Globe Life Field could very well have been the biggest MLB betting story of 2020. There were some shenanigans in places like San Francisco and Anaheim with regards to totals betting, but no team was impacted more by a park factor than the Texas Rangers.
Globe Life Park was a hitter’s haven. Hot, humid conditions in the summertime gave fly balls some extra carry and a sun-baked infield turned baseballs into those bouncy balls you can get from a 25-cent vending machine. Grounders picked up speed, took bad hops, and it was not any fun to be an infielder.
Globe Life Field, the new ballpark in Arlington, was a mausoleum for fly balls. Many found a final resting place in a fielder’s glove. Texas’s offensive numbers cratered. The offense wasn’t very good to begin with, as evidenced by the 2019 numbers while still playing half of the games in the old stadium. This was a below average offense in its regular form, but Globe Life Field took it to another level.
Admittedly, this is a huge oversimplification because the road venues weren’t much better with traditional pitcher’s parks like Oakland Coliseum, T-Mobile Park, Angel Stadium, Minute Maid Park, which plays different when the roof is open or closed, and then the NL West ballparks. However, the Rangers, if extrapolated out to a full season, would have scored 605 runs. You have to go back to 1982 to find a number lower than that for this team.
In 30 games at the new ballpark, the Rangers went 16-14, despite being outscored by 23 runs. On the road, the Rangers were 6-24. It was the road that highlighted just how bad the offense was and especially just how bad the pitching staff was. This was a team that overachieved to go 78-84 in 2019, a mark that was seven wins better than their BaseRuns record and then put up a whimper of a record in 2020.
As a general rule, I strongly dislike teams like the Rangers. The offense has mild hope this season, with top prospect Leody Taveras likely to lead off and man center field and what I would hope would be a better season from Nick Solak. The pitching staff looks rough with the losses of Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. The bullpen also looks suspect.
The unfortunate thing is that the Rangers appeared to bottom out last season. They were under strong consideration to be a season win total under bet for me going into 2020, but then Spring Training was stopped and the season was put on hold. Had the Rangers not played 60 games in 2020, maybe everybody wouldn’t know just how bad they are.
Instead, everybody knows everything. Everybody knows that Joey Gallo is on the trade block. Everybody knows that the Rangers can’t hit and clearly can’t pitch. Everybody knows that this will be a bottom-feeder in the American League. Maybe everybody would have known that anyway, but now, it might as well be written on each billboard you pass on the highway.
Extremely low win totals are not on my radar in most instances. I try to construct my opinions by looking at the ceiling, the floor, and the likeliest range of outcomes. The Rangers are going to be terrible. Just how terrible? Well, that will decide whether or not I make a bet on this low season win total line.
2021 Over/Under Season Win Total Odds
Odds To Win AL West
|Team||Odds To Win|
|Los Angeles Angels||+375|
|BaseRuns Run Differential||-71 (3.69/4.88)||-103 (4.82/5.46)|
|3rd Order Win%||21.5-38.5||70.8-91.2|
|Record in One-Run Games||7-6||25-21|
Additions: Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, John Hicks, Brock Holt, Hyun-jong Yang, Mike Foltynewicz, Nick Vincent, Spencer Patton, Delino DeShields, Sam Gaviglio, Hunter Wood, Justin Anderson, Drew Butera, Drew Anderson, Charlie Culberson, Kohei Arihara, Jason Martin, Edubray Ramos, Jharel Cotton, David Dahl, Joe Gatto, Josh Sborz, Jonah Heim, Khris Davis, Dane Acker, Carl Chester, Jose Acosta, Jose Corniell, Nate Lowe, Jake Guenther, Dane Dunning, Avery Weems, Brett de Geus
Losses: Danny Santana, Luke Farrell, Jeff Mathis, Andrew Romine, Derek Dietrich, Shin-Soo Choo, Jesse Chavez, Edinson Volquez, Juan Nicasio, Corey Kluber, Jhan Zambrano, Aramis Garcia, Elvis Andrus, Scott Heineman, Rafael Montero, Heriberto Hernandez, Osleivis Basabe, Alexander Ovalles, Lance Lynn, Ian Gibaut
You know how to tell when you follow baseball too closely? When you know most of the names on these two lists. A lot of player movement without a lot of substance for the Texas Rangers. They’ll hope that Kohei Arihara comes over from Japan and stands out and hope for the same for Hyun-jong Yang from the KBO. They’ll hope that Mike Foltynewicz and Jharel Cotton and get things figured out. Dane Dunning slots easily into the rotation after being the centerpiece of the Lance Lynn deal.
