The Texas Rangers have played 55 games, which means that they are just past the one-third mark of the season. We also had Memorial Day yesterday, and Memorial Day is kind of the unofficial “its not early in the season anymore” mark. Memorial Day is kind of the general benchmark for “a ways into the season” — when it feels like you can start really paying attention to how players have performed to date.
This makes it a good time, I think, to take a look at how the Rangers have done thusfar this season. I’ve gone to Statcast and pulled wOBA, xwOBA, average exit velocity and average launch angle for the Rangers hitters, along with the data for the team as a whole and MLB as a whole in 2021.
Here’s what we’ve got:
|Rk.||Player||Pitches||Total||Pitch %||PA||wOBA||xwOBA||EV (MPH)||LA (°)|
|Team as a whole||7944||7944||100||2031||0.300||0.315||88.9||10|
|MLB as a whole||League||232962||232962||100||59171||0.309||0.318||88.2||https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/|
The first thing that jumps out at me is that the Rangers as a team have been...not as bad as you’d think, I don’t think, offensively. To be clear, they haven’t been “good,” but in terms of xwOBA they are just a tad under league average. Overall, they are tied with the New York Mets for 18th in MLB in xwOBA...which, again, isn’t “good,” but isn’t as bad as I think folks were expecting this offense to be coming into the season.
The team’s wOBA is obviously significantly lower — .300 wOBA compared to a .315 xwOBA — and while the league as a whole has put up a lower wOBA than xwOBA, the Rangers’ 15 point difference is obviously bigger than the 9 point difference for the league as a whole.
Nevertheless, the Rangers still fall ordinally in the same range relative to the league in wOBA — 19th, albeit with four teams at .299, and another at .297, meaning that they could easily be 23rd or 24th rather than 19th. I am curious as to the extent to which the spread is due to the Rangers’ home park being pitcher friendly, the extent to which it is due to a number of lefthanded pull hitters who can be shifted against, the extent to which it is random variation, and the extent to which it is due to something I haven’t identified or figured out yet.
The Rangers as a team have the 11th largest negative spread between wOBA and xwOBA this year, incidentally. I thought maybe a large negative spread would correlate to pitcher-friendly parks, but at first glance it doesn’t appear to be the case. The biggest negative spread, incidentally, is for the New York Yankees, who have a .305 wOBA and a .331 xwOBA. The consternation over their struggling offense is understandable, but one has to wonder if this isn’t one of those things that will end up reverting to the mean going forward for the Yanks.
(As a side note, I took the two pitchers who have hit for Texas out of the individual listing, so if you tally up the pitches or PAs for each player and wonder why it doesn’t add up to the total, that’s why.)
Looking at the individual players...there’s nothing here that really jumps out at me as being surprising or unexpected. There are six guys who have an xwOBA of at least 3, and those are all guys who we have said have performed at least acceptably this season. Adolis Garcia is mashing, Joey Gallo is performing well, Nate Lowe and Willie Calhoun have generally been fine, not great, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Nick Solak have hit well for middle infielders. Calhoun has a 25 point spread between his expected and actual wOBA, but really, all six have surface numbers that largely correspond to their underlying data.
I think it is also worth noting that, in a season that is about evaluating guys and building for the future, all six of these players are relatively young players who are performing, offensively, at a level that is consistent with being a contributor going forward. It doesn’t mean that they actually will be a contributor going forward — Joey Gallo’s situation with free agency coming after 2022 has been discussed quite a bit, and Willie Calhoun may be more of a platoon DH than an every day guy, and who knows whether Adolis Garcia will be able to hit close to this level going forward — but you can look at these six players and say they are performing okay offensively, relative to their positions.
David Dahl, currently on the injured list, is not performing okay. His wOBA is significantly lower than his xwOBA, so we have to take that into account, but even then he is only putting up a .299 xwOBA, which is not what you want from him. Assuming he comes back soon, I don’t think he’s in danger of losing his roster spot, because I don’t think there’s anyone kicking down the door to take his spot — and no, I don’t think Jason Martin has been kicking down the door, though obviously that could change — but if Curtis Terry, for example, keeps mashing in AAA, the Rangers could at some point in the second half decide its worth looking at Terry at DH, with Calhoun in LF, which would impact Dahl’s status. Or if Leody Taveras or Eli White play well enough in Round Rock that after the All Star Break they look like they are ready for another chance in the big leagues, that could cost Dahl playing time and possibly a roster spot.
Speaking of Leody Taveras and Eli White...they were both really awful before they were sent down. Both had xwOBAs that were significantly better than their actual wOBAs, but either way, they were pretty terrible offensively. The two of them also help illustrate how a couple of really, really, extremely bad hitters can drag down the overall numbers for an offense as a whole. When you look at what the “regulars” have done, well, it isn’t great, but they’ve been okay, and it looks like a pretty decent offense overall. But there were a number of at bats given to players who have been really bad, and that’s dragged things down.
Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim, for example. Both have had poor offensive seasons thusfar. The Rangers, as we know, put a much heavier emphasis on defense, game-calling, etc. than offense from their catchers, and they seem happy with what Trevino and Heim have been doing from that aspect of things. But they are getting less than nothing from their catchers offensively.
Finally, there is Khris Davis. His actual numbers are extremely bad. His expected isn’t that bad, but it is still not good, particularly for a platoon DH. He’s been a better hitter than the surface stats indicate, but still not acceptable.