As October approaches, be thankful it’s not 1999 in Texas

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To appreciate where you are it is often important to remember where you’ve been.

Watching the Rangers over the Labor Day weekend and into Tuesday night has been eerily reminiscent of the “power” Rangers who slugged their way through the late 1990’s. There have been runs scored. In fact, there have been a lot of runs scored — 88 to be exact.

During their last five games, the Rangers have outscored the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners by a combined 44-40. Texas has also come out on the other side with three wins. The 8.8 runs per game are slightly above the 4.8 posted during the 138 games played this season.

Abnormal offensive production? There is no question. Texas will not sustain the run-scoring pace.

As fun as the offense has been, the pitching has been equally productive…for the Houston and Seattle hitters. The 4.7 RPG average this season has ballooned into a nice-and-tidy 8.00 per over the last five.

*Side note: As I am typing this, Elvis Andrus launches a no-doubter into the upper deck of Safeco Field to give the Rangers an 8-4 lead in the top of the seventh inning. So the eight runs per game will at least survive one more game.

Again, the inflated numbers are from a minuscule sample size. As Jerry Jones would say, it is like circumcising a mosquito.

However, the moral of this rambling introduction is to remember where we were to appreciate where we have come.

POWERING THE POWER RANGERS

In 1999, the AL West Champion Texas Rangers (95-67) scored an astounding 945 runs. The pitching staff also allowed 859 opposing baserunners to cross the plate. That’s a 5.8 and 5.3 run-per-game average, respectively.

Dead ball, live ball, or steroid era aside that’s a lot of offense coming from both dugouts.

The Rangers in 2016 have six players currently on the active roster with 20 home runs or more. Nomar Mazara can make that seven with three more round-trippers. In 1999, the year Texas posted a then team record 95 wins, only six “power” Rangers finished the season with 20 or more dingers.

Granted, someone could split Palmeiro’s 47 home runs in half and make seven Rangers with 20+, which is why it’s imperative Maz reaches the plateau.

But again, this isn’t the part where we should begin to be thankful for what we’ve witnessed thus far this season. These Rangers, especially post-deadline, are going to score runs in bunches. Not record setting bunches, but bunches of runs in bunches of ways.

Bunches.

While skeptics run for cover avoiding the proverbial chunks of planet earth in free fall, we are reminded to appreciate what we have.

POWERING EVERYONE ELSE

Has Martin Perez been frustrating for a significant portion of the season? Yes, but his 4.30 ERA slots into the No. 1 spot on the 1999 staff right ahead of “staff ace” Aaron Sele and his 4.79 ERA.

Sele went 18-9 that season despite giving up 10.9 H/9 and posting a 1.53 WHIP. Both of which are higher than the 9.3 H/9 and 1.42 WHIP Perez has labored to this season. A season where the 25-year-old lefty could reach the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career.

Because Baseball Reference uses ERA+ and not ERA-, I will do the same.

(For those not keen to ERA+or-, both SABR statistics are based on league averages and start at 100. In ERA+ a number higher than 100 says the league average is X% worse than pitcher A. ERA- shows that pitcher A is X% better than league average. A high number is preferred in the former with a lower in the latter.)

Of the six Ranger starting pitchers in ’99 with 74 IP or more (thank Mark Clark for coming two outs short of an even 75 IP), two posted an ERA+ higher than 100 — Rick Helling (105) and Sele (106). All six starting hurlers on this year’s Rangers’ staff with 75 IP or more are currently at or above a 100 ERA+.

Colby Lewis leads the way with a 142 ERA+ with Cole Hamels right on his heels at 141 and Yu Darvish not far behind at 133. Perez was sitting at a 106 ERA+ before Wednesday’s first pitch, while A.J. Griffin (104) and Derek Holland (100) round out the group.

Moreover, if you throw out the likes of Shawn Tolleson (7.68 ERA), Tom Wilhelmsen (10.55 ERA), Luke Jackson (10.80 ERA), Chi Chi Gonzalez (8.71 ERA) and Kyle Lohse (12.54 ERA) the team ERA almost half a run — 4.40 to 4.01.

Or, hell, just cut the 93 earned runs allowed by the group and the run differential of 23 that has everyone so tight in the britches looks a lot more respectable.

Take a step back from the ledge of blinded-fan pessimism and realize things are not quite as bad as they seem.

The (83-56) Rangers still hold an 8.5-game lead over the second-place Astros. Jeff Banister’s bunch is three games clear of the Cleveland Indians of the best record in the AL. Texas has also shaved its magic number to 16 with 23 games to play.

Here’s to the pitching staff guiding the boys to 14-9 or better over those final 23 games and the best record in club history.

 

*Statistics were pulled exclusively from BaseballReference.com

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Travis M. Smith
Travis has been a baseball fanatic since birth, and, according to his parents and multiple other reports, at the sophisticated age of three had the near-superheroic ability to regurgitate the statistics of every member of the 1992-93 Texas Rangers . The 2015 Tarleton State graduate dabbled in baseball at the collegiate level before falling into journalism and works full-time as the managing editor of the Glen Rose Reporter.

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