Was The Rangers 2013 Season A Successful One?
In Baseball Prospectus’s annual PECOTA projections released every February, the Rangers were predicted to compile an 87-75 record and finish second in the American League West behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Keep in mind, PECOTA was assuming Matt Harrison would take the mound more than twice, Colby Lewis would return from injury, Lance Berkman would accumulate more than -0.2 fWAR, and David Murphy would not generate the worst offensive season by an outfielder in baseball according to Fangraphs.
Matt Harrison did only make two starts, and lost both of them. Colby Lewis did not pitch in one single game due to various injuries. Lance Berkman did yield a -0.2 fWAR and did not have one single hit in the second half of the season. David Murphy did produce the worst offensive season by an outfielder in baseball, even worse than Vernon Wells. The team also received replacement level production once again from first baseman Mitch Moreland. Adrian Beltre posted his first negative DRS of his career, and first negative UZR season at 3B since 2007. Elvis Andrus produced a first half slash line of .242/.300/.280. Ian Kinsler generated a wRC+ of 93 in the second half. Nelson Cruz was suspended the final 50 games of the regular season schedule due to the Biogenesis scandal. Leonys Martin was a stellar center fielder according to most defensive metrics, but was a below average offensive player according to Fangraphs Offensive metric at -1.6. The number one prospect in baseball heading into 2013, Jurickson Profar, generated a -0.4 fWAR. Only one starting pitcher from the opening day rotation did not spend time on the disabled list, and that was the perceived inconsistent Derek Holland. Rookies Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm started a combined 34 games. Martin Perez broke his arm in spring training and did not pitch in the big leagues until May. The average pitcher’s age of 27.9 was the eighth youngest in Ranger history. Joakim Soria did not make an appearance until July. Derek Lowe actually played on this team at one time.
Despite all of this incredulous misfortune, the Texas Rangers were still able to win 91 games, and actually outperform their PECOTA projections by four wins. The fact Texas was even in the pennant race was quite miraculous. Had the Cleveland Indians not become the first team since 1971 to win their final ten games of the regular season, the Rangers would have secured a wild card spot and earned the franchise’s fourth consecutive trip to the postseason. The 91 wins are the fifth most in team history, and one more regular season win than both the 1996 AL West Championship squad and 2010 team which advanced all the way to the World Series.
The Rangers 12-15 September is believed by many to be the reason the team failed to advance past game 163. However, five of the ten playoff teams experienced losing months during ’13, with the Dodgers having the same 12-15 record in September. Fans and the media tend to overemphasize games in September, and treat the games with much more importance, but the fact is the games all count the same in the standings. While the reader will often hear the ubiquitous terms collapsed and choke when referring to the ’13 Rangers, the 12-15 September had more to do with regression to overall talent level and a random distribution of events. The Reds and Rays both produced 12-15 months in June and August respectively. The Rangers having a losing final month for the second consecutive season is disappointing, but does not make the season a total failure. A lot of teams have similar months. Texas just yielded theirs at the worst possible time.
In today’s sports society, there seems to be this belief that if a team fails to make the playoffs, the season should be considered a failure. One simply does not think this is a logical or rational way of thinking because plenty of formidable teams in the past have missed the postseason. The 1980 Orioles won 100 games, and missed the playoffs. The 1993 San Francisco Giants won 103 games, and failed to advance to the postseason. More recently, the 2005 Indians were victorious 93 times and failed to play past 162. The fact the Rangers were unable to play baseball in October does not mean 2013 was an utter failure. 91 wins is usually enough to advance to the tournament, but it just was not quite enough this year.
Based on all of the adversity, injuries, and under performance from key contributors, the 91 wins by the Rangers in 2013 should be enough to consider the season a successful one, and give any Ranger enthusiast reason to be proud of them, not indignant towards them. While the season did end with some level of disappointment, Ranger fans should be optimistic about the future with a shrewd front office, Yu Darvish’s sweet honey, Elvis’s fantastic sparkles, Alex Rios’ long legs, Martin Perez’s change-up, and Leonys’ bombastic cannon of a right arm.