Texas Rangers experiencing Murphy’s Law in 2017

The Texas Rangers just aren't the same without third baseman Adrian Beltre. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Texas Rangers just aren't the same without third baseman Adrian Beltre. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre
The Texas Rangers just aren’t the same without third baseman Adrian Beltre. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

A little over a month into the 2017 season, it seems as if the Texas Rangers just can’t catch a break.

Just one year ago, the Texas Rangers were absolutely unstoppable. They seemed to have some crazy kind of Midas touch on every outcome. They avoided major injuries, the bullpen dominated and six run deficits often became two run leads. The American League West was theirs to lose, and they never did.

But this time around, it seems as if nothing works. Third baseman Adrian Beltre has yet to take the field, the bullpen is in disarray and six run leads have turned into losses. They’re losing the American League West and they’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to get it back from Houston. How did this happen?

The bullpen

Look, we’re way past pointing at just one guy, here. As horrible as Sam Dyson looked that first week, he’s not the reason the Rangers are struggling right now. Sure, he helped them sink into the hole they’re in, but he’s not the one that continues to dig.

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The Texas Rangers had one of Major League Baseball’s best bullpens in 2016. Dyson led a late inning crew along with Matt Bush, Alex Claudio, Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress that took turns locking down ballgames while the offense made comeback win after comeback win. That crew was the biggest reason Texas went 36-11 in one run games last year.

But now those same guys are taking turns dropping games while the offense falls flat. The bullpen earned run average that was 4.41 a year ago is now 5.36. While opposing hitters batted .261 against Texas relievers in 2016, they’re batting .285 this season. But the most telling stat is blown saves.

Rangers relievers converted 56 saves last season and blew just 17 all year. At this point though, they’ve already blown seven while converting just two. Had they converted just five of those seven blown saves, this team could be 16-11 instead of 11-16. Blown saves hurt. But that’s not all that’s hurt this team.

The injuries

The injury plague really started last fall with Jake Diekman. Granted, his ailment is off the field and his battle with cancer is certainly worthy of every thought and prayer anyone can muster his way. But the Rangers still have to deal with it. Then, Beltre went down with his calf injury during Spring Training. Not only does the team miss his fantastic bat, but his glove and leadership set the tone in the dugout.

Then there’s pitcher A.J. Griffin. He got off to a great start this year, but went down with an ankle injury right as the team started to figure a few things out. The good news is, he’ll return to the rotation on Thursday for the series finale against the Astros.

The Rangers suffered another big blow Tuesday night when Cole Hamels went down before the game. Granted, sitting him and letting him heal is the only answer to that problem, but it hurts to miss his arm against the first place team in the division. But now, he’s out for the next two months, adding insult to injury. Literally. Hamels will be missed. But missing is something the Rangers are doing a lot of lately.

The strikeouts

Strikeout problems are nothing new to the Texas Rangers. The team has a history of some big swing-and-miss guys. Pete Incaviglia, Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, Josh Hamilton and Chris Davis routinely swung for the boondocks, but came up with nothing. But on the whole, this season’s roster has made going down swinging into an art.

Joey Gallo already has 40 strikeouts and Mike Napoli sits right behind him with 37. And despite less than half the plate appearances of either of them, Ryan Rua has 18, himself. But the others aren’t really doing their parts, either.

As a team, Rangers hitters are striking out every 3.7 at bats. In this series against Houston, they’ve struck out an average of 13.667 times per game. Tuesday night, they struck out 16 times. A night like that doesn’t normally happen unless the opposing pitcher has some kind of a no-hitter going. The entire unit has struck out in 24.1% of their at bats, which is a good 2 1/2 points above the MLB average this season. Simply put, this team has to start making contact.

Next: Cole Hamels out 8 weeks

The truth is, there’s not just one glaring problem facing the Texas Rangers right now. Everything that can go wrong, has seemed to go wrong for them. Even when they make contact, they’re still just hitting .256, which trails the league average by 31 points. The Rangers need to make a lot of adjustments and make them quickly. Otherwise, this season could end before the All-Star break.