After Day One of the winter meetings, a lot of possibilities were tossed around but no triggers were actually pulled by the Rangers.
It’s easy as a fan to get restless and to wonder when they are going to get on with the business of making this a better team for 2016. One thing that seems to be forgotten is that this team won the West in 2015.
Why does it seem like it didn’t? Why does this seem like a team with far too many imperfections?
But one question seems to pop up over and over again: Did the Rangers win the West or did the Astros lose it?
Were the Rangers a fluke?
That’s impossible to say. But I would say they were in the right place at the right time. Their eighty-eight wins were the lowest of any division winner. In fact, if the Rangers were in the National League, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs at all. They would have finished twelve games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, and in fourth place.
In the last ten years, there have been sixty division winners, and only six won their division with as few as eighty-eight wins: the 2012 Detroit Tigers with eighty-eight, the 2009 Minnesota Twins with eighty-seven, the 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers with eighty-four, the 2007 Chicago Cubs with eighty-five, the 2006 Saint Louis Cardinals with eighty-three, and the 2006 San Diego Padres with eighty-eight.
In fact, the last AL West team to win the division with fewer than ninety wins was the Rangers in 1998, also, like this season, with eighty-eight.
So the fact remains, the Rangers were indeed in the right place at the right time. Which begs the question: how much better do the Rangers have to get in 2016 in order to win the division again?
Where do they have to improve in order to ensure they make it past the first-round of the playoffs, assuming they make it that far?
Now that the top free-agent pitchers are off the list, it seems their priority is re-signing Colby Lewis. The same fluke question that was asked about the Rangers in 2015 could be asked about Lewis. He had the fifth-most wins in the American League, yet finished thirtieth in the American League in ERA. It seems extremely safe to bet his win total will decline dramatically and his ERA will raise in 2016.
So as the Rangers plug holes for 2016, the biggest hole they have to plug is in their perception. It was a team that picked the right time to be in the AL West.