The Rangers were a .500 team three series ago. They have since played against the Giants, Astros, and Yankees. They won one of those games. They are now back in last place. So what went wrong?
The Bad – Mike Foltynewicz is deadweight in the Rangers rotation. His stuff is flat and uninspired. He gives up too many homers. He frequently has meltdown innings. Even when he has a decent start he does not look overwhelming. Fellow inept starter Kohei Arihara is spending 10 days on the IL after a “blister” caused him to get blown up over and over. Arihara is supposed to be a control pitcher but frequently walks batters. These walks, mixed with his mediocre stuff, result in massive innings. Arihara and Folty both lack the strikeout stuff to escape from constant unforced errors.
John King has gone from the best bullpen arm to suspect. His ERA has ballooned recently. Brett De Geus has been poor recently too. Wes Benjamin was obliterated in his start in place of Arihara. Joely Rodriguez has struggled also. These bullpen struggles, mixed with the injury issues (recent and old) have made the weak Rangers offense look especially bad.
Andy Ibanez was ludicrously awful at 3rd. He has no place in the Bigs yet. Unfortunately the Rangers rebuilding year has been filled with shocking revelations like this one. Leody Tavares and Eli White were both given MLB shots in the outfield and were insanely inept. In a rebuilding year, seeing promise from top prospects almost matters more than winning. The Rangers have the worst of both worlds: their prospects are struggling and they are losing.
The problem with the lack of runs starts at the core of the lineup. First baseman Nate Lowe was an OBP monster for a while but over the last two weeks he has gone ice cold. Joey Gallo is an exciting, versatile player. He will never hit for a good average. His OPS is a pedestrian .726. With Gallo and Lowe both neutered, the offense becomes shallow and toothless. Gallo strikes out too much. He has too many holes in his swing. That would be fine for a 5th or 6th hitter on a playoff team. But Gallo is being asked to be the engine of the Rangers offense. He is not a reliable enough hitter to do that. His average hovers around .200. Most fans know Gallo walks a lot, so OBP needs to be consulted over BA. However, he is hitting many more singles this year and his BA is still awful. This was a player who was known for having more career homers than singles for a while. He is homering less now than he was before. If the Rangers are stuck with having such a unique player as the carry of the lineup because of lack of depth, he needs to get his OPS high enough to justify the laughable average.
Willie Calhoun has cooled off tremendously and is displaying the same haplessness that has been frustrating Rangers fans since he joined the team. Calhoun is a lazy, uninspired defender. Calhoun attacks fly balls in the outfield with the same detached malaise he attacks the objective in his beloved Call of Duty with. The story of Willie Calhoun: Incredible Talent Wasted is a tale Rangers fans grow tired of hearing. If you are never expected to even be a passable fielder, the bar for hitting is going to be high. Especially considering the circumstances of how much time he has had. Willie Calhoun and Joey Gallo look like they show flashes of significant development, only to plummet back down to the same deeply flawed state they were at before the hot streak. At least Gallo plays Gold Glove defense, Calhoun has been spoonfed countless opportunities and does not even seem to value them. Calhoun is one of the main players the Rangers were trying to develop this season. He is one of those “MLB Ready” prospects that has been unable to shed the label for years because he still plays like a rookie.
Nick Solak has been steadily regressing to the mean since his .300+ BA start. He cannot hit a changeup, like most of the Rangers hitters. Solak’s average continues to freefall. Hopefully it will bottom out around .260, and not .200 like Gallo. Solak looks good on defense though.
Charlie Culberson was batting .300 when the Rangers were stealing series off of division leaders. Charlie has been horrifically bad since then. When players like Culberson go from being nearly All-Star level to complete garbage, it goes a long way in explaining how a team can enter a stunning 1-9 freefall. The Rangers were using all their misfit pieces to cobble together wins. Brock Holt got hurt. Culberson stopped hitting. Andy Ibanez is a scrub. So that left third base gaping. Nate Lowe went ice cold at first base. Ronald Guzman blew his knee out a few weeks ago. That leaves a huge hole at first. Culberson and Holt are both utility men, meaning both being unusable cripples as Skipper Woodward’s options. Woodward had his already weak lineup stripped of its meager depth, handcuffing his ability to put pressure on. As stated in previous articles, Woodward needs to be able to manage aggressively to steal wins from teams with more talent. Both corner infield spots were blackholes throughout this entire disastrous run.
Former Ranger Killer Khris “Krush” Davis was brought in to hit lefties. Davis was expected to hit .247 with pop. Instead he has been unplayably bad on both offense and defense. Truly a Ranger killer, before and after his stint in Oakland.
The Good – Adolis Garcia continues to be exciting and display incredible power. Even in the games where the Rangers were embarrassed, he hit a couple balls hard. Garcia is the thing preventing this team from being a true laughingstock like the Twins or Pirates.
IKF, the defending Gold Glove SS, is sharp. Slick glove, solid bat. A good example of what a player continuing to develop and accrue value looks like.
Jonah Heim the backup catcher looks solid and has some pop. Jose Trevino needs to pick it up with the bat a bit but is decent. David Dahl has been hitting better as of late. Jordan Lyles has been solid recently, shockingly. Kyle “Ace” Gibson has been good too. Taylor Hearn and Josh Sborz have been sharp out of the pen. Ian Kennedy is still lights out as the closer. Hyeon-Jong Yang was used as a starter and was effective. Dane Dunning shows a plethora of promise, but little consistency.
The Rangers were trashed in a rematch of the 2010 World Series in San Francisco. In the jokish two game set, they looked lost and uninspired. Then the Astros completely obliterated them at home. It was disgusting. The Yanks then had a comeback win, no-hit the Rangers, and then shut them out. Hilariously, these events proceeded losing with the best pitcher in baseball, Gerrit Cole. Willie Calhoun was the main reason for this, carrying the offense.
The Rangers do not have any depth. Their top prospects are either not ready or not going to pan out. The Rangers are one of the worst teams in baseball history at developing talent. There is no immediate help in the farm system. The AAA pieces that were supposed to have an impact on this weak, rebuilding squad have already failed. Brock Holt’s injury, Culberson falling off, Lowe falling off, all of these things had a cascading effect that fouled up the team worse than normal individual slumps. The Rangers lack the punching power to have individual players carry the team. They have to work as a cohesive unit and wear teams down. This is done with good defense, patient hitting, aggressive baserunning, and solid pitching.
This is why the Rangers fluctuate between a plucky mediocre team with lots of fight to a hapless mess. The real issue with these Rangers is lack of farm system depth. They are obviously not playoff worthy. They are not as bad as many thought though. It is vexing to consider a “rebuilding” team that has a weak farm system and cannot develop talent.
The Rangers will try to stop the bleeding against the Astros, which will be hard. After that they get to play Seattle, then Anaheim without Pujols or Trout, and Colorado.