The Big Mac Blog

Texas Rangers top priority is not to beat themselves

The Texas Rangers defense last season was terrible. Second baseman Rougned Odor was second on the team with 17 errors.
The Texas Rangers defense last season was terrible. Second baseman Rougned Odor was second on the team with 17 errors.

The Texas Rangers will return to the American League playoffs but will not repeat as AL West Division champions. The Houston Astros won’t blow it again and will win the division.

After that? Call me when I see the rotation and the disabled list.

Monday is Opening Day across our great land and the Texas Rangers begin the season in Arlington against the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are awful, but Opening Day never is.

The surest way to feel better about the Rangers this season is not the return of Yu Darvish from Tommy John surgery or a good year from Derek Holland, although those would both help, but rather if this team can stop beating itself.

The Rangers defense last season ranked 28th overall in baseball; their 119 errors were the third most in in the majors. My math says that stinks.

That disgusting trend carried over to the postseason, too. The team committed three errors in their Game 5 season-ending loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, two by shortstop Elvis Andrus in the decisive inning that no Ranger fan will soon forget.

Andrus, of course, was the big winner all season with 22 errors. Second baseman Rougned Odor chipped in 17.

Middle infielders usually have higher error totals but those figures are not good.

And no World Series contending team can hurt itself with so many errors. Teams can’t give away runs, or extend innings, with that and expect to advance.

I asked manager Jeff Banister if he believed those awful numbers were an accurate reflection of this team’s defense.

“No I don’t. I think the shortstop is a better defender than the overall comprehensive numbers,” Banister said. “I think the second baseman is going to get better. The third baseman (Adrian Beltre) is a plus defender. The center fielder (Delino DeShields) is only going to get better. We are better in left field today than we were last year (with Ian Desmond). He’s going to be a better defender. And I think (Shin Soo Choo in right) being healthy with a year full of confidence, I think we’re better.

“So, yes, I think we are a better defensive ball club than we were last year. I think we were asking these guys to do some things that they had not been asked to do before. Playing shifts and that was a different look and a different vision - the ball off the bat. Pitchers on the mound, we were concentrating on getting the ball on the ground. I do believe we are a better defensive ball club than we showed last year.”

One of the bigger Opening Day changes from last year is Delino DeShields is in center. Former prospect Leonys Martin, who could be electric defensively, was dealt to the Mariners. He simply could never master the angles of MLB ball; he just played with his hair on fire.

But as a defender he had range and one of those rare arms that base runners seldom dared. Or at least the smart ones didn’t.

“I think last year we were a little spoiled with Leonys Martin. Nobody else throws like that,” he said. “That is a weapon. Can Delino improve? He’s not going to necessarily improve on the arm strength. Can he improve on better reads or getting to the ball better, or going back on the ball? That in and of itself will help deter some of those average or below average runners from taking the extra base.”

The Rangers will be good this season. They will be a lot better if they simply don’t commit so many errors.