The Missing Pieces

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The number of injuries that the Rangers have sustained this year has been absolutely incredible. At times, it has seemed as though every time we’ve opened the paper or refreshed our Twitter feeds that there has been another injury. That being said, there still seems to be some kind of disconnect between our realization of the injuries we’ve incurred and adjusting our expectations based upon that.

I see people grasping for arguments to explain who to blame for what has happened the season, and it frustrates me because this isn’t anyone’s fault. Sometimes you have bad luck. Sometimes you have the worst luck. Sometimes in life and in baseball, it isn’t anyone’s fault. I don’t think it’s right to blame JD, Wash, or anyone else in the organization. If anything, whatever success we have throughout the rest of this season should be a testament to how good of a job they have done assembling and managing this team. The fact that our farm system is stocked with guys like Rougned Odor, Nick Tepesch, and Nick Martinez who can come up and produce when we need them is certainly a luxury that not many other teams enjoy.

Before we go too far pointing fingers, it’s worth our time to examine the amount of production that is missing from this team.

Pitching:

This is far from an exact representation of the production that we could have expected from these guys, however the goal was to show what their production has been in previous seasons where they’ve been in the role they were expected to play in 2014. While Matt Harrison was most likely not going to be a 5 WAR pitcher in 2014, Martin Perez seemed to be on course to improve upon a lot of his numbers from 2013. We don’t know exactly when Martin’s injury occurred and how it impacted his last few starts or possibly skewed his numbers.

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The more difficult aspect of this conversation is the domino effect that losing one guy can have on your pitching staff. The injuries Holland, Harrison, and Lewis incurred caused them to miss the beginning of the season, which forced Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers into the rotation.  This occurrence has left a massive hole in the bullpen that those two occupied in 2013.  As a result, a largely ineffective Alexi Ogando has been forced into a team-leading 24 appearances while Neal Cotts has been pressured to replicate his near flawless 2013, something that really shouldn’t be expected.  The result has been the 4th highest ERA for starters and relievers in the AL.

Hitting:

It’s no secret that the lineup hasn’t been producing runs at the rate that we expected. If Fielder’s neck has been bothering him for the entire season then that would help to partially explain his struggles. His struggles with outside pitches would seem to suggest that he was struggling with bat speed, which could be related to the neck problem. While Profar’s numbers last season might not make it seem as though he would be a big loss, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect a nice step forward from him with consistent playing time at the same position and ABs. His numbers in the minors showed that he tended to struggle when he was initially promoted to the next level, but he always made the necessary adjustments to succeed.

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Soto’s numbers last season may not seem that impressive either, but his absence has meant more of J.P. Arencibia.  J.P.’s glorious .133/.182/.233 line left much to be desired. There’s very little doubt that Soto would have surpassed that production over the 20 games that JPA played.

In addition to these guys being out or potentially injured, the Rangers have also lost some productive replacements in Kevin Kouzmanoff and Jim Adduci. Kouzmanoff really helped carry the Ranger offense while Beltre was on the DL, hitting .362/.412/.617 over 13 games in 2014. It’s easy to forget Beltre spent a stint on the 15-day DL because of how effective he was.

In addition to having so many injuries to guys who were expected to play big roles this season, there have also been some players who haven’t lived up to what we’ve come to expect from them over the course of their careers. Below is a chart that shows the pace that a few notable hitters are on in 2014 compared to their career numbers (these numbers were calculated before the offensive explosion in 3 of the 4 games of the Detroit series).

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Given the amount of injuries this team has sustained, the Rangers are going to need some extraordinary performances from several people in their lineup if they want to stay afloat in the extremely competitive AL West. JPA’s performance was so extraordinary that it landed him in AAA. Beltre has shown signs of heating up recently, which is great news for this lineup. The health of his legs down the stretch could play a large part in whether or not the Rangers can stay close in the race for a playoff spot. Rios has been one of the better hitters in the lineup, but it would really be nice to see him put up a couple more home runs.

The reality of this whole situation is that baseball is unpredictable. No one could have seen these injuries coming, nor could they have seen Beltre and Rios struggling to put up the power numbers we’ve come to expect from them over the course of their careers. When you are one of two teams that have won 90+ games for four straight seasons, eventually some bad luck is going to catch up with you (things aren’t necessarily going well for the Tampa Bay Rays, either). This team is still very well built and set up for success. The good thing about being the unluckiest is that it doesn’t last forever. Chin up, Rangers fans.

Tyler Kern

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