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Series Preview: Rangers Ride into Town

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees
Cole Hamels ponders the meaning of baseball
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Rangers come into Tropicana Field fresh off a sweep of the Athletics. The Rays have won four in a row. Many rumors had the Rangers interested in Rays starters, but they went in a different direction and upgraded the offense, acquiring Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran.


Friday: Cole Hamels vs. Matt Andriese

Saturday: A.J. Griffin vs Jake Odorizzi

Sunday: Martin Perez vs Drew Smyly

Cole Hamels could be the favorite to win the AL Cy Young.

Cole Hamels has been successful in limiting runs, as he’s posted a 2.88 ERA, placing him behind only Aaron Sanchez (2.84) and Jose Quintana (2.85) among starters. FIP isn’t as impressed with his season as he’s put up a 4.04 FIP. He doesn’t strike out guys at elite levels (23.0%) or limit walks (9.1%). He’s allowed a slightly higher than league average 13.5% homeruns per fly ball rate. What he has done is strand runners as he’s left 83.2% of runners on base which is the second highest rate among starters in MLB and one of only four higher than an 80% LOB rate.

A.J. Griffin is one of the reasons the Rangers were rumored to have interest in one of the Rays starters. Griffin’s ERA at 4.63 isn’t terrible, but his 5.31 FIP suggests he’s been fortunate to limit the damage. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher as he has only induced a 31.9% groundball rate. He doesn’t strike out a lot at 20.4% of batters faced or limit walks with an 8.9% walk rate. Left handed batters have teed off against Griffin to the tune of .293/.356/.613 line and .403 wOBA.

Martin Perez hasn’t lived up to the hype as he was once #17 ranked prospect by Baseball America as an 18 year old. He slid down the ratings as he advanced in through the minors. In May 2014 Perez underwent Tommy John Surgery. He never struck out batters at even a league average rate, but this year he’s really struggled to put away hitters as he’s struck out only 11.8% of batters. His 9.4% walk rate is also a worse than average rate.

Hamels and Perez are probably happy that the Rays have dealt two of their biggest lefty mashers in Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer.

Rangers relievers have the highest ERA in the AL.

The Rangers bullpen has an AL high 4.65 ERA and 4.66 FIP. The relievers have been either really good or complete dumpster fires, with nothing much in the middle. The five relievers who have received the most work all have ERAs under 3.00. But their next five relievers in usage all have ERAs over 6.00 with two over 10.00.

Sam Dyson (2.60), Jake Diekman (2.93), Tony Barnette (2.09), Matt Bush (2.83), and Alex Claudio (2.41) all are renting ERAs below 3.00.

So if the Rays get to their middle and low leverage relievers there should be plenty of opportunities to put up runs, but if they get to the back end of the bullpen it could be tough putting a run on the board.

The Rangers chose to add offense instead of pitching at the deadline.

The Rangers added Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran at the deadline, but the additions haven’t put more runs on the board as in the month of August the Rangers are hitting .254/.318/.398 and have put up an 85 wRC+. They’ve only managed to score 65 runs, fifth fewest in baseball, while playing in an offense friendly home ballpark and making a visit to Coors Field.

Jonathan Lucroy isn’t to blame as he’s been hitting like Brad Miller. He’s put up a .273/.360/.795 line and 194 wRC+ while smashing seven homers. Carlos Beltran is also doing his part with a .315/.351/.500 line and 119 wRC+. The problem is the only real help they’ve received is from Adrian Beltre as he’s hit .323/.391/.532 line and 138 wRC+.

Ian Desmond has really struggled in the month of August, hitting .225/.253/.225 and putting up a 21 wRC+. Jurickson Profar has also struggled as he’s hit .122/.200/.146 and -12 wRC+.

Last week it was announced that Prince Fielder would be unable to continue playing baseball after undergoing his second neck surgery earlier this season. Say what you will about his defense, but he sure could hit a baseball.

The Rays continue to make strides towards solidifying their team heading into 2017.

The Rays have taken advantage of some bad pitching by mashing the baseball. As a team they are playing pretty well while getting some playing time for guys who, depending on what they show us, may or may not be part of the 2017 team.

The Rays face one of their toughest stretches, as they will end the season facing only one team that is below .500 (they will play the White Sox in September). If you are among those hoping that the Rays play their way to a high draft pick, the challenging schedule is good news. I can’t imagine the Rays would ever try to lose games, but they can focus on ensuring playing time for certain players with less emphasis on fighting for every win.

The Rays have things to look forward to as they have some very good players, as well as potentially good players who are playing for their 2017 jobs. Although it hardly replaces a good pennant race, the opportunity to watch players vie for 2017 roster spots still has its rewards.