I used to think that it was possible to spin a truly compelling narrative from the events of any game, no matter how unremarkable or sleep-inducing it appeared to be. That was a load of garbage. There was one single, solitary redeeming quality to Wednesday's series finale, and that was Matt Harrison being Matt Harrison yet again; beyond that, though, I've really got nothing. For the 90th time in a regular-season game in franchise history (and for the first time since Matt Moore's subjugation of Texas to begin last year's ALDS), the Rangers collected two or fewer hits in a game ... but that's not the worst part of it.
No, the worst part is that they looked bad enough to make two hits seem like an accomplishment of sorts, since it felt like it could have actually been worse and like Jose Quintana could have very easily gone ahead and blanked Texas in the hits column altogether. Yeah, "just one game" and all of that, but it certainly wasn't the note they were looking to finish an already lost series on, and now, after a nice little string of victories, the Rangers have been swept in a three-plus game series for the first time in their last 52 such series.
And so, since I can't bring myself to dissect that particular game any further, and since I don't think you can really say much of anything about the other development of yesterday (Yu Darvish triumphing in the All-Star final vote) other than "well, that's great), here are some nice month-by-month offensive splits for the Rangers' offense:
April 2012: .292/.353/.484, 121 wRC+ (1st), 7.5% BB, 18.5% K, .326 BABIP, .192 ISO
May 2012: .285/.340/.471, 115 wRC+ (2nd), 7.5% BB, 17.2% K, .314 BABIP, .186 ISO
June 2012: .277/.346/.430, 107 wRC+ (9th), 9.0% BB, 18.9% K, .327 BABIP, .153 ISO
July 2012: .214/.254/.282, 30 wRC+ (30th), 4.3% BB, 15.2% K, .248 BABIP, .069 ISO
And now for some arbitrary endpoints:
Last 7 Days: .215/.268/.313, 46 wRC+ (29th), 5.7% BB, 16.7% K, .248 BABIP, .097 ISO
Last 14 Days: .281/.342/.446, 107 wRC+ (16th), 7.5% BB, 18.7% K, .328 BABIP, .165 ISO
Last 30 Days: .270/.332/.417, 98 wRC+ (19th), 7.9% BB, 18.0% K, .313 BABIP, .147 ISO
There is a part of me that is vaguely concerned by just how low this lineup has looked on a few occasions of late (especially over the first five days of this month), and I understand the grousing about the apparent inconsistency of the offense -- but, in relation to last year's offensive splits at least, this alone isn't cause for grave concern. Here are the Rangers' team wRC+ figures on a month-by-month basis for the 2011 season, starting with April and running through September:
116 (4th), 92 (17th), 99 (8th), 129 (2nd), 102 (17th), 146 (1st)
Last year's Rangers team mustered just a single above-average wRC+ over the first three months of the regular season, and, despite seriously catching fire for the first time in July, there was still another inexplicable valley during the month of August, when the offense levelled back off near the league average before completely exploding in October. With the notable exception of the first few days of this (unfinished) month of July, the Rangers haven't had a below-average offensive month as of yet in 2012, and have already enjoyed two months where they boasted a top-two offense in baseball.
Since we all harbor recency bias to some degree, however, and since we're naturally inclined to be more concerned with what has happened of late than what happened back in April and May, I imagine that it's the slightly below-average showing by the offense (98 wRC+) over the last 30 days that's driving the bulk of the current angst over the offense. Here, then, are the individual numbers for the Rangers' offense over the last 30 days (click to enlarge):
I never thought I'd be citing David Murphy and Craig Gentry as the main drivers of the offense over an extended period of time, but, hey, there you go. You've also got Adrian Beltre furnishing elite offensive production over that period, and Josh Hamilton hitting okayish but not great, and Mitch Moreland -- whom this offense really misses right now against right-handed foes -- rounding out the top five. Beyond that, though, is where it gets pretty ugly, as you've got Nelson Cruz continuing to struggle with a sub-.700 OPS, Mike Napoli entering a tailspin, Yorvit Torrealba hitting poorly even with the lowered offensive expectations of the catcher's position ... and, uhm, Michael Young, who has been almost one win worse than a replacement-level player over the last month alone.
Again, though, the issue here is that there isn't a quick fix sitting down in the minors or out there on the trade market that's going to function as a cure-all and singlehandedly steer this offense back to its above-average ways. Mike Olt is the most ML-ready bat on the farm, but there's still a lot of miss in his swing, and I don't think it's fair or even especially realistic to call him up with the expectation of him being a decent major league hitter right from the outset. (Although, with the way things are going right now at the bottom of that list, it wouldn't take much for him to constitute an upgrade.)
Meanwhile, your 3.5 biggest drags on the lineup (Torrealba, Young, Cruz, and Napoli) are all locked into your lineup to a large extent; you have to keep running a catcher out there, you keep running Cruz out there because you know he's capable of being a special hitter and because you know you're going to need him to revert to his previous 'legit power threat' form before all is said and done, and you keep running Young out there because, well, he's Michael Young, and for that reason and a few other reasons, he's impervious to the risk of reduced playing time right now.
Unless you're prepared to cut bait with one of these names and expend trade resources on an alternative from the marketplace, though, or unless you're a big believer in Mike Olt being able to provide immediate utility at the big league level, there just isn't a quick fix to be had on the offensive side. These are your personnel, they are what they are, and, to a large extent, you're either going to ride or die with them.