Three Bright Spots

Well, we’re here at the de facto halfway point of the 2014 MLB season. To say this season hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement. As we enter the All-Star Break, your Texas Rangers are responsible for the worst record in baseball, are 21 games behind the division-leading Oakland A’s, and are the only team with fewer than 40 wins. It seems that this team is poised to continue down this darkest timeline, but fret not. In a season where many things have gone wrong, this team has given us some things to be excited about – bright spots in the midst of darkness.
1) Adrian Beltre: This guy is simply a man-beast that refuses to say die. He’s 35 and in his 17th season, which happens to be one of his best so far. He leads the league in batting average (.337) and is 6th in both OPS and SLG (.917, .534, respectively). He’s also 7th in oWAR (3.3), while playing exceptional defense at the hot corner. He’s been a picture of consistency and reliability on a team that hasn’t been reliable for much of anything positive recently. He’s shown mental toughness and patience in the clubhouse and on the field, seen in his .294 batting average after the count goes to 0-2, and in Washington saying of him: “[he’s the] ultimate professional. He does one thing when he wakes up in the morning. After he finishes with his family, he comes to the ballpark, and he’s come to do his job and win ballgames … he’s locked in. We’re trying to get a lot of these other guys locked in like that.” He should be untouchable at the July 31st trade deadline, considering that he is the Rangers’ best player on and off the field.
2) Robinson Chirinos: Now, I’m sure that most people did not expect much of Chirinos coming into this season, but it’s hard to argue that he has established himself as a big leaguer this season. His bat hasn’t been extraordinary (slashing .238/.271/.425), but he actually ranks 6th in fWAR for American League catchers with 1.5. If you have been watching the Rangers, then you know that his impressive fWAR isn’t only due to his 9 home runs and .187 ISO, it’s also a result of the wicked cannon attached to his right shoulder. I am not old enough to have an extensive memory of Pudge (career 46% CS) throwing out runners attempting to steal, but Chirinos has certainly been jogging that memory this season. He’s thrown out 23 of 51 attempted base-stealers, good for a 45% caught stealing rate, which is second in all of baseball (to Yadiar Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals) among catchers with more than 40 games played. The league caught stealing percentage is only 27% in 2014. It appears that the Rangers have found a very formidable backup catcher for the next few seasons.

3) Rougned Odor: Our beloved Roogie has been rushed to the big leagues from AA Frisco, and all things considered, he’s done a fine job. His batting average is slightly above the league average (.260 vs .258) and he is striking out a modest 16.9% of his ABs as a 20 year-old. He’s also flashed some leather at second base on his way to a .982 fielding percentage. Some things that would tremendously improve his value to this team in the second half would be for him to walk more (only 3.3% of his PAs end in a walk), increase his hit tool against lefties (.182 BA vs LHP), and for him to be a better base runner (2 stolen bases in 6 attempts). Regardless, Odor’s solid play has undoubtedly put pressure on former #1 prospect Jurickson Profar heading into 2015 and beyond, and it is more fun to watch him play second base than Adam Rosales, Donnie Murphy, Josh Wilson, and Daniel Robertson, all of whom have suited up at second for the Rangers this year.

Hayden Smith
Hayden was born and raised in the Metroplex, and is a senior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is on a mission to visit all of the Major League parks in the nation, and is only 10% there. He would bring back Josh Lewin, like any real fan would.

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