November 27, 2022

SHL Expansion One: Doing the Texas One-Step

February 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Washington/Texas Rangers are one of the most one dimensional teams you’ll ever see.

We should have seen this coming.

Granted, the Rangers have their fair share of big name pitchers. Nolan Ryan, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven. On its face, that’s a dominating front four. Easy to forget the rule, though. In SHL, only their contributions for that team count in the numbers. The Nolan Express was already 42 years old when it rolled into the station in Arlington; Perry and Jenkins were also nearing the end of the line. Blyleven only threw here for two seasons, though they were great ones. So even though it sounds funny to say it, those four Hall of Fame caliber arms were, by the time they got to Texas, just other teams’ hand-me-downs. They still pitched well, but they weren’t Rangers at heart.

Of course, maybe it was inevitable. After all, the list of legendary Rangers pitchers (Charlie Hough? Bobby Witt?) is about as extensive as Bob Dole’s sign language vocabulary. Anyway you slice it, though, the pitching for Texas has been nothing short of brutal. At 4-0, Jenkins is the only man with a positive record; the rest of the starting rotation (also including Kevin Brown) is 8-19. Blyleven, who’s probably the most talented hurler on the squad, has been abysmal, with a 1.90 WHIP. All of the starters have allowed more than a hit an inning except for Ryan, who, per usual, is near the top of the leaderboard in BB/9 as well as K/9.

The picture in the bullpen is slightly rosier, mainly because of the number of quality options available. The starters’ struggles, however, have left a dearth of opportunities for what could potentially be a lights-out relief corps. John Wetteland fended off Francisco Cordero, Tom Henke and Eric Gagne in spring training for the closer’s role, but he’s only gotten four chances for a save (converting three of them). Cordero, Henke and Akinori Otsuka have been eminently hittable, while Jeff Russell isn’t generally getting the opportunities his performance seems to merit. On the whole, Rangers pitchers have allowed an opponents’ batting average of .285, tied for highest in the league.

So what do you do now if you’re the Texas Rangers? There’s really only one thing you can do– you slug your way out of trouble. That’s been the team’s modus operandi for the better part of its history, and that’s all it can hope to do here. Ready for the challenge are a slew of top-notch batsmen: A-Rod, I-Rod, Juan Gone, Mark Teixeira, all in their primes. Up until now, however, those bats have been ineffective; none of the aforementioned have an OPS over .700. Alex Rodriguez, in particular, has been disappointing (stop me if you’ve heard this one), batting .212/.318/.370. Al Oliver, Milton Bradley and Rusty Greer have picked up some slack, but overall, the silence in the Texas batter’s box has been deafening.

Except for Rafael Palmeiro. When we get to Palmeiro, it’s actually a second level of unbalance in the lineup. The Rangers are generally constructed as an all-production, no-prevention team; that’s unbalanced. To go further, however, and place that entire offensive burden on the shoulders of one man is incredible. Palmeiro is carrying this entire franchise by himself.

Consider the following: Palmeiro leads the team in OBP, slugging, home runs, total bases and walks. He’s second to Al Oliver in most of the other counting stats, mainly because he’s got 117 at-bats to Oliver’s 175. He leads the entire league in OPS, and is fourth in VORP, at 22.6. This, despite contributing relatively little value on the basepaths and defensively as a first baseman (compared, for instance, to shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Tris Speaker, both of whom rank higher in VORP). The next highest Ranger on offense is Greer, with 13.1. No one else has a mark over 4.0.

There are many different recipes for success in building a big league ballclub. Placing the entire burden on one player, as the Rangers are currently doing, is not one of them. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that Texas is 15-26. What really must be galling, however, is that if the other hitters started playing up to expectations, there’s no reason why Texas couldn’t follow its cherished strategy of clubbing its way to the top of this mediocre division. The pitching’s not great, but if your game plan is to win by brute force, then it doesn’t have to be. As long as the team is only firing on one cylinder, though, it shouldn’t expect to get very far.

In other Expansion One news, the Mets rang off five consecutive winsagainst the Angels and Twins to fortify their position atop the standings, then promptly lost five in a row to the Brewers and Royals, putting them right back where they started. In those five losses, they were out-scored by a disgusting 40-8 margin. What is the matter with this franchise? The chief culprit seems to be a wildly unpredictable pitching staff. Look at the breakdown of runs allowed in the month of May:

0-2 runs allowed: 7
3-5 runs allowed: 3
6+ runs allowed: 8

That is nothing short of schizophrenic. The pitchers’ inability to deliver consistent performances is effectively negating the offense’s impact on the game; if the starter has a good game, he won’t need much offense, and if he blows up, all the offense in the world won’t save him.

New York has a number of aces in its rotation, including Tom Seaver, Johan Santana and Dwight Gooden. If it so chooses, however, there are a number of extremely attractive options at the Triple-A level. Chief among these are Bret Saberhagen and relievers Jeff Reardon and Roger McDowell. The Mets are probably the most talented team in the division; all they need to do is find a lineup that will manifest it. So far, they haven’t managed to do so.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!