Thursday, October 17, 2013
Offseason question: How to turn on power
By Todd Wills
Editor's note: This is the ninth in a 10-part series that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.
Today’s question: What can the Rangers do to fix their power outage?
The Rangers have many issues to resolve for 2014 regarding who will be their closer, what will happen with infielder Jurickson Profar and whether general manager Jon Daniels should pursue Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.
But nothing will boost the Rangers' chances to win back the American League West more than adding power to the lineup. And a lot of it. It's the Rangers' No. 1 issue, hands down.
Re-signing Nelson Cruz must be the Rangers' first priority to ignite their home-run potential. (And putting him in left field would address a major shortcoming at an important corner outfield spot.)
Remember this is the American League. And while building a club on pitching and defense is essential to winning championships and the Rangers' running game is flashy and can make an impact when the offense as a whole is struggling, the AL still digs the long ball.
"We're going to need corner run production," Daniels said of first base and left field. "We're going to need some power."
So what do the numbers say about the Rangers' power problem? Well, they’re compelling.
The two teams playing in the American League Championship Series -- the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers -- were fifth and tied for sixth in the AL in home runs. The Red Sox had 178 homers. The Tigers were tied with the Rangers, of all teams, at 176 homers. On the surface, the Rangers are where they need to be, right?
Based on the eyeball test, which of these teams was more dangerous over the whole season, especially during the second half? The Red Sox and Tigers. And Boston and Detroit were first and second in OPS -- combined on-base percentage and slugging percentage -- at .795 and .780, respectively. The Rangers were eighth in the AL at .735.
Also, don't forget that Nelson Cruz missed the final 50 games of the regular season, which meant his power to generate 27 homers -- which led the club at the time -- was absent from the lineup. Only third baseman Adrian Beltre was a true power threat on a daily basis for those final 50 games, and Beltre hit only seven homers in that span, including two in September. Mitch Moreland was third on the team with 23 homers, but his long balls were hit in spurts.
There's no denying this is an issue, and the front office is aware of it.
"We need to be more balanced, in general, and power was something we were lacking," Daniels said. "That's going to be challenging because there's not a lot of power available. We're not the only team looking for it. We have a lot of potential for power in our system, but it's young.
"Guys that have that ability are not going to play for us next year, more than likely. So we're going to have to be more creative and find them."
So what can the Rangers do to address adding power to the lineup?
It starts with re-signing Cruz. The 33-year-old is a proven power commodity with at least 22 home runs in five straight seasons. Bring back Cruz and put him in left field, which would address a glaring weakness at an important corner outfield spot.
Or the Rangers can make Cruz the designated hitter. They had only 19 homers out of the DH position, a paltry total for a power spot in the lineup.