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August 27, 2006

Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?

As the Rangers slide further into oblivion, you’ll read plenty about how pitching has doomed them yet again. Whenever the Rangers “underachieve,” to use the owner’s dry description, pitching is automatically blamed. It’s the equivalent of a reflex arc, a synaptic process that doesn’t involve the brain. You touch a hot stove, and you instantaneously pull away. You watch the Rangers lose again, and you (the writer, the fan, the casual observer) instantaneously yell “more pitching!”

To be sure, the Ranger pitching staff is a source of perpetual frustration. The DMN’s Evan Grant rightly focused on would-be savior Adam Eaton’s wearying performance in Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to Oakland and didn’t mention the hitting at all.

However, I think the offense should bear as much or even more blame than the pitching for the Rangers’ present status. It’s decidedly average, certainly not of a quality to carry a team to a division title.

Before the year started, I think most Ranger fans would have expressed something close to the following: “If the pitching can just be okay and the offense does its thing, Texas might win the division.” And in fact, the pitching has been okay. Texas has allowed 4.93 runs per game this season, slightly better than the park-adjusted league average of 5.07.

Unfortunately, the offense has also just been okay. Compared to a park-adjusted league average of 5.17 runs scored per game, the Rangers have scored exactly 5.17. They rank eighth in the American League in OBP+, eighth in SLG+, ninth in Equivalent Average, eighth in Marginal Lineup Value, and eighth in Value Over Replacement Player. Ho hum.

Relative to each other, the offense and pitching are nearly equal in quality. Relative to expectations, I suggest that the offense has been the greater disappointment.

With an average pitching staff, the Rangers needed an offensive effort akin to 1998, when surprising performances from Mike Simms, Roberto Kelly, Luis Alicea and others augmented the expected awesomeness of Pudge, Will Clark and Juan Gonzalez. This season, Texas got its surprises in the form of Gary Matthews, Mark DeRosa, and Ian Kinsler, but, sad to say, the core has underwhelmed. Both Mark Teixeira (despite his recent upsurge) and Michael Young are well off last year’s pace, and Hank Blalock has continued to produce his middling results. As for the others, the departed Kevin Mench appears to have topped out as an average-at-best corner outfielder. Brad Wilkerson played hurt. Phil Nevin and Rod Barajas are replacement-level hitters.

During the last ten games, the Rangers have scored only 33 runs, ten of which were unearned thanks to sloppy defense by their opponents. They’ve batted a pitiful .212/.259/.319. In its last 363 plate appearances, Texas has an OPS of .578. No Major League player with that many appearances has that low of an OPS. Since last Thursday, the entire Ranger offense has batted similarly to Vinny Castilla (.232/.260/.319) and a little worse than Neifi Perez (.247/.261/.328).

Meanwhile, the pitching has surrendered a tolerable 45 runs. Last Sunday’s thrilling comeback against Detroit notwithstanding, Texas has won four of those ten games because of its pitching, not in spite of it. If Jon Daniels upgrades the pitching this offseason, he’s only solved half the problem.

Say it with me now: “More hitting!”

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Scored, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Scored
RS+
1
NY YANKEES
4.92
115
2
CLEVELAND
4.90
112
3
CHICAGO SOX
4.99
112
4
BOSTON
5.11
106
5
LA ANGELS
4.75
103
6
DETROIT
4.89
102
7
MINNESOTA
5.00
101
8
TEXAS
5.17
100
9
BALTIMORE
4.87
100
10
TORONTO
5.12
100
11
SEATTLE
4.90
93
12
OAKLAND
5.00
93
13
KANSAS CITY
5.20
88
14
TAMPA BAY
5.08
84

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Allowed, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Allowed
RA+
1
DETROIT
3.99
119
2
OAKLAND
4.38
111
3
MINNESOTA
4.41
111
4
TORONTO
4.88
102
5
TEXAS
4.93
102
6
CHICAGO SOX
4.83
101
7
NY YANKEES
4.77
100
8
SEATTLE
4.77
100
9
LA ANGELS
4.68
99
10
BOSTON
5.14
97
11
CLEVELAND
4.99
96
12
TAMPA BAY
5.25
94
13
BALTIMORE
5.50
87
14
KANSAS CITY
5.98
85

Posted by Lucas at August 27, 2006 04:58 PM