An optimist looks at this season as thank goodness it’s half over.
A pessimist looks at this season as there’s still another half left to play.
Any way you look at the 2021 Rangers season, it’s mostly forgettable. But, as of yesterday’s game, the Rangers reached the halfway point. Eighty-one games played. Eighty-one more games to be played.
The good thing is, they are playing the best baseball of the season right now. How long that will last is anybody’s guess. And they are way too far in the hole to have even the wildest expectations of anything but last-place. Still, winning is winning. And it’s so much more fun to watch a bad team win than it is a bad team lose.
On the offensive side, the Rangers have three hitters producing above league average.
The rumors of Nate Lowe’s demise are greatly exaggerated. He, Joey Gallo, and Adolis Garcia are the offensive stars of the first half. Lowe hit two home runs yesterday to drive his OPS+ to 116. Adolis Garcia has been the biggest success story of the Rangers season. He hit the ground hitting and, except for one brief respite, has been hitting and hitting and hitting. At the halfway mark, he checks in with 20 home runs, 55 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 125. Then there’s Joey Gallo, the most enigmatic hitter in baseball. He closes out the first half of 2021 by hitting seven home runs in the last five games, giving him 20 homers as well. With all his walks, his on-base percentage is close to .400, at .396, and his OPS+ is 145.
The rest of the Rangers position players fall into that interchangeable drill bit category. You could get about the same performance from just about any average major league player. It’s been popular to think the Rangers solved shortstop with Isiah Kiner-Falefa but his offense is below average. He is among the league leaders in hits, yes. But he also has the most at-bats. And his on-base percentage is pretty mediocre for someone who is considered a lock in the lineup. His OPS+ is 88, meaning offensively he is 12 percent below league average. Plus, he has the second most errors at shortstop.
Everyone else is still a work in progress, too. More work than progress.
Offensively, the Rangers rank 14 out of 15 American League teams with a .689 OPS (only Seattle is worse) and 10 out of 15 in batting average,
On the pitching side, it’s Kyle Gibson and then a whole lot of finger crossing. Yes, at times different starters have had their moments. But that’s the very definition of inconsistency. Great at times. Bad more often than not. Kolby Allard is making a legitimate bid for the rotation. Dane Dunning is trying to find his sea legs. Jordan Lyles is what Jordan Lyles has always been. A mop up guy. Mike Foltynewicz is what Mike Foltynewicz has always been. A 5.00 ERA pitcher who had one great season.
The Rangers rotation ranks ninth in the A.L. in rotation, with a 4.51 ERA. The bullpen is tenth, at 4.54.
The Rangers head into the second 81 with a head of steam, though, having done a very rare thing in winning a series in Oakland. And having won seven of their last ten. They head to Seattle, where they haven’t had a lot of success either. They salvaged their June, going 9-16, a .360 winning percentage. Not great. But considering where they were headed, a heck of a lot less embarrassing.
Let the second half begin. Even if it’s as bad as the first half, bad baseball is better than no baseball. And with a strike or lockout almost certain to delay the beginning of next season, there might be no baseball for a long while after this season is over.