The Texas Rangers season began with Jacob deGrom taking the hill and ended with a lifeless 1-0 loss against the Mariners. The Rangers bought big in the offseason; adding a Hall of Fame caliber skipper and ace. They added a plethora of established starting pitching arms. They added more arms at the deadline. They made a real push to win the division and do damage in the playoffs. Ultimately they came just short of their true goal of winning the division. This matters because the top two seed division winners get placed straight into the best of five ALDS. The Wild Card teams are dropped into a hellish inferno. They play high variance best of threes. The lower seed has to play all away games. After that exhausting process teams enter the Division Series. The Wild Card teams often have to use their best pitchers to win the opening round. This puts the top two seed division winners that get a first round bye at a huge advantage. The Rangers could have had this luxury by merely winning two of the remaining four games against the Mariners. They only squeezed out one win while Houston swept Arizona, leading to the Rangers embarrassingly losing the division on the final day of the season.
The way the Rangers lost was truly pathetic. The vaunted offense that leads the league in the majority of offensive categories shut down against George Kirby. Kirby drew intense criticism a couple weeks ago when in a post game interview he said that he should have been pulled after 6 strong innings. This goes against the Warriors’ Code every pitcher is supposed to adhere to. Kirby was viciously skewered by old hurlers from different generations. Despite being a great pitcher with sharp stuff, Kirby showed he did not want to be in there when the chips were down. Many of his detractors viewed this as a lack of competitive spirit as a reflection of his manhood. For pitchers like Derek Holland and Mark Mulder, hearing a pitcher say he did not want to be out there fighting for his teammates is tantamount to treason. Mulder and Holland took to Twitter aka X to air out Kirby, a rarity for the conservative southpaws. The guy who did not want the ball in the big spot was the one who blanked the Rangers over 6 scoreless innings. The Rangers offense failed to show up yet again this season. It is truly staggering to consider how many games the Rangers offense failed to attend this season. The Rangers offense leads the AL in runs per game, walks, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and homers. When they beat teams, they beat them badly. The Rangers set the franchise record for most 10+ run games this season. They have been great at running the score up and brutalizing opponents after establishing a lead. Texas has played a plethora of games this season where the offense never shows up. The offense is totally feast or famine.
The biggest weakness for the Rangers is their bullpen. The games where the offense does not show up have been turned into atrocities by the bullpen. Down the pennant stretch drive the bullpen was particularly putrid. The bullpen being a joke is the main reason why the Rangers are not a serious threat to make a deep postseason run. They might have made the big dance for the first time since 2016, but they arrived at the finish line broken down and battered. They needed the off days that came with winning the division and being seeded into the ALDS. It is hard to imagine a world where a team with no bullpen, a wildly inconsistent offense, and depleted starting pitching makes a deep run. The Rangers have a legitimate win condition: hammer teams beyond recognition on offense. Post double digit runs and do not even let the bullpen have a chance to blow it. Pitching is way better in the postseason. Aces go deeper, top end relievers are used more frequently. A lineup is very unlikely to see a team’s 4th/5th starter or mop up man. This mutes offensive production, something that could be deadly for the Rangers. With deGrom, Scherzer, and Gray all injured it does not even feel like the Rangers prepared for the playoffs. Ultimately it feels like they will play for a tawdry consolation prize, doomed to fail even if they bludgeon their way to the second round.
The Rangers floundering down the stretch and losing a division that was theirs will ultimately define the season. They led the AL West for most of the season until Jonah Heim and Josh Jung went down. These two injuries marked the end of the magical run in truth. The bullpen was awful, the offense tepid. The Rangers seemed to pull out of a tailspin in the last couple of weeks, only to get swept by awful Cleveland. The Rangers and Astros both had 90 wins. The Astros won the division because of the tie-breaker. It is also worth remembering the dumb losses throughout the year, like the blocked plate game in Chicago, getting swept by the Reds early, getting swept by Cleveland late, blowing Monty’s 1-0 masterpiece that would have stopped the bleeding down the stretch… This was a team that spent an entire month choking. They floundered so hard and so badly it is hard to even get upset about a specific loss or a set of losses over the course of the year. The Rangers simply imploded. The Rangers have no momentum at all. They have no bullpen and three of their best starting pitchers are out. The blistering offense is one of the most inconsistent in MLB history when compared to other offenses that led the league in runs.
The Rangers might be in the playoffs, but it does not feel like it.
Prediction: Rays win 2-0
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
10/3 – vs – Tampa – 2:00 p.m.
10/4 – vs – Tampa – 2:00 p.m.
10/5 – vs – Tampa – 2:00 p.m.