Recapping 2018: Texas Ranger Edition | The Process Report

Recapping 2018: Texas Ranger Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each. The order will mirror the final team rankings running in reverse order so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get one to two of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts. Here’s a link to the report for this club from last offseason

Past:

30 – 21: BAL CWS MIA TEX

Over the last nearly twenty years the Texas Rangers have usually been a pretty good club typically averaging a winning record over three-year terms, and having a very good club from 2010 – 13 once they decided to start spending money again like they used to. Committed ownership is always a good thing. The leaner years in the middle were still competitive, but they merely set the stage for the very good run to come. Texas found out that spending money guarantees nothing, however, as dramatically increased payroll did not bring more wins in tow in more recent year. Despite increasing payroll expenditures year over year until this season’s slashing the Rangers continued to move in the wrong direction leading to real dollar per WAR figures on par with the early 2000’s when the team spent mightily to be a below average team. Some might compare this season to 2014 when they won the same number of games, but that prior instance looks like an outlier in the middle of an extended run of good play, while this past season was the second consecutive below average as the talent started to bleed out without much of an infusion.

Fantasy players know how great it is to have some Texas sluggers on your team, but once we strip out those glorious park effects you’re often left wanting in reality. This year was no different with performance mostly around the average, and more often than not that came below the pack. There were highlights like the end of the season and lowlights like earlier, but most of it was spent more or less around the average. Actual results matched up fairly well in the aggregate, but there were equally stretches of over and underperformance. For a club built around their bats you would like to see more thump than this.

A big reason for the lackluster results was due to the stars and scrubs approach to building the offense. They had very good hitters like Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Gallo and they had very bad ones like Delino DeShields, Carlos Tocci, Isiah Kiner-Faleca and Elvis Andrus that completely offset those positive contributions. It didn’t help when nobody else really stepped up to thicken up the good. Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre played or sat through some injury issues, but at least the team finally saw how good Jurickson Profar can be. Good teams have many good to great hitters and few black holes so it was something of a depth issue for Texas this year.

Choo led the charge doing his same old thing of walking a ton and showing strong enough production to more than offset his higher than average strikeout rate. He fell a bit short of reaching those expectations on balls in play, which might have something to do with having lost his wheels and/or the shift that seems to have nullified so many lefties. With $42.0M still owed to the slugger for his age 36 and 37 seasons it stands to reason that Texas will be looking to move that deal with it even more likely that they’re going to have to eat some of the money to do so. The tails of his season left a lot to be desired, but you can see below the same scintillating middle stretch that should entice potential buyers. Some of his best performance was keyed by an obscene walk rate that paired nicely with elevated angles, but that stretch stands out from the pack as the rest of the season typically saw lower, but still good walk rates, and flatter balls off the bat. He can still get into a ball, but would likely show better with periodic rest that can come organically by sitting versus many left-handers.

Shin-Soo Choo

 

Zooming back to the left on the age continuum you can find a similar very good slugger in Joey Gallo whom shares some similarities with Choo as a good walk guy that has power, though he has a little less of the former and league elite rates in the latter. The walk rates were good throughout, and often great, but almost always came with enormous strikeout rates taking a big chunk out of potential offense. This could be a reason he sees such a gap between his higher expected production and actual results for much of the first half of the season. The results show him being below average batter for a prolonged stretch of the season, but ultimately moved upwards to catch the much higher expected production by the end of the season. Another part of this might be his exit velocities trending down around the midway point of the season before mostly stabilizing at still elite levels while losing hardly anything on his heavy flyball approach. This could be a conscious effort to shorten up the swing at times as there is a good bit of visual positive correlation between the strikeouts and the exit velocity. One thing that separates him from Choo is that Gallo has a high level of athleticism that saw him miscast in centerfield, but should allow for good defense in all four corners and on the bases. If the team wanted to spur their upswing they would look into trading Gallo for a wonderful return, but will probably prefer to own his near-term control and reap the production themselves. This could be a mistake, but there is also enough obvious downside that few clubs will want to pay the appropriate price.

Joey Gallo

The next group features a few other players that are on different ends of the age spectrum. Adrian Beltre is as close to a surefire Hall of Famer as there is playing after wrapping up his twenty-first season in the Show. He’s missing more time these days, but still an above average hitter deriving his production from a balanced approach that sees walks, strikeouts, and in-play production around or a little better than the norm. Father Time remains undefeated, but somebody is going to get 300+ good plate appearances out of Beltre in 2019 wherever he signs as a free agent.

