There's a joke to be delivered about the Rangers still aggressively gunning for the services of Carlos Beltran -- as reported most prominently by the New York Post's Joel Sherman late last night -- when they now boast one of the three best-performing offenses in the game, and are now coming off one of the greatest single-game hitting exhibitions that baseball has seen in the last 50 years. Yeah, there's a joke to be made in there somewhere, but I'm not one to make it. Or maybe I actually did just make it. Wait, what?
I presume you're already well-acquainted with the bulk of the statistical minutia to come out of last night's 20-6 evisceration of the Twins, such as the fact that the Rangers are the first team to plate 20 runs in a single game since the Brewers on April 22nd, 2010, or the even more obscure fact that the Rangers are only the third team since 1900 to score at least three runs in each of the first five innings of a single game. What I tend to find even more fascinating, though, is that last night marked only the 12th time in the last 56 years -- and only the 34th time since 1919, spanning nearly 142,000 games -- that a team amassed 27 hits in a nine-inning game. Of those select few 27-hit-and-up teams, only eight had managed to pull off the feat while still recording at least 11 extra-base hits, as the Rangers did last night.
And just to inject a little bit more of the 'wow' factor into this already majestic demonstration of offensive firepower, offense across baseball is down more than half a run per game -- 0.60 runs, to be exact, or a 12.5 percent drop -- from where it was in 2007, when the Rangers turned the first half of an otherwise mundane day-night August doubleheader in Baltimore into a three-hour and 21-minute affair of historic proportions.
I could keep prattling on about the little statistical nuggets arising from last night's affair, or, if I were really feeling disingenuous, try to paint it as a "turning point"-type game, or try to attach a false significance to it that transcends its mere outcome or even the record books. Fortunately, I don't slip into such moods very often, and even if I did I wouldn't tell you about it (see what I did there?), but it does occur to me this morning that there's something quite unexpected going on where the league hitting leaderboards are concerned, and it's this: Michael Young, a man now sitting at .333/.369/.494 (.374 wOBA; 135 wRC+) on the season, is currently the best qualifying hitter in the AL West.
Of course, there are abundant caveats in play here -- Josh Hamilton (.300/.354/.546; .378 wOBA; 137 wRC+) boasts slightly superior rate numbers, but misses out on qualifying for the league leaderboards by fewer than 50 plate appearances due to his ill-fated early-season slide and the ensuing disabled-list stint. Ian Kinsler (.255/.361/.460; .372 wOBA; 133 wRC+) is right on Young's tail thanks to the inclusion of basestealing numbers in the wOBA/wRC+ calculations, and, because of the added value of his defense and playing time logged at a middle-infield post, still has little difficulty outstripping Young on the wins above replacement scale. Put another way, you could justifably say that Kinsler (4.9 WAR) has been the more valuable player overall, but Young (2.7 WAR) has been the more valuable hitter.
And juxtaposed against my pre-season expectations, that surprises me ... but it's a welcome surprise. This website as a whole -- including its readership -- has given Young quite a bit of hell over the years, and not without good cause, but Young blowing up with arguably his best offensive season to date is a delightful little perk. If you love him already, you're probably just about ready for somebody in a position of organizational authority to commission a statue of his likeness just outside the Ballpark's main gate; if you hate him and want him gone, or don't think he fits into the Rangers' post-2011 plans, at least now there's some reason to believe that other teams will want him. And if you fall in between the two extremes, you're just satisfied with the production. Everybody wins ... and, in this case at least, I like it when everybody wins.