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Texas Rangers Series Preview: Back where it all started

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Things started poorly for the Rangers this year and, well, they’re still going poorly.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

When the season started nearly three months ago, the Royals played a familiar foe, their spring training partner, the Texas Rangers. At the time, there was hope in the air in Kansas City, but the Rangers were widely considered to be one of the three or four worst teams in baseball. We know how the opening series went and the Rangers are one of the three or four worst teams in baseball, so at least that part of the equation has come true. It hasn’t been bad all season, though. After their 36th game, they reached .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 in early April. But since then, they’re 9-30. That’s, uh, not great.

They don’t really score much. They have three above average hitters by wRC+ and one of them (Nate Lowe) has been in a downward spiral for awhile. It’s not that they’re not dangerous at times because they do have players with power, but they just haven’t really gotten enough out of their offense to be dangerous. Even Joey Gallo, who has had a nice season hasn’t been what we saw from him a couple of years ago. Where they’d be without rookie sensation Adolis Garcia is anyone’s guess, and one question the Rangers are happy to not have to answer. On the pitching side, they’re led by a surprise ace, but I’ll get to him because he’ll pitch in this series. In the bullpen, they’re led by Ian Kennedy, who is having a really nice season. But they have a lot of holes in the pitching staff as well.

Royals vs. Rangers Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Rangers
Category Royals Rangers
Winning % .452 .360
Team wRC+ 91 88
Team xFIP 4.43 4.28
Run Differential -47 -72
H2H Wins 2 1
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield and Danny Duffy, 1.7 Joey Gallo, 2.1

Rangers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS 323 .276 .311 .395 3.4% 16.4% 94 1.8
Nate Lowe 1B 310 .252 .352 .398 12.9% 26.5% 112 0.7
Adolis Garcia CF 267 .272 .303 .543 4.1% 30.0% 129 1.9
Joey Gallo RF 296 .217 .378 .409 19.6% 31.4% 125 2.1
Eli White LF 110 .212 .291 .354 8.2% 29.1% 81 0.0
Willie Calhoun DH 225 .254 .320 .385 8.4% 12.0% 97 -0.1
Nick Solak 2B 306 .226 .301 .365 5.9% 25.8% 87 0.6
Brock Holt 3B 128 .232 .328 .321 11.7% 18.8% 87 0.0
Jose Trevino C 169 .231 .246 .306 2.4% 20.1% 50 0.1

Rangers Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jonah Heim C 102 .204 .257 .366 6.9% 18.6% 70 0.5
Andy Ibañez INF 35 .156 .200 .281 5.7% 14.3% 30 -0.2
Charlie Culberson INF/OF 154 .223 .285 .360 7.1% 26.0% 77 0.3

Rangers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Ian Kennedy 24 24.1 0 0 28.1% 7.3% 2.59 3.76 0.3
Joely Rodriguez 23 21.1 1 3 23.4% 5.3% 5.91 2.46 0.3
Brett Martin 30 29.1 2 2 18.9% 6.3% 2.76 3.91 0.3

Probable Starting Pitchers

June 25 - Mike Minor vs. Dane Dunning, 7:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 15 86.1 6 4 25.8% 7.0% 4.48 4.03 1.4
Dane Dunning 14 65.0 2 6 24.8% 8.0% 4.71 3.39 1.4

I thought the move for the Rangers to get Dane Dunning from the White Sox in exchange for one year of Lance Lynn was a great one. And while Dunning hasn’t been great this season, he also hasn’t been bad by any stretch. He’s struck out more, walked fewer and has given up fewer home runs this season, but he’s been much easier to hit. Some of that might be that he’s been in the strike zone a fair amount more than last season and he’s definitely throwing way more first pitch strikes than last season. He doesn’t throw hard. HIs sinker is his number one pitch that he throws more than half the time and it only averages 90.5 MPH. It’s gotten hit a bit. His slider is really good, though, with a 39.2 percent whiff percentage and .254 average allowed. He also throws a changeup, cutter and curve. Dunning has a 7.45 ERA on the road and a 2.50 ERA at home. Unfortunately for the Royals, this game is in Dunning’s home park. He’s been rough the first time through the order with a .922 OPS allowed, but that drops below .700 for both the second and third time, so the Royals better lock in early.

