Let’s be honest. The Texas Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild. Entering Sunday, the Rangers are in last place in the AL West with a 34-44 record, trailing the first place Astros by 17 games in the standings.
Don’t get me wrong. The club has some exciting young players, including 25-year old Delino DeShields—a player known more for his glove than bat. Defense is an aspect of baseball often overshadowed by towering home runs and staggering strikeouts. Fans often forget hits can only occur if fielders can’t make the plays.
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Now, DeShields is an interesting case. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Astros, but never reached the big leagues with Houston. Instead it was another Texas team—the Rangers—where he made his major league debut. The Rangers took DeShields from the Astros as a Rule 5 pick in 2014 and he made his MLB debut with the club during the 2015 season.
DeShields doesn’t have a great bat yet—he’s just a career .250 hitter in 371 MLB games. In fact, he doesn’t hit the ball hard at all. He has the second-worst average exit velocity in the majors this season at 80.1 miles per hour (with a minimum 150 batted baseballs). Only Billy Hamilton’s 78.8 average exit velocity is worse in 2018. However, DeShields will provide speed on base paths. His 15 stolen bases are tied for the third-most in the American League. He’s only been caught twice.
When you think of baseball’s best defensive outfielders, the names Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier and Jackie Bradley Jr. come to mind. However, when it comes to certain aspects, DeShields is among the best—if not the best—in the game.
First, let’s take a look at his Defensive Runs Saved, also known as DRS. According to the Fielding Bible website, DRS “indicates how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position.”
DRS Leaders Among Outfielders – 2018 Season—Entering Sunday
- Harrison Bader – 14
- Brett Gardner – 13
- Adam Duvall – 13
- Delino DeShields – 12
- Lorenzo Cain – 11
- Jacoby Jones – 11
DeShields has the fourth-most defensive runs saved among outfielders this season. He’s the anchor in a Rangers’ outfield that statistically is average at best. Their outfield has a -2 DRS rating in 2018, which is tied with the Tigers for 15th in the majors. Yes, you read that right. DeShields has a DRS of 11 this season, but the Texas outfield as a group (which includes DeShields) is at -2.
He hasn’t always been proficient at saving runs. In DeShields’ rookie season of 2015, his DRS was at -9! It’s steadily improved over the course of his major league career. He had 0 DRS in 2016 and a DRS of 7 in 2017.
Another metric used to calculate defense is Outs Above Average, also known as OAA. According to Statcast, OAA is “a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them.”
OAA Leaders – 2018 Season—entering Sunday
- Delino DeShields – 12
- Adam Engel – 10
- Michael A. Taylor – 9
- Harrison Bader – 9
- Ender Inciarte – 9
- Lorenzo Cain – 9
- Billy Hamilton – 9
- Adam Duvall – 9
So, DeShields leads the majors in this category. That’s likely due to the amount of five Star and four Star catches he’s made. Five Star plays are catches made that have a 0-25 percent catch probability. Four Star plays are catches made that have a 26-50 percent catch probability. Entering Sunday, DeShields was tied with Billy Hamilton for the major league lead in five Star catches with four. The Rangers’ outfielder also led the majors with eight Four Star catches.
You might be wondering what my point is. I believe fans should take the opportunity to appreciate all aspects and leaders in Major League Baseball. Our eyes are immediately drawn to offensive feats. But, maybe—just maybe—fans should remember that defense wins championships. If the rebuilding Rangers hope to win their first World Series title someday, they’ll need a player like DeShields leading the charge.
Most fans are wondering if the New York Yankees will break the major league record for home runs in a single season. The Bronx Bombers are looking the challenge the record held by the 1997 Mariners, who hit 264 home runs.
However, there was a new home run record set on Sunday—and another that may be set later this season.
The Oakland Athletics set a new MLB record on Sunday by homering in their 25th consecutive road game. Entering play on Sunday, they were tied with the 1996 Orioles—a club that featured stars like Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar and Brady Anderson—for the record.
The Athletics lead the majors with season with 68 road home runs—following the record breaking homer by Mark Cahna in the fifth inning of Sunday’s contest.
Most Road Home Runs by a Team – 2018 Season—Entering Sunday
- Oakland Athletics – 67*
- Boston Red Sox – 57
- St. Louis Cardinals – 56
- New York Yankees – 55
- Houston Astros – 55
*This is prior to Canha’s record breaking homer on Sunday.
Entering Sunday, the Athletics had ten more road home runs than any other team in the majors! You might be wondering what these numbers mean. Are the Athletics on pace for anything historic when it comes to homering on the road? The short answer is….
Oakland is on pace for approximately 145 home runs on the road this season, which would set a new major league record.
Most Road Home Runs by a Team – Single Season—MLB History
Team – HR – Year
- San Francisco Giants – 138 – 2001
- Baltimore Orioles – 136 – 1996
- Seattle Mariners – 133 – 1997
- Oakland Athletics – 130 – 1996
- New York Yankees – 128 – 1961
Homering on the road is nothing new for the A’s. Since the start of 2010, Oakland has had six seasons in which they hit more home runs on the road than they did it home. Normally, you’d think there’d be a home field advantage when it comes to hitting home runs, but that’s not the case at the Oakland Coliseum—the specious ballpark where the Athletics call home.
You might remember that in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the main character Dorothy uttered the phrase, “There is no place like home.”
For the 2018 Athletics, there is no place like the road.