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Karl: “You don’t belong here.”
Karl: “You. Don’t. Belong. Here. You’re a fraud and a phony and it’s only a matter of time ’till they find you out!”
Homer: “[gasping] Who told you?”
Karl: “You did. You told me with the way you slump your shoulders. The way you talk into your chest. The way you smother yourself in bargain-basement lime-green polyester!”
The Texas Rangers finished the 2018 season in a distant last place in the AL West, and with a tough division to contend with, things looked pretty dire once again entering 2019. However, Texas has emerged as one of the few surprise teams in the major leagues this year. The trouble is, when looking at their roster, it’s hard to tell exactly how they’ve managed to do it. Their offense is average with plenty of holes. Their starting pitching includes two strong pitchers and mostly dreck. The bullpen is one of the more vulnerable ones in the American League.
All of this paints the picture of a team that doesn’t have the core strength to back up their record. Even better for the White Sox, the two key players who have kept the Rangers’ offense afloat — Joey Gallo and a resurgent Hunter Pence — won’t be available for this weekend’s series. Gallo in particular had been on an MVP-caliber tear before his recent oblique strain, and even his astronomical strikeout rate hasn’t been an impediment to his slugging ways. In a somewhat surprising twist, the Rangers have even given Gallo some run in center field, with non-disastrous results.
In the absence of these two guys, the chief threats in the Rangers lineup are leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Even at the age of 36, Choo is still the same OBP machine that can’t hit lefties. Andrus is more-or-less repeating his excellent 2017 at the plate, with a high batting average and occasional power flashes.
The remainder of the lineup is fairly non-threatening. Nomar Mazara has posted an OPS+ between 90 and 98 in each of his four seasons in the major leagues, and while it’s understandable for the Rangers to keep hoping something clicks, it’s looking increasingly likely that he’s just not any good. Rougned Odor isn’t the undisciplined hacker he once was, but he’s also no longer hitting 30 bombs per season, and a soaring strikeout rate has rendered him one of the league’s worst regular hitters.
Speaking of one of the league’s worst regular hitters, the Rangers start 36-year-old Jeff Mathis and his OPS+ of 12 for some reason; no level of pitch-framing prowess can cover for that. Delino DeShields is a good glove in center field who has good command of the strike zone, but a lack of power holds his profile back. Ronald Guzman is a first baseman who hits like a catcher.
The Rangers’ rotation has been led by Mike Minor, who is sporting one of the lowest ERAs in the American League on the strength of his excellent changeup. Lance Lynn’s peripherals have been stellar this year, so much so that he’s actually in a dogfight with Lucas Giolito for the American League lead in fWAR despite an ERA over 4.00. Lynn’s improvements are partially control-related, though it’s worth noting that he’s now gradually favoring a cutter over his less-effective sinker.
The remainder of the Rangers’ starters aren’t much to fear. Ariel Jurado is a sinkerballer who tries to make up for a lack of whiffs by getting grounders. Adrian Sampson is a slider-heavy guy with some swing-and-miss ability, but he’s been quite homer-prone so far this season. After lefty Joe Palumbo became the latest fifth starter candidate in a series of them to fail for the Rangers this season, it’s an open question how they’re going to fill out the rotation going forward.
The Texas Rangers are right at the top of the standings for the second Wild Card slot, but as much of the above implies, they don’t really belong there. It’s likely that the beasts from the AL East are going to wind up being too much for them, along with all the other mediocre Wild Card hopefuls (::cough::). Still, given the Rangers’ outlook coming into this season and Gallo’s emergence, the progress is surely welcome.
And hey, at least this year, this wasn’t just a bunch of jokes about how half the team’s hurt.
Probable Starting Pitchers:
- Friday, June 21: Reynaldo Lopez vs. Ariel Jurado
- Saturday, June 22: Human White Flag vs. Lance Lynn
- Sunday, June 23: Ivan Nova vs. Adrian Sampson
- Shin-Soo Choo – DH
- Delino DeShields – CF
- Elvis Andrus – SS
- Nomar Mazara – RF
- Willie Calhoun – LF
- Asdrubal Cabrera – 3B
- Rougned Odor – 2B
- Ronald Guzman – 1B
- Jeff Mathis – C
- SP1: Mike Minor – LHP
- SP2: Lance Lynn – RHP
- SP3: Adrian Sampson – RHP
- SP4: Ariel Jurado – RHP
- SP5: ??? – ?HP
- CL: Shawn Kelley – RHP
- RP1: Jose Leclerc – RHP
- RP2: Chris Martin – RHP
- RP3: Jesse Chavez – RHP