Edit: This was written Sunday, 2 February, 2014.
Hi, everyone, and happy Super Bowl Sunday. And go Chiefs! Oh wait.
A couple days ago Dan Szymborski posted his 2014 ZiPS projections for the Texas Rangers; below is the zWAR (ZiPS WAR) of some of the more significant Ranger roster pieces, because this is the type of nerdy baseball shit that really interests me.
Yu Darvish: +6.0 zWAR
Matt Harrison: +1.9 zWAR
Martin Perez: +1.8 zWAR
Alexi Ogando: +1.6 zWAR
Nick Tepesch: +1.1 zWAR
Adrian Beltre: +4.5 zWAR
Elvis Andrus: +3.3 zWAR
Shin-Soo Choo: +3.1 zWAR
Prince Fielder: +2.6 zWAR
Jurickson Profar: +2.7 zWAR
Leonys Martin: +2.2 zWAR
Alex Rios: +1.1 zWAR
Mitch Moreland: +0.8 zWAR
* * * * * *
As you can see, ZiPS likes Yu Darvish. A lot. As Carson Cistulli notes in the article, Darvish currently checks in as the 3rd-best pitcher in MLB thus far according to ZiPS, behind only Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
For the rest of the rotation, Szymborski’s model sees a mild collection of decent-but-not-great starters. Matt Harrison, who produced roughly +8.0 fWAR in 2011 and ’12, is viewed as about a +2.0 win pitcher, though the 111.1 IP mark is also worth noting. Should Harrison throw closer to 180.0 IP, he would likely be in the +3.0 to +3.5-win territory.
As far as how much Derek Holland’s absence figures to affect Texas, Cistulli references ZiPS in saying:
Given Holland’s recovery timetable (a midseason return is expected) and his likely replacement (Nick Tepesch, it seems), the Holland injury would appear to be costing the Rangers about one Platonic Win.
This is a bit calming, a bit reassuring, but it also illustrates both (a) Tepesch’s relatively promising talent level and (b) the wealth of quality arms Jon Daniels and Ron Washington and Mike Maddux have to play around with.
Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez are surefire rotations candidates, and, conceivably, any of Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross or Tanner Scheppers could at least be replacement-level, I’d have to guess. Ogando’s chances of being the #4 starter are excellent, and logic would seem to dictate that Tepesch has the inside track on the #5 spot. (This is not ZiPS-related, it’s just what I think.)
Essentially, there is enough in that rotation to survive without Derek Holland for three months. I’m iffy on if it’s enough to win the division if Derek should for some reason miss the entire year, but ZiPS seems pretty confident that the loss of Holland does not spell doom for the Rangers in 2014.
In the field, however, is where all the compelling shit goes down.
ZiPS has Alex Rios producing only +1.1 zWAR with a triple slash line of .272/.309/.417 (92 OPS+). That’s not very good, even for a solid right field defender who still has some utility running the bases. Who do the Rangers have that’s better, though? That is the question, especially because we’re so late in the game. Szymborski has Michael Choice at a mere +0.6 zWAR, generating a .259/.326/.394 (92 OPS+) line, which isn’t encouraging. But, still. Projections.
Since the Rangers should be pretty good this season, the smart money is on the experience Alex Rios owns starting over Michael Choice, who could probably still use a bit of seasoning against Triple-A pitching. That, and I’m not sure what Jon Daniels’s motivation would be to use Choice on the big league roster without giving him everyday at-bats.
In positive news, ZiPS thinks Jurickson Profar will be a capable replacement for Ian Kinsler, producing a .261/.330/.406 (96 OPS+) triple slash while being good for +2.7 zWAR. Unironically, the product of the Kinsler trade — Prince Fielder — is projected to put up +2.6 zWAR while hitting .276/.378/.488 (130 OPS+). That’s a pretty solid offensive line, one that I’d have to assume the Rangers would be happy with.
Of that main earners, guys like Adrian Beltre (+4.5 zWAR), Elvis Andrus (+3.5 zWAR) and Shin-Soo Choo (+3.1 zWAR) are all capable of outperforming their projections, while the catching tandem of Geovany Soto (+1.3 zWAR) and J.P. Arencibia (+1.4 zWAR) carry win totals we’d all be satisfied with.
Let’s not be mistaken: the wins from the offense are mainly going to be coming from Beltre, Choo, Fielder, and Andrus, while 2nd baseman, Jurickson Profar and center fielder, Leonys Martin, are healthy bets to take a step forward into the (theoretical) 3-win territory. Factoring in defense and base running ability with, obviously, offensive ability, and the Rangers have one of the strongest starting lineups in MLB.
The only hole in the lineup, it would appear, is at designated hitter. And that’s funny, because common sense would say that should be the easiest hole to fill.
Right now it looks like Mitch Moreland is going to be the DH. Meh. There’s a lot of talk from Moreland believers during every offseason that, yes! This is going to be the year he proves himself! And it’s never really happened.
In 1,560 career plate appearances, Mitch has hit .253/.318/.440 (99 wRC+) while being about average in the field. It’s fair to say he’s just, overall, a pretty average dude. My problem with him, aside him being the only weak link in a playoff-caliber lineup, is that he’s not even all that good against right-handed pitching (career .268/.325/.463 [106 wRC+]). So even if he’s only going to be in a platoon role, that wouldn’t get me all stoked about him, either.
Again, the Rangers are left with the question: Who could they get that’s better than Mitch? Well, one option would be Nelson Cruz, and seeing how late in the offseason we’re getting, maybe a one-year pillow contract with Texas would pique his interest.
I highly doubt that happens, but I could really get behind this lineup:
1. Choo – LF/RF
2. Andrus – SS
3. Fielder – 1B
4. Beltre – 3B
5. Cruz – DH
6. Rios – LF/RF
7. Soto/Arencibia – C
8. Profar – 2B
9. Martin – CF
In the end, regardless if Cruz comes back, the Rangers will remain the best team on paper in the American League West. How much Derek Holland’s absence affects the rotation still is yet to be determined, but, as it stands, Texas is a good bet to cross over the 90-win threshold in 2014.
My guess? 93-69.