Texas Rangers: It’s gotta get worse before it gets better

ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 17: Wilson Ramos
ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 17: Wilson Ramos /

Well, folks, we’re 20 games into the Texas Rangers season and it has been every bit as rough, or rougher than Rangers fans could have anticipated. 

The Texas Rangers are currently 7-13, 6.5 games back in the AL West. Minus the delusional, and, perhaps, those on the Rangers payroll (maybe the same thing?), nobody is all that surprised thus far.

My personal rule of thumb with baseball is that 99% of the time, nothing matters until Memorial Day — not batting averages, not records, not statistics. Obviously, the three-win Royals and Reds might already be cooked, but, for the most part, the season is long, and things take some time to settle.

That said, the weeks spent watching baseball prior to Memorial Day are, for me, more investigative than anything. What trends are developing? Are the patterns anywhere? Are teams relying on something which can’t possibly sustain itself over 162 games?

For the Rangers, it might look something like this: 

Is it realistic to think that Cole Hamels will finish the season competing for a strikeout crown? 

Will Bartolo Colon drag his sub-two ERA through the first half of the season and become valuable trade bait? 

Is Martin Perez just so, so, so awful, always, forever, every time? Why is he afraid of the strike zone? Is pitching behind fun for him? Can we stop hearing about that stupid bull that spooked him and caused him to fall?

(Sorry: I’m not very high on Perez right now.) 

Remember when Jurickson Profar was an untouchable prospect in MLB?

Wow! How is Ryan Rua still on the 25-man? 

For the Texas Rangers, among a handful of other teams, these questions are particularly perilous. For other teams? Not so much.

The Red Sox, for instance, are comfortable acknowledging that they’re not going to run rampant through baseball at the clip they have to date. Mookie Betts probably won’t finish the season with an OPS of 1.277 (but maybe he will, because he’s just that good, and also somehow still underrated).

Boston isn’t worried, because they know that they are a good baseball team. Even if they don’t continue winning eight out of every nine games that they play, they know that they will win more than they will lose. They’re a good club even without the statistical outliers.

Same can be said for Washington and Bryce Harper’s almost 70 home run pace, and Houston with Gerrit Cole’s sub-1 ERA. 

(At least, probably. Baseball does have a wonderful way of making people look stupid.)

Where this is tough for the Texas Rangers is that they are already, currently, a struggling baseball club, and the unsustainable components of their team thus far only suggest that it’s just going to get worse from here. I hate myself a little bit for saying that, but, let’s look. 

First, the good. (There’s some good!!!) 

Right now, I’d put Beltre, Mazara, Colon, Kela, and even ol’ Matty Bush on the list as players off to a “good” start. Neither Maz nor Beltre have found their power stroke, but they’re hitting at high averages (particularly Mazara, compared to his career numbers), and getting on base. Beltre has had a few “yippy” moments at third, but, nonetheless, he’s certainly off to a good start. 

Same with Colon, who, improbably, continues to elude Father Time. The entire nation seemed to tune in while he carried a perfect game through six innings last week against the Astros. He’s an easy, easy guy to love, and it’s exciting to see him filling up the strike zone with such effortlessness, but it’s worth remembering that he pitched for two teams last year and couldn’t get his ERA below 6.

Kela is perhaps the Texas Rangers most-prized arm in the bullpen, and though he’s only appeared in 5.1 innings this season, he’s allowed just two hits and zero runs, while striking out six. Unfortunately for Texas, he might be a prime trade candidate. 

I put Bush on here because he’s done well in a variety of spots, and seems like a guy who wants to help the team. He’s striking out more than one hitter per inning, and, if he can keep the baseball in the ballpark, he’ll be steady for the Rangers this season. 

Really, that’s about it. While guys like Ronald Guzman and Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Renato Nunez have come up and made strong impressions, it’s simply foolhardy to assume that what they are offering will stay the course throughout the summer. Surely all three possess tools to make an impact at the MLB level, but, I’m reserving too much judgment until August or so.

