CHICAGO, IL - JULY 04: Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers is greeted by Josh Hamilton #32 after scoring in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox on July 4, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
The first half has ended, and thus by ancient blogging tradition, it is time to hand out mid-season grades. Today I'm doing position players, tomorrow I'm doing pitchers.
Some general rules: As, Bs, and Cs can be regular, + or -. Ds and Fs are plain ol' Ds and Fs. Grades are on a curve, based on what expectations are. The Rangers are a half-game back of the Yankees for the best record in baseball, and have a 4 game lead in the A.L. West, but they were expected to be really, really good this year, so the grades will reflect the higher expectations.
Also, this is for fun, and I'm not spending a ton of time analyzing this, so don't get all torqued out if I give someone a B and you think they should have a B+.
Josh Hamilton: .308/.380/.635, -1.7 UZR, 3.8 fWAR. Grade: A
Josh Hamilton has spent the first half of the season doing Josh Hamilton things. He's had incredible hot streaks, done historical things (4 home runs in one game, anyone?), been one of the best players in baseball, driven us crazy by chasing pitches out of the strike zone, set a record for most All Star Game votes, gotten hurt and sick, and made questionable off-field decisions (shopping a movie of your life in the middle of a season?). The first half of this year has been a snapshot of the good and the bad with Hamilton, full of examples of why you'd want to give him an enormous deal when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year and why you'd shy away from him. It has been a very Josh Hamilton year.
Adrian Beltre: .326/.358/.524, 4.3 UZR, 2.9 fWAR. Grade: A-
Adrian Beltre has been a revelation since leaving Seattle. Do you realize that Beltre was a starting third baseman for the Dodgers in 1998? He was 19 years old. The Rangers had Aaron Sele and Rick Helling heading up their rotation and went to the playoffs. Pudge Rodriguez was still in his prime. That was 14 years ago. For 11 years, Beltre looked like a disappointment, a highly touted prospect who came up early and, other than one fluke season, never lived up to his potential. But since joining the Red Sox, Beltre has established himself as an elite major league third baseman, and at the age of 33, shows little signs of slowing down. He's transcendent on defense -- watching him charge bunts or slow rollers is one of the great thrills in the game -- and has been an impact offensive player. I didn't like the Rangers' signing him to a 6 year, $96 million deal...but right now, they clearly look like they were right.
Elvis Andrus: .293/.368/.393, 1.2 UZR, 2.7 fWAR. Grade: A
Elvis Andrus is 23 years old, and is on pace for a 5+ fWAR season despite his defense not grading out as well so far this year as it has in the past. He's probably the best shortstop in the A.L. right now, and I think its not unreasonable to believe that this is the beginning of a Hall of Fame career for him. I don't think Rangers fans, or baseball fans in general, appreciate how good Elvis Andrus really is.
Craig Gentry: .326/.396/.427, 12.5 UZR, 2.6 fWAR. Grade: A+
Even if you think that Gentry's UZR figure is way higher than what it should, in reality, be, Gentry would still get an A+. Playing primarily against lefties, Gentry has gotten on base, been dangerous on the bases, and has been terrific with the glove in the outfield. I do not think the Rangers should be playing him every day -- his numbers wouldn't hold up against righties, and his injury history suggests his body would likely have a hard time holding up if he was asked to start 150 games. But for the role the Rangers have him in, it is hard to think that anyone could be any better.
Ian Kinsler: .279/341/.442, -0.1 UZR, 2.2 fWAR. Grade: B-
Ian Kinsler's grade is one of the toughest for me to assign. My initial gut reaction was to give him a C....he's been disappointing with the bat, and his defense has been a letdown. But then I looked at the numbers...Kinsler is on pace to have an fWAR of 4.0 or higher. He's got the fourth highest fWAR of any second baseman in the A.L., and while Robinson Cano is lapping the field in the A.L., the difference between Kinsler and the #2 guy in the A.L. (Jason Kipnis) is 0.5 fWAR, while the difference between Kinsler and the #5 guy in the A.L. (Howie Kendrick and Kelly Johnson) is 0.9 fWAR. He's tied with Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla for the 6th highest fWAR among second basemen in baseball. He's played well. He's in the upper echelon of second basemen this year. He's not the best, or second best, second baseman in baseball this year, but he's still been pretty good. You could give him a C or an A-, and I wouldn't really argue either way.
