Sunday, April 29, 2012
Rangers defense is one of MLB's best
By David Stein
ARLINGTON, Texas -- While most of the preseason talk surrounded the Texas Rangers' bats, the pleasant surprise this season has been the gloves.
Only the New York Yankees have committed fewer errors than the Rangers. Last season, Texas finished 26th in fielding percentage.
David Murphy's great back-to-back plays in the seventh inning is a perfect example of how far this team has come in a year.
Murphy got a quick jump off an Elliot Johnson liner to make a running catch in full stride. He had another crowd-pleaser on the next play when he collided with the the left field wall off a Jose Molina rip.
Murphy said he spent spring training working on getting a good first step.
"Plays like that, it's not like in the past I've been incapable of making," Murphy said, "but I haven't given myself the opportunity because I haven't gotten consistent jumps like I needed to over the past few years."
So far, it has been the little things that have helped the Texas defense. For Murphy, it was just how he balances.
"Before, I was at a point where I wasn't as balanced as I could have been when the ball was crossing through the strike zone," he said. "I wasn't off and running with the ball the second it left the bat. Now I feel like I'm doing a better job of that."
Adrian Beltre, a three-time Gold Glove winner, knows how quickly an error can hurt.
"This is our mindset. [Manager Ron Washington] emphasizes playing defense because he wants our pitching staff to throw the ball over the plate," Beltre said. "Especially at home we have to play defense, because if we have an error it can be a disaster with the wind blowing out like it was today."
Michael Young, who also has a Gold Glove in his trophy case, said the whole team is playing better defensively.
"Anyone we run out there can play defense, all the way from [Murphy] making great plays tonight, and we can bring [Alberto Gonzalez] off the bench and he's a great defender," Young said. "We have guys that are capable of doing the job defensively. It's one of the things that makes us a more complete team."
The cherry on top for Washington has been Elvis Andrus, who is now the only starting shortstop without an error. Last season, he committed 25 errors.
The Rangers currently have baseball's best team batting average, fifth-best team ERA and now they can add the second-best fielding percentage.
Anyone looking for a weakness in Arlington won't find it in the gloves.