This Week in Rangers’ Baseball: Pushing the Right Buttons

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Oh, what a glorious difference a week makes. For all the struggles the bullpen has had, for all the issues the offense has had scoring more than two runs, for all the problems the gloves have had finding balls, this team at its best is a lot of fun to watch. The great thing about it is that this is not the team at its best. At its best, Rougned Odor is ambushing pitchers and slapping hits around, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre are crushing baseballs, and, well…Yu Darvish and Derek Holland and Martin Perez are in existence. But this team is making it work, and it’s been with the help of role-players and a manager who, despite my query last week, is getting this team to #NeverEverQuit and has been pushing the right buttons. It’s only been a week, but THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL has been a good week.

The Games

  • Game 24 – TEX 1 vs OAK 7 (W: Gray 4-0, L: Gallardo 2-4) – In which Yovani Gallardo pitched into the 7th, but the bullpen can’t keep the team in the game.
  • Game 25 – W TEX 2 @ HOU 1 (W: Kela 2-1, L: Qualls 0-2, S: Feliz 3) – In which Ross Detwiler goes seven strong innings and just scratching out two runs proves to be enough.
  • Game 26 – TEX 7 @ HOU 1 (W: Rodriguez 1-1, L: Feldman 2-3) – In which Kyle Blanks has another offensive explosion and Wandy Rodriguez is the first Rangers pitcher to finish eight innings…which we all saw coming.
  • Game 27 – W TEX 11 @ HOU 3 (W: Lewis 2-2, L: Deduno 0-1) – In which, with a lead, Colby Lewis does great things and Carlos Peguero has a coming out party.
  • Game 28 – W TEX 5 @ TB 4 (W: Claudio 1-0, L: Archer 3-4, S: Feliz 4) – In which one very important, potentially questionable button was pushed by Jeff Banister and it worked wonderfully.
  • Game 29 – TEX 2 @ TB 8 (W: Karns 2-1, L: Gallardo 2-5) – In which run support eludes Gallardo again and baseballs elude Elvis Andrus‘ glove…again.
  • Game 30 – TEX 2 @ TB 7 (W: Bellatti 1-0, L: Detwiler 0-4, S: Boxberger 8) – In which we could be hearing the same old song and dance from a Rangers offense that went 0-for-8 with RISP.

Week Record: 4-3. Year to date: 12-18 (4th)

At the Dish

It took a few games for the cohesion to get there, but the presence of Kyle Blanks, Delino DeShields, Jr. and Carlos Peguero in the lineup has infused this batting order with life. Whether this is production that these three can sustain over the course of a full season or not is something we’ll never know, as somebody is going to have to give up plate appearances when Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland come back. Jake Smolinski being optioned down seems like a certainty, especially as he’s the only one of the extra players that can be sent to Round Rock without an issue, but the other three are a bit more complicated.

For a quick recap: Kyle Blanks has an option, but because of his previous five years of service time would have to give his permission. Carlos Peguero does not have options remaining, which means he would have to be DFA’d. Delino DeShields is a Rule Five Draft pick, so if they decide to part with him, they have to offer him back to Houston, and if they don’t want him back, he has to pass through waivers before being sent back down. Blanks appears to have the most upside of the three, with the potential (but not the health) to be an everyday contributor at the Major League level. DeShields may not amount to more than a late-inning replacement for speed, but he’s doing everything he can to change the Rangers’ opinions about that. On that note, all three of the above have been trying to make the decision a difficult one. Consider these key stats for each player.

  • Kyle Blanks: 38 PA, 12-for-35 (.343 AVG), 3 HR, 7 R, .657 SLG
  • Carlos Peguero: 62 PA, 11-for-49 (.224 AVG), 3 HR, 9 R, 11 BB, .371 OBP
  • Delino DeShields, Jr.: 16 G, 5 RBI, 7 SB, 5 BB

Did I do that thing where I carefully select certain stats to make each player look good? Absolutely. But the idea is that all three have extraordinarily useful pieces of their game that all need to be there for Texas. If you ask me, Peguero is the odd man out. Blanks’ and DeShields’ versatility as outfielder/infielder respectively should help keep them on the 25-man.

As for the rest of the offense? Things seemed to click this week. Admittedly, Houston had an off series, but the ability for the bats to take advantage of that helped the lineup gel and play off each other well. Andrus started heating up in the last week of April and has kept up steady production since then. His on-base percentage is creeping towards .300 – still lower than where it needs to be for him, but at least it’s getting there. Prince Fielder has had a hit in every game in May, which sounds awesome, but the lack of power, RBI and run-scoring tells me that Fielder is just…there. Obviously, from a mental standpoint, having him at the three spot is huge, but he hasn’t been the production machine Texas needs him to be. His on-base percentage is up near .400, which is great for a lead-off hitter who gets driven in. Fielder isn’t a lead-off hitter and nobody’s driving him in. That brings us to Adrian Beltre. He went 6-for-26 this week, or just .231. Again, from a mental standpoint, it’s key that Beltre is there, but if he’s not being the Beltre we’ve come to know and love (and scream, “OH S***” for), it’s not being productive. Beltre is still struggling at the plate, and we hope it’s not indicative of a decline. I can’t imagine that the decline for Beltre would be this steep, so we continue to hold out hope that he just runs into a few here soon and that it triggers something.

