THE TEXAS RANGERS OFFENSE WAS NOT BROKEN SO THERE WAS NO NEED TO FIX IT IN THE OFFSEASON
Last year, the Texas Rangers offense hit .283 to lead the major leagues and scored 855 runs, trailing only the Yankees (867) and Red Sox (875). Those two figures are up from .276 and 787 a year earlier. The additions of Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli definitely made a difference. The old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and the Rangers haven’t. They have essentially brought back the offense intact.
When spring training began, 11 of the 13 position player roster spots were claimed. Barring injury, the catching corps will be Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba; the infield will be Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Beltre, and super sub Michael Young; and outfielders will be Josh Hamilton, Craig Gentry, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy. The two unclaimed roster spots are most likely another outfielder and a middle infielder.
Moreland is of concern as his numbers crashed over the second half of 2011, and it was later revealed that he played through a wrist injury that required surgery this winter. Initially, he is limited this spring to 60-75 swings per day. (The norm is 150-200.) So far, he reports the wrist is doing well, and there is optimism his career will once again be on the upward swing.
During the winter, Texas kept tabs on Prince Fielder, but apparently was never in the ballpark for landing the big bopper. The team remains committed to Moreland at first, but has brought in veterans Brad Hawpe and Conor Jackson for insurance. Both can play other positions, such that both are candidates to make the roster even if Moreland proves to be healthy and ready to go. At this point Hawpe is slowed with a hamstring problem that kept him out of the Rangers’ two inrasquad games this week.
Center field provides the other roster spot opportunity. The Rangers seem determined to keep Hamilton in left with the thought that it protects him from injury, though manager Ron Washington says that Hamilton will see some action in center. Craig Gentry finished 2011 as the right-handed batter in a centerfield platoon with Endy Chavez. Chavez is gone, but Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin are candidates to take his place as the left-handed side of a center field platoon. Gentry has made no secret that he wants the shot at being the full-time center fielder. He is perhaps the fastest runner in the Rangers’ system. He can definitely cover the ground in center field defensively, and his 18 stolen bases ranked third on the team last year despite getting just 133 at bats. Offensively, he actually hit slightly better against right-handed pitchers last season (.277 as opposed to .265 in approximately the same number of at bats).
The bottom line is that there is probably one roster spot available for Hawpe, Jackson, Borbon and Martin.
Veterans Luis Hernandez and Alberto Gonzalez, both non-roster invitees to spring training, are the leading candidates for the back-up middle infielder job. However, Young is working at all four positions, such that the roster could be configured with just Young as a back-up. That would allow two roster spots for the foursome of first base/outfielders.
Washington has given some indication that he will move Andrus out of the number two spot in the batting order. This is somewhat surprising as Andrus hit a respectable .279 with a .347 on-base percentage and stole a club leading 37 bases. If it happens, Young is a candidate to move back to the batting order slot, as is Gentry.
In this post-steroid area, scoring has come down and pitching stats are much better. In 2008 for example, seven teams scored more than 800 runs for the season, including the major league leading Rangers with 901. Only six scored fewer than 700 runs. Last year, only three teams crashed 800 runs, while 14 scored less than 700. Offense has become a more precious commodity, and the Rangers have it.
Washington is often criticized as an offensive strategist by many for giving opposing teams too many free outs with sacrifice bunts. His teams have often given up outs on bases senselessly that kill rallies. However, he wants his team to be aggressive and tolerates the base running gaffes for the big picture. The bottom line is this Ranger team is the most complete offense in the American League. It can score in a variety of ways and is not overly reliant on the long ball. It’s such a strong offense that it can sustain injuries to key players. Last year, the team improved its offensive numbers despite losing middle of the order hitters Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli and Beltre for a substantial number of games. It again should be one of the top, if not the very best offense in the American League once again.
- Rangers Season Preview- The Rangers Bullpen- Rattle and Hum Sports (rattleandhumsports.com)
- Texas Rangers Preview – The Starting Rotation (rattleandhumsports.com)
- Texas Rangers Writer Richard “Dic” Humphries – Rattle and Hum Sports (rattleandhumsports.com)