Dave Cameron mentioned it in his weekly blurb piece this morning, but I wanted to take some extra time to highlight the Texas Rangers, namely their offense.
I have mentioned the concept of numerical anchors a couple times already on this site and others, but as an extremely brief refresher, it basically describes how it is our nature to form opinions around extremes and around first impressions. This is why grounded analysts have to work so hard to point out small sample sizes. I am writing today to try to dispel another potential anchor around the baseball community, that the Texas Rangers have a potent offense. Now, the critical part of this statement rests on the park factors for The Ballpark in Arlington (TBiA). Over the years, TBiA has consistently ranked as one of the most hitting friendly parks out there and its’ effects have colored how many people have seen the Rangers offense.
One only needs to compare two different numbers to see this. The Rangers have a team wOBA of .342 as published here. That ranks 7th in baseball. That seems pretty potent, doesn’t it? Turn them to Batting value, which is the park adjusted version of wOBA translated into runs above or below average and suddenly the Rangers, at 12.2, drop to 11th in baseball. Okay, so not world beaters certainly, but hey, they are above average still, right? Well, except we are still ignoring the league differences. The NL essentially punts a batting slot every game. The difference between the average NL wOBA and the average AL wOBA is around 10 points so far this year and is usually about five or six points. Counting just AL teams, the Rangers actually rank 8th out of 14th, below average.
This is not just limited to FanGraphs’ interpretations of the stats either. At StatCorner.com, where I make use of the wOBA formula without a running game element and park factors developed by David Gassko at The Hardball Times, the Rangers check in with a .339 park-adjusted wOBA to a league average of .341. Baseball Prospectus ranks the Rangers as having the 8th best EQA in the AL and 16th overall.
The Rangers had a torrid start to the season at the plate, but they have had some very ugly stretches since. After May 17th, the Rangers had won seven in a row and sat 4.5 games clear in the AL West with a 23-14 record having scored 5.65 runs per game. Since then, the Rangers are 12-13 and the scoring has dropped to just 4.04 runs per game. Michael Young has a .673 OPS, Josh Hamilton .696 and now he’s gone for a month or two. Chris Davis has struck out 38 times in just 80 plate appearances since May 17th. Andruw Jones is hitting .200/.260/.444. About the only person who has continued hitting is Nelson Cruz who is still proving people stupid for letting him rot in Triple-A for so long.
The entire sample of the 62 games that we have seen this season paints the picture that most projection systems thought they would see, the Rangers have awful pitching supported somewhat by an improved defense, and a roughly average offense. That is not a recipe for winning a division usually, but this year’s AL West is no usual division and Texas may yet hold on. Just know that it should be a closer race than it might seem now and remember to constantly check yourself before falling back on opinions formed early in the season.