Earlier this week I took a look at the best pitching staff in baseball this season, the Tampa Bay Rays, and today I want to take a look at the team with the best, highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the Texas Rangers. Texas has outscored every team in baseball this season and the margin, quite frankly, isn’t even close. The New York Yankees homer-ific attack is 38 runs behind in 2nd place, and the National League’s best outfit, the Milwaukee Brewers, have scored 42 fewer runs.
Sit down and watch a couple Rangers games sometime over the next couple of weeks, and you can immediately note the biggest reason why: no team in baseball possesses more depth, one through nine, than Texas. Leading off with Ian Kinsler, on down through the destructive middle of the order featuring Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre among others, this team is stacked. Hell, they just called up top prospect Jurickson Profar, and all he’s done so far is hit .333 with a homer and a game-winning RBI in 3 games. Texas has an excellent mix of speed, power, on-base ability, and clutch hitting to outscore any club in baseball, so let’s run through it, 1 through 9.
Ron Washington nearly always pencils Ian Kinsler’s name at the top of the lineup card, counting on the 2nd baseman to get on base and then to create havoc once he’s there. Kinsler is needs just 4 homeruns to have his 4th career 20-20 season, and even though he’s struggling to get on base a little bit this year (his .330 OPB is a career low), he’s still scoring runs at a prolific rate. Kinsler is 2nd in the AL in runs scored, which is partly a product of hitting in front of great sluggers like Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, and partly a product of his great base running skills. Kinsler is also 3rd in the American League in doubles, with 39 on the season, and his 150 hits out of the leadoff spot rank 4th in the AL.
The next staple in the Texas lineup is Elvis Andrus, a run-scoring, on base machine who plays shortstop. Andrus is hitting .295/.358/.385 with 20 steals and 72 runs scored this year. He ranks 2nd in the American League in hits and OBP out of the #2 spot in the lineup, which is extremely valuable when you consider the fact that he often hits in front of Josh Hamilton, the prototypical #3 hitter.
Hamilton has cooled of considerably after abusing opposing pitching during the months of April and May, when he hit a combined 21 homers and 57 RBI in just 46 games. He leads all of baseball in both homeruns (40) and RBI (119) this season. If he continues his current RBI pace over the Rangers’ final 20 games, Hamilton will pass his previous career high of 130 from his MVP campaign in 2008. He probably won’t win the MVP this season, but a top-5 finish is in store, as well as a huge free agency payday this upcoming offseason.
Adrian Beltre has manned the all-important cleanup spot in the Texas lineup this season, and boy has he brought the power of late. In his last 25 games he’s hit .390/.421/.870 with 12 homers and 25 RBI while pounding out 39 hits. That’s otherworldly production, which has brought his season totals up to .317/.352/.554 with 31 homers and 90 RBI, the best totals for any cleanup hitter in all of baseball. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that only Beltre and Joe DiMaggio have ever hit for the cycle and had a 3-homer game in the same week, a feat Beltre accomplished toward the end of August this year.
The #5 spot in the Texas lineup has had some variation this year and has typically been filled by either Michael Young or Nelson Cruz, depending on health and who’s performing at the time. Young has been one of the only dull spots in the lineup this season, based on his .265 average, .296 on base percentage, 70 OPS+, and 7 homeruns. Cruz, who also frequently hits 6th, has once again been an excellent source of power, hitting 21 dingers and 81 RBI this season, although his strikeout numbers have crept up to dangerously high levels this season (he has a career-high 130 already).
The bottom part of the order has been a source of strength for the Rangers as well and features a mix of David Murphy, Mike Napoli, Craig Gentry, and Mitch Moreland, among others. Murphy in particular is having a career-best season, hitting .313/.394/.492 (all top-10 in the AL) with 13 homers and 54 RBI in 444 plate appearances. No team in baseball gets that kind of production out of a hitter that normally hits 7th or lower, and it speaks volumes about the kind of depth that Texas currently has on offense.
Mike Napoli, the 2011 World Series hero for Texas, has seen his average plummet this season, down to .223, but that hasn’t affected his ability to draw a walk, which has allowed his OBP to remain at a robust .343. The catcher/1st baseman also has 17 homers this year. One of Napoli’s platoon partners, Mitch Moreland, has also provided excellent pop this season, hitting 15 homers and 47 RBI in just over 300 plate appearances, which is excellent production.
All of these pieces add up to form an offense that ranks 1st in the AL in the following categories: batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, runs scored, hits, and total bases. This team doesn’t have quite the team speed of the previous years, ranking just 10th in the AL in steals after placing 4th and 5th the last two seasons, but they know how to pick their spots, ranking 2nd in fewest times caught. Texas is once again the favorite to beat and if the can slug their way through the American League playoffs again like they did a year ago, the World Series may end a little differently this time around.