The Texas Rangers entered the 2020 season with higher expectations and expectations than any year in recent memory. Much of this hype was due to the outstanding starting pitching rotation I referenced in my season preview of the Texas ball-club. Corey Kluber, who was acquired by Texas over the off-season was the headliner of excitement in Arlington, with Ranger fans hoping he could return to the Cy-Young starter he once was as the anchor of the Cleveland Indians staff. Kluber started the series finale against the Colorado Rockies in the Ranger’s opening series, and was only able to record 3 outs. He was pulled at the end of scoreless 1st inning for an undisclosed injury labeled “right shoulder tightness” at the moment. Less than 24 hours later it was announced that Kluber suffered a grade 2 tear of his Teres Major Muscle in his throwing shoulder, and would be shut down for 4-6 weeks. This pretty much sums up how the 2020 season has gone for Texas so far. After securing a 1-0 opening day victory behind a masterful pitching performance from Lance Lynn, things have steadily gone downhill for this Rangers team. Not only did Texas lose Kluber, but they also had to shut down former lockdown closer Jose Leclerc for the foreseeable future. Let’s go step by step and analyze the 1st portion of 2020, and what to expect out of Texas for the remainder of the campaign.
- One person has undoubtedly been near the top of Major League talent since the start of this young season, and that is ace Lance Lynn. Lynn who started opening day against the Rockies went 6 strong innings only allowing 2 hits while fanning 9 Colorado hitters. Lynn was able to follow that performance up in a start against Arizona where he recorded 6 more innings of work, allowing 1 hit and striking out 8. Through 2 starts Lynn is boasting a 0.00 ERA, which obviously is tied for the league lead with Indians hurler Shane Bieber. Lynn is also 7th in the league in Strikeouts, having recorded 17 in his 12 innings of work. Lynn will look to continue his dominance tonight as he is slated to start the series opener against the division leading Oakland Athletics.
- Beyond just Lance Lynn, the entire starting rotation has been a positive for Texas. Even after the blow of losing Kluber, Texas still has the 3rd best American League starting pitching ERA at 2.95. Mike Minor has not started as well as expected, but impressive outings by Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles have contributed to the overall SP success. Kluber is a big void to fill, but Kolby Allard has the potential to be an above league average starting pitcher and he is going to get a chance to prove himself as he steps up for the Rangers.
- In an offense that has had a hard time getting anything going, Joey Gallo has continued to improve himself as an all-around hitter. Gallo, who is the face of the Texas franchise, and is the centerpiece of what Texas will build around for years to come, has started off much better than he has in any other season of his career. Gallo is hitting .310/.429/.724 with 3HR and 8RBI through 8 games. Gallo has struck out 7 times, while drawing 6 walks in 35 plate appearances. There is obviously room to grow in the K/BB ratio, but if Gallo can continue to put together At-Bats like he has so far, he will have a very productive season at the plate in 2020. Offense isn’t the only thing Gallo has a high ceiling in, Joey is a top tier defensive outfielder, and has done a solid job holding down right field with his cannon of a throwing arm. Gallo is 7.6 UZR runs above average per 150 games throughout his career.
- The offense. The offense. The offense. Historically, Texas is a team that will lead the league in offensive statistics, but provide very little pitching support and lose high scoring games. So far it is the opposite in 2020. The Rangers are 3-5 and have failed to score more than 3 runs in 6 of their 8 games. While Texas is only allowing 4.6 runs per game, they are struggling to even average 3 runs per game (3.37). Texas ranks 26th in team batting average while hitting a pitiful .195. They also rank 25th in offensive WAR, sitting at 0.1 right now. If the Ranger’s rotation can continue to slow opposing offenses as well as they have so far, and the offense could start to piece together more productive innings, this team still has the talent to make a postseason push. The Rangers are headed to Oakland for a 3 game series where they will face Jesus Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Mike Fiers in that order. Hopefully Texas can use the off day after concluding the series against the Giants, and get back on track in the batter’s box Tuesday in Oakland.
- The bullpen. For people who follow the Rangers on a year-to-year basis, hearing that the bullpen is underperforming will not come as a shock to you. Texas very rarely has a bullpen that is even competent enough to perform at a league average level. 2020 looks like it will be another one of those years. Already at a disadvantage after having to put Jose Leclerc on the shelf, the 2020 season has not been kind to Ranger relievers. In series’ against the Rockies, D-Backs, and Giants, Texas relievers have a combined ERA of 5.67 which is 7th worst in baseball. Texas bullpen arms have also handed out the 4th most free passes in MLB allowing 5.4 BB/9 innings pitched. With a team that has struggled to push runs across the plate, as well as play stellar defense, allowing over 5.5 runs and almost 5.5 BB/9 innings is not the formula to put many tally marks in the win column. If this team can stay in contention with the expansion of the playoffs, I could see Texas looking to bolster their bullpen before the 2020 trade deadline, but at the same time Jon Daniels is notably very hard to judge on what plans he has in the short term. That will be something to keep our eyes on as this 2020 season continues to unfold.
Through 8 games, which is almost 15% of the 60 game schedule the Rangers are 3-5 and currently in 3rd place in the A.L. West. The next week will tell a lot about the chances for these Rangers as they face off with divisional Rivals, the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels in back to back series. If Texas can find a way to play .500 baseball, and look for upgrades at few notable positions they still have a very real chance at making the 2020 postseason. Look for Texas to continue to have starting pitching that is near the top of league, and it will be interesting to see if they can find an offensive identity to give them a chance to climb near the top of the standings. Texas will match up with the A’s tonight at 9:10 Eastern Time in a battle of aces as Lance Lynn toes the rubber for the 3rd time in 2020.