It's too soon to commence panicking, but not too soon to begin drawing up contingency plans ... even if they're not very good ones. Because this simply cannot -- and will not -- go on forever. And if you're of the Billy Beane-inspired mindset that you use the first two months of the season to assess what you have and then use the following two months to address your most conspicuous weaknesses, then you have to figure that the leash is becoming perilously short.
I am, of course, speaking of the second position (center field) at which the Rangers are receiving historically inept production this season, primarily manned by a player whose lone offensive virtue thus far appears to be his 5-for-6 success rate on the basepaths. Julio Borbon isn't this bad, and I think we all know that, but I've looked at his performance to date each and every way possible and still can't find a way to tilt it favorably.
Put in a historical context with OPS+ (which has its flaws, certainly, but is still valuable in terms of rendering cross-era comparisons), Borbon's 2010 campaign (33 OPS+) would, given at least 400 plate appearances, go down as the single worst offensive season by a center fielder in the history of baseball. Yeah, it's bad.
And while I'd be ecstatic to point towards just one element of Borbon's offense that has been horrendous, the bleak reality of the matter is that it has all been horrendous. The breakdown begins with an out-of-zone swing rate (39.6 percent) which ranks among the worst in the majors, and I think a lot of his problems stem from that lack of plate discipline alone (including, most notably, his meager 1.7 percent walk rate), but he's also flailing to the extreme against fastballs and breaking balls alike, and, according to ESPN.com's Inside Edge scouting service, has the lowest ratio of well-hit balls to at-bats (7.3 percent, against the league average of 20.8 percent) in the majors.
While players of Borbon's ilk -- that is, the speedy low-power slashers -- are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to amassing "well-hit balls," what it all boils down to is that Borbon isn't simply getting unlucky, as it were. A rock-bottom BABIP isn't indicative of poor luck if you're terrible at making good contact; rather, it's the outcome you've earned and deserve. The problem is that I don't think the Rangers are so good -- or their divisional competition so terrible -- that they can give Borbon another 4-6 weeks to start reversing those trends, particularly since his defense has not been the source of much value in and of itself this year.
So, let's say that the Rangers -- as resistant as they might be to the notion of optioning Borbon, which I suspect partly stems from their belief that he can derive the most future benefit from facing major league pitching as opposed to Triple-A pitching -- give Borbon two more weeks, and things are still looking hopeless. You can try to swing a deadline deal, certainly, but (a) acquiring anything more than a stopgap measure implies that you've lost confidence in Borbon as your intermediate-term solution, and (b) any worthwhile stopgap measure is probably going to be retained until the last week of July, which means you still have seven-plus weeks in which you must find a passable internal solution.
Josh Hamilton? David Murphy? Those are last-resort options, the kind you employ when the rest of the center field depth chart has contracted some horrible illness. What would seem to make the most sense on paper is some sort of split playing-time arrangement involving Craig Gentry and Brandon Boggs (both at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and both raking), with Borbon being one roster casualty and Joaquin Arias being the other, and then seeing about working in Endy Chavez if/when he's ready to go, but I question how much faith the Rangers have in any one of the Gentry/Boggs/Chavez triumvirate, particularly as far as their capacity to perform consistently during a pennant race goes.
That the Rangers have been able to maintain a two-game lead in spite of overall replacement-level performance at catcher, first base, third base and center field is a testament to those players who are performing at a very high level, but it's also a function of the relative weakness of this division. Count me among those who simply cannot get comfortable with the idea of putting the Rangers' destiny in another team's hands.