The Rangers Are Red-Hot

Texas Rangers Prince Fielder(R) celebrates with Elvis Andrus  after hitting a RBI single during the seventh inning of the Rangers baseball game against the Cleveland Indians Monday, May 25, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Aaron Josefczyk)

The Texas Rangers are absolutely red hot right now. The team that we thought was dead in the water at the end of April when they finished the month an abysmal 7-14, losers of three straight, and eight of ten has roared back into contention. This team was flat out not a good baseball team. They sat dead last in the AL West and tied Cleveland for the worst record in the AL. They were a dismal 6-13 against the division and had a -21 run differential. The trailed the division leading Houston Astros (!!) by 7.5 games.

What a difference 25 days has made.

The Rangers are scorching hot right now. They’ve gone 15-9 since May 1st improving their record to 22-23 and have moved up to third in the division. Even though they’ve only made up one game in the standings to the Astros, they’ve climbed out of the cellar, gained some confidence and are beginning to turn some heads. A lot of people said that if Texas could just tread water until some of their key players got healthy, they could make the Wild Card race a little interesting.

When the National Media is taking notice after just about every single one of them wrote the team off at the beginning of the year, you know you’re doing something right. This team is coming together after a slow start and doing exactly what they need to do – tread water until they can get healthy.

In a way-too-early-look into the Wild Card Standings, the Rangers trail Detroit by 3.5 games for the second spot and the Minnesota Twins(?!) by 4.5 games. The Rangers have strung together six straight wins, the first time since September 12th – 19th 2014, including back to back series wins against Boston and the New York Yankees. The first back to back series’ wins all season. As a matter of fact the Ranger swept the Yankees in Yankee Stadium for the first time since May 16th – 19th 2003.

The Rangers also ended their six game losing streak at Progressive Field yesterday, beating Cleveland on the road for the first time since September 2nd 2012. Since the calendar turned from April, the Rangers offense has been nearly unstoppable. They lead the American League in eight offensive categories in the month of May – including batting average, OPS, SLG, HR, SB, RBI, runs, and hits. They rank 2nd in the AL in OBP trailing only their current opponent – the Cleveland Indians. Of the eight categories they lead the AL in, five of those are good enough to lead the Major Leagues in. Let’s put this into perspective with this nifty chart I created:   Now, I get that these are some of your basic traditional statistics but there is no denying that leading the AL in eight offensive categories is pretty damn impressive, even if it is for just a month. If these stats don’t do you justice, than perhaps this will help..

Now, the real prize here, is that there are three Rangers who are in the top 10 in the Major Leagues in several offensive categories – two of them are starting to live up to their contracts and one of them is a rookie. Who are these players? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder has been hitting the ball with authority all season and is no doubt back to his old self now that his neck injury has healed. There are two big differences for Fielder here in the month of May. He’s hitting for more power and there are guys on base in front of him and his hits are driving in runs.

Fielder currently ranks 3rd in the Majors with seven home runs here in May. He trails the immortal Bryce Harper who leads the world with 11. We all know Harper doesn’t count because he is an aberration. Anyway, back to reality.

Fielder just isn’t hitting for power, he’s hitting for average too, just like he has all season. He leads the league in multi-hit games and in the month of May, he’s hitting a pretty ridiculous .380 which puts him fourth in the Majors. Add to that a .437 OBP (he ranks fifth in MLB but there is a Ranger who ranks higher than him), a .663 SLG (6th), a .470 wOBA (3rd), a wRC+ of 202, and you have yourself an offensive juggernaut who has produced an 11.2 OFF fWAR for the month of May.

Two more things stand out to me about the month that Fielder is having – he is 4th in the Majors with a hard% of 48.2. That means that nearly 50% of the balls he puts in play are considered to be hard hit, put another way, he’s barreling the ball up. The other thing that stands out, is his 22 RBI. I know RBI aren’t necessarily controllable by the player at the plate, but I wanted to put that out there because it leads me into my next player and what they are doing right.

Delino DeShields

At the beginning of the season, no one, and I mean no one thought we would be sitting here debating whether or not Leonys Martin is on the verge of losing his starting job to some Rule 5 Draft pick from the Houston Astros. If you say you knew Delino DeShields would be this good, then you are lying to yourself. I was VERY optimistic about DeShields at the beginning of the season, and I didn’t think he would be as good as he has been.

He’s getting on base at a ridiculous clip – .440 to be exact. That is good enough for 4th in the entire Major Leagues! Think about that, Delino DeShields is 4th in the major leagues in OBP for the month of May. A lot of that is due to his insane walk rate of 18.7% – tied for 4th best in the bigs. But that is what takes me back to my final Fielder point and his RBI production. DeShields has routinely hit one or two in the lineup recently and he’s getting on base, allowing Fielder the opportunity to drive him in.

DeShields can use his speed to get on base, he’s tied atop the leader-board with three bunt hits, and when he does get on base, he can use that speed to get himself into scoring position – he’s tied for first in the majors with nine stolen bases. Getting himself into scoring position has allowed him to lead the team in runs scored with 19 (4th in the Majors).

No one really knows if DeShields will keep this up. I doubt he continues to get on base at a .440 clip but if his minor league stats are any indication, his walk rate could stay relatively high. He doesn’t chase pitches, he has a 12.1% chase rate which would indicate incredible plate discipline and a good eye. With his speed and discipline, he could be a staple at the top of this lineup for the rest of the season.

As far as pending roster moves when people become healthy, don’t expect DeShields to be in that conversation. This cat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Shin-Soo Choo

After what many of us categorized as the worst start to any season any Rangers player has ever had, Shin-Soo Choo has rebounded very nicely. Skipper Jeff Banister one day decided to throw him into the lead-off spot, this after Choo had endured a 21 at bat hitless streak. Needless to say, none of us agreed with the move, but hey, that’s why we are just arm-chair Manager’s and he’s the one that gets paid to make those decisions.

Choo responded admirably.

Since being put into that lead-off position (he’s hit second the last three games), Choo is slashing .318/.362/.580/.941 with a .404 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). That .362 OBP he is sporting, has allowed him to score 17 runs this month. That ranks second on the team behind DeShields(!!) and sixth in the Majors. In other words, he is doing his job.

Choo is driving in runs as well. He has 17 RBI this month, second to only Fielder. His 11 extra base hits, including five home runs, have helped him take advantage of men on base during his at bats. Choo went on an 11 game hit streak (the streak was 14 games total, he had three straight games with hits before being put into the lead-off spot) raising his average over 100 points to .243 from an abominable .141. He currently sits at .237 after taking an 0-fer in yesterday’s game but make no mistake, he’s getting the job.

Outlook

Prince Fielder may not continue to have .380 months, Delino DeShields could regress hard and fall back into irrelevancy as the Rule 5 guy, and Shin-Soo Choo will eventually cool off and come back down to earth, but by then, the Rangers could have reinforcements. Josh Hamilton could heat up, Adrian Beltre could start mashing like only Adrian Beltre can, Mitch Moreland could find his stroke, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison are all on the mend and could return to shore up the rotation. Who knows who the next one to step up will be. What I do know though, is that right now, this is a fun baseball team to watch and when this team is having fun and doing what they’re capable of doing, the sky is the limit.

This team right now reminds me of the 2010 team. Not necessarily from a talent standpoint, but from a chemistry standpoint. You can see the leadership oozing out of Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. You can see that guys are loose, having fun and going out there and treating this game exactly for what it is… a game.

Games are meant to be fun, and when you can make it as fun as the Rangers have this month, no one can beat you.

Not even that immortal creature they call Bryce Harper. (Thanks goodness he’s in another league!)

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

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