The Rangers began their 2018 campaign with the idea of a rebuild in mind. The understood goal of this plan is to be ready to compete in the 2020 season when the new ballpark opens. The Rangers will need to do a lot of development in a short period of time. Pitching, as usual, is the problem. The Rangers finished the season 28th in ERA. With the likes of Matt Moore and Martin Perez slated as starters when the season started, it is no shock that the Rangers were only better in ERA than two 100+ loss teams.
The highest ranked player on the 2018 roster in terms of WAR (wins above replacement) is 3.8. For those unfamiliar with WAR, that is pretty awful. For example, the 2011 Texas Rangers had 7 players with 3.8 or better WAR. The team-high 3.8 WAR belongs to the only reliable starter the Rangers had this year: Mike Minor. Minor led the club with 157 Innings Pitched. 157 is very low for the highest total on a team. Minor was a serviceable leftie and transitioned well to starting after being Kansas City’s late inning guy. The others who hit triple digit IP were Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, and Matt Moore.
Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon was one of the few bright spots for the Rangers this year. Unfortunately, he is 45 years old and not likely to contribute to any long term plans the Rangers have. Colon showed flashes of brilliance, including out dueling Justin Verlander, the ace of the reigning World Series Champions. Colon pitching several innings of perfect baseball was one of the best moments of the 2018 season. Colon was convivial and charismatic. He brought comedic relief to a team that badly needed it. Colon’s age showed at many points during the season. His 5.78 ERA is a bit misleading. Colon would often be left in to eat up innings in games that looked hopeless. Colon also struggled with the long ball. He allowed 32 homers. Colon used almost exclusively the two-seam fastball. He pounded the strike zone with a fervor that showed how little he desired to stand out in the Texas heat. Colon’s extreme use of the two-seamer is the identical style the young prospect Ariel Jurado uses. Hopefully Colon was able to impart some wisdom to Jurado. Colon was one of the main reasons to tune into the Rangers this year, and he contributed far more than his stats show.
Cole Hamels, known primarily for his success with the Phillies in 2008, turned in another lackluster season. Hamels had a streak where it looked like he recaptured his old groove, but right before the trade deadline he was shelled repeatedly by bad teams, tanking his trade value. Hamels came over from the Phillies in 2015. He was solid for the 2015 regular season and turned in two decent performances in the ALDS against the Blue Jays. His defenders were poor both times and he did not record a win in either game. Hamels of course was on the mound during the horrific 2015 ALDS Game 5 choke and was pulled for Sam Dyson after clownish defensive play. Hamels was solid in the 2016 regular season, but was humiliated in the playoffs along with Yu Darvish. The ineptitude of these two “aces” was the final spark of a Rangers core that stole our hearts in 2010. Hamels was traded for an underwhelming pull at the deadline and proceeded to pitch well for the Cubs.
The final pitcher to log triple digit IP (102) was Matt Moore. Moore was traded last offseason as a salary dump for the Giants, who offloaded one guy who used to be good in 2011 to make room for another, Andrew McCutchen. The Giants got rid of 9 million dollars worth of dead weight to pursue their plan of trying to make the playoffs with washed up stars. It failed, but at least Derek Holland got his groove back in the process in San Francisco. Matt Moore was truly awful this season. He began as a starter, inflicting misery on the Rangers fan base on a scheduled basis. He walked people frequently, allowed many hits, and suffered from giving up too many long balls. These flaws were accompanied by little to no upside. Rangers GM Jon Daniels must have just finished watching the lone 2011 ALDS game the Rays won when he elected to trade for Moore, who pitched a brilliant shutout against the Rangers that day. After a half year of awful starts, including one against the Indians were Moore was popped again and again with long bombs, Moore was moved to mop-up duty. Moore was slightly better in this role, but still a wasted spot in the roster. Moore is still under contract for next year unfortunately. He might be the most insufferable Rangers pitcher since Chan Ho Park.
Doug Fister, Matt Bush, and Tony Barnette were all severely injured this season. They are all about average, with Bush and Barnette having the potential to be very good.
Yovani Gallardo was acquired to eat up innings. He lucked into huge run support multiple times and racked up 8 wins despite the 5.77 ERA. He, like many players, will not be part of the Rangers rebuild and future.
Jose Leclerc and Keone Kela were both excellent relievers for the Rangers this year. Leclerc mastered his command and became a lethal power pitcher. He has the stuff of a top tier closer. The other guy, Kela, did not blow a save the entire first half of the year and was razor sharp. Unfortunately, he was traded to the Pirates, who were going to rebuild until they had a win streak, then puzzling decided to buy at the deadline. After giving away their ace, Gerrit Cole, for next to nothing in the offseason they did not have the chops for a playoff push. The Pirates, not surprisingly, fizzled out. Leclerc is a going to be a key part of the bullpen. Hopefully he is not ruined by trying to be made into a starter. They did not learn with Alexi Ogando or Matt Bush, so we will see.
