After back-to-back one run losses at home to the San Diego Padres, the Rangers finished the first half of the regular season 42-46, and are 6 games behind the Angels (48-40) for first in the American League West. So, things aren't that bad. There's still time.
As perhaps the longest sports layoff of the calendar year -- four excruciating days without meaningful baseball -- it's the perfect time to hypothesize and theorize some of the random shit that pops up in my mind. For this post, I'll play fanboy and grade how Texas fared through 88 ballgames --
Inasmuch as 2015 has been a revelation for players like Prince Fielder (.339/.403/.521, 151 wRC+) and Mitch Moreland (.286/.333/.532, 134 wRC+), on the whole the offense has been very swiss-cheesy.
- Leonys Martin (.222/.265/.323, 56 wRC+), Shin-Soo Choo (.221/.305/.384, 88 wRC+) and Elvis Andrus (.242/.301/.323, 68 wRC+) haven't been any good this year. I wouldn't be disappointed if any, or all, weren't on the Opening Day roster to start 2016.
- Thus far, the Rangers have scored 369 runs -- 4.24 per game -- which ranks 10th in the American League. Between May 17th and June 17th, a 21-8 stretch for Texas, the club scored 148 of those runs (5.29 per game), painting a reasonable story for why it won so many games; in all other games, the Rangers are 21-38, averaging just 3.68 per contest.
Texas's pitching staff isn't particularly talented, but compared to bleak expectations, it has put the organization in a position to at least have a shot entering the second half. That's worth a one letter grade bump in my book.
- Yovani Gallardo (2.62 ERA, 4.04 xFIP) has been the most reliable pitcher on the roster, and might be Jon Daniels's strongest trade chip in a few weeks. The Rangers once had visions of Gallardo joining a rotation led by Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, but by himself he's been a standout in the first three and a half months.
- Colby Lewis (4.77 ERA/4.52 xFIP) has registered 11 quality starts in 18 appearances in 2015, and even though I'm not Quality Start Guy, it's at least a sign that Cobra has been traveling deep into games. For only $2 million, Texas has to be thrilled with Lewis's durability so far.
- The real heroes of the first half are Nick Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Wandy Rodriguez. Even though the first two are in Triple-A and the latter is probably gone by the time Martin Perez returns, they've combined to throw 221 innings while staying mostly above water. There is no substitute for big league experience, and Chi Chi and Nick will surely get more down the stretch. As for Wandy Rodriguez... who knew?
As a unit, the Ranger bullpen has been sub-replacement level, according to FanGraphs. Of 30 major league teams, it ranks 28th in FIP-wins (-0.4), and has relied on Shawn Tolleson and Keone Kela for a combined 75 innings spread across 79 total appearances.
- The reason Keona and Tolly have taken the brunt of the workload is, well, for the most part they've been the only consistent relievers. Tanner Scheppers (4.20 ERA/4.83 xFIP) has eroded to a below average 19.3 K% and atrocious 13.2 BB%, but because there isn't anyone else to fill the void, Tanner is, one would have to say, the 3rd reliever in line.
- For what it's worth, a pitcher to keep an eye on in the second half is lefty Sam Freeman. He was acquired from St. Louis during their Opening Day roster crunch for next to nothing, and over his last 14 appearances Freeman's amassed a 14/3 K/UIBB ratio while surrendering only 1 run on 8 hits.
Brian Banister kind of came out of nowhere last winter, but the Rangers seemed to like him, and that was good enough for me. It's difficult to quantify how valuable a manager is, so I'm not going to try. All I really have to offer is to reiterate the fact that, after the greatest run in franchise history between 2010-2013, Texas finally has a skipper that won't hurt them between the lines.
Front Office: TBD
From a talent acquisition standpoint, Texas's front office did about as well as they could have with what they were working with. That is, a limited budget, its top two starters going down with injuries, an offense they really can't afford to spend on to improve, et. al. The Rangers competing in 2015 was never a very serious idea.
Still, the meager investment in Josh Hamilton was clever; Wandy Rodriguez overachieved; Kyle Blanks and Carlos Pigeuro offered worthwhile contributions while they were in the lineup; Colby Lewis is still standing upright;
It seems like they've been right more often than not this year, even though it's maybe only reflected in the standings by an extra win or two.
The problems this front office faces are the realities that they were very wrong with the big money, where it really matters. Post-2015, Shin Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus will be owed a combined $205 million through 2022, and Prince Fielder is due $90 million between 2016-2020. At the moment Prince is the only one with any trade value, but even at that Jon Daniels would have to kick in a decent portion of his remaining contract to get any decent prospects in return.
Overall, the first half has been a success in Arlington.