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Texas Rangers Series Preview: The spring training roommates meet again

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Surprise, Arizona supremacy is on the line this week.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Texas Rangers
Apr 30, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Joey Gallo (13) hits a home run in the eleventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers were 12-8 after beating the Astros on April 21st, and it seems that’ll be the high point in their season as they’ve dropped down to where most projected them to be before the season. After a four-game sweep in Houston where they were outscored 33-11, they’ve hit a season-low four games under .500. They have a pretty good offense, led by Joey Gallo and the most surprising good player this year, Hunter Pence, but their pitching staff is just not good enough to get them anywhere. Outside of Mike Minor (yes, that Mike Minor), the pitching staff has been a revolving door of struggle. It’s not that there isn’t talent there, but it just hasn’t been good at all, and thus we see a struggling team at the bottom of their division.

Meet the Rangers

Royals vs. Rangers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Rangers
Category Royals Rangers
Winning % .341 .447
Team wRC+ 95 101
Team xFIP 4.64 5.06
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 1.9 Joey Gallo, 1.6

Rangers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Shin-Soo Choo LF 161 .295 .391 .489 12.4% 23.0% 132 0.7
Elvis Andrus SS 165 .327 .376 .516 6.1% 17.0% 134 1.6
Nomar Mazara RF 143 .227 .287 .417 4.9% 18.2% 81 -0.1
Joey Gallo CF 148 .248 .399 .615 20.3% 35.8% 156 1.6
Hunter Pence DH 90 .316 .389 .658 11.1% 17.8% 168 1.0
Asdrubal Cabrera 3B 127 .239 .315 .469 10.2% 22.8% 102 0.5
Rougned Odor 2B 105 .137 .212 .253 7.6% 38.1% 18 -0.6
Ronald Guzman 1B 42 .189 .286 .541 11.9% 38.1% 108 0.0
Jeff Mathis C 69 .154 .203 .215 5.8% 29.0% 4 -0.6

Rangers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Isiah Kiner-Falefa C/INF 75 .200 .297 .323 10.7% 24.0% 64 -0.4
Logan Forsythe INF 109 .286 .389 .462 13.8% 23.9% 125 0.7
Danny Santana INF/OF 92 .298 .341 .500 4.3% 29.3% 114 0.7

Rangers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Chris Martin 15 15.1 0 2 27.4% 4.8% 2.93 3.04 0.2
Jose Leclerc 17 15.2 1 1 29.0% 17.1% 6.32 4.89 0.0
Jesse Chavez 17 18.1 0 1 14.6% 7.9% 6.87 5.48 -0.5

Projected Pitching Matchups

Tuesday May 14th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Shelby Miller 7 27.2 1 2 13.9% 15.3% 7.48 6.77 -0.2
Danny Duffy 3 17.2 1 1 16.7% 9.7% 3.06 4.88 0.2

What a weird career it’s been for Shelby Miller. After making just eight starts in two seasons out of nine total appearances, the Rangers took a chance on him. It hasn’t really worked so far. He’s given up a ton of hits, walked more than he’s struck out and hasn’t gotten more than 16 outs in any game to this point. His last start was probably his best of the year, which is concerning for the Royals, but he also gave up two runs in four innings, so if that’s his best start, there’s not much to like. This might be a nice opportunity for a Royals offense that has scored six runs in its last four games. This is a key for every pitcher, but for Miller, getting ahead in the count has been extremely important. Opponents are hitting .194/.216/.194 when he’s ahead in the count, but a robust .387/.600/.839 when he falls behind. He’s throwing a first pitch strike a bit more than half the time, so I would recommend Royals hitters be patient and let a couple pitches go to let him get himself in trouble.

Prior to Danny Duffy’s last start, I was worried that if he pitched the way he did against Tampa Bay against the Astros that he’d find himself in trouble. And then he went out and gave up just two runs on six hits over 6.2 innings. It wasn’t as good a performance as he had against the Rays, but he got the job done. He did only get eight swinging strikes and the Rangers offense can really compete, but I feel a little better about Duffy. Still not great given his velocity and seemingly missing over the middle of the plate too much, but he’s done it against a very good offense once already. The Rangers have struggled against lefties too, hitting .214/.307/.398 vs. .254/.337/.457 against righties, so that’s a good sign.

Wednesday May 15th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 8 53.2 3 3 25.2% 8.1% 2.68 4.16 1.3
Jorge Lopez 8 43.0 0 4 20.3% 8.9% 6.07 4.58 -0.2

The Royals took a risk on Mike Minor after he missed all of 2015. And then he missed all of 2016. He made the club as a reliever and was excellent, even serving as closer toward the end of the season. That led him to a nice three-year deal with the Rangers to work as a starter and after a decent enough year last year, he’s been excellent this season, one of the best pitchers in the American League. While his slider was his money pitch for the Royals and really effective last season, he’s getting it done with his four-seamer and changeup this season. He’s allowed a .148 average on the changeup with a 32.7 percent whiff rate and 31 percent putaway rate. He’s been out of this world good against lefties, but somewhat more hittable against righties, which might bode well for the Royals who feature a fair amount of quality right-handed bats to throw against him. All six homers he’s allowed have been to righties, so the Royals have to feel like they have a shot with Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield.

Jorge Lopez is coming off his worst start of the year. He couldn’t throw strikes, he couldn’t keep the ball out of the yard and he couldn’t get out of the third inning. Now he’s riding a five-game stretch where he’s posted a 7.62 ERA and just a seven percent swinging strike rate. That’s simply not good enough. And the frustrating thing is that he’s been giving it up early in his outings now. At least before, you could count on a few good innings before he fell apart, but over his last couple, it’s been early that’s been the problem. The thing about Lopez is that it all rests on his curve. If it’s good and he’s getting swings and misses, he’s going to be fine. If it’s not, he’s going to struggle to get out of the fifth inning. The Rangers offense being as patient as it is makes me worried he could be in for another long day in this one.

Thursday May 16th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Lance Lynn 8 47.2 4 3 20.9% 8.1% 5.48 4.51 0.9
Homer Bailey 8 41.0 4 3 22.1% 9.3% 4.83 4.00 0.8

After settling for a one-year deal in 2018, Lance Lynn got a three-year deal from the pitching starved Rangers. And it hasn’t gone great with tons of hits allowed and a lot of runs. The underlying numbers don’t paint such a bleak picture as he’s still got a solid strikeout to walk ratio and some pretty decent batted ball numbers, so you wonder if he’s due for at least something of a turnaround. Nobody is going to confuse Lynn with an ace, but he’s a solid enough mid-rotation guy with a good fastball. The issue for him is that his sinker has been more of a stinker with a .415 average allowed and .566 slugging percentage. But again, the underlying numbers say that’s a bit of a fluke. The Royals have never really had any issues with him as he has a lifetime 2-2 record with a 5.13 ERA in seven starts against them. Keep an eye on Alex Gordon, who is 10 for 19 in his career against Lynn (though with just one extra base hit) because he’s clearly seen him well in the past.

Prediction

The Rangers are in free fall, the Royals have been there since about the sixth game of the season, so this has a chance to be either wildly entertaining or brutally bad. I think the Royals are able to take advantage of the Rangers righties and take the series. What about you?

Poll

Who takes the series?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Royals Sweep
    (22 votes)
  • 8%
    Rangers Sweep
    (8 votes)
  • 53%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (49 votes)
  • 14%
    Rangers Win Two of Three
    (13 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now