Reliving the 2017 Season: Texas Rangers Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: Texas Rangers 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 team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting 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 two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.


There was a time not that long ago when the Texas Rangers looked to be on the precipice of a dynasty. A well-stocked farm system that leveraged international players, while developing all regardless of origin, a deep, talent-laden Major League club, and the money to go get what they needed. They had it all, but the team is starting to look to be on the other side of the curve now. Another one of the late chasers that fell short the offense never really seemed to get going once you account for the prodigious effects their ballpark provides to sluggers. An early Adrian Beltre showed some of the internal deficiencies, though it should have been no secret that he was a tough bet to play everyday all year.

However, the pitching was probably quite a bit better than most should have expected. A top-heavy rotation would lose one of it’s legs at the trade deadline, but keeping the ship afloat was a very strong bullpen. You can see later in the year when the team really went on a run, which allowed them to stay relevant into September, but then things started to fall apart, as they so often do. The pitching flopped massively down the stretch while the bats went into an early hibernation. A team that had everything going their way for so long now looks to be on the slide.

We’ve seen teams that have hit and not pitched and vice-versa, but the Rangers fell short on both sides of the coin coming in below average in both facets. While the pitchers and hitters walked around the same rate you can see the massive difference between the two when it comes to strikeouts. Their hitters had no problem taking the slow turn back to the dugout, while the pitchers could not force this issue often enough. Where the pitchers shined was in limiting the effectiveness of balls in play. With observed results nearly mirroring expectations you can have strong confidence that the 2017 Rangers did a good job of limiting opposition batters on balls in play, but there were just so many due to the lack of punchouts. The batters looked to be a little better than average in this regard, but that looks like a little bit of an overperformance. Even with their xwOBA* approaching league average it just wasn’t enough to offset all those free outs via the strikeout.

The Rangers boasted a few good hitters in the divisive Joey Gallo, steady Shin-Soo Choo and perpetually hurt Adrian Beltre, but beyond that they got precious few contributions. Waterbugs like Elvis Andrus or Delino DeShields are exactly the type of players that have a propensity to outpace their expectations due to speed and spray, but their ball-striking leaves so much to want. Rougned Odor continued to show that not walking, striking out a ton, and popping the ball up with aplomb is a bad recipe and free agent import Mike Napoli flopped considerably. While Robinson Chirinos was a nice bright spot from the catcher position it is difficult to see him playing everyday due to his past concerns with concussions. Lastly, Nomar Mazara might have played like an average hitter the team really needed him to take a step forward to become the type of slugger an offense can be based around.


In his age 34 season Shin-Soo Choo showed he still has plenty left in the tank with strong True wOBA* throughout the season. Of note here is the significant and persistent gap he showed between actual and expected results during his strong first half. He came down considerably in the second half, but this mostly fell in line with observed results. This could hint at a player that underachieved in the boxscore making him a nice target in your fantasy leagues if you’re hunting for an outfielder, and especially so if you are in an OBP-centric league.


Most fans know all about Joey Gallo’s three true outcome approach. He strikes out at league-high rates, but working those deep counts allows him to also walk at an exceptional level. The biggest reason for the walks, though, is that no pitcher wants to make a mistake to the young slugger. He absolutely tattoos pitches that he does put in play with one of the highest xwOBA* of all players thus reviewed. Only Alex Avila was higher when looking at batters with more than 15 plate appearances. You can also see that he was a fairly pedestrian hitter for much of the first half of the season with the strikeouts negating any positives. Then he went on an absolute tear later in the season. There was considerable tail off with actual results proving an indicator of what was to come, but it does not erase that incredible stretch. It is likely that he will continue to be a streaky hitter due to his utter inability to boost batting average via the single, but singles are for Grandmas. Dude rakes and I would not be surprised to see him routinely place at the top of the leaderboard for extra base hits and homers.

It is easy to be a little sour on Mazara for not actualizing as the stud corner outfielder that could carry a lineup, but it is also incredibly easy to forget that the man was a mere 22 years old this year. In his first full season he showed a lot to like following a poor start with a couple of other slumps mixed in. He showed two sustained stretches of being a well above average hitter while riding out that early mix of over and then underperformance. I really like him as a mid-tier option that shouldn’t cost an arm or a leg, but does have the potential to find another gear or two. It should also be mentioned that while park effects dampen both of his lines in the chart they do not apply in fantasy where his park helps everything look a lot nicer.

While that park helps hitters it absolutely hurts pitchers, which should in turn induce a general manager to get the types of pitchers that restrict balls in play via the strikeout. The 2017 Texas Rangers starters’ ran the lowest strikeout percentage in the game this year. That would seem to be a failure or process, and once Yu Darvish was traded the team did not have another guy to pick up the slack. Andrew Cashner was surprisingly effective as the biggest culprit still finding a way to be a league average pitcher, but he found a way by limiting the effectiveness of all those balls put in play. Unlike Martin Perez who showed similar peripherals, but got hit a whole lot harder ending up as one of the worst starters in the game.

On the other hand, the bullpen was incredibly good led by Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, Keone Kela, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette with only Claudio failing to hit the disabled list at one time or another. Having a stout bullpen is a good thing, but it cannot make up for the ineffectiveness of multiple starters. To that end the Rangers have already signed Doug Fister and Mike Minor to shore up the starters, but each of these guys has some hope and prayer assigned to them. It is likely that the bullpen will be ridden hard and often again this upcoming season, which should lead to the stouter arms continuing to be worthwhile investments.

No longer the young, precocious pup of a staff Cole Hamels was leaned on heavily this past year to continue to be a borderline ace, but he never really got there while dealing with an oblique strain. Prior to the injury he was running impressive observed results, though there was quite a bit of disagreement once you regress his balls in play. He eventually got there in the midseason for a solid run before seeing both perspectives meet back up on the worse than average side for a good stretch. He closed the season on a relative high note, but the team needs him to be better than the mid-rotation arm he showed this past season. It is easy to chalk malperformance up to the injury, but at 33 years old if it wasn’t an oblique it might have been something more serious leading me to stay heavily away from Hamels now and in the future.

Claudio took a little time to really figure it out, but once he did he was an electric back end arm over the course of the season. Many teams refuse to use a lefty as their closer, which may hurt his save totals, but Claudio acquitted himself well as a high leverage reliever. You would like to see more strikeouts if you plan to use him as a relief ace of sorts, but both observed and expected viewpoints see a guy that absolutely nullifies hard contact. With little name recognition I would be doing my best to trade for him or target him in the crapshoot rounds of a draft knowing that he will have plenty of opportunity and should be a good bet to continue crushing batters.

Martin Perez has been a starter for this team for a long time now, and he has truly seen it all. Initial success on the back of his good change up allowed him to sign a long term contract that was fairly favorable to both sides. He has dealt with winning and losing and even succumbed to Tommy John surgery, which seems to be a rite of passage of sorts at this point for any starting pitcher. It would be generous to describe his 2017 season as a mixed bag, however. He was really bad for a lot of it. Yes, there were a couple periods where he looked like a better than league average guy, but when he isn’t doing that there is little middle ground. He is either somewhat useful or horrendously bad. Fortunately, he will be pretty much assured a rotation spot next year giving him another (last?) chance to try to put together they type of season that a team desperate for starting pitching so obviously needs.


Fully half the league is now covered so to gain better context of what the numbers mean above I have created some leaderboards showing the top and bottom-20 hitters and pitchers thus reviewed. Further along you will find how teams rank hitting and pitching, and then, lastly, the combined xwRAA for both facets.




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