Some thoughts and notes and oh no what on earth is happening:
● With an attention-grabbing three-game set against the Red Sox scheduled to begin in a few hours, I decided it would be worthwhile to crunch the Rangers' rest-of-season strength of schedule, and here's what I came up with:
August: 13 home games, 10 road games, .513 opp. WP, .513 opp. third-order WP
Sept./Oct.: 13 home games, 19 road games, .492 opp. WP, .496 opp. third-order WP
So, in essence, the Rangers catch a small break as the home/road distribution for the remainder of this month, but the schedule is tough, and that's especially true over the next 10 games as they tackle the Red Sox (.544 third-order winning percentage), the Tigers (.545), and the Yankees (.593). If they can survive this stretch with, say, a 5-5 record (a feat which would be even more acceptable in light of the fact that seven of these next 10 games are going to be played in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium), and if they can make it through that stretch without yielding more than a game or two of their divisional lead, they're going to have a pretty favorable schedule for the stretch run against a collection of teams with an aggregate third-order winning percentage around just .490.
But, then again, there seems to be a line of thought -- one that I can't corroborate off hand -- that this team plays to the level of its competition, so maybe there are some people out there who don't want to see them playing weaker teams down the stretch.
● Per Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, we have a tidbit of pre-game news from the clubhouse that has driven the Twittersphere -- including myself -- completely and irretrievably apoplectic:
Elvis Andrus out of #Rangers lineup. Left yesterday with right shoulder soreness. Michael Young starting at short.— Drew Davison (@drewdavison) August 6, 2012
If Ron Washington doesn't trust Alberto Gonzalez enough to give him a spot start at shortstop on a night where Elvis Andrus is too banged up to go, then Gonzalez should have been designated for assignment long before now; as things currently stand, you have to think that Gonzalez's days on the active roster are numbered, and it may be that his costly 10th-inning error yesterday afternoon was the tipping point for Washington. That doesn't mean that starting Young at shortstop in any way resembles a good idea, though. Meanwhile, Geovany Soto gets the start at DH, and Mike Olt and Craig Gentry -- who has started one game since July 29th -- continue to ride the pine.
Incidentally, this is Young's second start at shortstop in the last four years. Cover your eyes and hope that Young gets some easy defensive chances, I guess.
● Remember when Josh Hamilton tore the cover off the ball for the first two months of the season, and he looked like the runaway favorite to secure AL MVP honors? Yeah, well, it's August 6th, and Hamilton's fWAR -- which, once again, is the abbreviation for FanGraphs' version of the wins above replacement metrics -- has actually fallen so far that he is now tied with Adrian Beltre for second on the team, with 3.3 fWAR. The Rangers' current leader? Elvis Andrus, at 3.7 fWAR. Mike Trout has actually doubled up Hamilton, as he has posted 6.7 fWAR in 34 fewer plate appearances than Hamilton this season, and if you look a little more closely at it, Hamilton is actually in quite a bit of danger of relinquishing his team-leading wRC+ (133) title to David Murphy (131 wRC+), who has come on very strong of late.
Since the end of June, Hamilton has been a -0.1 fWAR player. To reiterate, Josh Hamilton, after posting 3.5 fWAR over the first two months of the season, has been a replacement-level outfielder since the beginning of June. I keep looking at this, but I can't seem to fully process it. I also wonder where the once-booming "pay the man!" chants have disappeared to. You tend to think that Hamilton is still going to net a hefty guaranteed deal, but his MVP campaign of 2010 looks more and more like the huge aberration, and the team that does end up paying him may very well end up overpaying for the hope of elite performance from a player who seems to be settling in as a four-win player -- a four-win player who is very good, but not elite, and isn't getting any younger. Yikes.