The stars at night were big and bright over the last season in Globe Life Park (formerly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, a vastly superior name) for the Texas Rangers. Sadly, their stars were neither big nor bright and the team stumbled down the stretch to finish 78-84, good for third place in the AL West. A surprisingly competitive season did, however, convince management that they can and should be in “win now” mode and that belief has led to a very productive offseason in Arlington, TX.
A shocking trade for Corey Kluber, coupled with the signings of Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, have rounded out a suddenly sparkling rotation which already featured Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, fresh off of impressive 2019 campaigns. Before that they traded former stud prospect Nomar Mazara to the White Sox for impressive outfield prospect Steele Walker. Subsequent signings of Robinson Chirinos and Todd “The Toddfather” Frazier could be leading to even bigger moves with outfielders Nicholas Castellanos or Marcel Ozuna. It is also worth noting that they’ve been connected to the Nolan Arenado trade market, though they seem to be on the outside looking in as of right now.
On top of that drama, the team is about to open a new ballpark and wear brand new (frankly amazing) uniforms. The Texas Rangers, unlike other teams in the state, are doing things the right way and preparing for an exciting season of baseball.
A “Minor” Miracle
Boy Mike Minor was good in 2019, wasn’t he? After a disappointing first year with the team in 2018, Minor was firing on all cylinders in 2019. He dropped his ERA from 4.18 to 3.59, raised his K/9 from 7.6 to 8.9 and notched his first career complete game shutout. Minor even managed to earn himself an all-star nomination and some Cy Young votes by the end of the season.
Some really impressive stats for me are Minor’s OBP in full counts and at-bats during which the batter was ahead in the count. Minor posted .448 and .439 in those categories, respectively. He showed a lot of resiliency in the 2019 season, battling back to get outs while trailing in the count. Possibly even more importantly, he won a full count more often than he lost one. A pitcher who can win at-bats more than half of the time in such situations is going to be a good pitcher, that’s just the way it is.
One possible explanation for Minor’s success is an improved changeup. In 2019 opponents hit .189 against Minor’s changeup, the lowest average allowed on that pitch in his career. He also managed a 24.8 K% on it, a full 4.3% higher than his career average on the same pitch. His chanegup also had a 22.3 pitch value in 2019, compared to 6.3 in 2018. As he’s gotten older his velocity has dropped so a shift to better usage of his off-speed stuff has helped him revive his career in Texas.
I’m not gonna do a piece about the Texas Rangers and not talk about Joey Gallo, I’m just not. In 2019 Joey only managed to play 70 games, cutting his at-bats almost exactly in half. He still managed to hit 22 HR, 49 RBI, 15 2B, and raise his OBP and SLG by .077 and .100 respectively.
Over his first two full seasons in Arlington he averaged 147 games played. If he had played in that many games in 2019 he could’ve hit 46 HR, 103 RBI and 32 2B based on projections, the most in his career in each of those categories. Strikeouts were still a problem for Gallo though, as he managed to strike out 114 in only 297 PA, a strike-out rate of 38%, the highest of his career.
On the bright side for Gallo, he also managed to increase his BB per game average by a full 5% from 13% to 18% in 2019, giving a glimmer of hope that he might some day be a patient hitter. The bottom line is this though, Gallo is always gonna be a big swinger, all-or-nothing type hitter and I think Rangers fans are fine with that. When he makes contact, they’re some of the most amazing HRs you’ll ever see, and Gallo has to be excited about that 326′ distance down the right field line in the new ballpark.
Rangers fans, as well as management, will want to see Joey on the field more often this season. They’ll also expect to see him return to the same power output that he’s become famous for during his short career. While he is only 26, the Rangers are ready to be contenders and they’re gonna count on him to take some steps forward and be an offensive leader in 2020. His chances to put it all together are running out, so let’s hope he makes the necessary strides this year.
New Ballpark, Who Dis?
I want to take a second and give Globe Life Park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Ameriquest Field in Arlington, The Ballpark in Arlington or whatever name you remember it by, a proper send off.
Opening on April 1, 1994 in an exhibition game against the New York Mets; The Ballpark in Arlington would go on to see 25 seasons of Rangers baseball, a handful of World Series games and countless sun burns, compliments of the extreme Texas sun. That stadium would be the home of Rangers legends like Michael Young, Pudge Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Kenny Rogers and more.
The move to a new stadium, Globe Life Field, was necessary if the team was going to have any hope of continuing to draw fans. As someone who grew up in central Texas, I’ve spent countless days and nights at Rangers Ballpark and I can assure you that some days are simply too hot for baseball in Arlington. The new stadium will solve that problem with a retractable roof and central air, though. The dimensions of the new ballpark pay tribute to Rangers legends and make the new ball park slightly more pitcher friendly than Globe Life Park ever was, helping the Rangers’ new-look rotation appear all the more intimidating.
On a personal note, I went to my first ever MLB game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It will always be my favorite ballpark to watch a game in. I’ll never forget all the gallons of sweat my body created under the Texas sun, cheering on the Texas Rangers. Godspeed Globe Life Park, I hope the XFL treats you well.
Check “Yes” or “No”
Being a team in the AL West in 2020, it isn’t gonna be a Boot Scootin’ Boogie for this Rangers team. It’ll be hard to gain traction in a division that features the always tough 2017 World Series Champion* Houston Astros, Oakland A’s and much improved Los Angeles Angels. However, if Texas can make one or two more offensive signings before spring training, I wouldn’t sleep on this team.
I think, right now, they’re better than the Angels. If they manage to sign someone like Nick Castellanos, they’re instantly better than the Oakland A’s in my book. I’m doubtful this team will be able to reach the talent level of the Astros without something massive. Like, say, a trade for Nolan Arenado, though.
I think its safe to be cautiously optimistic about 2020 if you’re a Texas Rangers fan. In fact, if someone passed me note that said “Do you think the Rangers will make the playoffs in 2020, yes or no?”, I’d check “yes”. (I wanted to make a George Strait reference so I do, deal with it)
Record: 94-68, 2nd in the AL West, 2nd AL Wild Card team
Best Hitter: Willie Calhoun
Best Pitcher: SP Corey Kluber
Team MVP: SS Elvis Andrus
Surprise player: INF/UTL Nick Solak
Statistics provided by FanGraphs.com
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.