Adrian Beltre

The other two in the group are still very young despite each having having names that any fan can recollect easily. Nomar Mazara was supposed to be the slugging corner outfield that Joey Gallo has mostly turned into, but there is still a lot to like in the young man. He walks at a fine rate and strikes out around the average, while showing above average pop even if he didn’t quite get to all of it. Another player who played through injury, which made his final line look worse, Mazara might finally have lost enough shine where he could be a buy-low guy for once in the fantasy realm. I don’t see him going anywhere from his real life team, however. Jurickson Profar was once the best prospect in the land, but injuries made any sort of future cloudy, at best. In that sense, it was great to see the youngster finally put together just shy of 600 plate appearances. To do so with above average offense as a middle infielder ensures that he will continue to be a first option on the team going forward. While the power is less than what we’ve seen from his aforementioned peers, he avoids the strikeout quite well, and does so while still walking at a strong clip. The ball in play production is a little lighter, but spraying it around without striking out often is a useful skillset in a league in love with the shift. He doesn’t scorch the ball as much as his teammates, but he does carry an ideal launch angle that means plenty of liners and homers have a chance go get down or go out.

Nomar Mazara

Jurickson Profar

If you clicked on the link above for last season’s report you might have seen that Robinson Chirinos separated himself as the rare above average hitting catcher. He almost got back there this year, but still proved to be a good hitter for a catcher, even if Baseball Prospectus thought he was a bad catcher for a catcher. With a final year option that any team could afford coming due it’s likely the team should try to move on from the player to get back something more useful in the longer term. With few teams having enough catching there should be a market to at least recoup something decent. It seems like Rougned Odor lived a thousand lives this past season, one he almost saved with a prodigious peak in the middle of his season, but his tails were just too poor for a team to consider him an integral piece going forward. Walking and striking out around the average give him a decent floor at second base, but the power is driven so much by the exaggerated upward angles with which he drives the ball that too often mishits occur leading to easy pop ups or cans of corn. It should be noted that he started the season showing awful exit velocity likely due to an injury that took time to iron out. Once his ball off the bat caught up he enjoyed a fantastic stretch, but it would go for naught as the end of  season production was all downhill.

Rougned Odor

Some of the younger guys the team hoped to plug and play this year didn’t support their cause all that much. Ronald Guzman was the better hitter of those that followed, but being relegated to first base means he’s going to have to come up on his well below average offense. Isiah Kiner-Falefa went the other way as a worse hitter, pound for pound, but played all over including behind the plate likely giving him a bit of a future in the game that Guzman may not share without improvement. There’s a reason Carlos Tocci didn’t cost anything to acquire as he would have to be the greatest center field defender of all time to justify carrying his invisible bat, and you can pretty much say the same about Delino DeShields who at least walks at good rates even if he also strikes out around the average. Neither can break glass with balls off the bat, however.

Lastly, Elvis Andrus is someone the team committed to long ago who still has around $60M owed to him over the next four years. He certainly was playing like a guy that didn’t have to worry about ever finding a job again. When I saw him coming down the stretch he had all of the jokey demeanor with none of the effort. Failing to leave the box on a ball in play and making multiple mistakes in the field. This looks like a collapsed asset at this point with plenty of liability to go, and I worry about how his lack of seriousness or effort impacts his younger teammates that might see him as more of the problem than the solution to their own improvement. If the team wants to change their culture overnight they can start by dismissing this player.

Elvis Andrus

The Ranger offense has occasionally been prolific, and usually sound even if this year was a step back from that. With a good bit of youthful talent it’s likely they can figure out how to score enough going forward. The pitching on the other hand was typically as disastrous as ever with few signs of an impending turnaround. They were a little better than the three teams already covered (Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins) and the next team up (Kansas City Royals), but bottom-five is still hard to make up without a dynamic offense. Times were few and far between where they looked like an above average group spending most of their time in the bad to horrible range. In their first full season without nominal ace Yu Darvish the team tried a patchwork approach that sought to stretch out good relievers and buy low on other starters that cost nothing to acquire. It predictably did not go well and the farm supplied precious few that could help close the gap. There were bright spots from a couple of players, but for the most part this was a horrid group that needs significant overhaul if the club wants to retake their seat at the contender table.

