Let's Go Tribe's American League Preview: Texas Rangers

Jeff Gross

Our look at the Tribe's competition around the American League continues with the Rangers, who missed the playoffs by half a game in 2013.




Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

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Texas Rangers

2013 Record: 91-72 (2nd in AL West), 1-5 vs. Cleveland

730 runs scored (7th of 15 in AL), 636 runs allowed (4th of 15 in AL)

The Rangers reached the ALCS three straight times from 2010 to 2012, and reached the World Series twice during that stretch, so they entered 2013 with high expectations, despite having lost Josh Hamilton. They started off very well, and by mid May they'd built up a 7-game lead in the West. They were still in 1st at the end of June, but the race was much closer, and things were tight over the next couple months. With three and a half weeks left in the season though, they were in 1st, with a 5-game cushion for the final playoff spot. They promptly lost 10 of their next 11, and while they played well over the final week, it was only enough to them into a tie with Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card spot, leading to a play-in game, which they lost.

It was strange to see a Texas team powered by its pitching, but that's what happened. Yu Darvish was a legitimate Cy Young candidate (he finished 2nd), while Alexi Ogando, Matin Perez, and Derek Holland also pitched well. The bullpen was also a real strength, with a 2.91 ERA, second-best in the American League. It was the offense that lagged behind, finishing in the middle of the pack for runs scored, despite playing in a hitters' park, and showing up as below average in park-adjusted metrics, such as wRC+. Adrian Beltre turned in another big year, and Nelson Cruz was hitting well (until his season ended early for a PED suspension), but no one else in the lineup was much above average, and many were below average.

The Rangers probably would have made the playoffs 4 times out of 5 if you replayed the final three weeks over and over, so it wasn't a bad year, but for the first time in a while, it seemed like the lineup needed a little more pop.

Key offseason additions:

Prince Fielder (1B), Shin-Soo Choo (OF), Tommy Hanson (SP), Joe Saunders (SP)

Key offseason departures:

Ian Kinsler (2B), Nelson Cruz (OF), David Murphy (OF), Craig Gentry (OF), Lance Berkman (OF), Matt Garza (SP), Joe Nathan (RP)

2014 Payroll: ~$131 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Geovany Soto

3

1B

Prince Fielder

3

2B

Jurickson Profar

3

3B

Adrian Beltre

5

SS

Elvis Andrus

3

LF

Shin-Soo Choo

3

CF

Leonys Martin

2

RF

Alex Rios

1

DH

Mitch Moreland

1

TOTAL

24

Indian who has killed the Rangers:

Carlos Santana - .311/.385/.563, .948 OPS, 5 HR in 117 PA

Ranger who has killed the Indians:

Elvis Andrus - .371/.448/.510, .958 OPS, 3 HR in 166 PA

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Yu Darvish

6

2

Martin Perez

2

3

Matt Harrison

2

4

Alexi Ogando

2

5

Joe Saunders

1

RP

Bullpen

3

TOTAL

16

2014 Outlook:

Texas had one of the busiest offseasons of any team in baseball, led by the massive trade to bring in Prince Fielder (and most of his not-likely-to-end-well contract), and signing Choo to a big contract. Those moves should ensure that the offense is stronger (as should having Alex Rios for a full season after he was acquired last August). I expect Texas to bounce back to being one of the top five offenses in the American League.

The pitching may be a different story. The departure of Joe Nathan is one reason the bullpen isn't likely to be as strong, while the rotation will be stung by the absence of Derek Holland, who's likely to be out until at least the middle of the season with a knee injury. If Darvish can continue to pitch well, and the rest of the rotation can provide even average production, I like Texas' chances of contending. Oakland (who won the division each of the last two years) is looking at some pitching problems of its own, and I think it will take fewer wins to claim the West than either of the other two AL divisions. It should be a closely contested race, and I think Texas will be right in the thick of it.

PECOTA Projection: 84-78 (3rd in AL West), 745 runs scored, 710 runs allowed

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