Baseball resumes Friday for the Texas Rangers, who played 97 games in the “first half” of the season and won only 41 of them.
The Rangers won’t be going to the postseason for the second straight season, and the motivating factor for them over the final 65 games might end up being to avoid a 100-loss season.
To do that, they can lose no more than 43 games, and that doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Of course, the trade deadline is approaching, and the team could have a vastly different look July 31. Or maybe not. Or maybe in August.
Players will be coming off the disabled list (Doug Fister, Tony Barnette, Chris Martin) and players will be coming from the minors (Willie Calhoun, Scott Heineman and Ariel Jurado among others).
Through all the roster changes, the Rangers will not lose 100 times this season.
Bold prediction? Probably not.
But how about the five below?
1. Joey Gallo won’t strike out 200 times. The slugger is tied for the most strikeouts in the majors (132) and just barely avoided 200 last season (196). Admittedly, 200 looks like a layup. A stint in the minors would make 200 less likely, though general manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers will continue to give Gallo at-bats. Maybe manager Jeff Banister “unplugs” Gallo from the lineup for a few days to work on his swing. But he has made more contact of late, walking 15 times in the past 21 games while striking out 23 times. That’s a 38.3 strikeout percentage, which is a big number but an improvement overall (41.7).
2. Rougned Odor will finish batting above .260. Odor was batting .171 on May 23. He will take a .239 average into the second half after finishing the first half by batting .273 over his final 44 games. Ordinarily, that’s not a remarkable stretch, but it is for a hitter who batted .204 last season. What was remarkable about the stretch is that Odor posted a .358 on-base percentage, the result of 14 walks and the seven times he was hit by pitch. If he continues to lay off the bad pitches and swing at the good, it won’t be difficult for him to hit higher than .260.
3. Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels won’t be traded before July 31 deadline. Beltre has full no-trade rights, and Hamels can nix trades to 20 teams. General manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers won’t just give away Beltre, whose value to the franchise is measured differently than others because of who he is. Hamels’ unremarkable July hasn’t helped the Rangers’ case, and his contract status ($20 million club option for 2019 or a $6 million buyout) also complicates matters. Daniels has said that the Rangers won’t trade Hamels just to trade him. They want a quality return, and they might have a better chance getting one in August.
4. However, Rangers will pull a stunner by July 31. They don’t have a choice but to consider offers on every player they have. The player on a team that isn’t expected to contend until 2020 at the earliest who could draw heavy interest is closer Keone Kela. He is under club control for two seasons and would make any contender’s bullpen better. Would the Rangers consider dealing Willie Calhoun, who doesn’t seem to have a place to play? Would they eat 50 percent of Shin-Soo Choo’s remaining contract to deal him? The Rangers need to keep an open mind.
5. Bartolo Colon will homer at San Diego (again). The Rangers will head to San Diego the weekend of Sept. 14-16, and Colon will once again connect at the site of his only career home run. He will have already amassed the most career wins for a pitcher from Latin America, a feat he will check off before the end of July. The blast will again be down the left-field line at Petco Park, the trot will take upwards of 45 seconds, and the moment will go down as the Rangers’ No. 1 highlight of their 2018 season.