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The Rangers lineup is not top-heavy after all

So far this year, the Rangers have gotten a remarkable level of offensive performance throughout the batting order

Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If we cast our minds into the distant past, going back through the mists of time to the ancient days of March, 2023, we may recall that one of the big questions about the Texas Rangers was the team’s offense.

Yes, the team had some quality bats. Nathaniel Lowe, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia were all viewed as good hitters, and they were expected to be the top four hitters in the batting order. The top of the order was in good shape.

But after that? The Rangers were hoping for big things from Josh Jung, but in his limited time in the majors in September, 2022, he struggled with strikeouts and put up disappointing numbers. The team entered the offseason with gaping holes at left field and DH and the only move made to fix those holes was to sign Robbie Grossman. Center field appeared to belong to Leody Taveras, but he was a glove-first guy who had a track record of not really hitting, and Plan B in center seemed to be to move Adolis Garcia to center, which would add right field to the LF/DH black hole situation. Catcher looked promising, with Jonah Heim coming off a season where he hit well for a catcher, and Mitch Garver hitting well, period, when he was healthy (though he was rarely healthy).

So I don’t think that folks believed the Ranger offense would be bad. Rather, it seemed like a very top heavy offense that would be carried by a handful of guys, but also be dragged down by several spots in the lineup that would be unproductive.

One-third of the way through the season (plus one game) and...that has not been the case. Quite the opposite.

As expected, the top four guys in the lineup have been good. Corey Seager has a 156 wRC+. Marcus Semien has a 134 wRC+. Adolis Garcia and Nathaniel Lowe are at 134 and 118, respectively. That’s good!

The question marks, though? They’ve largely turned into exclamation points.

Looking at the rest of the regular lineup, Josh Jung is third on the team in wRC+ at 139, and first on the team in wRC+ among players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

Leody Taveras? 126 wRC+. Jonah Heim? 116 wRC+. So that’s seven spots in the lineup that are producing at a high level.

The LF/DH situation? Ezequiel Duran is on the injured list and has gotten the bulk of his plate appearances at shortstop filling in when Seager was out. But when Duran is healthy, he’ll be filling one of the LF/DH spots. He has a 134 wRC+ in 144 plate appearances.

The other LF/DH spot has, more or less, been held down by a combination of Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowski. Jankowski has a 120 wRC+ on the year, while Grossman — who is fifth on the team in plate appearances, believe it or not — has a 94 wRC+.

That’s nine spots where just one spot — the Grossman/Jankowski combo (and let’s be realistic, Jankowski isn’t going to be a 120 wRC+ guy going forward) — isn’t above average. And when everyone is healthy (or if everyone gets healthy — that’s not a given), one would imagine that the A Game lineup would have Mitch Garver at DH and Ezequiel Duran at LF, moving Grossy and the Jankster to the bench.

It goes a long way towards explaining why the Rangers, who had a 98 wRC+ in 2022, are leading the league in runs scored this year, with 346 (almost double the 30th place Cleveland Guardians, who have 184). The 118 wRC+ the Rangers have registered this year (trailing just the Tampa Bay Rays and their freaky 134 wRC+ on the season) is a byproduct of the good hitters hitting like they were expected to hit, and the not-good hitters hitting like good hitters.

Another way to illustrate this is by looking at the Rangers’ team OPS in 2023 by spot in the batting order:

1st — 895

2nd — 773

3rd — 782

4th — 803

5th — 851

6th — 837

7th — 747

8th — 767

9th — 628

B-R provides an sOPS+ number for each split, comparing this to the MLB split as a whole. For example, the Rangers’ sOPS+ at the #1 spot is 136 — in other words, the Rangers’ #1 hitters in the lineup have hit 36% than the #1 hitters in the lineup for MLB as a whole this year.

#9 hitters for the Rangers have a 93 sOPS+, so they are 7% worse than 9th place hitters for the league as a whole. #2 hitters for the Rangers have a 101 sOPS+ (thanks largely to the rotating cast that hit there while Seager was out not hitting well), and #3 hitters have a 100 sOPS+.

Every other spot in the lineup is at least 10% better than the equivalent slot for MLB as a whole. Cleanup is 110. 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th are 131, 131, 117 and 127.

The Rangers’ lineup as a whole is better than most other team’s lineups. What this shows is that, in particular, the 5 through 8 slots in the order — the spots seen as the biggest question marks entering this season — have been especially potent, compared to the league as a whole.

So this is like 1000 words saying that the Rangers’ lineup has been really good because everyone getting regular playing time has been hitting well, and they are getting production from top to bottom. And you are saying, well, yeah, I already know that.

But sometimes it is fun to look under the hood at something we already generally know and appreciate the specifics. Particularly when it is something good.