ARLINGTON (105.3 THE FAN) — These are the rules that define the play of the 2013 Texas Rangers. One thing’s for certain – this isn’t your dad’s Ranger team.
Beware Yu’s Slider
Perhaps this number can shed some light on why Yu Darvish is so prone to lean on his breaking stuff when his fastball is so electric. 0.148 – That’s the opponents batting average this season against Yu’s slider. Here’s how his pitching breaks down this season :
1541 fastballs (4-seam, 2-seam, cutters). 1044 sliders. 85 split-finger fastballs. 79 curveballs. 1 changeup.
He’s throwing his fastballs about 60% of the time, and his slider 39%. However, batters are hitting nearly 80 points lower against his slide piece. Perhaps that’s why — despite it’s less frequent use — his slider is the pitch he’s used to record 145 of his 225 strikeouts (60%).
In the 20 games since Nelson Cruz was suspended for the remainder of the season, the Rangers have had an explosion of aggressiveness on the bases led by Elvis Andrus (10 SBs) and Leonys Martin (9). If they were to keep up that pace over the course of the season, they would be on pace for 85 and 77 stolen bases, respectively.
Add in Alex Rios and his 4 steals in the 15 games he’s played with Texas, and you’ve got a potential lineup with 3 of the top 7 base stealers in the American League. Only 1 team in the AL has more than the Rangers 103 steals – the Royals with 115. Considering that nearly 25% of the Rangers total has come in the past 20 games – I’d say they have a good shot to be the league leaders by season’s end.
Don’t Try to Stretch It
The Rangers are 1 of just 4 teams in the majors that have 4 outfielders with 5+ assists (KC, ARI, MIN are the others). Between Rios and Leonys, Texas has the highest total of outfield assists of any duo in professional baseball.
Couple those two’s speed in addition to that of 4th outfielder Craig Gentry, and you’ve got an outfield that’s forcing players to guess on the base paths. Not only do baserunners have to make sure the ball gets down, they also have to make sure they’ve got enough leeway to advance to the next base. More and more frequently, they don’t.
Beltre the Beast
It’s time to give Adrian Beltre his due. He’s on pace for his 3rd straight 30+ HR season, and his 4th straight 100 RBI season. But in a world where it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately’, opponents are deciding that Beltre is not the guy they want to do it them.
Since the beginning of July, Beltre has been red-hot – he’s batting .380 with 13 HRs and 37 RBI with a 23/14 Walk to K ratio. But teams are figuring that out too, as evident by his 8 intentional walks in that time frame. He had just 2 in the 3 months prior. As good as Leonys and Elvis have been on the base paths, Beltre still remains the key to making this thing go. In Rangers wins this season, he’s batting .397. In losses? Just .227.
You know he sacrifices a lot, but did you know that this season’s sacrifice hits leader Elvis Andrus has actually been the league leader in sacrifices in 2 of the last 3 seasons as well? It may not be the popular opinion to have players sacrificing hits, but it’s the way Ron Washington has decided to operate his ball club. It’s certainly difficult to argue with the results, as evident by the suicide squeeze from Elvis Andrus just a week ago that turned out to be a critical run in a 5-4 Rangers win over Houston.
Wash is playing Wash ball, and that’s an approach that can be very valuable in tight postseason games.
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