As the Rangers have fallen out of first place, and the offense has struggled in June, there has been a clamoring for the Rangers to do something to jump-start the offense. Bench players. Play other players every day. Make a big trade. Do something to get some offense in here.
The problem, however, is that there's not a place in the lineup you can point to and say, "Here's where an upgrade will make a big difference."
Here's the Rangers' OPS by position, and where they rank relative to the rest of the American League:
|Position||Rangers' OPS||League Average OPS||Rank|
You only have two positions where the raw OPS is below average. Now, TBIA is a hitter's park, so you can discount some of those stats a little bit, but even taking that into account, there is no spot that is dramatically less than league average for the position. Of the two below-average positions, one of them is manned by Elvis Andrus, who has had a bad offensive season, but isn't going anywhere. The other below-average position is centerfield, which is interesting, because center is manned by Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin, and those are two of the players who folks have suggested should be getting more playing time, mainly at the expense of David Murphy.
Murphy has been awful this year, of course, but left field -- where Murphy gets the bulk of his time -- has ended up being about average anyway, because Jeff Baker has put up a 1486 OPS while playing left field. Baker, of course, isn't going to continue to hit like that, but one would assume that neither is Murphy.
This chart really shouldn't be all that surprising, though, given how the Rangers are situated in terms of their offense overall this season. The team is 5th in OBP, 3rd in slugging, 4th in OPS, and has a 101 OPS+. If you prefer wRC+, the Rangers have a 101 wRC+. The offense is, once you take into account park-effects, about average.
However, the Rangers are 7th in the A.L. in runs scored. They are scoring fewer runs than their raw numbers would suggest. Why is that?
Well, part of it is that they've not been good on the basepaths this year. But the bigger issue is the distribution of their hits. While the team is hitting .264/.327/.436 overall, they have just a .244/.324/.404 line with runners in scoring position, a line that's been dragged down by their particularly poor performance with RISP over the last week or two -- prior to that, their overall and RISP lines were about the same. The Rangers have also done particularly poorly with no one out, hitting .260/.315/.389, compared to .274/.347/.478 with two outs. Lesser performance with no one out means, once runners are on, it is harder to score them because there's already an out in the inning.
So to a certain extent, the Rangers offense looks worse in terms of run scoring than it has performed because the hits haven't come at the right time. You can blame that on poor situational hitting, a missing clutch gene, or random fluctuations, depending on your individual belief system.
In any case, looking at the numbers, I don't know that going out and making a trade for a "big bat" is going to make that much of a difference. Now, if you could get Giancarlo Stanton? Sure, that would have an impact. But the Rangers aren't going to replace Elvis Andrus. They've committed to Leonys Martin as their future in center field, and they aren't going to go upgrade there.
The most common suggestion right now is to find someone to replace David Murphy in left field. And I get that. Murphy has never been anyone special, and he's been awful this season, putting up a .211/.264/.381 line. If Murphy is going to hit like that the rest of the way, then you have to get someone else in.
Of course, the question then becomes, is Murphy going to hit like that the rest of the way? The answer: probably not. His walk rate is down a little this season, but his K rate is the same as ever (a little lower than his career average, actually), and his .170 ISO is basically the same as his .168 career mark. The issue is that he has a .211 BABIP this season, compared to a career mark of .307.
Meanwhile, if you look at his batted ball data, his LD% of 20.2% is a tick higher than his career average. His ground ball rate is down a tad while his fly ball and infield fly ball rates are up a bit, but overall, his batted ball rates are consistent with his historical rates. The available evidence suggests this is a bad streak, and he's very likely to return to something closer to his historical level of performance.
ZiPS, for what it is worth, projects a .258/.321/.414 line, while Steamer projects a .275/.343/.444 line the rest of the way. Neither of those is great, but if you're platooning Murphy with Baker in left field, you're probably getting league-average performance from the position.
So the question becomes, if you upgrade, how much of an upgrade are you going to get, and is it worth the cost? A Corey Hart or an Alex Rios are, maybe, a half-win to a win better than a Murphy/Baker platoon over the second half of the season. What are you willing to part with for that sort of marginal upgrade?
The bottom line is that what the Rangers need is patience and good health. The Rangers need Ian Kinsler back. They need Mitch Moreland back. And they need a couple of guys to hit like they are capable of. Barring a deal for a Giancarlo Stanton or a Jose Bautista, that's the biggest upgrade the Rangers can expect to their offense. And unless you think David Murphy is done, there's simply not anyone out there on the trade market who is likely to be a difference maker for the offense in the short-term.