It is frustrating every time a Texas Ranger commits another error. I know pitching wins games. I know that the Texas Rangers have the best starting pitching in the American League or near the best. But every time someone makes an error during a game, that pitcher has to overcome that extra baserunner. Sometimes it’s only one error. Sometimes it’s more than one. In Texas’ 7-3 recent victory over the Detroit Tigers, it was two errors.
The Texas Rangers have committed the most errors (49) in the American League as of that game. Sometimes an error will not lead to a run, like in the 7-3 Ranger win, but only because Alexi Ogando was great again and overcame the two errors did the Rangers secure the W. Sometimes an error will lead to one or more unearned runs as was the case against Detroit.
Of the 49 errors committed by the Rangers, eleven were committed by the shortstop, eight were committed by the third baseman, six were committed by the second baseman, and six errors were committed by pitchers. Elvis Andrus has committed the most errors, 11, and some of those were easy groundballs that should have been handled. Granted most grounballs are coming at Andrus at an average speed of 80 miles per hour, but Andrus is paid millions of dollars to be an All-Star shortstop. Adrian Beltre, Chris Davis, and Andres Blanco committed the errors at third base. Ian Kinsler committed all six errors playing second base.
The Texas Rangers need to improve defensively. It will be important if not critical during post-season play. Reducing the number of errors being made is the first step. Practice is not involved in a major league season other than pregame batting practice, so defensive shortcomings are not easily fixed in the midst of the season. Therefore the Rangers may have to ride out their defensive lapses for the remainder of the 2011 campaign. When easy groundballs are bobbled and extra baserunners get on, it just makes it harder for the pitcher. Sometimes, it can cost a game.
However, improving team defense involves more than just reducing the number of errors committed. Emphasis needs to be placed on getting the players to focus more effectively and make better decisions. For example, the rundown between second and first base during the Ranger 7-3 win. Andy Dirks was caught stealing but stopped halfway to second base. Elvis tried to run down Dirks but there was too much distance between the two. When Dirks eluded Elvis, Elvis ended up handing the ball to Napoli who threw it to Young who attempted to tag Dirks. Dirks ran out of the baseline and was called out. Tom Grieve noted that the play wasn’t the perfect execution of a rundown and that Elvis hung on to the ball too long. Not to belabor a point with Andrus, but defensive miscues have become all too common for the Rangers middle of the infield.
Some could say Elvis still is a young player and learning the game. I don’t buy it. He’s been around long enough to make better decisions and be able to cleanly glove the groundballs that he gets and make good throws to first base.
Over the past three season, Elvis Andrus has committed 22 errors, 16 errors, and 11 errors already this season. He is on pace to far surpass the number of errors that he committed in 2009, his rookie season.
The Texas Rangers are better defensively than they seem to be. At least they better be.