza has hit the league like a freight train. Prince Fielder (.352/.404/.543) carried the club for two full weeks, and rookies Joey Gallo (5-16, 2 HRs, 2B, 2 BBs, 10 Ks) and Chi Chi Gonzalez (14.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 4 Ks, 7 BBs) have had noisy debuts, which is especially impressive given that, ideally, they would each be in Triple-A for another handful of months.
I'm still a skeptic about the rotation, but if my General Rangers Skepticism continues being rewarded with wins in the standings, then screw it, I'll stay a skeptic. Just as fun as Fielder's resurgence, or Gallo's star being born right off the bat, is remembering what it's like to see a winning team in Arlington again. This season was never supposed to be easy, but if there really are such things as baseball gods, then maybe they are finally throwing the Rangers a bone after everything the organization has succumbed to over the last couple years.
Where is the love for Mitch Moreland? Aside a few short bursts here and there over the last half-decade, nothing has ever been very sexy about Moreland's skill set. Bland? Tepid? Vanilla? I don't know how to describe it, but he's somewhere in there. This year, though, Moreland is batting .295/.359/.504 (137 wRC+) in 145 PAs, All Star-caliber production for one of the team's least recognizable players. His whole career he has hovered around replacement-level in WAR terms, with his best offensive year coming as a rookie when he hit .255/.364/.455 (115 wRC+) in a small 173 plate appearance sample. I can't say I expect him to continue on his current pace for a full season, but what Moreland has already generated is in the bank, and it's come at an opportune time for the Rangers.
My favorite line from the offseason came from SB Nation's Grant Bisbee: It’s generally not wise to run a team as if it’s likely to hit on a 15-bet parlay.
Still, Jon Daniels did that, and right now you would have to say it's working.
Delino DeShields isn't going anywhere. 133 plate appearances don't tell us a ton, but when it comes to Rule 5 Draft picks, all it needs to say is that the dude is worth the roster spot. Deshields has been even better than that, hitting .289/.382/.404 (119 wRC+) with 11 stolen bases and 26 runs scored. It's a strange slash line for a player Texas invested next to nothing in, as high-OBP/low-SLG guys don't really grow on trees, ever. Ricky Henderson's lifetime slash line was a similar .279/.401/.419, but, then again, he hit 297 HRs in his career. Deshields isn't able to be classified just yet, because small sample sizes, so if you'd rather think I'm calling Deshields a Hall of Famer, then there you go.
Anyway, Texas is currently three games above .500, its high-water mark in 2015. A month ago, when the good guys were already down and out, it seemed like they were where they belonged. Our suspicions were actualized. I've been blogging about the Rangers on various sites for about five years now, and if there's one thing I can say I've gotten out of it, it's realizing just how little I truly know. I grew overconfident during the dominant 2010-2013 years only to be let down by two World Series trips and two Game 163's. We were all sports humbled by last year's nightmare. And it's from riding that pessimism that has made 2015 such a special surprise for me, and I'm sure many of you as well. I convinced myself it was going to be a repeat of 2014, and I was wrong.