The Five Stories You’ll Be Watching in the Second Half

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez works against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Report Cards are in from the first half of the season all across baseball. For our Rangers, SDI’s own RangerDanger graded the boys on many areas (part 1, part 2, part 3 are here), and as I said in my last article, we’re pretty much in baseball purgatory. The team ended with a record below .500, but I believe that consensus is that the team we saw in the first half of the season is a .500-team.

The team we’ll see in the second half is not the team we finished with at the All-Star Break. We’ll see it first take shape with the return of Martin Perez, and as players like Josh Hamilton begin to find their swing, the front office will evaluate how the rest of the team gels and make the appropriate moves. This team is not done evolving, and here, I present to you five stories that you’ll be watching as the season rolls towards October.

5. The Lefty Brigade

I’m not talking about the lineup here. As mentioned above, Martin Perez will began the second half of the season against Houston, symbolic of a fresh start, not only for him, but for this Rangers team. Before he was shelved with Tommy John surgery, Perez was on his way to being the brightest arm in the rotation with the highest upside and most team-friendly extension of those added to the core. How he performs will be key not just for the next three months, but for the plans of the team in the winter.

Along with Perez, we’ve seen a fresh start from Matt Harrison – the results weren’t ideal for Harry, but in his first start back before the break, it wasn’t about the results. Make no mistake about it – the results will matter the next time he takes the mound. With the team only seven games out of first place and six and a half out of the wild card (seven games, as the 2012 Rangers team would know, is not a lot of ground to make up), the team cannot afford to play the “sit around and wait” game with Harrison. Keep an eye on his next three starts.

There’s also the pending return of Derek Holland. While his return in the late second half will be a boost for the club, particularly if he does what he did last September. Unfortunately, the true analysis for Holland can’t happen until next year. While it will be nice to see the Dutch Oven back on the mound, it can’t be considered as anything more than a tease, given his injury history.

4. DeLino DeShields – 2016 Starter?

I feel like I can say with confidence that the Rangers will play games that matter in September. While we’ve seen that DeShields has been a valuable match to spark the Rangers’ offense, it’s how he holds up over the rest of the season that will determine if he supplants Leonys Martin as the everyday center fielder going forward. DeShields has not played through a full Major League season, and he is coming off of a hamstring injury. In his first few games back, the hamstring didn’t bother him, but those types of injuries aren’t just a “one and done” deal. It’s something to keep an eye on.

3. The Offensive Game

If DeLino DeShields is the key to the offense, then who’s opening the door? It’s no secret that if the lineup were comprised of three DeLino DeShields’, three Prince Fielder‘s, and three Mitch Moreland‘s, this offense would probably score a ton of runs. The problem is, those three are the only fairly consistent producers with bats. Jon Daniels has said that he’s looking for a right handed power bat to balance this lineup out, which is a slight change from years past. The Rangers have typically lacked lefties in the offensive lineup, but this year, we’re looking at at least six of nine batters swinging southpaw.

Adrian Beltre is showing signs of decline at the plate, which is one of the big reasons the offense is struggling as much as it is. The hope has been that the hard hit balls end up finding grass eventually, but as the adage goes, “Hope is not a plan.” Beltre is a missing link in that middle of the lineup right now. He’s not the black hole that Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Corporan is, but it’s definitely noticeable in that Fielder-Beltre-Moreland combo that Beltre’s the least dangerous at the moment.

2. Home Woes

Texas was 16-26 at home. Good for a .381 winning percentage, the Rangers were last in the AL and second to last in all of baseball with their home record. The offense has been about the same at home versus on the road (181 runs at home, 189 on the road), but it’s the pitching that’s killed them. The splits there are far more dramatic.

  • ERA: 4.72 home, 3.74 road
  • Runs Allowed: 215 home, 180 road
  • Opponent Slash: .274/.343/.425 home, .250/.315/.404 road
  • K/BB: 1.76 home, 2.31 road

I could continue to quote stats to you all day long, but you see the trend. If the above mentioned number 5 – Lefty Brigade can pitch to their strengths (Perez, Harrison as ground ball pitchers, Holland as a strikeout pitcher), perhaps watching baseball in Arlington won’t be such a beating.

1. The Front Office Moves

Don’t forget that two out of the next three months are trading months. Sure, in August it’s a little more difficult, but deals between teams can still be completed. While the majority of the fan base would love to see a huge starting pitcher acquisition, Jon Daniels has stated that the focus is going to be on a bullpen arm and a right handed bat. With that in mind, Daniels has been known to hide his hand well, and while Cole Hamels (a lefty!) might not be the attainable answer, it wouldn’t surprise me if Daniels had someone else on his wishlist that he could go get.

As far as the bat goes, Daniels could knock out an offensive and defensive issue in one blow if he can grab a catcher. Robinson Chirinos is struggling offensively, and Carlos Corporan is struggling in both areas. Jonathan Lucroy‘s name has been thrown out as a possible acquisition. I would be in favor of that move, as Lucroy would come with a couple of years of control at a very reasonable price. With Milwaukee looking at two straight years of basement finishes in the NL Central, and a change at the helm of their ship, the Brewers could very well be in a selling mode.

With the second half of the season having kicked off last night, what are you expecting from this Texas Rangers team? What are Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, and Derek Holland going to bring to the table? Which right handed bat would you want to see JD and company get?

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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