That’s what you need to know about the additions, at least on the pitching side. Nate Lowe will get chances in Texas that he otherwise would not have gotten in Tampa Bay, so the Rangers acquired him in a trade. David Dahl will also get chances in a hitting environment that could not be farther from the one he enjoyed in Denver. That is pretty much your update on offense.
As far as the losses, none of them are of great significance for the Rangers except for the departure of staff ace Lance Lynn. The other guys were mostly veteran depth pieces and bullpen arms. Shin-Soo Choo went back to the KBO to finish out his career. Corey Kluber never even really pitched for the Rangers.
I think they’re actually better for all of these moves, especially slotting Khris Davis’s power upside in the lineup over the nothing burger that Elvis Andrus offers in that department.
|Batting Average (BA)||.217 (29th)||.248 (17th)|
|On-Base Percentage (OBP)||.285 (29th)||.319 (20th)|
|Slugging Percentage (SLG)||.364 (29th)||.431 (16th)|
|Weighted On-Base Avg (wOBA)||.283 (29th)||.317 (16th)|
|Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)||76 (28th)||88 (23rd)|
|Batting Avg on Balls In Play (BABIP)||.266 (29th)||.304 (10th)|
|Strikeout Percentage (K%)||25.5% (26th)||25.4% (26th)|
|Walk Percentage (BB%)||7.8% (27th)||8.6% (16th)|
Globe Life Field was where batted balls went to die. Collectively, all batters at Globe Life Field hit .231/.318/.384. The Rangers posted a .230/.307/.369 slash line in their home ballpark. They had a .295 wOBA. Compare that with a .332 wOBA in the last year at Globe Life Park. Hitting at home was not any fun.
From when I wrote the first draft to the final edits, FanGraphs recalibrated the park factors and adjusted the Rangers wRC+ for the fullseason up to 76, so they went from 30th to 28th because they got a break due to how bad of an offensive park the new home venue was. Their wRC+ at home was 85, adjusted because it was impossible to hit there.
Here’s the thing. Hitting at home was hard, but the Rangers posted a .270 wOBA and a 68 wRC+ on the road. Only the Pirates were more pathetic away from home. The Rangers had the second-lowest BB% on the road, trailing only the Tigers. They had a .248 BABIP, which was the worst in baseball.
To me, I think the home struggles are going to be a crutch. Something that overshadows just how awful this offense was as a whole. It was a big narrative last season. The limited scoring at Globe Life Field. That will be what gets talked about with the Rangers. It was way more than a park factor change. Believe me, that was a contributing factor, but hitting that poorly on the road won’t be baked into the analysis of the Rangers.
It is worth acknowledging, of course, that the Rangers had to go to a bunch of bad hitter’s parks by virtue of playing an all West Division schedule. It is an unavoidable caveat. The Rangers also stunk on the road in 2019 when they were 24th in wOBA. And 2018 when they were 24th in wOBA.
The cold, hard truth is that this offense simply isn’t any good. The Rangers strike out too much and don’t walk enough. They don’t hit for enough power. They don’t make enough quality contact. They don’t do really anything all that well.
Joey Gallo hit 10 home runs. He was one of two players to do it. The other was Rougned Odor, who is one of the worst offensive players in baseball. Gallo only posted an 86 wRC+ with a .297 wOBA. He still led the team in fWAR pretty comfortably. Globe Life Field is tough to work into the formulas and algorithms with only one short season worth of data points, so take this with a grain of salt, but not a single Rangers regular posted a wRC+ that was league average.
Ronald Guzman had a 104 wRC+ in 86 plate appearances. Derek Dietrich is gone. Samuel Huff was the backup catcher. Those are the only other two and they combined to have 108 plate appearances. Part-time players came and went. Regulars put up bad numbers. None of the players that the Rangers hoped would have an impact were able to do so.
