Rangers Still Hold 1st, Despite Offesnive Struggles

Figured it would be good to toss in another quick Rangers post before I run out of town with no real internet access for a week.

Well, thank God the Astros came into town. The Angels have put together a rather impressive 6 game winning streak, and with the Rangers reeling after two tough series against the Blue Jays and Dodgers, they definitely to win this next series.

Although fun fact, this is the first series in about a month, I believe, that the Rangers have actually faced the possibility of losing the lead in the AL West. Despite that though, the Rangers will again see their lead hold in the West as they have taken the first two games from the Astros, clinching the oh so “important” Sliver Boot for the “Lone Star” Series that no one really gives two craps about.

Just to clarify though, I don’t hate inter-league play in the least. It is fun to get to see teams that you don’t often get the chance to as a fan. I just think MLB tried a little too hard on the idea forcing the “inter-state rivalries” that don’t really exist. Even our president Nolan Ryan owns a minor league team in the Astros system, so I highly doubt he had a huge party when the Boot was clinched.

Anyways, back to actual Rangers substance.

Let’s start with Mr. Davis once again, as it seems to continue to be something talked about non-stop across talk radio and in post game shows. Calls for Justin Smoak to be promoted still continue as well (even though these same fans probably don’t realize he just came of the 7-day DL for Frisco). Yes, I know he is killing rallies, and yes, he still is striking out a ton (41 in his last 82 ABs…every other at bat…big ouch…). However, he isn’t the only one.

If we are going to start throwing darts at the Rangers’ offense, let’s hit all the targets while we are at it. In reality, thanks to Davis’ Mendoza-line production the following as probably gone unnoticed by fans — take a look at the stats over the past 30 days for these Rangers:

Salty: .219/.275/.645, 73 AB, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 34 K
Young: .276/.325/.706, 105 AB, 1 HR, 8 RBI
Kinsler: .210/.294/.723, 105 AB, 6 HR, 15 RBI

Of course Davis is no better really: .159/.216/.509, 82 AB, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 41 K

And Jones has crashed back to reality: .184/.212/.620, 49 AB, 3 HR, 6 RBI

Point is though, we can spread these bullets around.

Davis is right where he belongs in the lineup, at the bottom. Sure you don’t want a power position having an OBPS at .509 over 30 days by any means, but in the same vein we sure as hell should have a leadoff hitter with a sub .300 OBP, and a friggin’ .210 AVG over the same stretch! On top of that, I can’t even remember the last time Young went sub-.300 over a month.

Right below Davis, Salty is having strikeout issues of his own as highlighted above. I know a K every 2 AB for Davis is not good, but then again neither is a K for every 2.14 AB for Salty over the past month; however, I don’t seem to hear the screaming for Salty to be benched, even though we have Talor Teagarden on the Rangers’ Bench, whom, in the past 30 days, has 20 AB in which he has gone .300/.333/.783 with 5 RBI and only 6 K. So why not make that swap? Where is all the screaming for Salty’s head?

While fans may not like to admit it, the excuses they’d likely give are the exact same as the ones that should be given for Davis. Teagarden is too young, don’t throw him into the fire yet, let him ease into it, etc. How we are tossing these same reasons aside for a AA player that isn’t even on the 40-man roster (and yes, I mean Smoak) is beyond me.

Now, I’m not excusing Davis’ performance because it is only one thing right now: piss poor. But his glove is just as valuable in the lineup as Salty’s, and last I checked, the whole offense is struggling and the wins we have gotten have been via pitching and defense. And no, 6 and 5 run performances against the Astros does not count as the offense “turning it around” at the moment.

Look at Davis for what he is right now, a solid glove that is batting horribly and thus sits at the bottom of the order. Just as Salty has been solid behind the dish; however, batting just as bad — and he sits just behind Davis in the order.

The thing is, we all know the entire Rangers lineup can, and very likely will, hit better. We’ve seen the potential that Davis has. We know Young and Kinsler are solid offensive threats. However, they need to obviously work things out.

Despite all that, look at the big picture: 2 games ahead of the Angels in the West, above .500 baseball, and oh, by the way, we weren’t supposed to see this kind of ball until 2010. Also we haven’t seen this kind of baseball ever. I don’t mean the wins, but the way they are winning. You never came into Texas telling your team that you have to make your ABs count and manufacture runs — no you told them, the Rangers’ pitching staff is a joke and the Ballpark in Arlington is a launching pad for home runs and the Ragners’ can hope to do is out-slug you. That isn’t the case now, the Rangers, more often than not, will throw solid starting pitching at you along with stellar defense. If you happen to blow us out now, you caught one of our guys on a really bad start, it hasn’t happened much at all this season.

Enjoy the ride for what it is, and let’s see if people like Davis can’t pull it together before season’s end. If not, bring up Smoak next season and let him take a hack at it. There is just no sense in making a hasty roster move that will likely cost you a player (unless, God forbid, someone else finds a home on the 60 day DL). If that’s the reason we miss the playoffs, I personally could care less as it isn’t like this team is going to be deconstructed completely next season.

To close, some observations on our young pitchers. I was actually able to make my way out to the Temple this season and I got to see Holland pitch…and I got to see what he is like when he has nothing. He struggled mightily. He’s command was erratic to say the least and wasn’t striking people out as he normally was as well. Facing the hottest team in the majors (L.A. Dodgers) didn’t help either. However, he still gutted it out, went 5 innings, and kept the Rangers in the ball game. It was far from spectacular, but you can’t ask for anything more than that when you don’t have anything resembling your best stuff.

Neftali Feliz is still trucking along in AAA. Via the Newberg Report:

Neftali Feliz’s walk rate and innings per start, by month:
April: 19%, 3.7
May: 11%, 4.7
June: 1.5%, 5.8

That’s what I call correlation (and causation)! Feliz didn’t issue a free pass and struck out three in six innings. Unfortunately, he also allowed eight hits, and four would score. Feliz has been pretty ordinary, statistically speaking, as he fine tunes his fastball command and develops his offspeed stuff.

I would say it is safe to wager that Feliz will be called up come September (at the latest, it might be sooner) and will find a role in the bullpen. Next year, I would bet he lands as the 4 or 5 starter in the rotation. My biggest concern with him (as it usually is for any young pitcher) is the control, BB/inning, K/BB ratio, etc. It takes time to learn how to get major league hitters out (see Holland and his starts) and really, that just takes experience and time. However, ensuring that you don’t give hitters free bases is a whole other matter.

Needless to say, with the walks continuing to take a nose-dive, his time is most definitely coming.

As far as Blake Beavan goes, he got his first start in AA the other day — via the Newberg Report once again:

Blake Beavan offered some good with some bad in his AA debut. In 5.1 innings and 93 pitches, he struck out six and walked none, but he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits. Beavan actually gave up only one hit with runners in scoring position. Other runs scored on a wild pitch, an error, a groundout, and a double of reliever Thomas Diamond.

Again, take a look at the control here. No free passes, and an impressive 6 Ks to boot. The hits will happen, just as they are for Feliz and it will likely take a year or two for Beavan to figure things out at the AA level as well as the AAA level (which I think he will land next season, possibly with a 40-man spot and a spring training invite as well).

Again, next time you want to rage on Davis, Salty or the Ranger bats in general. Take a step back, look at the big picture.

The future is bright and enjoy this current ride we are on.