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Rangers Series Preview: Deep in the heart of Texas

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How has this team fallen so far, so fast?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was just four years ago the Texas Rangers were in the World Series, flush with cash to spend on players, and blessed with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball. Even as recently as 2013, they were a 91-win team. Suddenly, they have become a disaster of an organization, a 95-loss team ravaged by injuries last season, and 13-18 team so far this year, with very little depth and a rag-tag roster filled with players that seemingly should be toiling in the Pacific Coast League.

How has this happened? Injuries have taken their toll. Texas currently has eight players on the 60-day disabled list including key players like Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Nick Tepesch, Mitch Moreland, and Jurickson Profar. The team has also been burned by some large contracts. Darvish, effective when healthy, has made just 22 starts since Opening Day of 2014. Shin-Soo Choo, signed to a $130 million deal in 2014, has been replacement level for Texas. Shortstop Elvis Andrus,  who signed an eight-year $120 million contract extension in 2013, has been barely above replacement level the last year.

Texas has long been known to play in an environment where runs are plentiful, but they are just eleventh in runs scored this year. They are dead-last in batting average, third-worst at on-base percentage, and second-worst at slugging percentage. The Rangers have the second highest fly-ball rate in the league, but the second-lowest flyball-to-home run rate, and have hit just one more home run than the Royals as a team. They also strike out quite frequently, with the fourth-highest rate in the league.

Former Royals outfielder Carlos Peguero has gotten off to a terrific start fro the Rangers, but veterans like Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo have failed to hit. Former top prospect Roughned Odor has gotten off to a disastrous start, and has been benched the last week in favor of waiver-wire pickup Adam Rosales. Delino DeShields, son of the former big leaguer of the same name, is a Rule 5 pickup from Houston.

The Rangers are a poor fielding team, with the third-worst Defensive Runs Saved in the league at -12. Adrian Beltre is still one of the best-fielding third basemen in the league and old friend Carlos Peguero has been surprisingly good in the field despite a poor reputation, but the team has been hurt by guys like Jake Smolinski, Delino Deshields, Ryan Rua, and Kyle Blanks playing the field.

Rangers starting pitchers have gotten off to a good start with the fourth-best ERA, but with the fifth-worst FIP. They have the fifth-worst strikeout rate and the fifth-worst walk rate. With three-fifths of the expected rotation on the disabled list, they have had to rely on minor league free agent Wandy Rodriguez,  swingman and Missouri State grad Ross Detwiler, and rookie Nick Martinez. Martinez has a 1.47 ERA over his six starts, but has given up four unearned runs and has an awful strikeout-to-walk ratio of 15-to-9.

The Rangers bullpen has been quite awful, with a 4.55 ERA, the second-worst in the league. Former starting pitcher Neftali Feliz can still strike hitters out, but has become quite hittable and has converted just five of seven save opportunities this year. The rest of the pen is made up of replacement level talent claimed off waivers (Stolmy Pimentel, Shawn Tolleson), signed as an unheralded free agent (Anthony Bass) or acquired in minor trades (former Royals farmhand Spencer Patton).

The Royals took five of six from the Rangers last year, and with the Rangers stumbling again under new manager Jeff Banister, the time is ripe to take advantage of this franchise while its down. The boys may be tired after taking the red-eye from Detroit last night, but good teams typically beat down the bad teams, and the Rangers still look like a very bad team.