Texas Rangers Preview 2018 Season
After winning the American League West division in back-to-back seasons, the Texas Rangers finished with a record of 78-84 in 2017, giving the team its second finish with a record under .500 over the past decade. Their season was a perfect storm of all key factors that can derail any team: injuries to key players, lack of performance by the guys who are healthy, and an inability to hold the lead late into games.
Cutting some costs
That’s why it was curious to many people that the Rangers didn’t make more moves than they did this postseason. The franchise has always shown a willingness to dole out money to make the team better. Last year, it was evident that the rotation needed to be bolstered, and the bullpen was a total disaster. Instead, General Manager Jon Daniels spent most of the offseason slashing payroll, reducing the team’s salary costs by $40 million from last year. They’re hoping that with the guys they’ve assembled over time, they can rebound from an underachieving year from last year.
The pitching rotation
As far as the pitching rotation, Cole Hamels is still the headliner though he’s not quite the same ace that he’s been in years past — followed by a bunch of question marks. Pitcher Matt Moore hasn’t appeared to be the same guy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, as he’s coming off the worst ERA of his career in 2017. Doug Fister looks like he could ascend to the second spot in the rotation, after closing the season much better than he had started it with the Boston Red Sox. Martin Perez is a 27-year old lefty with a 4.56 ERA over the past four seasons, and he’s a question mark as far as availability when the season begins, after injuries his left elbow in a freak off-season accident.
Blowing the leads
What the Rangers do with Mike Minor will be an interesting concept, given that he could either be the fifth pitcher in the Rangers’ rotation, or they could leverage him more in the bullpen. Texas’ bullpen had the second-worst ERA in the American League last season, with a startling penchant for blowing the leads that the starters handed them. As the closer spot, Alex Claudio was handed the role after right-handed pitcher Matt Bush turned out to be something of a train wreck there. Claduio did well enough in the role that he’ll get the first crack at it again in 2018. Meanwhile, Bush, righty Keone Kela, as well Jake Diekman and former Cy Young-winner Tim Lincecum will do a majority of the relief pitching, leading up to Claudio’s work.
The feast or famine issue
But it’s not just the pitching staff that needs to do better in 2018. Rougned Odor might have hit 30 home runs last year, but from a statistical standpoint, he was one of the worst pitchers to do so. He’s another “feast or famine” type player, in that it’s either a home run/big hit, or a strikeout. Elvis Andrus and Nomar Maraza were two cornerstones of the batting order, but struggled last year. Adrian Beltre is still there as a sage presence overall, and he’s got his hands full with trying to guide the other hitters.
Wild Card team in 2018 ?
The bottom line is, the Rangers need a lot of things to go their way to be a true threat in the American League. It’s not nearly as far-fetched to think of them as a Wild Card team in 2018, but their ceiling doesn’t appear to be that much higher.