Let the record show that after last year's season-opening three-game set against Toronto, the Rangers' composite team batting line was a meager .168/.248/.316, and let it also show that after three games this season, the Rangers are collectively batting .333/.409/.775 with 11 home runs in only 102 at-bats. Taking era adjustments and the relative values of on-base percentage and slugging percentage into account, the Texas lineup has essentially performed like Ted Williams through its first three games against one of the most talented teams in baseball, and that ... well, that's just fantastic:
● Elvis Andrus falls a homer shy of the cycle last night, and ends up riding the pine today. Ian Kinsler plays virtually flawless defense at second base in his first two games, and ends up being slotted as the designated hitter today for the sake of Michael Young. These are the kinds of out-of-left field moves that would ordinarily precipitate a few waves of criticism, and very well might have brought forth some kvetching if they hadn't performed well today and Texas had fallen short of the mark -- but Blanco and Young both delievered, and the Rangers delivered, and there's that. A big part of both baseball fandom and analysis deals with highlighting things that aren't going right, or that aren't operating at peak effectiveness, but you would be forced to seriously reach to find one single thing that has truly gone wrong so far. It's a fun change of pace.
● And while we're on the topic of things going right to an almost frightening degree, there was an interesting trend embedded in the WPA graphs of these last three games: on Friday afternoon, the Red Sox seized the lead early and maxed out their win expectancy (WE) at 72.5 percent before Mike Napoli radically shifted the momentum. On Saturday evening, Boston yet again claimed the early lead, but relinquished it even more quickly than the day before, and their WE maxed out at just 61 percent. Today, Texas never trailed, and Boston's chances never exceeded the start-of-game 50-50 shot that is inherent in the WPA methodology. The Rangers didn't merely administer a beatdown; rather, they beat the Red Sox progressively worse with each passing game.
● Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz have each homered in three consecutive games to begin the season, which is -- as you might expect -- a new major league record, and Cruz in particular has now become only the second right-handed hitter in Ballpark history to deposit a ball in the right field upper home run porch. There's something I want to touch on briefly: a few of the local columnists seem to have a penchant for reiterating their disdain for the power-heavy Rangers of old, those hulking, 'roided-up teams that could purportedly only score by slugging home runs, and at times that disdain is conveyed in such a way that they almost make the home run sound like a bad thing, and that "doing the little things" and "playing to the score" and situational hitting and the like should constitute the team's primary offensive objective.
We know that (homers being bad) to be a falsehood, of course, and I wonder sometimes if the media types who engage in this line of thinking fully realize that hitting for prodigious power and demonstrating a well-balanced offensive approach do not have to be mutually exclusive. Because let's be perfectly honest here: there is no more efficient offensive event in baseball than the home run, and yes, a team-wide overreliance on the home run for scoring output can easily work to the detriment of the team as a whole, but in those instances, the frustration should never be directed towards the actual abundance of home runs as much as the lineup's dysfunction.