Well, what can we say about the 2014 Rangers that attempts to put a positive spin on one of the worst seasons in franchise history, not to mention the most disappointing? After all, this was a season of high hopes, wasn’t it? We technically made the playoffs last year, even if it was a wild card playoff, and with a couple of offseason moves (Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, namely) this was supposed to be the year to get us back to the October Classic!
But this was a season that just literally added insult to injury as Ian Kinsler showed his true colors when he walked out the door and David Murphy and Nelson Cruz seem to be having breakout years in their new uniforms. And where was the trade-off for those deficits? Well we got thanked when our high-powered future Hall of Fame first baseman, his backup, our #2 starting pitcher, and the best second-year middle infielder in baseball were all placed on the DL, some for the entire season. What was left when the lights of the ambulances faded from sight was the same left side that has been there all along, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. So if you’ve already jumped ship, I wouldn’t blame you.
After all, these are not the glory boys of 2010 and 2011. Josh Hamilton, Kinsler, Cruz, Murphy, Benji Molina, Mike Napoli, Craig Gentry…all gone. The only remnants of the pitching staff were Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis, all on the DL at the beginning of the season, and Neftali Feliz who just recently got back form AAA as he’s found his arm after surgery. So if you’re the type of baseball fan who gets sentimental with players over teams, this is not the team for you.
Yes, we have Yu Darvish, but even his command has been hit and miss and he was recently placed on the 15-day DL. Besides, what good is one of the best strike-out pitchers in the league when your AAA replacement club can’t put any runs on the board. So where in all this disaster is there something worth holding onto-something that says, “I’m not giving up on this team yet”?
So here is a brief recap of some of the bright spots in the 2014 season.
1. Rougned Odor-The surprise of the season that just keeps on giving is Rougned Odor. In 75 games of his rookie season, “Roogie” has managed to hit .258 with a .297 OBP. While those are not stellar numbers, they are not bad for a rookie. By comparison, Jurickson Profar, whom he replaced, only hit .234 in 85 games with a .308 OBP. Profar’s reputation preceded him, as he was touted by some as the next Elvis and was highly regarded as the number one prospect in baseball. Odor was brought in as a replacement without near the fanfare, and has been a reliable mainstay at second base this season. (Stats from Fangraphs)
2. Kevin Kouzmanoff-Another bright spot in this season was the presence of Kevin Kouzmanoff. While his time was very short-lived he made his presence known. Kouzmanoff was hitting .362 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 13 games since replacing Beltre, who was sidelined earlier in the season with a strained left quad muscle. In addition to his offensive production, Kouz was a lot of fun to watch on defense. (source texasrangers.com
3. Robinson Chirinos-While this hasn’t been a great year for the bats, when the pitching isn’t there, defense is sometimes the difference between a loss and the win column. The biggest defensive surprise of the season has been Robinson Chirinos. “Cheerios”, “Honey Nut” or another derivative of the cereal, as he is often called, has made his presence behind the plate known by becoming one of the best defensive catchers in the league, particularly when it comes to gunning down base stealers. Catcher is such a specialized position that great offensive backstops like Buster Posey or Joe Mauer are the exception to the rule, but at several junctures this season Chirinos has been one of the best at picking off would-be stealers.
4. Neftali Feliz-For the Rangers faithful, Neffy’s return to the mound has been emotional for sure. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, he has spent two years trying to get back to where his former greatness. Prior to injury and subsequent surgery, Feliz was a triple-digit fastballer. He was brought back this year to replace Joakim Soria who was traded mid-season. While it appears the surgery took a few digits off his fastball, Feliz still throws the ball very hard and is finding his way back into his closer role which he filled in back-to-back league championships in 2010 and 2011.
5. The Left Side-While the team on the field right now looks nothing like the team Jon Daniels planned to put on the field before spring training, there are a couple of pieces that have been mainstays for the last four years. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus may arguably be the best tandem between second and third in all of baseball. While Beltre is the anchor of the offense, he is a lot of fun to watch in the field. Elvis is everything you want in a franchise player. While he doesn’t hit for power, he’s a solid bat at the top of the order and consistently delivers day in and day out.
So, yes, the wheels have officially come off of the 2014 season. It has been a record-breaking year for things like position players coming into pitch. But the beauty of baseball is that every April, each team has a perfect record. Hopefully the DL that contains most of our salary will actually be on the field in 2015. Hopefully, JD and Wash can make a few moves in the off season. But there’s plenty of pieces this year to look forward to if they can stick around. And even if that all falls apart, hopefully, we still have that left side.