Jake Diekman and Jesse Chavez were both solid and both traded. Diekman is playing for the Diamondbacks, who apparently just now figured out you can’t lose a bat the size of JD Martinez and not replace it. Chavez has been a godsend for the Cubs, who recently lost Brandon Morrow.
Martin Perez capped off his contract year with another disappointing season. Back in 2010 the Rangers needed another solid arm to make a real playoff run. They targeted Cliff Lee, and snatched him right out of the hands of the Yankees. At the time, the one thing many prominent DFW journalists focused on was how neither Tanner Scheppers nor Martin Perez were traded. This was a the cherry on top of the Cliff Lee deal for many. Scheppers and Perez were heralded as the future. Many mused that even the Rangers did not win the World Series in 2010 they would be set for the future because of Scheppers and Perez. They were wrong. Both Scheppers and Perez failed to become solid starters. The Rangers were left a few pieces short in their lively playoff runs, and the studs of the the farm system panned out to be busts. Perez is not contracted by the Rangers for next year, but considering he was moved to the bullpen this year, do not expect him to be a Ranger next year.
Ariel Jurado is a promising young pitcher who is very similar to Bartolo Colon. Hopefully he is in the starting rotation next year. He is frequently used in conjunction with an opening pitcher.
Robinson Chirinos bats for low average. However, about half of his hits are for extra bases. Chirinos will probably be replaced by Isiah “Izzy” Kiner-Falefa. Izzy is a utility superman, and a decent bat.
Ronald Guzman plays a solid first base. He excels at stretch plays. His defense is very good, but the Rangers probably expect him to be the first baseman of the future. He hit .235 with some pop. He smacked 16 homers.
Rougie Odor started the season horribly. It looked like more of the same after his disastrous 2017 season. Around the All-Star Break, Odor buckled down and improved greatly. He went on a month long hot streak and looked like the Rougie of old. He had a masterful 5-5 game that epitomized his hot streak. His defense improved, and his game contained less mental errors. He evened out a bit at the end of the season, but Rangers fans have got to be excited the six-year deal he signed will not be a historically bad contract.
Elvis Andrus was severely injured early in the season and never looked the same. He should be back to form next year, but this year he spent most of the year adjusting after his first major injury in his professional career. Andrus was supposed to be the anchor of the Rangers lineup. Instead, he was out. Beltre shares this in common with him.
The universally loved Adrian Beltre turned in a solid season. Many people suspect it will be his final season, considering the consistent injuries he suffers. Beltre is a future Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest ever. Beltre provided solid defense and veteran presence, but age caught up with him.
Joey Gallo did not get his average up much this season, and his on base percentage went down. His numbers were very similar to last year. 41 and 40 homers. But this year he was used in a ton of different positions. All over the outfield, including multiple games in Center Field. Gallo was also seen at both corners. He is a unique player and showcases monstrous power. Honestly, he needs to get his OBP up about .50 points to become a top tier threat. His defensive utility is promising and he has tremendous strength. He is one the most entertaining players to watch.
Shin-Soo Choo had a great season and continued to reach base at the top of the lineup. Choo had a 52 game on base streak that was the highlight of the season for many. Choo is still under contract and good be a useful teacher for young hitters who could learn a thing or two about patience.
Nomar Mazara continues to be a solid RBI option in the middle of the lineup. He is about .30 batting average points away from becoming a true terror. Nomar was hampered by a thumb injury and his second half production was reduced. Mazara is often knocked for his defense, but it is honestly average.
Carlos Tocci was on the roster all year and provided next to nothing. He is known for speed and defense. He tried to steal 3 bases all year, and did not successfully swipe one. His defense was nice, but largely unnecessary with a team featuring Delino DeShields.
DeShields was hurt after getting off to a great start. He returned early and was great. His defense and blistering speed was a nightmare for opposing teams. Then Delino went cold for the last third of the season, posting a poor .216 average after being above .300 for a span earlier in the season. Hopefully DeShields can find his first half form, his defense and speed is a tremendous asset.
Willie Calhoun, the prospect the Rangers got for Yu Darvish, looked decent for a while then had his playing time cut. Calhoun never really recovered, posting a .222 average.
Overall, the 2018 Texas Rangers were a very poor team. The most consistent bats were out for large portions of the year, and virtually only Shin-Soo Choo had a good OBP. Choo clocked in at .377, the second highest is Robinson Chirinos at .338. With so few people reaching base, the Rangers did not have consistent run production.
The pitching was the major problem though. The pitching was backed by poor defense, making it even worse. The Rangers had the third most errors in the entire league. That mixed with the third worst ERA was a recipe for disaster. The bullpen minus Leclerc and Kela was suspect, and Kela got traded.
The Rangers are going to need to improve significantly on the pitching front if they want to compete in 2020. See y’all next season!