The Texas Rangers are on a roll. They won Game 3 of their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates today, solidifying their hold on first place in the American League West. Houston is chasing hard, but Texas isn’t letting them catch up.
Texas: 31 wins, 18 losses / .633 winning percentage
Houston: 28 wins, 21 losses / .571 winning percentage
Just a year ago, the Texans were a team that couldn’t even break .500 (68 wins, 94 losses). In 2021, they lost 102 games, the third-most in single-season team history. This year’s showing is nothing short of a metamorphosis.
Last winter, Texas spent over $250 million on the mound alone. They brought in a starting trio of Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, and Andrew Heaney to shore up a weakness that ranked 25th in starting ERA (4.63) last year. In fact, Texas ranks third overall with a 3.25 starting ERA. That’s largely due to the play of Iboldi, who picked up his second complete game of the season yesterday.메이저사이트
Iboldi’s last five starts
9.0 innings, 0 runs
8.0 innings, 0 runs
0 runs in 8.2 innings
7.0 innings, 3 runs
1 run in 9.0 innings
*4 wins, ERA 0.86 (4 runs in 41.2 innings)
Texas’ high-flying starters aren’t the only reason for their success, though – their offence is exploding. They are the only team in the majors to average more than six runs per game. They’re averaging 6.33 runs in 49 games. Their 12 double-digit scoring games are also the most in the majors. This is a team where if the pitchers take away runs, the hitters take away more runs.
Texas is characterised by all of its hitters leading the offence. For starters, the “$500 million duo” of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager are a formidable table-setter. Simeon leads the American League in wins above replacement (2.5) on FanGraphs.com. Seager, who returned from a hamstring injury last week, is third in OPS among American League hitters with 70 or more plate appearances (1.009).
Centre fielder Adolis Garcia leads the majors in RBIs, while Jonah Heim has grown from a defensive catcher to an offensive catcher (.273 with six homers). Rookie Josh Young is one of the favourites for American League Rookie of the Year (.273 with 11 home runs). Four of the top 10 players in the league in runs scored and four of the top 10 in RBIs are also Texans.
- Simeon: 45 runs scored
- Garcia: 41 RBI
- Lowe: 37 RBI
- Young: 33 RBI
- Garcia: 49 RBIs
- Simeon: 40 RBIs
- Young: 34 RBI
- Haim: 33
Simeon and Seager are proven players. Despite their disappointing first year in Texas, they are not players to worry about. “Last year, I felt a lot of pressure to step up and take on a leadership role,” Simeon said before the season.
The arrival of these two players added to the weight of the batting line-up. But it’s amazing how the quality of most of the players has risen. It’s a change that can only be seen with a broader view. In the meantime, Texas has not only changed its roster, but also its coaching staff.
In November 2021, Texas hired Tim Heiers as their new hitting coach. A former hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox, Heiers was known for his ability to find the right launch angle for hitters. The move from Boston to Texas wasn’t a result of poor performance either. In 2021, Boston averaged 5.12 runs per game (fourth). Their team batting average (.261) and team OPS (.777) were third overall.
Hoyas helped hitters differentiate pitches better. This led to a significant improvement in their ability to handle breaking balls. From 2018-21, when Hoyas was in Boston, the Rangers ranked first in the league in batting average against breaking balls, at .242, while Texas ranked just 26th in the same period. This year, in Hoyas’ second year in Texas, the Rangers ranked second in the league in batting average against breaking balls.
Team batting average against breaking balls
0.263 – Tampa Bay
0.262 – Texas
0.247 – Angels
0.236 – Dodgers
*Includes sliders & curves & sweepers
The player who has benefited the most is Garcia. His performance against breaking balls has improved tremendously from last season. His batting average went from .201 to .271, and his on-base percentage jumped from .379 to .543. Garcia became an even more threatening hitter as he tolerated pitches out of the zone and only swung at pitches he should have swung at. The change in approach is evident in his chase rate, which has dropped from 37.3 percent of pitches in the zone last year to 27.8 percent this year.
There’s one more leader who’s made an impact on hitters. Texas hired San Francisco Giants hitting coach Donnie Ecker as a bench coach shortly before bringing in Hoyas. Ecker, who also serves as the hitting coordinator, is the man who, along with Hoyas, drew the blueprint for the Texas offence.
Ecker rose to prominence after San Francisco’s success in 2021. The Giants saw Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford rebound and Donovan Solano, Ramonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruff exceed expectations. It was a similar situation with Texas this year.
That year, San Francisco took the unusual step of having three hitting coaches, each reinforcing a different area of expertise. Ecker was the one who stood out the most in this process. Baseball America named Ecker its 2021 Coach of the Year, signalling the upward trajectory of the San Francisco bats.
Ecker is now in charge of game management in Texas. He emphasises the importance of having a good game-planning model. “As a coach, you have to play the game before you call the game,” he said in an interview with a media outlet. While Hoyas is in charge of hitting mechanics, Ecker helps ensure that the skills translate to the game. “If identifying a player’s strengths is step one, step two is to see where they can improve the team. I once used the analogy that you can’t find a polar bear in Africa, no matter how good you are at what you do.”
Similarly, the improvement of the Texas batting lineup this year is due to both the visible and invisible.