Take, for example, Willie Calhoun. Calhoun is a guy without a position, but he has a decent hit tool. He hung a 110 wRC+ in 2019 with a .269/.323/.524 slash and hit 21 homers in just 337 plate appearances. He hit one home run in 108 PA last season with a .217 wOBA. Nick Solak, who hit at every level of the minors and posted a .375 wOBA in 135 PA in 2019, hung a .297 wOBA in 233 plate appearances last season. He was also awful defensively in the outfield and at second base.
Leody Taveras, a speedster with a slick glove and what was thought to be a growing hit tool, posted a respectable 93 wRC+ with a .307 wOBA, but he struck out in over 32% of his plate appearances and had a higher BB% than what we saw in the minors from him. There wasn’t a lot of hope for the future in these small sample sizes.
Now, no team in its right mind would make sweeping generalizations in a weird season with a bunch of terrible offensive parks, so all of these guys will have every chance to prove themselves this season and probably next season as well. By no means am I saying these guys won’t hit.
I’m saying that the Rangers as a team are going to be a major laggard offensively again. Nate Lowe was a little bit better than league average offensively, but any time the Rays give up on a player, my Spidey Senses tingle. Lowe only had 245 plate appearances and the Rays had seen enough. David Dahl, who has topped out at 413 plate appearances, has been a pretty good hitter when healthy with nice power numbers. He’s also posted a .305 wOBA and an 87 wRC+ away from Coors Field.
I’m not sure that the Rangers will finish 29th and 30th in a bunch of offensive categories again this season, but another bottom-five offensive season looks to be in the cards. Being the worst offense in baseball would not stun me at all either.
|Earned Run Average (ERA)||5.02 (23rd)||5.09 (24th)|
|Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)||4.88 (23rd)||4.84 (21st)|
|Adj. Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP)||5.00 (28th)||4.82 (25th)|
|Strikeout Percentage (K%)||21.5% (26th)||21.7% (22nd)|
|Walk Percentage (BB%)||10.4% (27th)||9.2% (25th)|
|Left On Base Percentage (LOB%)||68.6% (27th)||70.5% (23rd)|
As bad as the offense appears to be, I’m even more terrified of this starting rotation. The Rangers sent Lance Lynn to Chicago for Dane Dunning and Avery Weems. I actually like that deal for them, given that Lynn was gone after this season anyway. The 34-year-old might have one more decent free agent contract in him and the Rangers aren’t exactly in a good position for giving those out.
In fact, we’ve got a rebuild going here. The Rangers have zero dollars committed beginning with the 2023 season. Texas ran top-10 payrolls every season from 2012-17 in hopes of making one of those big playoff runs. There were some successes. There weren’t a lot of playoff successes.
Anyway, Dunning can be a pitcher to build around. He flashed a lot of promise with a 3.97 ERA and a 3.99 FIP in his 34 innings last season. Promise is something that the Rangers have very little of on the pitching side, so the idea of having a controlled asset like Dunning was too much to pass up.
I just talked about how rough life was as a hitter at Globe Life Field. Opposing teams batted .233/.327/.397. That wasn’t that far off of what the Rangers did on offense and they were one of the worst in the league. How in the hell did this pitching staff finish in the bottom five or bottom 10 of every pitching category?
Well, Rangers pitchers had a 5.55 ERA on the road with a 5.11 FIP. They had a 64.2% LOB%. The team’s defense wasn’t that bad overall, but they simply could not strand runners on the road. Maybe that improves. I’m guessing it doesn’t. The Rangers had a 19.2% K% on the road, which was the second-lowest in baseball. The lowest belonged to a team with a real handicap in the Colorado Rockies.
Lynn is out of the equation now, so that puts even more pressure on the shoulders of Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. Lyles was bet against in basically every start that he made and proceeded to post a 7.02 ERA with a 5.95 FIP in his 57.2 innings of work. Gibson wasn’t much better with a 5.35 ERA and a 5.39 FIP. I don’t really see any big strides from these two guys, other than to say that they probably won’t be as awful. That isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.
Rangers pitchers gave up a ton of home runs. That’s what happens with pedestrian velocity and pitch-to-contact arsenals. Gibson wants to induce ground balls because he can’t generate a lot of strikeouts. Lyles was more of a fly ball guy, but he gave up a ton of hard contact. Mike Foltynewicz fell out of favor in Atlanta and also has major command issues of his own.