Now, about that bad…

Where to begin? Odor? Profar? Choo? Gallo? Hamels? Perez??

It’s tough to be much worse than Martin Perez has been. In three starts, he’s totaled 12.1 innings, allowed 29 hits, 18 earned runs, and 7 walks — good for an ERA of 13.14.

He’s always pitching from behind and seems to lack any confidence, whatsoever. Sadly, he’s got exactly the contract and history with the club that will very likely keep him around for a while. That, and his trade value is approximately zero. 

Odor and Gallo haven’t looked all that much different than they did last season: Gallo is bashing home runs, and not much else, and Odor, before his injury, was hitting just north of .200, though, as many fans are quick to point out, “he’s walking more!” While the walks have gone up, Odor’s defense has, at times, been unwatchable; Rangers fans are still waiting for him to put it all together. Speaking of waiting…

Former top prospect Jurickson Profar has finally found his opportunity — though, unfortunately, it has come at the loss of both Elvis Andrus, and Rougned Odor. Profar is getting an opportunity to play on the dirt every day, and while his approach at the plate has been good (a .378 OBP and only 7 strikeouts in 36 ABs), he’s not turning many heads with his bat, or, perhaps more surprisingly, his defense. Through 15 games at SS, Profar has 3 errors and a truly pitiful .923 fielding percentage. 

Hamels has seen a spike in his strikeouts, but also in his hits allowed. He’s averaging less than six innings pitched, and while it is fair to suggest that he’ll straighten himself out, the Texas Rangers need the lefty to be as vintage as possible if they are to get a good return from him at the trade deadline. His 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP ain’t looking pretty, and if he’s one of the Rangers “big chips” this year at the deadline, they’re in some trouble if he doesn’t improve.

Elsewhere in the rotation, Matt Moore has a 5.59 ERA, Doug Fister has pitched 13 innings in three games started, and Mike Minor, while seeming steady, has been unimpressive. 

It’s going to be tough for the Rangers, because, as bad as they currently are, there’s nothing in the cards which suggests that a turnaround is imminent. I’m not proud to say this, but, if I’m honest, I don’t know that the Texas Rangers get out of the basement of the AL West at any point this season.

Hamels and Beltre will be dealt, Colon will, if he continues to have value, and guys like Kela, Bush, and Alex Claudio will be in high demand in July. 

Rangers fans looking for upside should soak up every Hamels start, every Beltre at bat, and should be counting down the days until Elvis is back in the lineup. (If there is any silver lining in Andrus being hurt, it is that he might be more likely to exercise his player option at the end of the season to return to the Rangers.)

Keep your eye on Ronald Guzman, who seems to barrel up the ball well, and of course Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has Rangers fans everywhere wanting to utter the words, Josh Harrison or Ben Zobrist, playing all over the diamond. K-F is also right-handed, which the Rangers desperately need. 

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The writing is on the wall, of course, and it looks as if the Texas Rangers might finally be ready to shift into a rebuild after what appeared to be an offseason filled with some, uh…questionable optimism.

Soak up what’s good about Texas right now, and use these down days as opportunities to learn something new about the game.

If you’re not sure you can stomach watching Perez being genuinely awful, focus on Mazara (hopefully) growing into his power stroke; envision Adrian Beltre entering the Hall of Fame wearing a Texas Rangers cap.

The countdown for the Calhoun call-up has begun, even though the youngster is struggling mightily in AAA thus far. (Can you say pressing?) Divide the number of Shin-Soo Choo home runs by the millions and millions of dollars that the Texas Rangers are paying him. Cover your eyes when Gallo bats, but peek through the cracks in your fingers just in case he hits the baseball to Corpus Christi.

Next: Dallas Cowboys: Should the Cowboys trade for Earl Thomas?

There are abundant ways to enjoy the Texas Rangers right now, as long as you’re willing to sprinkle some loathing into your TV time.