by Jason Durden
The 2016 season has just begun and it is way too early for knee jerk reactions or searching for that panic button, but there are a few things worth taking a closer look at, as we creep towards May.
To say he has struggled out of the gate would be quite the understatement. Ian is second on the team in plate appearances, but a .103/.167/.103 slash line suggests he may need to sit a few more times to possibly help get his mind right. As poor as that slash line is, the most disturbing stat for Desmond so far are his 13 strikeouts compared to just 3 walks. To be fair, March and April have always given him problems and he doesn’t typically start hot at the plate (.283/.387/.670 career in March/April), but this year he has struggled even more than he traditionally has. It’s not atypical for a proven pro to struggle after switching teams and cities during the off-season. There is a little more pressure to show you were worth the price tag and sometimes that creates a slow start. Let’s hope that as Desmond begins to settle in and grow more comfortable with his new team the numbers will begin to increase as well.
*While writing this article Desmond delivered an RBI single against the Orioles to help push the Rangers in front (you’re welcome).
Shawn Tolleson had a tremendous 2015 season and surprised many fans with his dominant performance. We wish that had continued into the 2016 campaign, but unfortunately he has been very hittable early on. He has faced 13 batters so far and 7 of them have base hits which have resulted in 5 earned runs and a disappointing 22.50 era. He has not shown signs of control issues outside the zone because he has yet to issue a walk, but the lack of control within the zone has been the issue. Opponents are hitting a staggering .600 BABIP against him so far this season which tells us he isn’t missing many bats and he is finding the sweet spot on most of them.
As you can see in this chart, he isn’t creating the swing and miss that he had last year and most importantly he isn’t getting the misses in the lower half of the zone that was crucial to his success last year. The ball appears to be sitting up more and hitters are feasting on that right now. Hopefully, as the season progresses we see the 2015 version of Tolleson or Bannister will have a messy bullpen to deal with during the dog days of summer.
All teams face and deal with injuries throughout the long MLB season, but the Rangers were hit twice, all at once, in a couple of areas they really needed to stay healthy. The biggest blow they suffered was when Robinson Chirinos was injured (fractured forearm) and placed on the 60 day DL on April 10th just one day after Shin-Soo Choo was placed on the 15 day DL with his calf strain. The Rangers were already rolling the dice a little with the duo of Chirinos and Bryan Holaday as their primary catching options, but things got very dicey after losing Chirinos. He had worked hard the last couple of seasons establishing himself as a valuable backstop for this pitching staff and more than capable of providing production in the lower half of the lineup in moments throughout the season. He isn’t a guy who can’t be replaced by any means, but the drop off from him to Holladay and Brett NIcholas could prove to be significant. What do the Rangers do to improve the catching platoon will be one of the most interesting story lines to follow as the season progresses.
Losing Choo opened up the door for one of the prize jewels down on the farm, Nomar Mazara, but there is still a lot of unanswered questions about Mazara’s ability to be productive for long stretches during the season. So far, it appears that the Rangers are going to be just fine with Mazara in the outfield, but they have invested heavily in Choo and as much as all Ranger fans would love to dump his contract to anyone willing to take it, he was a phenomenal player the second half of the 2015 season and a big reasons why they won the division. His injury isn’t as serious as Chirinos and he will return soon enough to save Mazara if he begins to struggle, but the timing of his injury coupled with the injury to Chirinos rattled the cages of many fans and caused a sense of panic (until Mazara made his debut).
Great teams have bumps and bruises along the way and each team have issues and concerns pop up throughout the long summer, but this team is built for the long haul and there is depth and a willing front office to help support and minimize anything that gets in the way of the Rangers making another run in the post-season.
Jason Durden is a senior writer for Ballpark Banter. You can find him on Twitter @JasonDurden9.