Perhaps Kohei Arihara will be the savior for this rotation. With Nippon Ham in the NPB, Arihara had a 3.46 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP in his 132.2 innings of work last season. Overall, he has a 3.65 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP in his six seasons in Japan. With 666 strikeouts in 882 innings, he probably fits right into this rotation as a guy that doesn’t miss bats.
Hyun-jong Yang is one of the best to ever do it in the KBO, but he’s also now 33 years old trying to conquer the MLB game as a guy that had strikeout numbers that won’t translate to the Majors and he’s coming off of one of his worst KBO seasons.
Jose Leclerc projects to be back as the closer after appearing in just two games last season. Jonathan Hernandez was a pleasant surprise last season in the bullpen with a 2.90 ERA and a 3.19 FIP. Rafael Montero was pretty good, but he’s now in Seattle. There aren’t really that many guys of intrigue in this bullpen and the Rangers have an army of non-roster invites and fringy starters they could put out there. I just don’t see anything to get excited about.
Positives & Negatives
The Rangers are locked in a division with three legitimate playoff contenders plus a Mariners team that looks to be better than they are. Those 76 games won’t be a whole lot of fun and the 86 games outside the division don’t project to be a lot of fun either. The other AL team in the East and Central won’t have played at Globe Life Field yet, so the sightlines and the feel of the park will be different. Perhaps that’s a hidden advantage.
I don’t know what the Rangers are doing. They’ve gotten a bunch of power hitters or guys that are otherwise limited while playing in a ballpark that suppresses offense and a division that does the same. It looks as though they’re just trying to hang on. Every player in the projected starting lineup is under 30, so this is a younger team, but the ceiling for a lot of those players simply isn’t high enough.
The organization’s attempts at playoff success took away a lot of prospects from the system, which is why the rotation is made up of guys all acquired via trade or free agency over the last 2+ years. Perhaps new GM Chris Young will be able to bring some new ideas to the table of President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels. The Daniels executive tree has a lot of branches, but things look pretty dire within the organization right now.
Texas Rangers Pick & Prediction: Under 67.5
I firmly believe this will be the worst team in the American League. The Baltimore Orioles have at least shown signs of life. The Detroit Tigers have some of baseball’s top pitching prospects. The Rangers just have nothing that gets me excited. They have an offensive strategy that is simply not feasible with their ballpark or with the ballparks of division rivals. They have a bunch of #4 and #5 starters masquerading as front and middle of the rotation guys. They have no plan.
The 2019 Rangers overachieved in a big way, as their BaseRuns record was seven wins below their actual record. I was pretty ready to fade them last season with a win total of 79.5. It is clear that the markets have properly adjusted for how bad this team really is. Their run differential in a 60-game season was 20 runs worse than their run differential from the previous season when they outperformed their alternate standings metrics.
As a general rule, I don’t like taking really low win totals. My sweet spot for win totals is to look at teams that have a wide range of outcomes and then see if I’m closer to what I believe the floor is or what I believe the ceiling is. With the Rangers, the ceiling is not high at all and the floor is probably a lot lower than most people anticipate.
When I look at this division, though, I have no hope for this team. When I look at this rotation, I have no hope for this staff. When I look at what MLB has done with deadening the baseball and what MLB teams are doing in hopes of counteracting the increase in home runs, I have no hope for this lineup.
I truly believe the AL team with the most losses in baseball will be this one, so the under is the only way I could look. The Rangers haven’t lost 100 games since 1973. This looks like 2018 all over again to me. The Rangers were 67-95 that season and I think they’re even worse this time around.
As strong as my convictions are about the awfulness of this team, playing an under 67.5 is very hard to do. Some equity was ripped from this line as it was bet down a bit across the board or maybe sportsbooks just mirrored a lower number from somewhere else.
This team is terrible. If we find head-to-head season win total props, I’d love Baltimore at plus money against Texas.
So, this is a lean and a fairly strong one at that, but I have a really hard time taking an under with a season win total this low, so it is not a bet, but a solid under 67.5 pick for the purposes of the Guide.