Time for another season preview and this one is by Joey Mellow (@BaseballBrit) who runs the @TexasRangers_UK account. Joey is on an ambitious baseball odyssey in 2018 , and over the course of this calendar year he is travelling to various countries to watch more than 70 games, and writing about the games he sees across different countries and levels for Bat Flips & Nerds.
Last year was a disappointing one for the Rangers. The team suffered only their second losing season since 2009 and finished 4th in the division. To compound things, their state rivals, the Houston Astros, won their first World Series – something yet to be achieved in Arlington.
Yu Darvish, arguably the team’s best pitcher, was traded away midseason and the offence struck out at an alarming 24.4% rate (4th worst in MLB), despite hitting 237 home runs (3rd best in MLB). The rotation proved time and time again that they could not be trusted, resulting in original closer, Sam Dyson, being traded to the Giants and a variety of pitchers filling in the role for the remainder of the season. Rougned Odor regressed with a .204 batting average and Adrian Beltre played only 94 games due to injury.
On the positive side, Joey Gallo finally began to deliver on his huge potential and Elvis Andrus enjoyed a career year at shortstop; hitting 20 home runs and stealing 25 bases. Alex Claudio performed well out of the bullpen with a team leading 188 ERA+ and Austin Bibens-Dirkx finally made his major league debut at the age of 32 after 1,488 minor league innings with 21 different clubs.
Comings and Goings
Juan Centeno (C), Jesse Chavez (RP), Doug Fister (P), Chris Martin (RP), Tim Lincecum (RP), Mike Minor (P), Matt Moore (P), Tommy Joseph (1B – minor league contract) & Bartolo Colon (P – minor league contract)
The offseason has been a busy one for the Rangers with a number of experienced (or past their prime) pitchers being signed to address weaknesses in K/9 (worst in MLB for starting pitchers) and H/9 (29th in MLB for relief pitchers) from 2017. The possibility of a six man rotation has been muted consisting of: Hamels, Moore, Fister, Minor, Perez and either Matt Bush or Bartolo Colon. The relief corps have been boosted with the addition of Chris Martin from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan and the intriguing signing of former 2-time National League CY Young winner, Tim Lincecum. There have been no big losses over the offseason for the offence, but also no major additions.
Hopes for the 2018 season are not high. Hamels is expected to regress and is no longer a clear ace. Behind him the starting rotation raises more questions than it provides answers. The Angels have strengthened well and the Astros are current favourites to win the World Series again with most bookmakers. As Rangers fans we can look forward to lots of home runs from our power hitters and hopefully an exciting amount of steals from Delino DeShields and Elvis Andrus. A healthy Adrian Beltre will be a joy to watch as he enters his age 39 season, although rumours that he may be used as possible trade bait are hopefully wide of the mark.
79-83. Another losing season is predicted by PECOTA (76-86) and Bat Flips and Nerds (75-87). I’m a little more optimistic as I believe the Angels will not be as improved as many have predicted (Ohtani’s current struggles are dampening much of the offseason hype train). Odor, Gallo and Mazara should all improve this season with a healthy Beltre also boosting the offense. We will finish third in the division ahead of the Mariners and A’s.
Joey Gallo – After slugging 41 home runs in 2017 (just the 6th player in Rangers history to hit more than 40), optimism is high for Gallo to improve further this season. If he can increase his batting average from .209 and continue to be an on base threat then there is every possibility he will be our biggest offensive weapon for years to come.
One to watch
Willie Calhoun – He needs to work on his defence before permanently becoming a feature in the Rangers’ outfield. However, ZiPS projects a .827 OPS with 28 home runs in 2018 – that’s big league pop.
Follow Joey’s baseball journey over at batflipsandnerds.com