A pieced together bullpen was the lone bright spot for the Texas Rangers with Jose Leclerc putting up the second best season for a reliever by these numbers trailing only the incredible Edwin Diaz on the year. Nearly halving his walk rate while seeing his strikeout rate climb even higher and throwing in some of the weakest contact allowed in the game is how Leclerc was able to go from a good reliever to one of the best in the game. The strikeouts and walks diverged wonderfully as the year went along showing few signs of fatigue despite facing a heavy workload. The cut in free passes did show up as climbing exit velocity over the course of the season, but he generates such an upward angle that most of that contact is harmless even if harder. His spray shows one no doubt home run with tons of mishits in good combinations. Almost nothing is hit hard off him that has a chance to do damage. With the team needing to turn things around it’s quite possible they might look to moving Leclerc at the height of his value to a team willing to pay the price. He will be embarking on his age 25 season next year with four more years of control to go. Surely, someone would pay the cost to get this boss.

Jose Leclerc

Cory Gearrin and Tony Barnette pitched well, but both did so in more of a burst. Gearrin was acquired in July for nothing then flipped to the Oakland Athletics down the stretch. Barnette proved pretty useful before a shoulder injury shut him down. Keone Kela was also a useful piece for much of the year, but was also traded out down the stretch for a promising former Pittsburgh Pirate in Taylor Hearn. Jake Diekman was also traded down the stretch after a good run as the team’s LOOGY. Yet another arm that was moved after doing pretty well was Jesse Chavez who went to the Chicago Cubs to help solidify their backend. He will be missed as a once through guy that could bounce back well. With the exodus of so many contributors the team will likely be looking to fill many roles in this bullpen next year, especially if they look to sell high on Jose Leclerc. Add in that Alex Claudio continued to allow the ball in play a ton with worse, but still better than average, results compared to the year prior, and any semblance of depth here is a misread. With so many holes to fill it is almost a good thing that the team has so many starters that look like relievers, but robbing Peter to pay Paul wouldn’t be any prettier.

Keone Kela

Alex Claudio

Jesse Chavez

One of those promising arms belongs to Yohander Mendez who in his age 23 season saw his third tour of duty in the Show. He still strikes out far too few to support his high walk rate, but he made progress from the year prior. Where he really shone was in his ability to suppress hard contact, though that manifested in his actual results being a good deal higher. Still, as far as hopes and dreams go it seems like Mendez might have the right stuff to at least fill some innings as a backend starter and maybe take another jump forward if he can figure out how to make them miss more often. Another bright spot was the contributions they got from Chris Martin both before and after some missed time due to a groin injury. He showed quite well as a guy that gets enough strikeouts while limiting the walk very well, though he did see some increase to both his elevation and exit velocity allowed as the season wore on. He might have less promise than Yohander Mendez as he is already in his early-30’s, but could be an oasis in the desert for the team next year. The lefty Jeffrey Springs splits the age difference on these two, but also performed rather well in his first taste of the show.

Chris Martin

Amidst all these options the team threw at the wall it was free agent import Mike Minor that led the club in batters faced. He took some time to re-adjust to a starting role after a long layoff and then heavy usage as a multi-inning reliever with the Kansas City Royals in 2017. Once he got reacclimated to the rotation he was very good over the rest of the season. Owed $19M over his next two years he might mean a lot more to another team that is better situated to win now, especially if that club is enterprising about letting pitchers hit the showers after a good day’s work rather than giving them enough rope to hang themselves. The guaranteed dollars might lower the return, but Minor showed that he’s still capable of getting major outs.

Mike Minor

Most of the rest of the rotation can be found in the bottom of the table with Doug Fister succumbing to a knee injury, but not being all that useful prior, and Cole Hamels also moving out of the league to the Chicago Cubs where he found new life in a more forgiving ballpark. Yovani Gallardo, Martin Perez, and Matt Moore may have all gotten their final chances in the game, though the latter two do have affordable options for 2019 if the team wants to spin that wheel again. Bartolo Colon is also likely to move on as he is a free agent coming off one of his worst seasons. All of these players are old, unlike Ariel Jurado, who is quite young at 22, but the entire group displayed such a lack of anything that could be called good that it’s hard to see the team wanting to go back to that well. Still, it’s an awful lot of overhaul for one season, and with new leadership there could be the opportunity to get very creative with this group next year as they attempt to build a cohesive pitching unit out of matchsticks.

Matt Moore

Ariel Jurado

Jake Diekman

Robinson Chirinos

Austin Bibens-Dirkx

Ronald Guzman

Doug Fister

 

Cole Hamels

Yovani Gallardo

Martin Perez

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Bartolo C0lon

Delino DeShields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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