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Texas Rangers Series Preview: Lots of money without the results yet

The Rangers opened their checkbook for some big ticket free agents this winter, but it hasn’t translated to success.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a tough go for the Royals this season, but the Rangers spent half a billion dollars on their middle infield this winter and they’ve scored three runs or fewer in 16 of their 27 games. You have to assume at some point that Corey Seager and Marcus Semien are going to start hitting, but until then, it feels like a tough way to spend that kind of money. The best bats on the team have been guys who have mostly come off the bench while their big free agent acquisitions - Seager, Semien and Kole Calhoun - have a 92, 45 and 25 wRC+ respectively. And it’s kind of a huge bummer for them because their pitching has looked much better over the last three weeks or so after a tough start to the season.

Just how good have they been? In their last 15 games, they have a 2.30 ERA with just 83 hits allowed in 133 innings pitched. They still walk too many and don’t strike out enough, but the back of their bullpen is formidable and they have the beginnings of a solid rotation at least with Jack Leiter working his way through the system. I think anyone who follows baseball realized the Rangers didn’t go from zero to hero with their moves, but I have to assume they had hoped for more than 11-16 with everything they did. Good news for them is the Royals are very good at making teams feel better about themselves.

Royals vs. Rangers Matchup Stats

Category Royals Rangers
Category Royals Rangers
Winning % .346 .407
2021 H2H Wins 2 4
Team wRC+ 79 87
Team xFIP 4.38 3.68
Run Differential -44 -3
Highest fWAR Edward Olivares, 0.6 Jonah Heim, 1.0

Rangers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Brad Miller 3B 67 .188 .209 .344 3.0% 26.9% 61 -0.1
Marcus Semien 2B 119 .178 .244 .234 7.6% 20.2% 45 -0.3
Corey Seager SS 114 .231 .289 .356 7.9% 16.7% 92 0.6
Jonah Heim C 50 .341 .460 .634 18.0% 8.0% 226 1.0
Adolis Garcia CF 114 .206 .272 .382 7.0% 28.9% 92 0.3
Kole Calhoun RF 75 .167 .200 .222 2.7% 24.0% 25 -0.6
Nathaniel Lowe 1B 108 .270 .324 .340 7.4% 25.0% 102 0.1
Nick Solak DH 53 .200 .321 .333 9.4% 22.6% 105 0.2
Eli White LF 27 .304 .407 .522 14.8% 29.6% 180 0.7
Andy Ibañez DH 75 .225 .267 .296 5.3% 17.3% 69 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
Sam Huff C 50 .341 .460 .634 18.0% 8.0% 226 1.0
Charlie Culberson INF/OF 33 .233 .281 .267 6.1% 30.3% 67 -0.2
Zach Reks OF 14 .286 .286 .357 0.0% 42.9% 90 -0.1
Andy Ibañez INF 75 .225 .267 .296 5.3% 17.3% 69 0.1

Rangers Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Joe Barlow 9 9.1 1 0 36.1% 5.6% 1.93 2.66 0.0
Matt Bush 12 11.0 1 1 25.5% 3.9% 4.09 3.47 -0.2
Brock Burke 9 16.2 3 0 39.4% 6.1% 1.62 1.54 0.5

Royals vs. Rangers Pitching Matchups

May 10 - Brad Keller vs. Martin Perez, 7:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 5 31.0 1 2 16.5% 7.0% 1.74 3.81 0.5
Martin Perez 5 28.0 0 2 18.3% 8.3% 2.25 3.95 0.7

One of the few bright spots this season for the Royals has been Brad Keller, even though he doesn’t have a ton to show for it personally. He’s back to not striking hitters out which will always concern me, but he’s also back to giving up a lot of weak contact. Giving up 18 hits in 31 innings with with just two home runs is what you want to see from a guy who doesn’t strike anyone out and heading into action yesterday, he was one of just 15 pitchers with a ground ball rate higher than 50 percent. As a team, the Rangers have been eaten alive by sliders from righties with a .181 average against and a .195 SLG. I would hope that Keller would lean heavily on that slider with that information available to him. You might recall that Keller faced the Rangers on Opening Day last year and it, uh, didn’t go well.

Career vs. TEX: 3 G, 2 GS, 10.1 IP, 0-1, 8.71 ERA


Martin Perez has returned to the Rangers, the team he started his career with way back in 2012. He’s had spurts of throwing four-seamers and throwing harder and then softer and it seems like he’s reinvented himself about a dozen times and he almost always ends up the same guy he’s always been. This year, he’s gone back to throwing the sinker primarily and mixing that with a changeup, cutter and curve and the very occasional four-seam fastball. He’s actually been pretty successful with everything but the curve which explains his solid start to the season. He’s probably been a bit lucky to avoid more runners, though, with a .256 BABIP, so maybe he’ll start to see some more traffic and when he does, his issues with runners in scoring position could come back to hurt him.

