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Texas Rangers Series Preview: They’re getting there

The Rangers went about jumpstarting their rebuild by spending a lot of money, and it looks like it might be starting to work.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Texas Rangers Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers made a big splash in the 2021/2022 MLB offseason. Actually, that’s not accurate, they made a lot of big splashes. They signed Marcus Semien to a seven year, $175 million deal. They signed Corey Seager to a 10 year, $325 million deal. They signed Jon Gray to a four year, $56 million deal. They traded for Mitch Garver. They also brought in Brad Miller on a two-year deal. They signed Kole Calhoun to a one-year deal. And they took a couple flyers on pitchers like Martin Perez, who has been outstanding for them, and Garrett Richards, who has been okay. It’s a big makeover to the roster that includes just two players leading them in games played this year who led them at their respective positions last year. And that makes sense because they went 60-102 last year. So while they aren’t even at .500 and have a minimal chance at the postseason, I don’t think they’re too upset with where they are. They know they need more pitching. I think they’ll get Perez signed longer-term and feel pretty good about three starters with Jack Leiter and Cole Winn on the way to round it out. I think they need a bat or two still. Honestly, Andrew Benintendi would make a lot of sense for them as a free agent. They’ve mostly spent their way to get there, but I think they could be trouble with a couple more good moves this offseason.

Royals vs. Rangers Matchup Stats

Category Royals Rangers
Category Royals Rangers
Winning % .366 .479
H2H Wins 1 2
Team wRC+ 92 97
Team xFIP 4.62 4.00
Run Differential -93 3
Highest fWAR Bobby Witt Jr., 1.8 Martin Perez, 2.4

Rangers Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Josh H. Smith 3B 33 .292 .485 .333 18.2% 12.1% 160 0.3
Marcus Semien 2B 310 .227 .287 .348 7.7% 17.1% 83 0.7
Corey Seager SS 303 .228 .300 .426 9.2% 17.8% 106 1.7
Adolis Garcia CF 292 .256 .295 .487 4.8% 27.1% 120 2.1
Kole Calhoun RF 239 .240 .289 .412 5.4% 25.5% 100 0.5
Mitch Garver DH 171 .200 .287 .380 10.5% 25.7% 92 0.1
Nathaniel Lowe 1B 264 .279 .326 .449 6.4% 24.6% 122 0.5
Jonah Heim C 189 .246 .307 .474 8.5% 20.1% 122 1.7
Leody Taveras CF 31 .241 .290 .276 6.5% 22.6% 66 -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
Meibrys Viloria C 3 .667 .667 .667 0.0% 33.3% 301 0.1
Charlie Culberson INF/OF 69 .238 .273 .254 4.3% 27.5% 53 -0.6
Brad Miller INF/OF 164 .212 .268 .358 7.3% 27.4% 80 -0.5
Steven Duggar OF 40 .189 .225 .270 5.0% 40.0% 40 0.0

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 25 25.1 3 1 22.6% 6.1% 2.84 4.50 0.0
Dennis Santana 30 28.1 3 3 32.8% 19.3% 1.59 3.83 0.9
Brock Burke 21 34.2 4 1 23.4% 7.3% 1.30 3.36 0.7

Royals vs. Rangers Projected Pitching Matchups

June 27 - LHP Martin Perez vs. LHP Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Martin Perez 14 87.1 5 2 20.1% 5.9% 1.96 3.63 2.4
Kris Bubic 10 34.0 1 4 19.5% 12.6% 7.41 4.62 -0.1

Perez has had a magical season for the Rangers. In the three years since he left them after his first stint, he threw 341.1 innings with a 4.88 ERA. He’s seen velocity climb and fall and I feel like he’s tried to be a different type of pitcher about 18 times throughout his career. But if you think he fell off after leaving Texas and wanted to get back to his previous success, he had a 4.63 ERA in seven seasons with them the first time. So to see him doing what he’s doing is pretty surprising. While I do think there’s regression coming, he comes by his numbers pretty honestly. He’s using his sinker very well and getting a ton of grounders. He’s not walking hitters. And while he only gets whiffs with one pitch, it’s his changeup and it’s very good. He’s got pretty typical splits as he gets to a third time through the order and hasn’t been getting that deep into games, but he’s having a great year and the Royals have a tough task ahead of them.

