It's May 24. That means it's almost June. With that, all of those "small sample size" comments have pretty much gone straight out the window. It's put up or shut up time. You are what you are.
And right now, the Rangers are an average team. 20th in offense in terms of wOBA. 15th in pitching in terms of ERA (while being 22nd in wOBA-against). Sure, the 25-20 record has them within striking distance of the first-place Mariners, but from a runs scored/allowed perspective, their Pythagorean win percentage would have them sitting closer to 23-22.
Now, before you order me lynched and remind me that baseball isn't played in a computer, it's worth noting that those sorts of win percentage models are much more useful looking back at an entire season rather than two months. Nonetheless, it's still useful in pointing out the disparity between the results and the numbers.
For example, you could theoretically look at Sunday's 9-2 win against the Houston Astros and say, if not for that game, the Rangers have a negative run differential on the season. At the moment, that stands at a plus-6; not exactly conducive for consistent, winning baseball.
Fortunately, Yu Darvish is slated to return on Saturday, which figures to alleviate at least some of the pitching concerns. Furthermore, despite poor peripherals from the pitching staff, the defense has been good enough for 18 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), best in the American League and trailing only the Cubs for the MLB lead. So that leaves us with the offense.
I've been accused of beating a dead horse on this one, but I'm mentioning it again: Prince Fielder is having an abysmal season. We're beyond the point of saying he's simply in an extended slump. With 183 plate appearances under his belt, we've got a significant amount of data with which to say that his wOBA of .255 is cause for concern. That translates to a wRC+ of 49, or 51 percent below league average.
From an offensive standpoint, Prince is the 6th-worst player in baseball thus far. The five in front of him? Four play shortstop, and one is a catcher. Prince Fielder is a designated hitter. He's supposed to be your big bat from an offense-only position.
Moving right along, there's also Mitch Moreland. His wOBA is .300 -- 30th worst in MLB -- with a wRC+ of 79, or 21 percent below league average. He's your starting first baseman. It's a position in which players are often expected to hit for more power to make up for being in the least-demanding defensive spot on the field.
In the middle of these two guys, on most days, Jeff Banister has Adrian Beltre. That Beltre has put up a wOBA of .328 -- a wRC+ of 98 -- hitting between two veritable black holes... well, that's something of a minor miracle, now that I think of it.
Ian Desmond has been better than advertised, and along with Nomar Mazara, are the most consistent hitters on the team. One was an $8 million signing that no one else wanted. The other just turned 21 years old.
So, it's not difficult to see that perhaps this Rangers team is overachieving thus far in 2016. And that's OK. That doesn't mean there isn't time to improve.
Going forward, I don't know how long the Rangers can roll with Prince Fielder hitting anywhere near the top of the lineup. It's killing the offensive flow, which is supplemented by his RE24 -- the difference between the run expectancy before and after his plate appearances -- of -4.09. Moreland's is -3.16. Beltre's? In the positive, at 2.58.
The Rangers called up Joey Gallo yesterday. He had a pinch-hit appearance late in the game, but it's unclear exactly how long he'll be up, or what his role will be while he's here. At the very least, I would think it fair to say that if he's not going to get regular playing time, he shouldn't be up at all. And I'd imagine the Rangers tend to fall into that category as well. Where he plays? I don't know.
At the very least, it appears that the Rangers are ready to see if he can perhaps provide some upgrade somewhere in there. If it's taking away some plate appearances from Prince Fielder, so be it. If it's Mitch Moreland -- a scenario I find to be more likely for a player who almost-certainly won't be a Ranger next season -- then more power to him.
The sticking point would seem to be this: Despite having average to below-average statistics to this point of the season, the Rangers find themselves in a favorable position. That's something they couldn't say at this time last year, and we saw how that ended up.
If there's even a chance that Joey Gallo can provide the type of upgrade the Rangers can use in the lineup, they're going to give him a shot to prove it. And at some point, that may come at the expense of some other players in the lineup, regardless of how much they're paid.
It's the same reason Texas signed Adrian Beltre to a contract extension. Sure, they want him to retire as a Texas Ranger, but more than that, he gives the organization the best chance to win right now, and with the pitching staff looking to receive a boost within the next week, maybe we're getting close to seeing a little something extra from the offense as well.