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June 01, 2005

May Statistical Review

After scuffling through April, Texas finished May with a nine-game winning streak to wrest first place from the Angels. The Rangers played only nine games against teams with a winning record and went 5-4; against losers they won 13 and lost only three. Teams that aspire to postseason play mustn't just play well against bad teams, they must destroy them. Sweeping the likes of Kansas City and Houston permits the Rangers to have a bad series or two down the road without losing too much ground. May established Texas as a legitimate playoff contender.

Actual Win-Loss
18.0 - 7.0 (.720)
"Pythagorean" Win-Loss
18.9 - 6.1 (.757)
Win-Loss based on offensive and defensive peripherals
16.7 - 8.3 (.670)

Batting Line
Steals / Caught
9 / 5
11 / 6
Runs scored per game
Expected runs based on peripherals
Team OPS
Park Factor (hitting)
Adjusted League OPS
Team OPS+

Team ERA
Park Factor (pitching)
Adjusted League ERA
Team ERA+

Team ERA
Component ERA
Component ERA adjusted for .301 average on balls hit into play
Team K / 9
Team BB / K ratio
Rotation innings per start


Last month, I mentioned that Texas couldn't contend if the offense scored fewer than five runs per game. In April and most of last year, the Texas offense batted much worse most people think. Essentially, the Rangers have supplied mediocre production outside of their long-ball ability. In May, Texas justified the hype, hitting (yes) 46 homers along with a shiny .286 batting average, plenty of doubles and even eight triples. Scoring six runs per game will earn Texas some additional baseball in mid-October.

Having said that, the offense's overall performance has masked some serious problems. The catcher spot is a black hole (.240/.286/.337). While Barajas has excelled at throwing out baserunners and (as far as I know) has handled the pitching staff capably, he has never batted well outside of that unconscious six-week stretch in 2004 on which his entire reputation and salary is seemingly based. Ranger catchers are "only" 22nd in OPS among the 30 Major League teams, but that speaks more to the state of catching league-wide. As long as Texas wins, Barajas and Alomar will stay. "But they're winning" is a simplistic but irrefutable argument against change.

The other problem is center field. Just as in 2004, Laynce Nix started hot (.371/.389/.543 in April) and cooled to an unacceptable level thereafter (.237/.253/.421 in May). His demotion to AAA ostensibly instilled a more disciplined plate approach, but he has all of three walks in 115 plate appearances, an atrocious ratio even for him. Hacktastic batters like Alfonso Soriano can get away with this approach because they bat .300 with 30 homers. Nix does neither. Nix is only 24, and perhaps judging him this harshly is unfair. Still, he is well into his third season and has shown absolutely zero progress at the plate. Texas has no in-house improvement and will prioritze pitching in any upcoming trade talks (as they should). In 2006, they'll have to consider a change unless Nix matures over the coming months.

Best Hitter: Mark Teixeira (.324/.377/.610). Kevin Mench slugged .708 but in 33 fewer at-bats. Additional kudos to Richard Hidalgo (.307/.398/.653), who hit himself back into an everyday player.
Worst Hitter: The two-headed catching monster of Rod Barajas (.218/.262/.329) and Sandy Alomar (.233/.281/.233).


Ranger starters won an astounding fourteen games, including a franchise-record nine-in-a-row and counting, while posting a 3.55 ERA. Yes, Kenny Rogers is old, but he seems to think it's May of 1905: he offered an 0.98 ERA while striking out only 3.5 batters per nine innings. He also permitted a miniscule .224 average on balls in play. That won't persist, but why argue with success? Maybe Texas should arrange another press leak to anger him some more, and he won't ever allow a run again. Just as important is Chris Young's emergence. Young still doesn't throw efficiently enough to go deep into games but otherwise has pitched brilliantly, finishing May with a 1.42 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.

As with the offense, the aggregate numbers hide some discomfort. Chan Ho Park regressed from his solid April, allowing a 1.66 WHIP and a 5.40 ERA in five starts. Still, the Rangers don't expect him to win games by himself, and relative to his past even a 5.40 ERA is celebratory. Ryan Drese continues to be a cause for concern. He pitched no better in May than in April and is on pace to allow 248 hits with only 51 strikeouts. Might Texas option him at some point, even though he would have to go through waivers? They might; his departure would relieve Texas of the $1.75 million owed to him in 2006. After several terrible performances, Pedro Astacio is now pitching for his job every time he takes the mound. Ricardo Rodriguez could return to the Majors before long.

The bullpen righted itself after a shockingly bad April. Carlos Almanzar, Ryan Bukvich, and Matt Riley are gone, and replacements Nick Regilio, Kameron Loe and Joaquin Benoit have pitched well in their absence. Benoit has yet to allow a run in ten innings and is slowly working toward more high-leverage innings.

Best Pitcher: Rogers, obviously. Honorable mention to Chris Young.
Worst Pitcher:
Pedro Astacio (7.32 ERA, five homers allowed in 19.2 innings). Dishonorable mention to Ron Mahay (12.00 ERA, 2.17 WHIP)

Posted by Lucas at June 1, 2005 11:32 AM