Texas Rangers: Hello Wrigley; scoring woes; bullpen delight

Texas Rangers Ian Kinsler wraps up batting practice with a smile.
Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler is all smiles after a fast start. (Max Faulkner/Star-Telegram)

The Texas Rangers are 8-5 after splitting a four game series over the weekend against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. The team continues its seven-game road trip Tuesday in Chicago as the Rangers make their first appearance at nostalgic Wrigley Field since 2002. The only other venue the Texas Rangers have not played in the last 10 years is Dodger Stadium. As an admirer of both the Texas Rangers and baseball history, seeing them play in one of the game’s hallowed grounds is pretty cool.

Without interleague play, a Texas Rangers visit to Wrigley Field would not be possible. I realize baseball purists feel interleague play spits on the glorious tradition of baseball’s past, but those same purists probably didn’t have to watch their team play at venues like Tropicana Field very often. Interleague play is great for the sport, and with 15 teams residing in both leagues, at least one interleague series is underway daily. With perpetual interleague play, the purists might want to brace themselves for the next supposed radical change, the designated hitter in the National League.

A few other ramblings on the Texas Rangers as they head into Wrigley …

Offense not scoring much. The Texas Rangers offense is perceived by many to be off to a rather slow start, generating 49 runs in the first 13 games of the year, good for 19th overall. While I have read many indignant, knee-jerk reactions on Twitter about how the offense is failing to produce, the Texas Rangers team line of .251/.321/.398 is right on par with the MLB average of .252/.319/.400. The 49 runs scored are slightly below the 54 runs scored average, but the offense will begin to score more runs at some point. Also, the formidable Los Angeles Angels lineup, featuring three of the game’s premier hitters, has scored less runs than Texas.

Two of the Texas Rangers’ more consistent hitters, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, are off to slow starts with lines of .220/.304/.300 and .224/.283/.327 respectively. However, when you further inspect the numbers, it’s easy to see that Andrus and Beltre’s numbers will begin to improve.

Andrus has hit line drives 32.6 percent of the time, indicating Andrus has been making solid contact the majority of his plate appearances. However, Andrus’ BABIP is currently .256. What is happening is Andrus is hitting the ball hard, but right at defenders. If Andrus continues to crush the baseball like he has been, the ball will begin to find holes at some point, and Andrus’ numbers will increase dramatically.

Beltre has hit line drives 20.5 percent of the time, but he still possesses a weak BABIP of .233. Beltre has not yielded a BABIP lower than .253 since 1998, a year he played in only 77 games as a 19-year-old.

The Texas Rangers’ difficulty in scoring runs is an incredibly small sample so far. Once Andrus and Beltre’s numbers begin to average out, the offense will score runs in bunches.

Murphy struggling. David Murphy is one of the other Texas Rangers off to a slow start, as his .160/.208/.280 line indicates. More is expected out of Murphy after his career year in 2012 where he produced a rWAR of 3.5 in his first full season as the starting left fielder.

Murphy’s outburst last season was aided by an incredulous .433 BABIP against left-handed pitching, which Murphy has hit poorly in the past. So, a regression to the mean was somewhat expected as the .433 BABIP could easily drop over 100 points. Murphy will not yield a 124 OPS+ or slug .479 like he did in ’12, but his numbers will also improve from what they currently are. Fans just cannot expect the same type of production as Murphy’s spectacular ’12 season. Like Andrus and Beltre, Murphy’s numbers will begin to improve. Patience is a virtue. It’s early, and despite the offensive trouble, the team still possesses the third-best record in the American League.

Darvish pushed back. Yu Darvish’s next scheduled start has been pushed back to Friday for precautionary measures due to what is described as a skin irritation on his right ring finger. Darvish developed what is described as cracked skin during his masterful, near-perfect game on April 2 in Houston. Darvish once again failed to defeat the apparently indomitable Seattle Mariners this past Friday, a game in which Darvish relied heavily on his slider after he failed to locate his fast ball early on.

The Texas Rangers want to be careful of the situation as starting pitcher Matt Harrison is already out for a while due to lower-back problems, and Martin Perez and Colby Lewis are not expected back until sometime in late May. The rotation could ill afford to be without Darvish for an extended period.

Kinsler playing well early. I realize the sample is diminutive, but Ian Kinsler has played fantastic baseball so far and is currently third in MLB with a rWAR of 0.9. Yes, I realize bringing up the rWAR statistic through two weeks is ridiculous since Coco Crisp, Francisco Cervelli, and Vernon Wells are currently in the top five in the rWAR category. However, my point is Kinsler, after having a subpar ’12, is rather under-appreciated due to how often he infuriates fans with his perfunctory body language after popping up balls to shortstop. While Kinsler’s play might be exasperating at times, there are not many second basemen who are near as talented as Kinsler. While fans are in a rush to move Kinsler to another position to make room for mega prospect Jurickson Profar, realize Profar would not be playing the type of superb baseball Kinsler currently is.

Smitten by bullpen. I try to remain unbiased, but I absolutely love how the Texas Rangers have built their current bullpen with young, cost-effective arms developed in the organization, such as Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Ortiz.

Constructing a bullpen can be one of the more difficult jobs a general manager has, but Jon Daniels has proven time and time again to be astute at it. Signing back-of-the-bullpen pitchers, such as Jonathan Broxton and Rafael Soriano, to lucrative contracts to pitch a small amount of innings can be foolish, especially when teams develop more affordable pitchers in their own system who can pitch just as effectively. While Daniels has signed bullpen pieces such as Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria, the contracts are much more affordable, which allows the Texas Rangers to spend money in other areas.

For an infinite amount of baseball wisdom, follow me on Twitter @DustinDietz18 , or email me at ddietz2004@yahoo.com

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