Sunday, August 13, 2023

Newsletter Excerpt, August 10, 2023 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 5"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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20. Texas Rangers (68-47 (.591, fourth in MLB), 659 runs scored, 484 runs allowed, first in AL West)

Rangers players are the reason the team has a 2 1/2-game lead in the AL West, from Corey Seager to Nathan Eovaldi to the now-injured Jonah Heim and Josh Jung. Let nothing I write here detract from that statement.

With that said, their management team has had a great year. Running a trade deadline by himself for the first time and a buyer for the first time in any role, Chris Young did a fantastic job capitalizing on the Rangers’ success. Knowing Jacob deGrom was done for the year and with concerns about Nathan Eovaldi’s health, Young acquired two playoff-caliber starters without trading away the top prospects in his system in Owen White and Evan Carter. That was on the heels of getting the strikeout reliever the team needed in Aroldis Chapman. How Young would handle the deadline was one of the important deadline storylines and he crushed it.

Young isn’t the only member of the leadership team worth singling out, though.

“Bochy is a long time removed from his last success. The game has shifted a lot in recent years, and nothing in Bochy’s last few years in San Francisco indicated he was ready to shift with it. Showalter has always been a grinder, always wanting new information. Baker hardly had that same rep, but in each stop he became a better game manager, better player manager, while retaining the interpersonal skills that made him an attractive hire. I am unclear what traits Bochy has that make him the best choice to run a team in 2023. Even if you grant him credit as a strong postseason manager, which you can and should do, that’s a thin reed for hiring someone who has to get through 162 games to show off those skills.”

That was me last December, disapproving of the Rangers’ decision on a new manager.

It’s not even the Rangers’ record or Bruce Bochy’s bullpen work that has me eating crow. No, it’s all of the points at which the Rangers’ season could have gone sideways and didn’t, at least in part because the manager was a guy who has seen it all. deGrom was lost. Corey Seager made multiple IL trips. Eovaldi’s elbow started barking. Now Heim and Jung, two incredibly key pieces, will be out for much of the pennant race. The Rangers just keep winning. I am as careful as anyone to not confuse correlation with causation, but I’m certain Bochy is why the wheels haven’t fallen off the Rangers’ wagon even as players have.

I gave out the Astros earlier this year on the Gaming list when they were down to even money to win the AL West. I still think that’s a credible pick. The Rangers have some collapse risk, though less than they did before Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery arrives. Of the six current division leaders, the Rangers are the one most likely, if not particularly likely, to miss the playoffs.

Reasons to Watch: The 40 games he lost to injury will keep it from happening, but Corey Seager was the one threat to Shohei Ohtani’s MVP candidacy, playing at an 11-WAR pace over 72 games. He’s a great player having his best year.

One Stat: Since leaving the A’s as a free agent after the 2020 season, Marcus Semien has played in all but one of his team’s games, including all 115 for the Rangers this year.