The Running Game (Or Lack Thereof)
Texas Rangers fan that I am, I cheer my guys on through thick and thin. Many a time, I get my brains twisted all out of sorts when I read fellow Rangers fans who are overly critical of the moves Ron Washington makes, the failures at the plate of Michael Young and the like.
This does not make me immune from criticizing my favorite team. I’ve taken my own shots here in this corner of the Internet universe, including but not necessarily inclusive of: wanting less playing time for Michael Young; the two-month disappearance of Josh Hamilton‘s offense; Scott Feldman‘s pitching; and Ian Kinsler‘s defense.
After splitting the first two games of their four game set with the second-place Oakland A’s, I could easily choose to go after the moribund Rangers offense, which has managed all of two hits with runners in scoring position over the past five games. But I won’t. I will temporarily give credit to the pitching staffs of the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s here. Both teams have good pitching and even the best offenses will struggle against good pitching.
What is more unforgivable in my book is the nature of the Rangers’ running game throughout the 2012 season, both offensively and defensively. If Texas doesn’t make it back to the Fall Classic, I will put a lot of the blame on this category.
Defensively, Texas is ahead of only Minnesota in the percentage of runners caught stealing at a mere 20%. Rangers catchers have only nailed 17 runners attempting to steal all season, while allowing 103 to swipe a base successfully. A years ago, that figure was 35% caught stealing and only 85 successful steals. With eight games to go in the regular season, that means the Rangers have already given up 18 bases more in 2012 than a season ago.
As for the offense, the figures are even worse. A year ago, Texas swiped 143 bases on the year and were caught 45 times, a success rate of 76%. This year? Only 90 steals while being caught 44 times, a 67% success rate. Rangers runners have been caught just one time less than a year ago, while stealing 53 less bases! A year ago, Rangers baserunners were picked off base 22 times. This year, 28 pick-offs, including three times in the last two games against the A’s.
Elvis Andrus: 5 picks and 37 steals in 2011, 8 pick-offs and only 20 steals in 2012. Ian Kinsler: 30 steals and 7 pick-offs in 2011, 21 and 8 in 2012. Craig Gentry was 18 for 18 in steal attempts and wasn’t picked off once in 2011. This year? Only 13 of 20 stealing while getting picked off three times.
As potent as the Rangers offense has been the past few years, it flat-out hasn’t been as good as it was the past two seasons. Batting average, On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage are all down from a year ago, but no category is as extreme as the base running statistics.
Is this just a case of a team playing just a little more tired because of playing 33 extra games over the past two seasons? Maybe. I’m more inclined to say it’s more mental fatigue than physical. Texas is making more mental errors than I’ve seen them make in years. As much as I want them to go all the way and claim their first World Championship, my fear is these mental errors are going to catch up with them in the post-season this year.
I sure hope I’m wrong.