Sorry, Texas Rangers, your World Series trophy is in another castle, one that doesn’t care one iota about run differential.
The Rangers proved that 2015 wasn’t an aberration, charging through the regular season with an American League leading 95 games. Despite a strong lineup, and an exceptional one-two punch at the top of the rotation, the Rangers outscored opponents by just eight runs, which ranked eighth in the AL.
Come the postseason, their luck ran out. Texas looked like a totally different team in October, getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Division Series.
Like we’ll do with every eliminated team in our Game Over series, we’re about to examine what went wrong for the Rangers, what went right, what’s the best 2016 memory, what they need to fix and what the future might hold.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Prince Fielder’s abrupt retirement from baseball was one of the saddest moments of the regular season. Just 32 years old, Fielder walked away from the game in August after undergoing a second surgery on his neck. That press conference was emotional, and exceptionally tough to watch.
The rotation had a tough time finding a strong starter behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Colby Lewis was probably the club’s No. 3, but his 3.71 ERA and poor strikeout rate left a lot to be desired. Martin Perez wasn’t much better, posting a 4.39 ERA, and Derek Holland was even worse.
The club eventually overcame its bullpen issues, but Shawn Tolleson was awful as the team’s closer early on. He finished the year with a 7.68 ERA over 36 1/3 innings. (Chris Cwik)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
We’re going to start with the most unlikely and perhaps most important player in the Rangers’ season: Ian Desmond. He converted himself from a shortstop to a centerfielder, signed a one-year contract with the Rangers, and proceeded to provide great defense and hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs. (If the Rangers want to keep him, this time they’re going to have to pay.)
In his 19th season in the majors, 37-year-old third baseman Adrian Beltre hit .300/.358/.521 and continued to be generally awesome, hitting at least a few of his 32 home runs from one knee and sending out steely glares to those who would prematurely celebrate home runs. Shortstop Elvis Andrus had the best season of his career, hitting .302/.362/.439 with eight home runs, and all four of those numbers are career highs. Young Rougned Odor didn’t just have a great right hook, he also continued to improve on his defense and offense.
On the pitching side, Cole Hamels continued to be the excellent pitcher they traded so much for (in the regular season, at least). And considering that Yu Darvish spent the early-season finishing his Tommy John surgery recovery and mid-season with neck issues, it’s phenomenal that he managed a 3.41 ERA in 100.1 innings. (Liz Roscher)
TOP OF THE FLAGPOLE (aka THEIR BEST MOMENT)
It’s not necessarily the high point of the Rangers’ 95-win regular season, but it was certainly it’s most memorable moment and it cemented Rougned Odor’s legacy as a folk hero in Dallas. The Texas-Toronto beef that dates back to the 2015 postseason finally escalated into a brawl on May 15 after Odor clocked Jose Bautista in the jaw after Bautista slide aggressively into second base. The resentment mostly stemmed from Bautista’s post-homer bat flip in Game 5 of last year’s ALDS. The photo of the punch became a popular meme, especially in Texas, and was hard to avoid when the two teams met again in this season’s ALDS. Oh yeah, the Rangers won the game 7-6. (Israel Fehr)
CHANGES THEY NEED TO MAKE
General manager Jon Daniels went all-in on adding offense at the trade deadline, acquiring veterans Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. In hindsight, another bonafide starter behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish probably would have served them better in their ALDS rematch with the Blue Jays, who are equipped to out-slug everybody. Looking forward, adding pitching depth in general is probably the direction they should go this winter, but they’ll be far from alone in that search. (Mark Townsend)
WARP INTO THE FUTURE
Trades and promotions saw a fair amount of the club’s immediate talent leave the system. Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo remain strong players who should be full-time starters in 2016. Lewis Brinson and Dillon Tate were sent away in deals.
That leaves pitcher Yohander Mendez as the next impact prospect in the organization. Mendez shot up through four levels of the minors last season, even appearing briefly in the majors. He’ll likely start 2017 in Triple-A, but should get some starts in Texas at some point next year. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES: Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners.
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