Dan and Chip have been reviewing the Astros AL West rivals. Today Dan is looking at their biggest rival the Texas Rangers.
2016 Record. 95-67 – 1st place in AL West
Last Playoff Appearance. 2016
World Series Appearances/Wins. 0 for 2 – 2010 and 2011
Best Franchise Season. 96-66 in 2011
Worst Franchise Season. 56-106 in 1963 as the Washington Senators – they were in Washington from 1961-1971
Manager. Jeff Bannister – Entering his 3rd season with the Rangers (183-141) – Local Houston area product out of LaMarque HS, Lee College and University of Houston.
GM. Jon Daniels – Entering his twelfth season – was the youngest GM in baseball history at 28 yrs old in 2005
2016 Payroll (from spotrac). $169 million (8th in MLB).
2017 Payroll (projected by spotrac). $168 million (7th).
2016 Offense. 764 Runs (4th in AL), 215 HRs (5th), 99 SB (4th), . 262 BA (3rd), .755 OPS (7th)
2016 Starting Pitching. 4.38 ERA (9th), 1.37 WHIP (9th), 344 BBs (Worst), 729 Ks (12th), .260 BAA (6th), .756 OPS against (7th)
2016 Bullpen. 4.40 ERA (14th), 1.36 WHIP (12th), Saves 56 (1st), Blown Saves 17 (4th best), .261 BA against (14th) .747 OPS against (10th)
The Rangers had a very good offense in 2016 that paired with a middle of the road starting rotation and a compete enigma of a bullpen to put together an excellent season. Anyone paying attention knows that the Rangers rode an insane 36-11 record in 1 run games and a 15-4 record against the Astros to this terrific record. The big question is whether this is repeatable or was 2016 a mirage?
Infield. The foundation of the Rangers good offense in 2016 was the infield. The three returning starters, super 3B Adrian Beltre (.300 BA/.879 OPS/ 32 HR/104 RBIs), SS Elvis Andrus (.302/.800/8 HRs/69 HRs/ 24 SBs) and 23 y.o. 2B Roughned Odor (.271/.798/33 HR/89 RBI) were beyond solid. They let Mitch Moreland go to free agency in the hopes that 35 y.o. free agent signee Mike Napoli can repeat his 34 HR/101 RBI season of 2016 (rather than his mediocre seasons from 2014 and 2015).
Outfield. The fact that former Astro CF Carlos Gomez is the one sure OF starter in the outfield for the Rangers speaks volumes to their problems. Gomez did hit well in 33 games for Texas (.284 BA/.905 OPS/8 HR/ 24 RBIs) – much better than the struggling former Astro farmhand Delino Deshields Jr.. Big money free agent RF Shin-Soo Choo (who the Rangers still owe $82 million) was injured and ineffective in 2016 and will likely spend more time at DH with Nomar Mazara (.266 BA / .739 OPS/ 20 HRs/ 64 RBIs) taking the bulk of ABs in right. Left Field may be a combo of Mazara and utility man Jurickson Profar (.239/.660/ 5 HRs/ 20 RBIs). Not too inspiring.
C Jonathan Lucroy was picked up in a big move at the trade deadline and brings the Rangers a terrific bat at the catcher position (.292/ .855/ 24 HRs/ 81 RBIs)
Starting Rotation. The Rangers have a very solid TOR if….. Yu Darvish (7-5 and 3.41 ERA in only 100 IP) is healthy enough to give the Rangers a strong one-two punch with Cole Hamels (15-5 and 3.32 ERA). Martin Perez may be ready to take a step forward after a solid 2016 (10-11, 4.39 ERA) in the 3 spot of the rotation. The last two spots are question marks as both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner who the Rangers picked up from San Diego and Miami respectively are not healthy and likely neither will be ready to go this April. A.J. Griffin had a good 7-4 record and a bad 5.07 ERA in 23 starts last season. Former Astro minor leaguer Mike Hauschild was picked up in the Rule 5 draft and will be given every chance to show he belongs. Other options vary from Chi Chi Gonzalez to Nick Martinez to resigning Colby Lewis who is still floating around as a free agent.
The ‘Pen. Can the Rangers repeat an odd 2016 where the bullpen had awful stats, but somehow were very good in saves (56 of 73) and winning (41 W-20 L)? The good news is that their 4 best relievers Sam Dyson (3-2, 2.43 ERA, 38 Saves), Tony Barnette (7-3, 2.09 ERA), Matt Bush (7-2, 2.48 ERA) and Alex Claudio (4-1, 2.79 ERA) are back and ready to go. The bad news is one of their workhorses, Jake Diekman (3.40 ERA in 66 games) is out until the All Star game and the balance of the returnees look like refugees from the 2013 Astros bullpens. Of the “other” folks who pitched for the Rangers in 2016 – sixteen of them had ERAs of over 5.00 and eight had ERAs over 7.50. They are hoping for help from Jeremy Jeffress, Keone Kela, Dario Alvarez, Jose Leclerc, Nick Martinez or others….
Prognosis. Their lineup is dangerous especially if the good Carlos Gomez plays along with a full season of Jonathan Lucroy. The rotation is the key as they don’t have any sure things in the 4th and 5th hole and Darvish has to show he is healthy for a full season. The bullpen carried them to their unrepeatable (yes I’m saying that) one run game record in 2016. The ‘pen looks good but not deep. If you can make them go deep in their bullpen they might be at your mercy.
Projection: 89-73 – Even if they won 60% of their one run games they would be 8 games worse than 2016. They seem to be set for some regression in 2017, especially if the Astros stop playing them like a little brother against his bigger bro’.