The Texas Rangers enter Mother’s Day weekend as the hottest team in baseball. Once left for dead after a 13-20 start, Texas has notched nine straight victories to reach 22-20. The Rangers aren’t making up any ground on the equally-scorching Houston Astros, winners of 9-of-10 in their own right, but to get back into the Wild Card chase in the American League is a huge accomplishment for Jeff Banister’s boys after such a woeful start.
Before we get too excited about this streak, let’s not forget that these last nine wins have come against San Diego, Oakland and Philadelphia, three teams that will certainly occupy the basement of their respective divisions all year. The last eight wins have also been at home where the club is now 16-8. Texas is just 6-12 on the road, and its next three series are at Detroit, Boston and Toronto.
The Rangers are historically known more for their bats than their arms, but they actually lead the majors in quality starts with 27. Still, it’s those same arms that give us caution going forward.
Texas has utilized seven starting pitchers this season, and with Cole Hamels out until at least early July, there’s more shuffling to come. But you only need to look at the broad gap between ERA and FIP, and the lack of WAR from the Rangers’ starters, to realize there are problems that will inevitably arise.
Take Martin Perez, for example. He’s just 1-5 this season and won for the first time on Thursday. You’d think that he’s been a horribly unlucky pitcher, and it is true that he hasn’t received much run support, but he also has the second-lowest LOB (left on base) percentage at 77.7 percent and has an xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) of 4.73, almost a full run higher than his 3.89 ERA.
Yu Darvish and A.J. Griffin are 4-0 and 4-2, respectively, and their 2.76 and 3.15 ERAs are stats you’d expect to see from the anchors of a rotation. Now consider the fact that they have BABIPs of .241 and .209, respectively. Darvish’s career BABIP is .290 while Griffin’s is an incredibly low .252. These are two numbers destined to rise at some point this season.
The seven Rangers’ starting pitchers have combined for just a 2.2 WAR, meaning they’re on a pace to amass just an 8.1 WAR for the season. That’s right on par with the 7.9 WAR Texas’ starters compiled last season, and that was only good for 22nd in the bigs.
Simply stated, Texas is pitching well above what’s expected at the moment, and there aren’t many signs that suggest sustainability.
The Tigers get first crack to end the streak this weekend, and they just got through pummeling Baltimore’s pitching to the tune of 22 runs in three games. A Texas trek to Boston will see a Red Sox outfit that has been brutally unlucky in the run department at home and is ready to change fortunes.
Streaks are meant to be broken, and it feels like the Rangers are headed for the end of what is now the longest winning streak in 2017. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 10 of their last 15 road games, and have a starting staff that feels like it’s ready to implode. Don’t be stunned to see Texas mired in a Lone Star State-sized streak of ‘L’s in your MLB Pick ‘Em Contest during the road trip.