Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking you through all 30 MLB teams, discussing their positives and negatives from the year that was. Regardless of how lopsided it may get, we will stay the course and ultimately determine whether or not their 2015 efforts resulted in a successful season.
The Texas Rangers lost the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Then they lost a wild card game, missed the playoffs with a 91-72 record, and finished in last place in the AL West. Yu Darvish was lost for the season and a team with a rotation of question marks lost its biggest source of confidence.
Of all the years to bet on the Rangers, 2015 didn’t seem like a good one. While most teams don’t enter the season having given up, sometimes it makes sense to recognize that it’s a rebuilding year and next year will be better. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan—even reduced expectations—and you end up winning the division.
Acquired before the 2014 season, Prince Fielder had a disastrous start in Arlington. So much so that in 2015 he was named the AL comeback player of the year. The DH was back to his old self hitting .305/.378/.463 with 23 homers. He appeared in the home run derby and almost won it again. This isn’t peak Prince, but he looked very much the cornerstone he had been for the Brewers and Tigers.
A free agent signing for 2014, Shin-Soo Choo put up one of his worst seasons in 2014 and, like Fielder, bounced back in a big way. A .276/.375/.463 performance with 22 homers is almost exactly his career line: .281/.382/.455. After stealing 20 bases in four of the five seasons prior to joining the Rangers, Choo has swiped just seven bags while being caught six times, so again, it’s a reduced skill set but he’s not going to drag the team down, as it looked like he might one year into his deal, with a few years like 2015.
Mitch Moreland was considered an afterthought but pulled off a .278/.330/.482 season with 23 homers. He still struggles against lefties (.245/.293/.387) compared to righties (.294/.348/.528) but he got himself back into starting territory.
Elvis Andrus continued to play at what appears to be his established level of performance: .258/.309/.357 with 25 steals. His doubles power is there too—34—and he slugged a career high seven homers, but the breakout that seemed to be happening in 2011-2012 hasn’t materialized.
Veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre chipped in a solid .287/.334/.453 performance and hit 18 home runs while battling some injuries and slumps. In his age-36 season, he appeared to show some signs of slowing down, but he’s too talented to let something like age really get in his way. At least for now.
John Hamilton, acquired from the Angels in a no-brainer deal played in just 50 games, hit 8 homers, and didn’t really haunt Anaheim with a .253/.291/.441 line. But a healthy winter and start to 2016 could set him on the right track.
Yu Darvish missed the season and Derek Holland pitched just 58.2 innings. That would seem like a lost year for the rotation, but Texas held it together.
Colby Lewis recorded 200 innings for the third time in five years with the Rangers since returning from Japan. It wasn’t always pretty: a 4.66 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 16.5 percent strikeout rate are not the most impressive stats, but his 4.9 percent walk rate helped limit the damage of every hit he allowed.
It looked like a change from the NL to AL and Miller Park to Globe Life Park in Arlington would be a disaster for Yovani Gallardo. A 3.42 ERA (4.00 FIP) actually showed things working out OK. His strikeout rate (15.3 percent) was a drop from the low-to-mid twenties he showed during his peak, but the worst never happened.
When he was acquired mid-season, Cole Hamels looked like a 2016 move done early. Certainly Darvish and Hamels will look nice at the top of the rotation next spring, but the southpaw reeled off a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts for the Rangers and allowed just four runs in his two postseason starts for the club.
Was it a successful season?
Entering Spring, the Rangers were coming off a 67-95 year where they finished 31 games out of first place. Choo and Fielder were players with big contracts who hadn’t performed. Josh Hamilton was back as a figurehead of sorts whose on-field contributions were unknown. Jurickson Profar was an injured top prospect still trying to make his way to the majors. But the Rangers held on.
Fielder and Choo bounced back. The team traded for Hamels even though making the playoffs, let alone winning the division, was an open question at the time. The Rangers pieced together a team that made it into October when few gave it a second thought in March, April, May, or even June. That’s successful any year.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs