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The Texas Rangers were, once again, early favorites to contend for a World Series championship in 2012. Instead they left their fans disappointed and have had a very questionable offseason. What will the 2013 bring for this team and their fans?
4.5: Josh Hamilton has been worth an average of 4.5 fWAR in his five seasons with the Rangers and it won’t be that easy to replace. There are just 19 players in all of baseball that have produced an average of 4.5 WAR from 2008 to 2012, and even though the Rangers still have two of them on their roster in Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler, they did just lose their biggest power threat and best pure hitter to a division rival.
Best case scenario for the Rangers is that it only takes two players to replace the production on offense and defense that Hamilton provided and no more than that.
.474: The Rangers did a lot of things very well last season, but the one thing they didn’t do very well was win games against their own division. They had just a 27-30 record against the AL West, the worst intra-divisional record among playoff qualifiers, and it was because of this they lost a division lead that was as large as 6.5 games on August 12.
What was especially frustrating for Rangers fans is the 8-11 record (.421 win rate) they posted against division rivals in September, which was capped off with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics that officially crushed their hopes of a third straight division title.
2012 Season in Review: The 2012 season began with so much promise and ended with bitter disappointment and even anger from the fan base, although it was mostly directed at one player (Josh Hamilton). This was a team built to contend for the World Series and many thought that the third time would be the charm.
The pitching staff was the 10th best in baseball during the first half of the season with a 3.78/3.75 ERA/FIP line, but was the 10th worst in baseball during the second half with a 4.29/4.07 ERA/FIP line. The offense took a bit of a dive as well during the second half as they posted the 5th highest WAR total during the first half at 16.5 but just the 18th highest during the second half with 10.
Uneven play from one month to the next was really the biggest culprit of the Rangers' downfall in the second half and it goes beyond just one player going into a month-long slump. The team as a whole didn’t seem to play very well together and it was even worse in the final month of the season as costly mental mistakes on the mound, in the batter’s box, and in the field doomed this team in the end.
Key Offseason Moves:
Josh Hamilton signs with the Los Angeles Angels: It’s less about whom the Rangers acquired and more about whom they missed out on this past offseason. General Manager Jon Daniels and Team President Nolan Ryan may have gone out of their way to say all the right things in regards to Hamilton’s contract situation with the club but actions speak louder than words.
They continued to put serious extension talks on the back-burner so they could pursue other players and it ultimately cost them the chance to re-sign their best offensive weapon. Hamilton instead signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the division rival Angels. Whether the Rangers were ever truly serious about re-signing Hamilton or not is up for debate, but they will now have to deal with him being productive within the division for a few more years at the very least.
Zack Greinke signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers: Greinke was the one big player on the Rangers radar before free agency even began. They made serious efforts to lure him to Texas but the Dodgers upped the ante significantly by agreeing to a six-year, $147 million contract, which makes him the highest paid right-handed starting pitcher in all of baseball based on annual value.
This is the player the Rangers put Hamilton on the backburner for and now it appears that Greinke may start the season as damaged goods and Hamilton is as healthy as ever -- go figure.
Depth Chart: The pitching depth this team, surprisingly, has will be tested early on as injuries, or recovery from injury, has opened up some opportunities at the start of the season. They have three or four solid options at AAA and AA for the rotation and bullpen, but their depth of position players leaves something to be desired.
Their position player depth is mostly made of up of quad-A guys with the exceptions of Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, and possibly Engel Beltre who could all see time at the major league level this year. The one good thing is that they do have guys like David Murphy, Craig Gentry, and Leonys Martin on the major league roster that should positively contribute in the outfield this year.
2013 Outlook: I would consider myself a bit bearish on the Rangers this season but that doesn’t mean they are going to magically turn into a bad team because Josh Hamilton signed elsewhere. The AL West is chaging this season as the Houston Astros have signed on for active duty in their new league and that could possibly add upwards of three wins to the other teams in the division.
The Rangers will have to play smart baseball all season long to stay in the race for the division title, but they are still one of the better teams in the American League. As long as they stay relatively injury-free, they should be just fine. But a major injury to, say, Adrian Beltre, could spell trouble.
Bold Prediction: This team isn’t going to win the AL West and even having the regular opportunity to beat up on the Houston Astros probably won’t get them a Wild Card berth. The Rangers will end up trading Ian Kinsler at the trade deadline and then working out an extension for Elvis Andrus while inserting Jurickson Profar at second base to finish out the season.