Don’t sleep on the Texas Rangers, who’ve got the look of a really good October team
No matter how it turns out, the Texas Rangers deserve all kinds of credit for holding things together even while they were coming undone. First, there’s manager Jeff Banister, who has done a tremendous job under extremely tough circumstances. And there are the veteran guys in the clubhouse–Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, etc.–who set the right tone with their professionalism and work ethic.
One of the things that bothered Rangers GM Jon Daniels a year ago was how his players reacted to losing and to injuries. The 2014 Rangers were decimated by injuries and probably weren’t going to the postseason under any circumstances. But Daniels was especially bothered by sloppy play, poor base running, etc.
That was the one part of last season Daniels thought was inexcusable and had to be fixed. Part of his gut feeling about hiring Banister was that he simply would not tolerate a repeat of 2015.
And the Rangers had plenty of reason to think this kind of second-half hot streak didn’t seem possible. For instance, they were 43-49 and nine games out of first place on July 20.
Every manager will tell you that injuries aren’t an excuse, that it’s still about forming a collective will to overcome any and all obstacles. The Rangers tested that theory by being forced to piece a starting rotation together after playing most of this season without Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Martin Perez.
They had to look here, there and everywhere for starting pitching. Wandy Rodriguez, who was released by the Braves, made 15 starts. Chi Chi Gonzalez, 23, was a year removed from Class A ball when he made his major league debut on May 30. Ross Detwiler was released after seven starts (0-5, 7.12).
On the morning of August 1, the Rangers rotation had gone 34-38 with a 4.44 ERA. Only five clubs–all of them buried in the standings then and now–had higher ERAs.
But the Rangers were getting better. Martin Perez had come off the Disabled List two weeks earlier and rejoined the rotation. Derek Holland would return on August 19th.
And Daniels made one of the impact acquisitions of the day when he acquired Cole Hamels from the Phillies a few hours before the August 31st non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Suddenly, the Rangers had a rotation that could line up with any other team. In August, the front four of Perez, Hamels, Holland Yovani Gallardo was 10-2 with a 2.97 ERA.
Since Holland’s return, the Texas rotation is among the best in baseball—8-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Only the Astros, Dodgers, Pirates, Red Sox and Cardinals have had better starting pitching in this stretch.
Shane Tolleson’s emergence as a quality closer has stabilized the back of the bullpen, although the middle relief doesn’t compare with that of the Astros.
The Texas offense comes and goes at times as well. All things considered, though, the Rangers have scraped and clawed and gotten themselves back in contention.
They began the day four games behind the Astros in the AL West and leading the Twins by a game in the race for the second AL Wild Card berth. If the Rangers get to the postseason with Hamels, Holland, Perez and Gallardo lined up, we could be seeing a lot of them.