Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Texas Rangers Gift to the American League

Adrian Beltre is one of the few Rangers who can still intimidate the opposition
Texas is a big, brash, bold, braggadocios state. Apparently they are benevolent now as well. At least when it comes to the American League wild card race.

The Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays began a series Monday evening in Florida.  The two teams entered play tied for the two wild card positions. However, the two are headed in two different directions. The Rays have won four of five after they took the first game of the series 6-2. Texas has dropped seven straight and 10 of 11.

The Rangers represented the American League in the World Series in 2010 and 2011, and made it to the wild card game last year, where they lost to the Baltimore Orioles. Texas got off to a good start in 2013 and led the AL West by seven games after 41 contests. Since then the Rangers have been a .500 team over their last 108 games (54-54). and entered Monday's play 6.5 games behind the first place Oakland A's.

Texas' poor play has enabled the Yankees, KC Royals, Orioles, and Cleveland Indians to all remain in the hunt for a wild card spot. There have been a number of reasons for the Rangers' demise. Injuries - Matt Harrison was lost for the year after just two starts, endured two back surgeries within nine days of each other in May and recently underwent surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. (Debilitating compression is relieved through removal of a rib and surrounding tissue.) The left-hander won 18 games in 2012.

Colby Lewis missed the entire season after undergoing elbow surgery in July, 2012. Then last month he had a hip resurfacing procedure to avoid complete hip replacement. Neftali Feliz was recently activated after he completed rehab from last season's Tommy John surgery. He's still not at full strength and has to be used cautiously. Swing man Alexi Ogando has been on the disabled list three times with shoulder inflammation and bicep tendinitis. #2 starter Derek Holland is healthy as far as anyone can tell, but has been awful in September with three losses and an ERA above 8.

Inept offense - The lineuptook a big hit when Josh Hamilton left for LA as a free agent after last season's 43 home runs and 128 RBI. He's struggled mightily with the Angels (.734 OPS, 20 HR, 68 RBI), but those numbers may have been different had he stayed in Arlington. Free agent acquisition Lance Berkman has played just 71 games due to injuries.

Nelson Cruz had 27 HR and 76 RBI when he was suspended for the remainder of the season for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.  Though he has 40 stolen bases, Elvis Andrus took a step back offensively (.652 OPS). Ian Kinsler started the year like a house afire - .919 OPS 5 HR 16 RBI in April - but he's hit just .256 since then with 6 HR and has been caught eight times in 19 stolen base attempts.

The Rangers were also counting on rookie Jurickson Profar to make a major contribution, but the top prospect has only produced a slash line .237/.310/.330 and has been thrown out on four of six stolen base attempts.

The combination of all the above have spelled disaster for Texas and it will come as no shock if the Rangers continue to slide right out of a playoff spot and into an early vacation.

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