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Thoughts on an 8-4 Rangers win

Rangers 8, Astros 4

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Rangers 8, Astros 4

  • Well, that’s it for the Texas Rangers in 2020.
  • It was an awful season, one of the worst, in terms of winning percentage, in team history. I guess if you are going to have an awful season, better it be in a weird, abbreviated season than a full 162 game season.
  • On the flip side, this was a season where .500 ball would have gotten the Rangers into the playoffs, so it is kind of especially disappointing that they couldn’t even be mediocre over the final 40 games.
  • This was an “everybody gets one last outing” game for the pitchers. Jordan Lyles, the scheduled starter, gave up a pair of runs on four hits, four Ks, two walks, and a whole lot of loud contact allowed. Lyles ends the year with a 7.02 ERA, and its a season I’m sure he’s happy to have behind him.
  • Wes Benjamin, one of the more positive surprises of 2020, pitched the fourth inning, gave up a lot of loud contact, including a home run, but also fanned a guy. He ends the year with a 4.84 ERA, and has gone from afterthought to being a legitimate contender for an Opening Day roster spot. I think Benjamin ultimately is a swingman, but he could exceed those expectations, and even if he doesn’t, you need guys like Benjamin on the 40 man, pitchers with options who can start or reliever as necessary and who can be moved up and down between AAA and the majors.
  • Taylor Hearn pitched a scoreless fifth, walking one and fanning one. After a lost 2019 season, Hearn rebounded pretty well in 2020, acquitting himself well out of the pen. He either walked or struck out 34 of the 76 batters he faced this year, and could find himself getting another shot at starting in 2021. If he doesn’t, he has the potential to be a really good late inning guy going forward.
  • Kolby Allard pitched a scoreless sixth. Like Hearn, he allowed a walk and struck out a guy. Unlike Hearn, he finishes 2020 have lost ground compared to where he was a year ago. Allard had a strong final couple of months in 2019 pitching in the Rangers rotation, and he was seen as being the most major league ready of their young starting pitchers coming into 2020. Unfortunately, Allard had too many disaster outings, was way too hittable, and ends the year with a 7.75 ERA. He finds himself behind Kyle Cody in the young starting pitcher pecking order now, and potentially in swingman purgatory.
  • Brett Martin pitched a scoreless seventh. It was an adventurous year for Martin, who was one of two Rangers who were eligible to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and still get paid due to pre-existing conditions (he has Type 1 Diabetes). Martin ended up contracting COVID-19 before the season started, causing him to miss the start of summer camp, and begin the year on the injured list. He then missed a couple of weeks in late August due to injury. In between, he gave the Rangers 14.2 IP, and while he had a sparkling 1.84 ERA, he walked more batters (9) than he struck out (8), resulting in an ugly 5.71 FIP. But while you would be inclined to dismiss Martin’s performance as batted ball luck, his xwOBA this year was .281 — the same as the .281 wOBA he actually allowed. He really was inducing weak contact, and the expected stats back up the ERA that shows he had a solid year out of the pen.
  • Jonathan Hernandez pitched the eighth. He gave up a home run and three loud outs, in what wasn’t one of his better outings of the season, but he had a great season, and appears to have a late inning role for 2021 locked down.
  • Rafael Montero finished it out with a scoreless ninth. Picked up on a minor league deal, he’s now the Rangers’ closer, and while there will be attention paid to Lance Lynn and Joey Gallo trade rumors this offseason, Montero might be the guy most likely to be dealt.
  • Shin-Soo Choo finished out 2020, most likely his time with the Rangers, and possibly his career with an at bat in the first inning. DHing and batting leadoff, his sprained hand apparently was still too problematic for him to swing Choo, saying after the game he just wanted to get on base, bunted down the third base line, barely beating the throw to first, and twisting his ankle on the base. He left the game for pinch runner Willie Calhoun.
  • Choo struggled with injuries during his time here, and didn’t perform the way one would want a player to perform when he has the contract Choo had. But he was also a professional, played hard, was well liked and respected by his teammates and everyone around the team, and played a huge part in the Rangers winning the A.L. West in 2015.
  • Texas got on the board in the second inning, tying the game at 1-1 when Joey Gallo led off the inning with an HBP, went to second on a Nick Solak ground out, and scored on a Sam Huff single. I don’t expect Sam Huff to start the season in the majors next year, and everything right now has the small sample size caveat, but he’s been surprisingly good offensively in his first major league opportunity.
  • The Rangers put up 5 runs in the bottom of the fourth. Three of those were from a three run Rougned Odor home run. Odor also homered in the fifth. I don’t even know what to think about him anymore. I still think he gets dealt for someone else’s problematic contract — the Nathan Eovaldi rumors will start up again, I’m sure — but once again, he showed signs of life in September.
  • The other two runs in the fourth came on a bases loaded Leody Taveras single, driving in Sam Huff (who had walked) and Anderson Tejeda (who had singled). Tavears also gave the Rangers their final run of the game, when he beat out a bunt single, stole second, stole third, and scored when the throw to third went into the outfield. Leody ends the year with a 703 OPS in 134 plate appearances, and a .318 xwOBA. He struck out too much, but he also walked at an impressive clip, and if he can simply sustain this sort of performance in 2021, he’ll give the Rangers a first division starting center fielder.
  • Ronald Guzman had the hardest hit ball of the game, a 108.7 mph single. Odor’s fourth inning home run was 107.9 mph, and his 5th inning home run was 101.2. Leody’s non-bunt single was 106.5 off the bat, and Sam Huff registered a 100.6 mph single.
  • Jonathan Hernandez had the 13 hardest thrown pitches of the game — 13 sinkers that ranged from 96.9 to 98.1. Rafael Montero also hit 96.9 mph, while Taylor Hearn topped out at 95.9. Brett Martin touched 95 mph, while Jordan Lyles topped out at 94 mph.
  • This is the end of the 2020 season. It was a weird one. Here’s hoping 2021 provides more on field success.