Mike Minor gets the chance to pitch against the team that believed in him enough to give him a three-year deal to be a starter when he left the Royals after 2017. And he rewarded them for a couple seasons before his tough 2020 that ended with him on the A’s. He started his season in a bad way, averaging just a touch more than five innings per start with a 5.75 ERA. Since then, though, while it hasn’t been perfect, it’s been pretty darn good. He’s 4-2 with a 3.58 ERA and is averaging more than six innings per start with 55 strikeouts and just 10 walks. He will give up the occasional home run, but this is exactly the guy the Royals thought they were getting.

June 26 - TBD vs. Kyle Gibson, 3:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
TBD -- -- -- -- --% --% -- -- --
Kyle Gibson 14 83.0 5 0 19.3% 7.6% 2.17 4.10 1.5

If you remember back to Opening Day after the Rangers took a 5-0 lead in the top of the first, Kyle Gibson took the mound and was only able to get one out. He gave up five runs of his own and had a 135.00 ERA after this one appearance. He walked three batters and struck out just the one in that game. Then he didn’t give up more than two runs the rest of the month and finished April with a 2.16 ERA. He only gave up more than two runs one time total since that first start of the season, so it’s safe to say he has turned his season around. What he doesn’t do is strike guys out. But what he does do is get guys to make weak contact. It’s kind of a 2020 Brad Keller-ish profile really. Weirdly, considering how he started his season, he’s actually been dominant the first time through and only really good the next couple times, so the Royals might have to wait him out.

My guess here is that the Royals go with an opener and Kris Bubic as a bulk guy after Bubic went 2.1 perfect innings against the Yankees on Tuesday evening. I wonder if that was the plan all along and that’s why Bubic was pulled without throwing too terribly much since this game is going to be on three days rest for him. We’ll update here when we find out who’s starting this game.

June 27 - Brady Singer vs. Jordan Lyles, 1:35pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 15 71.2 3 5 23.3% 9.2% 4.77 4.09 1.2
Jordan Lyles 15 77.1 2 5 18.5% 7.9% 5.47 4.92 -0.1

Coming off a nice stint with the Brewers, the Rangers gave Jordan Lyles a two-year deal. He’s thanked them with a 6.13 ERA over 135 innings. This season has been a little better than that, but he gives up a ton of hits and a ton of home runs without getting enough strikeouts to complement the walks. He’s mostly a fastball/slider/curve pitcher with his fastball sitting 92-93 but a pitch he’s allowed a .655 SLG on. His slider and curve are a little better, but not really enough to matter. He doesn’t throw a ton of strikes, and unsurprisingly doesn’t throw a ton of first pitch strikes. A good strategy on Lyles is to let him fall behind in the count as he allows a .321 average and .619 SLG when he’s behind in the count. He’s also fared much better against lefties than righties, which is good for a Royals team light on lefty bats with Andrew Benintendi and Adalberto Mondesi out.

It’s been some kind of adventure for Brady Singer lately. He’s had some okay starts, some bad starts and some good starts, but his last two have been short. He looked really good against the Tigers, but only threw three innings due to a shoulder issue. Against the Yankees, he was up and down throughout the game. He eventually found his slider, but just couldn’t find the strike zone and ended up walking five in 3.2 innings. The Rangers don’t have the patience of the Yankees, but he’s already struggled against them this season, so hopefully he can find the zone and his slider quickly and get deep into this game.

Prediction

The Royals aren’t exactly playing well, but the Rangers aren’t exactly good. I don’t know why I think this, but I think the Royals can win this series by taking two out of three. And no, I don’t feel confident in that.

Poll

Can the Royals beat the Rangers?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Yep. Three times, in fact.
    (12 votes)
  • 57%
    They can win a series.
    (44 votes)
  • 20%
    Yes, but only once.
    (16 votes)
  • 6%
    Nope, not even once.
    (5 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now