Gil LeBreton

Rangers need to fix holes in their lineup first

The Texas Rangers' Prince Fielder hits a two-run single in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won, 6-4.
The Texas Rangers' Prince Fielder hits a two-run single in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won, 6-4. Special to the Star-Telegram

The Texas Rangers reached the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season Friday night.

They won their MLB-leading 52nd game. They led the American League West by 8  1/2 games.

Nomar Mazara is the runaway favorite for rookie of the year. Ian Desmond is an MVP candidate. And lefty Cole Hamels is likely headed to the All-Star Game.

But there were no trumpets Friday night. A franchise that once came within one strike of winning the World Series is not going to hold any champagne parties for leading at the 81-game mark.

Instead, it’s time to assess whether the Rangers are built for the long haul.

Two defeats in Minnesota after two walk-off losses at Yankee Stadium have Rangers fans ready to dial 911. Clearly, the Rangers’ record start spoiled many of the paying customers.

The pitching concerns, however, are valid. The Rangers have been coping with the absences of Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland.

Darvish will get a rehab start this week for Double-A Frisco. The other two may not pitch again until August.

That’s too long to continue plugging in minor league spot starters who inevitably pitch like minor leaguers.

The Twitter consensus assumes that the club will address its overworked bullpen at the trading deadline. Well and good. But the Rangers need another dependable starter.

Even with Darvish, the rotation is not going to be able to tread water until Lewis returns. This past week should have convinced the Rangers of that.

The bullpen issues remain. A healthy Keone Kela will give manager Jeff Banister another bullpen arm he can trust. One more reliever at the trade deadline should suffice.

The bullpen has been overworked, but that is partly a product of the close games that Banister finds his team locked in every night.

Why so many close games?

Glad you asked. It’s because the lineup, as exhilarating as it can seem on some nights, isn’t always firing on all available cylinders.

The manager seems determined to allow Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland to slug their way out of extended slumps. Both have responded with a brief flurry of results, but both have also regressed of late.

Moreland ended Sunday batting .229 and is 5 for 27 in his last 10 games. Fielder is at .217 and is statistically ensconced as the worst designated hitter in the AL.

Moreland ranks13th of 14 AL first basemen in park-adjusted OPS. His WAR (wins above replacement) number is below zero, lowest in the league.

Yet, while Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar mostly sit on the bench, Moreland and Fielder remain lineup fixtures. Moreland has started 68 of the team’s 82 games, including inexplicably 12 games against left-handed starters.

Fielder, meanwhile, is having his worst season, batting 66 points below his career average and more than 250 points behind his OPS.

Moreland and Fielder have a combined 601 plate appearances. Rua has 168 and Profar 110.

At some point, the Rangers will have to acknowledge that some are carrying their share of the pennant-race load, and some are not.

A trade — this time with trumpets — seems inevitable.

But before the team welcomes newcomers, it needs to address the lineup’s problem of under-producing regulars.

Or quit complaining about the one-run losses.

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