Even after a tough 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Chicago Cubs on Friday, the Texas Rangers offense seems to be shifting into full gear with all of their major pieces healthy and producing. Can this team produce a top 5 offense and top 5 pitching staff and make its way into the playoffs for the first time since 1999?
The Rangers started the year with Ian Kinsler out of the lineup due to a sprained ankle and the offense struggled in April, only scoring 4.4 runs per game. Flip the calendar to May and the Rangers got Kinsler back and the offense starting performing better, even with the team losing Nelson Cruz to an injury.
Something clicked after the first month and now Texas is scoring 5.3 runs per game in May, nearly a run better than they did in April. Their team OPS is 130 points better in May than it was in April and Rangers hitters are getting on base 36% of the time in the 2nd month of the season compared to 31% in the first month.
The Rangers are certainly getting a boost from playing at home for most of their games in May, as they have put up a impressive .294/.362/.469 stat line this season at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. In order to keep improving as a team at the plate, Texas must start hitting away from home. Their stat line of .236/.301/.319 in 18 road games is laughably bad.
With that said, half of the road games that the Rangers have played thus far have been against tough, AL East teams, the other half have been played in pitchers parks and most of those games have been played without a key hitter in the lineup (Cruz or Kinsler). We'll see in the upcoming weeks if the healthy version of the Texas Rangers lineup can produce on the road in places like Kansas City, Minnesota and Chicago.
The Rangers lineup as it is constructed now looks like it could be a very impressive one for the rest of the season if it stays healthy.
Elvis Andrus has the highest OBP of any lead off hitter in baseball and looks like he has taken a giant step forward at the plate in his 2nd season.
Michael Young is comfortable in the 2nd spot as always and has been red-hot in May.
Ian Kinsler has been recently moved to the 3rd spot and will be a great run producer with his new-found approach at the plate in 2010.
Vladimir Guerrero continues to dominate in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and is by far the best DH in the league.
Josh Hamilton has some pressure taken off of him by hitting 5th and is performing well in between Guerrero and Cruz.
Nelson Cruz is probably the best 6th place hitter in all of baseball, as he is putting up gaudy numbers even with missing 15 games.
Justin Smoak is a patient young hitter who has got a bit unlucky in short stint in the majors, but he should come around with his great approach.
If Jarrod Saltalamacchia can get his throwing problems worked out in AAA, he would be a welcome addition to this lineup, getting rid of the light hitting Matt Treanor.
And finally, Julio Borbon has been a great disappointment this year, but he is still a huge threat because of his speed.
Overall, the Rangers lineup is shaping up nicely and it should compliment the pitching staff's impressive 4.05 ERA for the rest of the season.