I was combing through the editorial dashboard yesterday when I noticed a half-finished -- okay, more like five percent finished -- post from MJH that was titled something like "Rangers Report Cards." I'm not exactly going with the letter grade-conferring report card approach that Mike might have intended, but I decided that there might be some instructive value in taking a look at three guys who have, erm, not exactly been in the best way of late, and looking at what they might be able to do to get back on the right track:
Ian Kinsler: .254/.297/.373 since 5/1; .272/.337/.448 in '12 (109 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR)
Kinsler's not having a bad season, per se, but his 45-day slump is pretty evident by now, and he has stalled out at the 1.5 fWAR checkpoint for at least the last couple of weeks, which is, of course, an issue. The power production has slipped a bit, but he's actually doing better from that standpoint than he did through his first 297 plate appearances last year; the real issue is that he's about 12 walks shy of replicating his full-season 2010-11 walk rates, which were in the 12.2-12.3 percent range, and about 16 walks shy of replicating his pace through his first 297 plate appearances last year. That's validated by the pitch data, which indicates that Kinsler is swinging more often, missing more often, and chasing more balls out of the strike zone this year than he did last year.
I'm not especially freaked here, especially since there's a wobbly defensive component (UZR) to fWAR that, with a different distribution of balls hit to Kinsler, could easily have him on a 4.5-5.0 fWAR trajectory. I am, however, at least a bit disconcerted.
Yu Darvish: 20.2 IP, 6.53 ERA, 19 K, 18 BB since 5/20; 4.04 FIP, 1.2 fWAR in '12
Darvish has ceded the 'highest walk rate in the American League' title to Ubaldo Jimenez for the time being, but he's not in welcome territory (5.5 BB/9), and the thing about the walks are that (a) quite a few of them feel like they've been issued to substandard or non-intimidating hitters, and (b) the walks jack up the pitch count and the game leverage, pile the stress onto Darvish, and preclude him from working as deep into games as the Rangers would like to see. I've tried to maintain reasonable expectations on Darvish, especially since he has only made 12 stateside starts to this point, but I doubt even the Rangers foresaw control issues of such severity cropping up at this stage.
For what it's worth, Randy Galloway apparently polled some front-office and scouting types both inside and outside the organization on Darvish, and got responses ranging from "[Darvish] seems confused about what he wants to throw to hitters" to "[Darvish is overanalyzing things and not entirely trusting his pitches" to "[Darvish is] worried too much about the second time around impact." Jon Daniels distilled the issue down to Darvish not making the in-game adjustments that he needs to make, whereas Nolan Ryan cited the ongoing cultural adjustment that Darvish faces. He'll get another crack at it tonight against Houston, and, hopefully, we'll see some signs of positive progress.
Michael Young: .237/.266/.309 since 4/21; .278/.304/.365 in '12 (77 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR)
A couple of days ago, a few of the beat guys made reference to Michael Young's .330-plus batting average over the last two weeks, and when you see a statistic like that connected to a struggling hitter, your natural inclination is to think that he's on his way back, right? In actuality, Young hit .338 over a period of 16 games ... but produced only a .338/.368/.400 batting line over that period, as he drew just three walks and smashed just three extra-base hits in that span, and after a few more cruddy days at the plate (including last night's 0-for-4 effort), he's right back down near his season-worst OPS. I had harbored some vague hope that "What's Wrong With Michael Young?" might jolt his production back closer to his league-average baseline (such as it did two years ago), but it's just not happening.
With Young not hitting for power and not drawing walks, you're left with a punchless, one-dimensional singles hitter who can't masquerade as even a passable 1B/DH, and that's a problem when he's virtually guaranteed to get his 650-700 plate appearances. Contrary to what a small, mistaken subset of the commentariat believes, I don't hate Michael Young, and I want Michael Young to do well, because Michael Young playing well makes this team better ... but I'm reminded right now of a few of the beat guys recently saying things along the lines of "it's Michael Young, he's a professional hitter, he'll get himself back on track soon enough," and so on and so forth into perpetuity.
That's great and all, but it's already June 15th. What happens if he doesn't figure it out?