The two main themes that have been voiced for improving the Rangers offense from this years disappointment have been voiced by Ryan and Wash:
Said Ryan: "We were all disappointed in the number of strikeouts and the lack of walks. We felt like for us to move forward, that was an area we had to stress with the hitters, like maybe have a different approach on two strikes. [Rudy] was in agreement with that.
Manager Ron Washington mentioned situational hitting as a big concern. The Rangers were 20th in the majors in runs scored and RBIs with runners in scoring position.
Does the past performance of the offense align with the perceived areas of needed improvement identified above? Basically, I'm looking at the road ahead that management has voiced as their desired path rather than trying to diagnose Rudy's influence in the past.
A simple way to look into this is to look at runs scored versus the components of OPS which are OBP and SLG. I've used team OBP, SLG, and runs for the past decade (2000-2009) for the all ML teams as a start.
The plot above shows Runs on the vertical axis and OBP on the horizontal. The median is 0.337, and for some reason unknown to me the vertical grey line for the median did not transfer to the PNG. The correlation between OBP and Runs is 0.854. The Rangers have been on either side of the median OBP, but they score more runs for a given OBP, especially OBPs below the median, than is typical of other ML teams. In other words, they have fewer baserunners but have made the most of what they had.
The plot above shows runs on the vertical axis and SLG on the horizontal. The median is indicated by the vertical grey line, and its value is 0.423. The correlation between Runs and SLG is 0.897. The Rangers are sluggers, of course, but the appear to produce fewer runs for a given SLG than similar sluggers. Clearly this is due to their lower OBP, but how completely the OBP deficiency is offset by hyper SLG can only be seen in a joint plot, which is shown below.
The plot above shows SLG on the vertical axis and OBP on the horizontal with color coding of symbols by number of runs. The Rangers are plotted as a big circle, and all other teams are small squares. Teams that produced more than 900 runs have blue symbols, 850-900 have red symbols, 800-850 have black symbols, and 600-800 have light blue-grey symbols. Two odd things stand out about the Rangers:
(1) Almost no other team has been able to score 800-900 runs when having an OBP in the 0.33 to 0.34 range. The Rangers get more with less than just about everybody. However, if the Rangers can increase their OBP to the level of other high SLG teams, the Rangers would very likely be right around or above 900 Runs much more often.
(2) OBP and SLG go hand in hand to some extent, except for the Rangers. The linear relationship is evident here, and the correlation is 0.728. The Rangers are nearly the only team that has put up a season (and the Rangers have multiple such seasons) in which low OBP guys exhibit a great deal of power.
It's not quite this straightforward to figure out how efficient the Rangers are at clearing the bases. I've estimated the number of baserunners as hits minus HR, plus BB, plus IBB, plus HBP, minus GDP, minus CS. GDP and CS removes a player from the bases. GDP might remove two, but in that case the hitter becomes a runner. I have not included runners reaching by fielding error, fielder's choice, dropped third strike, fielder's obstruction, or catcher's interference. Fielder's choice is a zero sum game, so really the only overlooked category that could cause problems is fielding errors.
The efficiency of scoring baerunners is posed as the question: what fraction of baserunners score? That number of scoring baserunners is the number of runs minus HR, since the hitter of a HR was not on base when the HR was hit. Number of runs minus HR, divided by baserunners is the fraction of baserunners that score, given the caveat of not including runners via fielding errors.
The plot above shows Runs on the vertical axis and fraction of baserunners that score on the horizontal. The median value is 0.333, and the correlation of Runs with fraction of baserunners that score is 0.788. It is clear the Rangers are a team that has been above average at getting their baserunners home. Baseball-reference has something similar (BR and BRS statistics*), and the Rangers in 2009 were about league average.
Bringing this back to Ryan's diagnosis (lack walks; need better two-strike approach) and Wash's diagnosis (lack situational hitting), I think both are offbase to some extent. The lack of walks is making the offense less productive than similar level SLG offenses. However, everyone knows it is extremely hard to get a hit or on base when a hitter has two strikes. The flip side is that it is much easier to hit with a 3-0 or 2-0 count. According to BR for 2009, the Rangers had the fewest 3-0 and 2-0 counts in the AL. Ryan is half on track and half going down the wrong track.
If by "situational hitting" Wash means getting a hitter's count, I would agree with his idea. However, the idea that the Rangers aren't scoring more because they don't move runners along is completely off base. The Rangers are average or better by mare than one measure at getting runners home, even if Wash's eyes tell him they aren't very good at producing so-called productive outs. And, if they actually aren't, their power more than makes up for it.
What the Rangers primarily need is more baserunners. Screw small ball. Power has been working. They just need more baserunners.
* BR and BRS are similar to what I did above except they add together the baserunners for each AB, if I understand correctly. This means if three runners were on base for consecutive ABs and one scored in the second AB, BR would be 6 (two AB times three runners during each AB) and BRS would be 1. BRS/BR is 1/6. The way I computed it would simply be three baserunners and one score: 1/3.