Sports

The Texas Rangers Have a Pitching Problem (But It’s Getting Better)

Joey Gallo and Adolis Garcia, Texas' very own G-Unit, also have a pitching problem.
Joey Gallo and Adolis Garcia, Texas' very own G-Unit, also have a pitching problem. Richard Rodriguez/ Getty
In any instance of major self-revaluation — whether it's recovering from an addiction, going through a breakup or rebuilding baseball team — the road back to normalcy is bound to be filled with bumps, cracks, potholes and setbacks. It may sound cliché at this point, but the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

And the Texas Rangers have a pitching problem.

Obviously, this is not a death sentence for the beloved Arlington franchise, but as we approach the midpoint of the season and the looming All-Star Game in Denver, it’s worth pausing to take a look at the Rangers’ strengths and weaknesses this past year, with the intention of ameliorating any ailments before it’s too late.

All stats provided are current as of June 28, and here's what we've gathered.

The Rangers Don't Lack in the Offense Department
The Rangers are no strangers to scoring. A quick perusing of the stats shows that their batting abilities are comparable to any contending team. The team is batting at a collective .233 average; defending World Series champs the Dodgers, by comparison, are batting at .240.

The Rangers’ star hit-making outfielder duo of Joey Gallo and rookie Adolis Garcia — whom we shall henceforth collectively refer to as G-Unit — has been carrying the lions’ share of offensive work this season. As of June 28, G-Unit is responsible for 41% of the Rangers’ home runs, 20% of all hits, 31% of all RBIs, with a collective batting average of .248 (Garcia at .279 and Gallo at .224). This is higher than every other Ranger other than Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Nate Lowe and Willie Calhoun (given the MLB’s recent crackdown on pitchers’ use of sticky substances, expect G-Unit’s numbers to skyrocket).

By comparison, the Dodgers’ current homerun leader is Max Muncy with 15 HRs, followed by Justin Turner with 12. G-Unit has knocked 36 balls out of the park: Garcia with 20 and Gallo with 16. If it makes you feel any better, Cody Bellinger has had three.

Rangers short stop Kiner-Falefa (blatantly robbed of a spot at this year’s All-Star Game) has been sensational with 86 hits and an average of .271. By comparison, Turner leads the Dodgers with 77 hits and an average of .265. Mustachioed Rangers third baseman Brock Holt and turtleneck-loving first baseman Lowe hover just above and below a .300 batting average, respectively, with runners on-base.

Obviously, much has been written about the Dodgers’ stacked lineup this year (15 players with an on-base percentage of .300 or more), but the Rangers do have the weapons to get men on base and bring them home. By this rationale, the only explanation for the Rangers’ shortage of victories is as follows: They tend to let the other teams score more than they do.

Most Runs Given Up By the Rangers Take Place in the First Inning or in the Wake of a Pitching Change

The Rangers only have one starting pitcher with an ERA below 3.00, Kyle Gibson, whose arm and 6-0 record has been the jewel of the Ranger’s pitching arsenal (given the Rangers’ recent history, Gibson will probably end up getting traded to the Chicago White Sox for a piece of Comiskey Park and a partially melted copy of Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck”). Starter Mike Foltynewicz has kept his ERA above 5.00 for the better part of June, with a record of 1-7, however (and true to the nature of baseball) on June 23, Foltynewicz held the Oakland Athletics scoreless until the seventh inning when a home run from Sean Murphy spoiled Folty’s prefect comeback. The Rangers overcame the minor setback to eventually win 5-3.

Another odd moment came the night before when Rangers manager Chris Woodward decided to start reliever Taylor Hearn in place of scheduled starter Jordan Lyles. Hearn immediately gave up two runs in the first 2/3 of the first inning. Brett DeGeus was then put on the mound, where he immediately gave up two runs and eventually allowed three more by the third inning. Lyles was eventually brought in to regain control of the game, but the damage had been done and the Rangers fell to the Athletics 13-6. Look, we're not expecting the Rangers to have a bullpen filled with Curt Schilling replicants, but, COME ON.

The Rangers Have Blown 16 Leads In 2021

Perhaps the most heartbreaking loss the Rangers have had in 2021 came on a Tuesday night in Houston with Texas leading the Astros 2-1 for nine innings. After a quick pitching change in which Josh Sborz replaced Brett Martin, the Rangers were one strike away from slamming the door in Minute Maid Park. Then, right on cue, Carlos Correa hit his last chance into the stands, sending the game into extra innings.

In a similar moment of dependability at the top of the 10th, Nate Lowe stepped up to the plate with two men out and hit a line drive to bring in Brock Holt, putting the Rangers back on top 3-2. For the bottom of the 10th, Demarcus Evans relieved Sborz of his duties on the mound. Unbelievably, Evans loaded the bases, only for Jose Altuve to step up do the thing he’s supposed to do: hand the Astros a walk-off grand slam and mutilate the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere.

Evans has since been optioned to Round Rock Express, where’s kept his ERA consistently below 3.00.
Strangely enough, Josh Sborz — technically responsible for the extension of the game — has remained with the Rangers, where his ERA hovers just below 5.00 and his opponent on-base percentage sits at .313, a far cry from his 2020 year with the Dodgers when his ERA came out to 2.08 and his OOBP ended up at .188.

Look, we're not calling for Sborz to be publicly shamed à la Cercei Lannister, but this is a trend that happens way too much in Rangerland. The Rangers have blown 16 leads in 2021. If the Rangers had not blown, say, 10 of those leads, then they would be standing at a much more comfortable 40-38.

There is no permanent state of playing, no such thing as a “bad” pitcher. Any baseball player can atone for one’s sins. Switch-hitting catcher and Buffalo native Jonah Heim made up for two games lost singlehandedly on wild pitches with consistent at-bats and an on-base percentage of .278. Joey Gallo’s opening home run drought ended with the arrival of the monsoon season, with the heavens opening up and dropping an onslaught of 400+ foot homers (my new Joey Gallo at-bat ritual? Scream, “Hit the fucking ball Joey!”).

The beautiful thing about baseball (one of many) is its brazen unpredictability. A 37-25 defending World Series champion team can defeat a visiting 24-39 division straggler 12 to 1 only to have the tables completely turned the following night with the visiting stragglers dominate the defending champs with an identical score, roles reversed.

Like anyone struggling with kicking a habit, you take things one day at a time. We hope the Rangers spend the remainder of the season proving our pitching problem theory wrong. Consider it a challenge, guys! To paraphrase Midland, “People say I’ve got a pitching problem, but I’ve got no problem pitching at all.”
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Vincent Arrieta
Contact: Vincent Arrieta