So, driving back to Houston after yesterday's game, I listened to Mike Ogulnick talk about the need to "shake things up" by re-arranging the lineup, and dropping Ian Kinsler out of the leadoff spot, to be replaced by either David Murphy or Elvis Andrus.
This seems like making a change for the sake of making a change, rather than making a change that is going to improve the team.
There's also talk from Michael Young about the team needing to improve its approach, and Ron Washington saying that the team is still confident, and all of that.
But the reality may simply be that, with Josh Hamilton out, this offense isn't very good.
You have two guys who I think are empirically good hitters -- Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. They are also both streaky hitters in slumps.
You have Michael Young, who is Michael Young...he got off to a great start, has cooled off some, but is probably good for a 775 OPS.
You've got Marlon Byrd, a career 4th outfielder, and David Murphy, a guy who should be a career 4th outfielder (regardless of how much Rangers fans want him to be something different), both starting in the outfield. (And as a side note...if you want the offense to improve, playing Brandon Boggs against lefties would probably be a good start. Murphy doesn't hit lefties, and this ongoing refusal to acknowledge that is costing the team runs).
You've got the Hank Blalock/Andruw Jones platoon at DH. Blalock is an enigma, a guy with a sub-.300 OBP who seems to be trying to yank every pitch into the Home Run Porch. Jones was a bust last season, had a great April, but is hitting .226/.295/.429 since May 1.
You've got Elvis at shortstop. He's probably exceed some expectations with the bat, but he's still a 9th place hitter and not much of an offensive force.
And then we've got first base and catcher. Coming into the season, I think the expectation was that the Rangers would get above-average production offensively from Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Davis, we've discussed ad nauseum. But Saltalamacchia has been terrible at the plate as well...the excuse last season was that he couldn't get in a groove because he was splitting time with Gerald Laird. So far this season, he's been starting about as often as any catcher in baseball, and he's gone backwards, posting a .250/.299/.384 line so far this year, and is apparently going to start losing playing time to Taylor Teagarden.
Those two positions are going to be critical for this offense going forward. Everyone else is what they are...Kinsler is going to snap out of his funk, Cruz is going to hit, Byrd and Murphy and going to have spurts of production that get everyone worked up for a while before reverting to 4th outfielderness, Young is going to be Young, but as a whole, this lineup is not going to be very good while Hamilton is out.
Unless things turn around at first base and catcher.
If Davis and Salty start hitting, or if Teagarden starts playing and hitting while the Rangers go find another first baseman who can hit or something, then the offense should be fine until Hamilton returns.
But if not, then we could be looking at a team that risks squandering its early-season divisional lead because it can't get runs on the board.