Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rangers Pepper 8/22: Haters Gonna Hate, Cruising Minus Cruz and Still A Baseball Town

by Dustin Copening

#RangersThoughts” on Twitter can be seen by following me @dfwfanconnect, but those thoughts evolve every few days from 140 characters into what I have dubbed as
“Rangers Pepper”.

Baseball is fun, but reading is even more fun, so before you dig into the Pepper, exercise your funny bone and take a gander at what comedians and librarians can accomplish when they combine forces:

Taking Care Of Business – Texas has won 12 of 15 games played to this point of a 24 game stretch against competition with records under .500, and have subsequently gained a 2.5 game advantage of the A’s in the West and a 5 game lead in the Wild Card Race.

There has been some grumbling about the Rangers taking advantage of not only a far easier schedule in August, but also playing in one of, if not the worst division in baseball. Obviously the addition of the Astros as the red-headed step child of the AL West gives Texas and Oakland an opportunity to fatten up 19 games a year, but is the following a fair criticism to make:

Facts are facts, and the Rangers have played poorly against the AL East and Central as a whole. Cleveland and Toronto have made Texas look especially silly, as Texas has been outscored by a total of 32 to 69 for a 2-11 record in 13 games against the two. Baltimore also took the season series 2-5; however, Josh Lindblom and Ross Wolf took 3 of those losses. Texas’ managerial staff will do their best to make sure neither of those two pitchers sees a start for the rest of 2013.

In what may be a surprise to the doubter, it’s against the top of the East and Central divisions where the Rangers have excelled.

They hate a combined record of 14-9 over Boston, Detroit, New York and Tampa Bay, and their 99-82 scoring advantage would be a much more impressive 94-65 if you factored out the 17-5 embarrassment versus the Red Sox on June 4th (a Justin Grimm special presentation).
Texas also holds a 23-12 record over teams that currently hold a spot in the postseason (BOS, CIN, DET, OAK, STL, TBR).

As Baltimore and Cleveland remain on the outside looking in, Rangers fans can sleep a little more comfortably with the knowledge that despite undoubtedly benefiting from a weaker division, Texas has still taken care of business against the stiffest of competition.

Life Without Cruz Updated – In a previous version of Rangers Pepper I attempted to explain how the Rangers offense might be fine despite the loss of slugger Nelson Cruz, if they were able to follow the model set by the San Francisco Giants following the loss of Melky Cabrera last year.

As a refresher, the Giants were able to raise their run production from 4.2 to 4.9 runs per game in the remaining 45 regular season games minus Cabrera, going 30-15 in the process. They accomplished this despite replacing their All Star LF with a combination of hitters putting up a slash line of .215/.270/.276. Far below the .350/.396/.513 line the PED aided Cabrera supplied.

The Rangers have gone from averaging 4.3 runs p/g with Nellie to 6.3 runs p/g without him. In those 14 contests minus Cruz, Texas has seen their homers per game drop from 1.2 to 0.5, and their extra base hit total fall from 2.9 to 2.5. At the same time, stolen bases have risen from 0.6 to 1.8 per game.

As for the slash line for right fielders not named Nelson Cruz? That would be .232/.289/.337, as opposed to Nellie’s .274/.333/.519.

Per the Melky numbers, there are a handful of games mixed into the numbers prior to the Cruz suspension where Nelson was active but not the RF, but the point still remains that the Rangers are succeeding in spite of lackluster production from their RF replacements.

Baseball Town Part Deaux – As we continue to revisit Pepper from the past, we take a look at the heated Baseball Town discussion that has since leveled off.

Back on June 3rd I wrote about the Rangers home attendance being down from last year’s historic numbers, yet still holding the number one spot in the AL for average home attendance through 26 games.

So how do the numbers look through 65 home games?

Still pretty darn good.

Yes, the Rangers are on pace to fall short of 2012’s record setting 3,460,280 total, but they should still clear the 3,000,000 mark (estimated to fall just shy of 3,175,000), and finish slightly behind the Yankees for the second straight year in per game attendance in the AL.

Baseball Town indeed.


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