David Murphy: .288/.382/.483, 3.9 UZR, 2.1 fWAR. Grade: A
On the heels of his worst season as a major leaguer, David Murphy has bounced back with what has been his best season as a major leaguer. Asked to start in left field against righthanders as part of a platoon, Murphy has been very good with the bat, and combined with Gentry to make the 3rd outfielder spot one of the most productive in baseball.
Nelson Cruz: .267/.323/.440, 1.9 UZR, 1.0 fWAR. Grade: C-
I'm doing these in order of fWAR, and we have now come to the big gap...the Rangers have five position players with an fWAR between 2.1 and 3.0, five position players with an fWAR between 0.1 and 1.0, and no on between 1.1 and 2.0. Cruz has been the most productive of the least productive part of the team, with the disappointing part of his performance attributable almost entirely to his power disappearing. Cruz had a .263 batting average and a .312 OBP last season...in those regards, his gotten better. But Cruz's ISO, which has never been lower than 246 since he emerged as a legit rightfielder in 2008, is a (relatively) paltry 173 in 2012. Other than in 2010, Cruz has always been a guy who hasn't hit for much average or put up much of an OBP, but who has made up for it with a ton of power. The power has dropped off this season, with the result being that he's now a somewhat below average starting right fielder. He's clearly still capable of hitting moonshots -- he's had some of the most majestic home runs we've seen this season -- but if the power doesn't show up more regularly in the second half of the season, the Rangers will have to think long and hard about his role on the team in 2013.
Mike Napoli: .228/.340/.419, -4.6 UZR, 0.9 fWAR. Grade: D
I don't want to talk about Mike Napoli.
Mitch Moreland: .272/.326/.513, 0.2 UZR, 0.5 fWAR. Grade: B+
Moreland got off to an awful start to the season, then got hot, then got hurt. Moreland turns 27 in September, and I think his role on a championship team is similar to David Murphy's role...give you decent defense at his position while hitting against righthanders, and hide him against lefties.
Brandon Snyder: .296/.333/.481, 0.1 UZR, 0.3 fWAR. Grade: B
Snyder made the team out of spring training because no one else was able to seize the 25th man job. His role is to hit lefties and be available to be plugged into a spot on the field from time to time. He's had 58 plate appearances this season, and I have to believe that at some point later in the year, he'll get optioned to make room for a veteran righthanded hitter.
Alberto Gonzalez: .255/.255/.333, 2.6 UZR, 0.2 fWAR. Grade: B-
I didn't realize until just now that Gonzalez hasn't drawn a walk this season. He only has 52 plate appearances, but still. Gonzalez has done what Ron Washington wants his utility infielder to do...play good defense when called upon, and don't embarrass the team. I really have no opinion and nothing to say about Gonzalez.
Leonys Martin: .207/.281/.448, -2.6 UZR, -0.2 fWAR. Grade: Inc
Martin, expected by some to be the Rangers' starting centerfielder this year, didn't do anything this spring to convince the Rangers he was ready to be an everyday major leaguer. He was called up for what was expected to be a three day stint on the active roster while Josh Hamilton recovered from a virus, then stayed up once Mitch Moreland hit the d.l., but he's only had 32 plate appearances, and pretty clearly isn't part of Ron Washington's Tree of Trust. There's been some speculation he'd be the team's starting CF'er in the stretch run and the playoffs, but at this point, that looks unlikely.
Yorvit Torrealba: .216/.284/.309, -1.0 UZR, -0.2 fWAR. Grade: D
I spent much of the first half of the season defending Torrealba as doing an acceptable job, and he rewarded me by putting up a 595 OPS in June and a 286 OPS in July, dragging his overall offensive numbers down. I still think he gets a bad rap by those who criticize his defense and gamecalling, and I still think he's fine as your #2 catcher, but he's got to start hitting a little more than he has the past several weeks.
Michael Young: .270/.303/.353, -1.1 UZR, -0.8 fWAR. Grade: F
There's nothing to say here that hasn't already been said. Michael Young isn't going to be benched this season. The Rangers aren't going to go out and get a big bat to DH so Young can sit. We just have to hope he is somewhat respectable in the second half, or if he's done, that his dead cat bounce is better than his first half was.