The seemingly good-fit lineup seemed to run out of gas towards the end of the week though, scoring only two runs on Friday and Saturday. In Friday’s contest, you could arguably tip your cap to Nate Karns. Saturday, though, the Rangers were facing a swing-man starter and a kid making his Major League debut and left eleven men on base. Noticeably different about Saturday’s lineup was the return of Leonys Martin – he hit 7th and went 0-for-4. Maybe it’s the wrist. Maybe it’s the pressure of Delino DeShields outperforming Martin at the plate.

Right now, though – if the lineup were constructed differently, would you intentionally walk Kyle Blanks to get to Adrian Beltre?

In the Field

Sorry, kids. I don’t have anything witty to say, no analysis to make. Elvis Andrus’ defense is costing this team. This team has made 32 errors counting Saturday. The only team that’s worse than that is Oakland, who committed four errors themselves on Saturday night. Andrus has made 9 of the Rangers’ errors.. That’s 28% of the errors of this team. That’s more than a quarter of the errors of this team. Your defense-first, $15 million shortstop is on pace to make 44.5 errors this year. (If you’re curious, I got some help from Baseball Reference – Chances/Games Played. That number times 162. Multiply that result by the fielding percentage of .942 and subtract from that bigger number. If I’m wrong…um, help me.)

44.5 errors, and what does he say to the media? “I hate making errors…” Oh, really, Elvis? We can’t tell.

That’s all I have to say about this week’s in defense.

On the Mound

We saw the good and the bad. The good still came from the starting pitching. This week’s worst performance came from Ross Detwiler on Saturday night, giving up a 3-run bomb in the first and then allowing two to get on in front of an Anthony Bass-pitched 3-run homer. It’s a shame, because in his previous outing against Houston, he seemed to have it all clicking. I suppose we should have been suspicious, as he struck out seven on a strike-out prone Astros team.

No, the problem continues to be the bullpen, as it gave up 12 runs over the week. Anthony Bass‘ brief tenure as the team’s best pitcher has come to an end. Shawn Tolleson might still be suffering from shock after his shellacking against Oakland on May 1st. Roman Mendez was sent down in favor of Spencer Patton, who is still making the adjustment to big league life. Do you trust Neftali Feliz again? If he comes out blazing 96 again like he did on Thursday against Tampa Bay, featuring some unexpected, but welcome slider-filth, sure.

Over this past week, the better the starters did, the better the bullpen did. During the series sweep in Houston, Texas starters went 7-8 innings. That left Feliz and Keone Kela to do their thing, or at the very least, allows for less-than-perfect bullpen pitching. I mean, I suppose it’s common sense – the less the bullpen has to do, the less chances it has to screw things up. On Saturday, Detwiler went four innings. Anthony Bass was only charged with one earned run, but he gave up that three-run bomb that put the game out of reach. It’s just a wonder he and Patton were able to eat up two innings each. Friday, Gallardo was only able to go 5.1 innings and then Alex Claudio and Bass pitched before Stolmy Pimentel gave up three in two innings.

The starters might not be pitching terribly right now, but they’re certainly leaving a lot to chance.

Awards

  • Home Run of the Week – Carlos Peguero gave me three to choose from, all happening in Houston. Of those, this week’s award is going to his first one on Wednesday night against Astros’ starter Samuel Deduno. The shot was just to the left of center, and if that stupid wall weren’t there, it would have gone further. It hit a billboard and caromed back onto the field, but you can tell that Peguero knows how fast he gets to run once it hits the bat.

  • Defensive Play of the Week – When this play happened, I tweeted out that it was Leonys Martin’s “better tracked and ran down balls…ever.” He had two in this game and I took a lot of time figuring out which one was better. Since I had a tweet pertaining to this one, I chose it.

  • Pitching Performance of the Week – This could have gone to either Wandy Rodriguez or Colby Lewis, but since Colby against the Astros was about the easiest, most free pitching performance I’ve seen out of him in a while, he gets the award this week. Eight innings, scattering six hits and striking out six? With some stupid good breaking stuff? Yes, please.

Many of you are calling for Rougned Odor to be sent down. Look, I’m not a huge fan of what he’s doing at the plate either, but the Rangers already have one defensive liability up the middle on the other side of the second base bag. I’d rather not have a New York Mets situation and make it a double whammy. Keep Roogie (no “U,” thank you very much) low in the order, maybe sit him another game or two – but me, personally, I need his glove there. What else needs to happen for this club? Since we’ve already seen some trades and released-player signings already, what move do you want to see? What bullpen arm makes sense for the Rangers to get? Jon Daniels has already admitted that he should have spent a little more on the relief corps this past winter – well, who should he get? Who should he have gotten? Let’s meet back here next time to discuss THIS WEEK IN RANGERS’ BASEBALL!

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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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