Versatility Key to Rangers Success
The 2015 season has been one of the more extreme seasons that I have had the
anxiety pleasure of watching. This season has been an extreme roller coaster that has left those emotionally invested with sore necks and upset stomachs.
April came and brought with it the memories of a brutal 2014 season that the Rangers were ready to forget forever. Derek Holland was lost after only an inning of work and wouldn’t return until August. That coupled with the 21 games the pitching staff held a less than stellar 4.18 ERA and finished last in the league with an abysmal .611 OPS. That combination left fans reeling and throwing in the towel for 2015 with 141 games left to be played.
When the calendar turned to May the Ranger offense all simultaneously got scorching hot. As a team the Rangers led the league in OPS with .797 in 30 May games. During that stretch Texas mashed 105 extra base hits (40 homers); along with that the speed game was working as seen in the team’s 20 steals that month. This red hot offense propelled the Rangers to a record of 19-11. The month of May was still a rough one for the pitching staff that compiled a 4.20 team ERA. With the team’s versatility, it allowed them to win nearly 20 games in a month in spite of deficiencies in one major area of the team.
GMs often speak of the desire to create a balanced roster that has the ability to win in many different ways. Jon Daniels did a bang up job of this if May and June are any indicators. When June hit the offense took a downturn that was inevitable after the offensive bonanza of May. As a team, the Rangers posted an OPS of .724 and 109 runs both of which were good for eight in the AL. Almost identical to the offense’s concurrent hot streak was the pitching staff’s June stretch of dominance.
Yovani Gallardo spearheaded the starting pitching dominance primarily with his 33.1 scoreless innings streak. Right in the middle of that hot streak was Colby Lewis who worked 41 innings in six starts. Lewis had his lowest ERA of any month this season with 3.25. Chi Chi Gonzalez worked 36 innings in June and posted a 3.00 ERA in his first full month in the big leagues. Heck even Wandy Rodriguez went out there in shoved in four out of his five starts. If you remove the clunker against Oakland Wandy had a 2.25 ERA. Even with this dominant starting pitching the team only went 14-13 but it is the only time so far that the Rangers have posted > .500 months back to back.
As July came along the league figured out Chi Chi and Wandy went back to being a borderline MLB starting pitcher. The team’s ERA skyrocketed to a laughable 6.22 and the team stumbled as they finished the month 10-14. Offensively the Rangers struggled to reach base and also to hit the long ball like they had the previous two months. In May and June the team combined for 71 home runs while in July the team only hit 22. The team’s combined OBP for July was a frustrating .312. Despite these struggles the team still only lost four games more than it won.
August came along and with it came Ace pitcher Cole Hamels. His first start built excitement from the community only to have it end in a soul-crushing 11 inning loss to the San Francisco Giants.
At that point in the season, there were murmurs of optimism amongst a select few Ranger fans that believed that the team could very possibly make a run at the playoffs. National scribes penned many words on the subject of the Hamels trade, specifically how the trade was wired for success in the coming seasons but locals like the idea of winning this year. At that point there was no reason to suspect that the Rangers would be making a postseason run but an 18-10 record led the team right in the middle of a pennant race.
That last road trip felt significantly worse than it actually was. A .500 record on the longest road trip of the year is just fine. And a gem like the one Colbra threw last night is enough to ignite a team into a hot streak. With the team’s excellent play at home recently and 16 of 22 games left to play at home this is the perfect time for some good ole’ fashioned #CastleDoctrine.
The Rangers have been as streaky a team as any in the league this year but it could be to their benefit. Baseball is a streaky sport with streaky players and World Series are won by teams that go streaking at the appropriate time. So why not the Rangers? In the immortal words of the poet Willia Ferrell: “We’re going streaking!!”