Rangers third in A.L West at the break

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY                                                                                                    DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

ARLINGTON, Texas – The ceremonial first half of the 2019 season came to a close last Sunday with the Rangers holding a 44-38 record.  Six games over .500 is far better than experts foresaw before the season began.  That record placed them in third place in the American League West, nine games behind first place Houston and 1.5 games behind second place Oakland.

As for the Wild Card race, the Rangers are one of five teams with a legitimate chance at the two Wild Card berths.  Tampa Bay leads the pack, one-half game ahead of Cleveland.  (Surprisingly, Cleveland is one game ahead of Tampa in the loss column.) Cleveland leads Oakland by 1.5 games, Boston by two games and Texas by three games.  The Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox are on the edge of being in the mix trailing Cleveland by 6.5 and seven games respectively.

That leaves two key questions for Texas:  How did they get here, and what do they do about it now with the July 31 trade deadline less than three weeks away?  The answer to number one is that the Rangers beat up on bad teams.  The five worst teams in the American League are Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Toronto and Seattle.  Texas is 19-7 against those five.  That leaves them six games UNDER .500 against everyone else at 25-31.

One handicap for Texas is the distribution of the five bad A. L. teams.  The Central and East divisions each have two.  The West has just Seattle, which is the best of the five bad teams.  I. E., teams that the Rangers are fighting with for a Wild Card berth – Tampa, Cleveland and Boston – play 38 games against the two bad teams in their division, while the Rangers have only 19 games against Seattle.  Texas has 19 games remaining against those five teams.

As for interleague play, the Rangers are 8-7 with five games remaining.  Thirteen of those games were against teams from the National League Central Division, and the Rangers went just 7-6 in those games against a division that is ordinary at best.  It’s disappointing that Texas didn’t fare better.  The final five interleague games are two at home next week against Arizona, and three in August at Milwaukee.  No pushovers.

As for the second question, the Rangers are still up in the air.  Seven of the first nine games after the All-Star break are against Houston.  To maintain a reasonable chance at capturing a Wild Card berth, the Rangers are going to have to play well to keep pace with the other Wild Card contenders.

If the Rangers are still within two or three games of a Wild Card berth after those nine games, they will likely be buyers trying to shore up the team.  A starting pitcher would afford the luxury of putting Jesse Chavez back in the bullpen.  A reliever will be easier to find and cost less in prospects to obtain.

If a big move is made, it will probably involve trading away one of the Rangers’ young left-handed hitters.  For at least two years, Texas has had an overload of young left-handed batters with power.  The obvious move would be to trade one of them for a starting pitcher at the same stage of his career as the Ranger hitters.  Joey Gallo is probably untouchable.  He’s a super-star budding before Ranger fans’ eyes.  Rougned Odor probably has little value on the trade market. That leaves Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun and Ronald Guzman as the center piece for a trade for a young but established pitcher.

On the other hand, if the first nine games don’t go so well for Texas, the Rangers could be sellers at the trade deadline.  Certainly, Mike Minor and/or Lance Lynn would bring a healthy prospect return in a trade. Not only are both of them pitching at an elite level that places among the best in the A. L. this season; but they are contractually controllable beyond this year.  It would certainly be disappointing to fans and players to see either of these two traded at the deadline after the team has played so well into mid-July.  General Managers however have been stingy about letting top prospects go at the trade deadline in recent years, so the odds are Minor and Lynn will still be Rangers when the calendar flips to August.

This year, trades after the July 31 trade deadline involving the waiver process are no longer allowed.  It’s being predicted that the in-season trade market will be very brisk this month. The odds are the Rangers roster will look different over the last two months of the season than it is now. Hopefully, it will be a roster bolstered to compete for a playoff berth.  It’s been a surprisingly exciting team to watch this year.  Ranger fans would like to see more excitement after the trade deadline.

UPDATE:  Texas got off to a good start with a win over the Astros in Thursday night’s opening game of the second half.  Lance Lynn was overwhelming throwing seven shutout innings while striking out 11. The Rangers jumped on Astro starter Framber Valdez for four first inning runs and won 5-0.

NOTABLE:

  • Joey Gallo was the only Ranger to appear in last Tuesday’s All-Star game. He played four innings in left field, but saw just one pitch at the plate.  He made the most of the opportunity!  He slammed that one pitch on a line into the right field stands.  The exit velocity off his bat was 111.5 mph, which made it the hardest hit ball hit in an All-Star game during the Stat-Cast era (began in 2015).  Gallo’s home run extended the American League’s lead to 4-1, and they hung on to win 4-3.  Joey’s home run was the fifth by a Ranger in an All-Star game.  It was the seventh straight year the A. L. has won the All-Star game.
  • After Thursday’s win over Houston, Lance Lynn led the Major Leagues with 12 wins. He’s 8-0 in Arlington, and the Rangers are 9-1 in his home starts.
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