Saturday, September 06, 2014

What now for the Texas Rangers?

No one should speculate on what caused Ron Washington to step down as manager of the Texas Rangers. If his personal difficulties are that problematic, we should pray for him and hope that things work out for he and his family. The bottom line for the Rangers is that Washington probably saved them some trouble. Somebody was going to have to pay for this season.
That somebody is usually the manager. The Rangers, a preseason favorite for some, have a .376 winning record and are actually more than eight games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West standings. That is a steep fall from grace for a team that went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
Everyone can point to the injuries and they are myriad. Yu Darvish has been just the latest of the projected starting rotation to go down. A cursory look at the team's forty-man roster shows 60-day DL designations for: Matt HarrisonMartin PerezAlexi OgandoPedro FigueroaJurickson ProfarShin-Soo ChooPrince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. And Derek Holland just made his first appearance of the season.
So yes, the injuries were debilitating. But can a .376 winning percentage totally be pegged on just that staggering list of injuries? Other teams like the Yankees have had similar injury issues if not to the extent of the Rangers and have at least been decent.
The Rangers' nose-dive has been across the board. The offense ranks 12th in the American League in runs scored. Adrian Beltre, cementing his Hall of Fame case, is having another great season but is the only current Rangers' starter in the lineup with an OPS+ over 100.
And the offense should not have been this bad. Alex Rios has four home runs. Four! After several seasons, it must be now assumed that Elvis Andrus will never be an offensive star at shortstop. Leonys Martin has not lived up to the promise and at Age 26, probably will not. Rougned Odor has shown flashes, but not a sustained season and the catching has been a black hole.
The offense was not as impacted as the pitching so it should have been better. The pitching has been almost historically bad. The Rangers are last in the American League in ERA. They are next to last in hits and homers allowed and next to last in strikeouts. And to top it all off, they are 13th in walks allowed. And Yu Darvish propped up a lot of those numbers!
Every pitcher in the current rotation except Nick Tepesch has an ERA over five. Colby Lewis has the best FIP among the starters (not including Darvish) at 4.33.  They have been blown out thirty times. They only have 25 total saves.
So where do the Rangers go from here? Do they simply hope all their stars return and then return to form in 2015? Things are never that simple. It is difficult for a player to miss significant time and come back at a level maintained before.
The team does not have to worry about what to do with Ron Washington as he solved that for him. The fan base is unhappy and does not totally buy into the injury excuse. And Washington does not seem to be the target of their ire. Jon Daniels gets far more heat. I don't know if that is justified or not. He gets a lot of the blame for forcing Nolan Ryan out and Ryan was (right or wrong) given much of the credit for turning the pitching around.
General Managers rarely get fired and because of the Rangers' past success, Daniels will probably get a pass and a chance to see if the team can bounce back in 2015 with a healthier team.
The fans will be watching. They have already spoken by attending over 200,000 less times to games this season for an average loss per game of over 4,100 seats. A loss of that kind of revenue should give Daniels a shorter leash (if he makes it to 2015).
The team also has to select a manager going forward. Will it be a rebuilding manager or one that takes the talent they have and brings them back to a team to contend. When a team like the Rangers sinks this low this quickly, the most difficult part is to know how much the injuries played in how badly the season went. Those injuries certainly didn't help.
Jon Daniels will have an interesting off season and an unhappy fan base will be watching closely.

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