Career vs. KC: 11 GS, 61.0 IP, 4-1, 4.43 ERA

Kris Bubic has been back in the majors for four starts and I think he’s looked better in each one. The results haven’t always reflected that, but his last start was his best with six innings of two-run baseball against the Angels where he struck out seven and walked just two. The walks are the biggest thing, but the strikeouts are easily the second biggest for him as he struggled with both categories before being sent down. Since being called up, he has a 23.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.9 percent walk rate. Yes, I’d love to still see fewer walks, but I’ll take that ratio all day long. There are a lot of reasons that he’s keeping this up, but a big one is that he’s simply throwing harder. He’s averaging 91.9 MPH on his fastball since coming back up, which isn’t a ton higher than his 91.4 MPH before being sent down, but in his last two starts, which I think were his best, he’s averaging 92.5 MPH. He had thrown 25 pitches 93 MPH or harder all season before his start against the Giants. He’s thrown 36 in his last two starts. Keep that up and he has a chance.

Career vs. TEX: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 0-1, 21.60 ERA

June 28 - RHP Jon Gray vs. RHP Jonathan Heasley, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jon Gray 12 64.2 3 3 25.5% 8.6% 4.18 3.61 1.2
Jonathan Heasley 8 41.1 1 3 17.8% 12.2% 4.14 5.23 -0.1

By now you know that the Royals drafted Jon Gray in the 13th round in the 2010 draft but he didn’t sign. He also didn’t sign with the Yankees the next year when he was taken in the 10th round. But he did sign after the Rockies took him third overall in 2013. And he’s had a nice career, though with some ups and downs. He struggled early after signing the big contract with the Rangers, but has a 2.64 ERA in his last five starts with 36 strikeouts and 10 walks over 30.2 innings. He’s mostly fastball/slider, but does mix in a changeup about 10 percent of the time. His early-season struggles were kind of strange because his peripherals were generally just fine. He could have stood to struck out a few more batters, but he still got enough. But over his last few games, his fastball has been just a fantastic pitch for him and it’s helped him to find his success. He hasn’t really struggled in many situations, even pitching well a third time through the order. And it’s very interesting that he has basically no platoon split as essentially a two-pitch pitcher.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 0-1, 2.70 ERA

Jonathan Heasley was cruising in his last start against the Angels. He’d given up just one run in five innings and entered the sixth against the top of their order. And it just all fell apart for him with two walks and a three-run homer. The Royals had a five-run lead, so there was a cushion, but those walks absolutely killed him. And they were his first of the game. What I hope is that whatever happened there doesn’t lead to some regression because he hasn’t walked more than two in a game in June and has a walk rate for the month of 6.7 percent. For the guy who walked 13 in his first 13.1 innings, that’s huge. I would love to see him throw his slider more. It’s turned into a really good pitch and one that he appears to be able to both throw strikes with and keep it off the plate for some swing and miss. There are some whiffs to be found in the Rangers lineup and some of their guys have struggled quite a bit on righty sliders. Maybe he’ll feature it in this one.

Career vs. TEX: 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 0-1, 2.70 ERA

June 29 - RHP Dane Dunning vs. RHP Zack Greinke, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dane Dunning 15 82.0 1 5 20.8% 8.2% 4.17 3.87 1.0
Zack Greinke 11 57.2 1 4 11.9% 4.1% 4.68 4.70 0.7

Dane Dunning has been a part of two relatively big deals (at the time at least) as a part of the deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington from the White Sox and then as part of the deal that brought Lance Lynn to Chicago. He’s settled in as a nice innings pitcher, but nothing more than that to this point. He throws a sinker, slider and changeup and then will mix in the very occasional cutter. Against lefties he really features that changeup, and it’s been hit a little bit, so that’s what the Royals should be sitting on, at least when they’ve got a lefty bat at the plate. It would explain why he’s allowed an OPS of .841 to lefties and .619 to righties. He’s also been rocked on the road, so this feels like one that the Royals offense should be able to do some work in.

Career vs. KC: 3 GS, 14.2 IP, 1-0, 3.07 ERA

Zack Greinke’s first game back off the IL couldn’t have gone much better for him. He didn’t walk a batter (shocking) and allowed just a run on three hits with four strikeouts. After striking out just 10 in his first 33.2 innings of the year, he’s gotten some lately with a strikeout rate of 17.3 percent. That’s not a big number, but it’s at least closer to what most of the pitchers in baseball are using. He threw a lot of cutters in his last start against Oakland and I wonder if that’ll keep up because it was a fantastic pitch for him, throwing it 18 times against the A’s after throwing it just 44 times all year before.

Career vs. TEX: 23 G, 21 GS, 133.0 IP, 7-8, 3.72 ERA

Royals vs. Rangers Prediction

I think I’ve only predicted the Royals for series wins over the A’s since like mid-April. While I believe Perez is having a 2017 Jason Vargas first half and will come back to earth, I have a hard time assuming it’ll be in this series that he does. I just don’t especially love the matchups for the Royals in this series and while the Rangers aren’t a bad team by any stretch, I think the Royals can snag one win.


How many wins for the Royals against the Rangers? Don’t forget to factor Vinnie into your answer.

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