It’s May 13th. The Texas Rangers are sitting at a modest 20-19, tied for third place in the American League’s Western Division with the Los Angeles Angels and are seemingly just unable to find that spark to get their engine going this season. They’ve only won four of their last ten games. Worrisome? Perhaps, but this season has been a roller coaster and we’re only 39 games in out of 162. The Rangers also lead the league in shutouts thrown with nine, they have swept the division-leading Athletics on the road, and they almost had a no-hitter against the Red Sox. The Rangers are all over the place so far this year. Coming off a 4-0 win over the Houston Astros on Monday night, Texas has a little bit to look forward to. They play the Astros again on Tuesday and Wednesday before taking on Toronto, who’s only 2.5 games out of first in the east, this coming weekend, a team the Rangers can take two out of three from at home. There is certainly no reason to worry or stress at this point in the season. However, there are some questions to be answered.
Question 1: Where is the Martin Perez that dominated in April?
We all know how hot Perez was to kick off the year. The Rangers’ Player of the Month for April had a 1.42 ERA, no losses, 33 K’s, a 0.92 WHIP and a 1.89 WAR through five starts. However, over the course of his last three starts, his ERA has shot up from that 1.42 to 4.38, and undergoing an MRI for discomfort and inflammation in his left elbow, Martin will miss at least one, if not more, starts. He even pitched multiple consecutive shutouts in April before getting blasted by a powerful Oakland offense that got eight hits and eight runs, all earned, off of him before he could even finish the fifth inning. So, to answer the question, I think the Perez that we saw in April WILL return. It may not be next week, it may not be until July, but he will be back. All we can do is pray that he and Darvish can stay healthy to support a very weak starting rotation.
Question 2: Will the Rangers make the postseason this year?
Not Game 163, not losing game 163, but an actual playoff series? Yes. The Rangers will absolutely make the playoffs this year. If I’m wrong, then this organization has a lot to figure out. Stats and records aside, a team loaded with the talent of Yu Darvish, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and Elvis Andrus should not miss the playoffs. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I firmly believe the Rangers have the best group of talent in the league, if the players utilize themselves to their full potential. I believed the same in 2011 and 2012. Probably not last year, because of the lackluster offense late in the season and the injuries suffered. The Rangers just need that spark to get going. When you lose a string of games by scores of 8-2, 12-1, and 9-2 and proceed to shut out the reigning World Champion Red Sox, 8-0 in a would-be perfect game, consistency fails to exist, which can make or break a team. But, yes, I do believe the Rangers will surge at a necessary point this season and make the playoffs. However, I would lean towards a wild card spot rather than a division title. Oakland just doesn’t lose.
Question 3: The Rangers, over the past few seasons, have been known to lack the “it” factor late in the season and struggle to produce in the second half. Should we expect the same this season?
No. Not at all. Maybe even the exact opposite. Once Soto returns and replaces J.P. Arencibia, we’ll get a little more offensive production, if Soto needs to give it. Arencibia has been nothing but a disappointment this season and is the most useless player on this team. He will not be the starter once Soto comes back. Secondly, Holland will be back at some point this season, and we really need him to be great. In fact, 2011 World-Series-Game-Four Dutch would be awesome. The pitching will arrange itself and it may surprise you in August/September. Just watch.
Overall, worry not, Ranger fans. This team simply has too much talent to go down into the dumps this year. Sure the offense has been mediocre. Sure the pitching has been hectic. But, everything will take its place as the season progresses.