When a team has a special season, it, of course, needs good seasons from its stars. Those are the guys you got for this specific reason.
Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, who is having a magical season even by expected standards.
It’s the role players who step up and have career years that put a team over the top. It’s guys like Travis Jankowski.
Heading into this 2023 season, the Rangers offense looked pretty set, except for left field. They went shopping for a left fielder but came up short. The Pirates wanted way too much for Brian Reynolds. The Giants snatched up Michael Conforto after losing out on every other free agent on the planet.
So, the Rangers picked up Robbie Grossman. Maybe he could do it. Or Ezequiel Duran. What about Bubba Thompson?
The last guy anyone would have thought about was Travis Jankowski. The Rangers picked him up for his speed. Maybe he could, occasionally, but useful in a pinch running role. He certainly wasn’t much of a hitter. In 2022, he had an OPS+ of 34, meaning he was about one-third as valuable as an average player. For the record, Rougned Odors worst OPS+ was 66. Last year, Jankowski was half as good as the worst of Odor. In 2020, Jankowski’s OPS+ was -32. The only way to comprehend that is to say, he was horrible.
The best year he ever had was 2021 when it was 96, or just a tick below average.
But the Rangers, for some odd reason, plucked Jankowski off the scrap heap and put his speed on their roster. He stole thirty bases for the Padres in 2016, and twenty-four for them in 2018. He never hit for average. He was never an on-base guy. He was just a really good defender. And fast. Mostly, he got from home plate to the dugout quickly after getting out.
But for magical seasons to happen, you need magical stories like Jankowski’s. Remember Mike Napoli’s 2010 second half? That was unlike anything he had done previously. In fact, in the first half of the season, he scuffled so much he had lost playing time. Then, the cosmic tumblers clicked on his name and the rest is Rangers history.
Same thing is happening to Travis Jankowski. A career .247 hitter is batting .331. A career .656 OPS is putting up an .850 OPS. He already has more RBIs this season, 20, than he’s had in any one season before. He’s almost matched his single-season high in doubles. Jankowski is having his career year.
Last night, his double in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Ranger a little bit of badly needed breathing room in a razor-thin 1-0 game, making it 2-0.
Right now, it seems Jankowski is the Rangers left fielder. Somehow.
Baseball makes no sense. But right now, the baseball gods are smiling upon Travis Jankowski.