Things to Know about the Texas Rangers

The Mets travel down to Arlington this weekend to play a three game set against the Texas Rangers. Here are some things you might want to know about them:

Note: I know, I know, I didn’t do one of these for the A’s series. I wasn’t happy with the format, so I skipped one and tweaked it a bit. I didn’t change much, but I like this better. Maybe some more changes are in order — suggestions are always welcome.

Record: 40-36, 1st place AL West
Manager: Ron Washington. 371-353 (.512%) lifetime managerial record.
Park: The Ballpark in Arlington. The best hitter’s park of the American League. Lots of runs, lots of home runs, especially for lefthanded hitters.

Quickly . . .
Can they hit? Yes
Can they pitch? Sorta
Can they field? Yup
Who’s their best player? When healthy, it’s Josh Hamilton. He’s healthy, so let’s go with him.

2B – Ian Kinsler – R
SS – Elvis Andrus – R
LF – Josh Hamilton – L
3B – Adrian Beltre – R
DH – Michael Young – R
RF – Nelson Cruz – R
1B – Mitch Moreland – L
C – Yorvit Torrealba – R
CF – Endy Chavez – L

Good offensive team. The Rangers are third in the American League in runs per game, batting average, and slugging percentage, and they’re somehow fifth in on-base percentage despite bad OBP seasons out of Yorvit Torrealba (.291), Adrian Beltre (.306), David Murphy (.308), and Nelson Cruz (.293).

But enough with the offense. More interesting is Texas’ fielding. If you lived in the 19th century, believing that errors totals can identify good defensive teams and riding around on one of those bicycles with the giant front wheels, you might think the Rangers are a poor defensive team. They lead the American League in errors and are tied for the lowest fielding percentage. But that doesn’t tell the real story: The Rangers make a lot of errors because they get to so many balls. Only the Rays turn a higher percentage of balls in play into outs, and the Rangers lead the AL in double plays turned. They make mistakes, but they make more great plays. Just look at the names on the field: Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Endy Chavez. Don’t let the error totals fool you. This is a good defensive team.

Pitching Matchups:
6/24: LHP – Matt Harrison vs Mike Pelfrey

Harrison (5-6, 3.16) bounced between the major league rotation, bullpen, and minors over the past three seasons before sliding into the rotation this year. He hasn’t shown great control — 33 walks against 48 strikeouts — and he’s gotten plenty of help from the Rangers’ fielders, but Harrison throws hard for a lefty and has kept the ball in the yard. Fastball, changeup, curveball, slider, and a really dumb beard.

6/25: RHP – Alexi Ogando vs Jon Niese

Alexi Ogando (7-2, 2.66) in five points (you can read more here):

  1. Originally signed by the Oakland A’s as a outfielder in 2002.
  2. Was prevented from entering the United States for five years due to his involvement in a human trafficking ring. A number of young Dominican players, including Ogando, were agreeing to marry women and bring them to the United States in exchange for money.
  3. In 2005, Ogando was selected by the Rangers in the Rule 5 draft and turned into a pitcher. Still disallowed from entering the US, he dominated the Dominican Summer League for three seasons.
  4. Granted a visa last season, he ripped through Double-A, Triple-A, and the major leagues as a reliever. He was converted to a starter this spring.
  5. Ogando may be the hardest pitcher to square up against in baseball. He allowed 66 hits in 88 innings this season, and 45 hits in 72.1 innings (majors + minors) last season. Those are extremely low hit totals. Ogando throws a 94-97 MPH rising fastball and a sharp slider; his strikeouts have dropped since joining the rotation, and his batting average on balls in play is low, but he generates a good number of infield flies.

6/26: LHP – Derek Holland vs Dillon Gee

A 24 year old lefty from Newark, Ohio, Holland (6-2, 4.69) hasn’t quite figured out the American League yet. His major league ERA of 5.25 over parts of three seasons is much higher than his 2.47 mark in the minors, and he has more hits than innings pitched in the bigs. Same arsenal as fellow southpaw Harrison: Good velocity for a lefty, slider, changeup, curveball. Looks like he’s 12.

The Mets miss LHP C.J. Wilson and RHP Colby Lewis this series.

C – Taylor Teagarden – R
IF – Andres Blanco – S
OF – Craig Gentry – R
OF – David Murphy – L

David Murphy played more at the beginning of the season, but he hasn’t hit, and the return of Josh Hamilton and the emergence of Endy Chavez, two lefthanded center fielders, have made him redundant. Taylor Teagarden is here because Mike Napoli is on the DL with a pulled oblique.

RHP – Neftali Feliz
LHP – Darren Oliver
LHP – Arthur Rhodes
RHP – Mark Lowe
LHP – Michael Kirkman
RHP – Dave Bush
RHP – Yoshinori Tateyama

Two lefty starters, and three more in the bullpen: Scott Hairston, your time has come.

The Rangers’ bullpen has been their weakness this season. Texas’ 4.38 bullpen ERA is third-worst in the AL, and they lead in losses in relief (16) and are second in blown saves (12). It’s hard to single out any one or two pitchers as the source of the problem. Michael Kirkman is the only one with terrible numbers (6.50 ERA), but he’s been more of a longman anyway. As a group, they have had a big problem with home runs and they don’t miss many bats — the whole bunch has been a big mess of not-awful-but-not-so-great-either. Bullpens are easy enough to rebuild on the fly, and I’d bet on the Rangers bringing in a few arms near the deadline, if only because their two setup men, Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver, are a combined 81 years old. (Subtext: SAVE US FROM K-ROD.)

And those are some things to know about the Texas Rangers.

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