Source: Star Telegram
Writer: Michael Bier
Fresh off an American League best 96 win season in 2016, the Rangers were poised for success in 2017… or so we thought. With a record no one thought possible (78-84), the Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention for only the third time in the last seven years.
The Rangers aren’t at all bad team. In fact, many still consider them to be one of the best in baseball. That being said, why the heck did they finish under .500 with only 76 wins? It’s indeed a tough question to answer, so hopefully my list of 10 reasons for the Rangers disastrous season helps in understanding what went wrong.
Reason #1: Sam Dyson’s Breakdown
Sam Dyson swooped in and saved the day for the Rangers in 2016, but oddly enough, couldn’t get the outs he needed in 2017. Dyson took the loss his first time out against Cleveland on opening night, and proceeded to add five more to that total, forcing the Rangers to have to DFA him. I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for Dyson’s struggles, the Rangers could’ve been a 90+ win team. Not only did Dyson hurt the Rangers record, but also their drive to succeed throughout the early part of 2017.
Reason #2: The Bullpen’s Early Struggles
The Rangers bullpen went from being considered one of the best in baseball, to one of the worst in a matter of weeks. Keone Kela’s attitude kept him in the minors for part of the season, Jake Diekman was kept out for about 80% of the year, Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress turned in god awful outings, Matt Bush wasn’t comfortable as the closer, and Sam Dyson just flat out flopped. I’m not going to go all stat crazy on you with this one, mainly because there’s nothing interesting about a bullpen who’s ERA was as high as Snoop Dogg back in the 90’s. Do realize though, that if it wasn’t for these issues, the Rangers would’ve (with ease) cruised into the playoffs.
Reason #3: Starters 2nd Half Woes
Remember hearing all about how the Rangers starters were some of the best in baseball during the first half? Well, it was the complete opposite during the second half. The Rangers had a number of guys start games for them in the second half, but instead of taking numbers from each one, I took numbers from the core five to less embarrass the rotation. Even doing such barely changes a thing, as despite leaving out the worst of the worst, Rangers “core starters” combined for a 5.33 ERA during the second half.
Reason #4: Adrian Beltre’s Reoccurring Injuries
Ever since joining the team back in 2011, Adrian Beltre has been a key component to the Rangers success. Being so, losing Beltre numerous times throughout the season hurt the Rangers badly. In 2017, Beltre hit .312 with 17 homers and drove in 71. All that was accumulated in only 340 at bats, and such amount is slightly over half of a typical Beltre season. That basically means the Rangers lost out on a 35-45% increase of those numbers. Those missing HRs, RBIs and hits could’ve provided crucial insurance runs in early season games the bullpen couldn’t seem to hold onto. Think about that…
Reason #5: Carlos Gomez’s Reoccurring Injuries
Not only were the Rangers affected by recurring injuries to Adrian Beltre, but Carlos Gomez as well. A healthy Gomez is a good Gomez, and that’s exactly what the Rangers missed out on. Carlos missed just under half the season, hitting the DL a total of five different times, only appearing in 105 games. The mediocre numbers put up by Gomez were most likely a direct result of the pain he played through when on the field.
Reason #6: Jonathan Lucroy’s Dragged Out Start
Jonathan Lucroy’s performance with the Rangers in 2017 was to the disappointment of not only himself, but of the club as well. The Rangers acquired Lucroy at the deadline in 2016 not only to boost the offensive production coming out of the catcher position, but also to help sharpen up the pitchers. He did exactly that in 2016, but couldn’t seem to get it together in 2017. Lucroy’s slow start followed him all throughout his tenure with the Rangers, and it was bad enough to the point where they had to move on. Jonathan was traded to Colorado at the deadline for a PTBNL (Pedro Gonzalez) and to the surprise of many, performed much better with the Rockies (.310) than with the Rangers (.242).
Reason #7: Rougned Odor’s Lack Of Production
A 30+ homer season is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you automatically had a productive season because of it. Rougned Odor smashed 30 homers this past year, but at the same time hit .204 with a .252 on base percentage. His 506 outs recorded led the majors, and his 162 strikeouts in 162 games meant that on average, he struck out once a game. Odor was handed a 6 year extension worth just under $50 million shortly before the season began, and that very well could’ve impacted how he played in 2017. Most players who receive significant extensions at a young age typically find themselves struggling in the years after signing the contract. Take Pirates outfielder, Gregory Polanco, for example. Polanco received a similar extension at the beginning of 2016, and in two seasons since has combined for an average of .255 with only 33 homers. Hopefully this was just a down season for Rougi, and one can only pray he takes it as a learning experience. For Odor, realizing he’s still got something to work for despite the fact that he has money and drives a Nissan GTR is huge, because getting back the version of Odor the Rangers signed an extension to would be huge for their lineup.
Reason #8: Yu Darvish’s Collapse (July)
Yu Darvish’s god awful month of July often goes overlooked when discussing where the Rangers went wrong in 2017. Coming into the month, Darvish pitched to an ERA of 3.11, and by the time his first July start against Boston was over, it was up to 3.56. Fast forward to the 26th, and in Yu’s final start as a Ranger, he gives up 10 runs in 3.2 innings to the Miami Marlins. That outing sealed the deal on Darvish’s ERA while with the Rangers in 2017 at 4.01. In a month’s time, Darvish’s ERA increased by 0.90, raising the question as to why the Dodgers ended up trading for him. Whatever the answer may be, it worked out for LA, as in 9 regular starts Darvish didn’t allow his ERA to surpass 3.50.
Reason #9: Mike Napoli…
It really wasn’t hard to see the season Mike Napoli had coming. For a guy who hasn’t passed up the .260 mark in batting average since 2011, you can’t expect a productive season in terms of getting on base. Regardless of the fact that he hit 29 homers, an average of .193 is by no means an acceptable season.
Reason #10: The Elusive .500 Mark / Mental Collapses
If you kept up with Rangers baseball all throughout the year, then you know what I mean when I say “elusive.” Countless times the Rangers would find a spark, either level out at .500, or surpass it, and then fall back days later. Now this may not seem much like a reason, more so a result, but to see it as a reason, you have to understanding the mental side of the game. Yogi Berra once said the game is 90% mental and the rest was physical. That may sound dumb to some of you, but it’s true. Seven, sometimes eight plus months of baseball can take a toll on major leaguers and there’s not a single one out there that’ll deny mental collapses. Even though the Rangers never admitted to having mental collapses, it’s not hard to figure out they did. Being that proven veterans and promising younger players production fell below expectations following tough series losses, blown games, or whatever it may have been, it only makes sense that their mental state tied into how the season played out.