By Kyle Dennie
Texas Rangers Skipper Jeff Banister has his beaten-up squad sitting in second place in the American League with a 58-42 record. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Rangers are looking to add more big names to its roster in hopes to make a late-season surge heading into the playoffs.
The front office has logically made pitching its top priority. The Texas bullpen has not lived up to its preseason expectations. As of July 28, the Rangers have won five of its last 12 games with pitching being most to blame. As a unit, the pitchers have a 4.44 ERA, enough for 12th in the American League. The Rangers are hoping newly-acquired pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez (from the Atlanta Braves) can add some punch to an exhausted group of relievers. The deal allows the Rangers to continue to pursue a bigger-named starter before the trade deadline.
On top of its bullpen issues, the Rangers haven’t been able to find a consistent closer either. Shawn Tolleson and Sam Dyson have shared the role throughout the season. Both have been sub-par, struggling to finish and win games – a common theme among Ranger pitchers in the 2016 season.
The starting rotation is the strongest part of Texas pitching, but even it has experienced a few setbacks. Colby Lewis and Derrick Holland remain on the disabled list. Yu Darvish is still overcoming last summer’s Tommy John surgery which hindered him from seeing any playing time at all last season. He has pitched well in his few starts this season, but nothing like the Yu Ranger fans are used to watching. Martin Perez is inconsistent and usually gives up too many runs early. The Rangers acquired Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies last season at the trade deadline and has proved to be a valuable asset to his new club. One year after acquiring him, Hamels is easily the best current pitcher for the Rangers. He was one of two Rangers to make the All-Star team this summer and almost tossed a no-hitter at Wrigley Field earlier this season. Most importantly, the Rangers seem to always find a way to win with Hamels on the mound (*knock on wood*).
Meanwhile, in the batter’s box, the Rangers are producing nicely. As of July 26th’s game against the Oakland A’s, the team had scored 480 runs, third-most in the American League. Even though Texas is scoring a lot, each game is decided by a few runs or less, decreasing any room for error. The Rangers have certainly missed the bat of Prince Fielder this season, and they will be without it indefinitely. Last year’s Comeback Player of the Year underwent another neck surgery after experiencing tightness during a game earlier this month. Because his bat was a little quiet to begin with, the loss isn’t as devastating as it sounds. The Rangers are stocked when it comes to first basemen and designated hitters. Texas called up prospect Joey Gallo to take turns playing first base and hitting in the DH spot with Mitch Moreland. Gallo and Moreland aren’t shy of the long ball. Both are big hitters and can fill in for Fielder as he recovers.
Signing Ian Desmond over the summer was brilliant. Many fans were scratching their heads after the Rangers acquired the 30 year-old but he has proved everyone (including his old team) wrong. The ex-Washington National leads the team in batting average while learning a new position on defense. Desmond played shortstop with the Nats and has played left and center fields with the Rangers.
It’s a good sign that Texas isn’t playing its best ball and still sits in second place for best record in the American League and fifth in the majors. If the Rangers can land another big-time pitcher, look for Texas to be one of the favorites to win it all.