CHICAGO, October 1, 2013 — Ron Washington’s Texas Rangers fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AmericanLeague tie-breaker game. The Rangers went 93-69 last year and lost in the Wild Card game. This year, they hoped to go even further, but bowed out after 163 games. It is time to wish the Texas Rangers, “Better luck next year.”
What Went Right: Adrian Beltre is one of the best third basemen in baseball. He may be the best third baseman in baseball, as he posted a slash line of .316/.372/.502 line with an OPS+ of 137 while providing 5.4 WAR. He is quietly putting together a resume that may land him in Cooperstown if he can put together three or four more quality years.
The right field situation for the Rangers created headlines, but was an overall positive. Nelson Cruz posted a line of .269/.330/.511 with an OPS+ of 125 before being suspended for his role in the Biogenesis case. The Rangers traded for Alexis Rios to replace him and he provided a .280/.316/.456 line with an OPS+ of 107 in his time with the Rangers. Rios is signed through next year as well. If the Rangers choose to re-sign Cruz one of them will have to shift to left field.
Yu Darvish may lack the will to win, but he did have a great year logging 209.2 innings with a 145 ERA+. Darvish also led MLB in strikeouts with 277, while striking out 32.9% of the batters he faced and walking 9.5%. Derek Holland did not match the season of Darvish, but posted best season of his career logging 213 innings with a 120 ERA+, striking out 21.1% of the batters he faced and walking 7.3%.
Finally, Joe Nathan and the rest of the bullpen had an exceptional year. The Rangers’ bullpen posted a 2.91 ERA, which is good for fourth in MLB. Nathan posted a 297 ERA+, striking out 29.2% of the batters he faced and walking 8.8%. Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers, Jason Frasor, and Robbie Ross all posted excellent years in setup roles as well.
What Went Wrong: Prior to the year, the Rangers extended Elvis Andrus with an eight-year $120 million extension. Andrus provided good value on that extension by posting a 4.0 WAR this year, but his contract tied the Rangers’ hands in regards to how Jurickson Profar should be deployed. Profar entered the year as the top prospect in baseball but played in just 83 games. Profar disappointed in those games posting a .234/.308/.336 line but some of that could be attributed to him spending time at second, shortstop, third, left field and designated hitter. More stability for him next year may yield better offensive production.
David Murphy had his worst season in MLB entering his free agency year, posting a .220/.282/.374 line with an OPS+ of 77 providing just 0.2 WAR. It is likely that the Rangers will look elsewhere to fill left field next year.
The Lance Berkman signing did not work out as the Rangers had hoped. He appeared in just 73 games before his season ended due to knee and hip injuries. The injuries and short season have left Berkman again contemplating retirement.
The back end of the Rangers staff did not do them any favors, and had they received even league average production there, they would have been hosting the AL Wild Card game rather than losing the game to get into that game. Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Matt Garza all failed to some degree to live up to the Rangers’ expectations.
The rookie, Tepesch, threw 98 innings over 17 starts with an 85 ERA+ before losing his rotation spot. Garza only made 13 starts after being acquired from the Cubs, throwing 84 innings and posting a 94 ERA+, which is normally fine, but not for what the Rangers had hoped. While Garza’s numbers with Texas are likely due to a small sample size, it is nonetheless the sample the Rangers received.
Finally, Justing Grimm, who the Rangers sent to the Cubs for Garza, started 17 games, logging 89 innings with a 64 ERA+ in his starts for the Rangers. If the Rangers can sure up the back end of their rotation they may be able to avoid play in games next year and win the division.
What to Look for in 2014: The Rangers will have two open spots behind Darvish, Holland and Matt Harrison, who will be returning from a nerve injury in his lower back. If Martin Perez is ready to claim one of those open spots, then the Rangers may be able to find their way back to the playoffs next year. The Rangers have won 90 or more games for four years in a row now under Ron Washington, but with their swoons late in the season and some of Washington’s tactical decisions, it may be time to see if another manager can get the team to break through and win their first World Series. The Rangers also may enter the bidding on Jose Dariel Abreu and could look to add a couple of starting pitchers.
Free Agents/Options: Nelson Cruz, Lance Berkman (Club Option), AJ Pierzynski, Joe Nathan (Club Option), David Murphy, Geovany Soto, Colby Lewis, Jeff Baker, Jason Frasor, Matt Garza
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