Career vs. KC: 10 GS, 54.2 IP, 3-1, 4.77 ERA

May 11 - Gabe Speier vs. Matt Bush, 7:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Gabe Speier 7 9.1 0 0 24.1% 0.0% 0.00 3.01 0.2
Matt Bush 12 11.0 1 1 25.5% 3.9% 4.09 3.48 -0.2

Hey, it’s a bullpen game for the Royals. Will they use Speier as an opener with a bulk innings guy behind him? Who knows? I think it’s fair to assume they also don’t have a plan in place given that they rarely do. Speier is an interesting pitcher, who has turned some heads. He’s had great control, gotten some swing and miss and just generally been very reliable even back to a brief cup of coffee last season. I think Speier can go one or two and then they can either go to a cavalry of short relievers or turn to someone like Ronald Bolaños for three or four “bulk” innings to get them into the later innings of a game. I actually think that would be a pretty nice combination and make for some matchup issues if the Rangers end up reacting to Speier starting.

Career vs. TEX: 2 GS, 8.1 IP, 0-2, 7.56 ERA


The Rangers will also be running a bullpen game for this one with Matt Bush getting the start, something he’s done once before this season. He went just one inning in that start, so he’ll likely do the same in this one followed by a sea of Rangers relievers. Bush is such an interesting story that you probably knew at one point and maybe have forgotten. He was picked first overall by the Padres in the 2004 draft ended up in prison for more than three years and then earned a spot with the Rangers following his release during a tryout in a Golden Corral parking lot because that’s where he worked and he couldn’t go anywhere but there and home. He pitched well that year and the next and then fell off a bit. Then he was out of baseball in 2020 and came back for a brief cameo last season and has now been a big part of this Rangers pitching staff this season.

Career vs. KC: 9 G, 11.0 IP, 2-0, 2.45 ERA

May 12 - Jonathan Heasley vs. Taylor Hearn, 7:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jonathan Heasley (AAA) 6 26.1 1 0 29.1% 5.8% 4.44 3.30 ---
Taylor Hearn 5 20.2 1 2 24.2% 10.1% 6.53 3.51 0.1

I’m interested to see what Jonathan Heasley can do against a struggling offense like the Rangers. I’d seen him a little in the minors before he debuted last year and had read a lot about him, but he honestly wasn’t very impressive in his three starts outside of not walking batters. I didn’t see a lot of action on the fastball and his curve didn’t have the bite I had seen in AA. It was toward the end of his first full season since 2019 so maybe he wore down. And then I didn’t see anything particularly impressive in spring training this year. But he’s been good in AAA outside of getting dinged by the long ball. He’s striking out a ton of batters and he’s limiting walks as he is wont to do. He deserves a shot at this big league rotation even if he isn’t more than a four or a five type starter. And as I said, a matchup against a struggling offense, albeit with dangerous hitters, is a good way to break back in.

Career vs. TEX: First Appearance


Taylor Hearn gained some notoriety earlier this year for answering a question from his sister, who is a reporter, in a post-game press conference. The feelings were good, but his pitching hasn’t been. He has struck out a lot of batters, but he’s also given up a ton of hits and walked too many, which has led to an ERA that would fit in with the Royals young starters. Hearn ended last season in the rotation and had a lot of the same issues, so it might be that he needs to just head back to the bullpen, but the stuff is good enough that the Rangers will want to try to make this work. His fastball has been very effective this season, limiting opponents to a .188 average. Where he’s gotten in huge trouble is with his slider, particularly to the few lefties he’s faced this season. Righties have hit .360 on it, so it’s not like it’s been a good pitch to them anyway. His sinker has also gotten battered. This feels like a potentially good matchup for the Royals, so count on Hearn giving seven shutout innings.

Career vs. KC: 1 G, 2.1 IP, 0-0, 7.71 ERA

Royals vs. Rangers Prediction

Until the Royals actually win a series, I will not predict they win one. That is my new creed. So I’ll say they get one win here, but predicting much of anything is tough when you only actually know half the starters in the series. Still, the Royals aren’t good and the Rangers have been playing better of late.

Poll

How many wins for the Royals in Texas this week?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    3
    (7 votes)
  • 14%
    2
    (13 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (39 votes)
  • 35%
    0
    (32 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now