Many surprises have come in the first half, but one of the biggest is the Texas Rangers.
After one half of play, the Rangers sit at 52-39, first place in the AL West and third best in the American League.
There is no doubt that sounds pretty good, but things are not going perfectly for the Rangers, who are 3-7 in their last ten games and have been trending negatively since mid-June.
Despite the recent struggles, Texas finds themselves right in the thick of things with the second half ready to open, which is ahead of the schedule the Rangers rebuild was supposed to be on this year.
Much like every team (yes, even the winning ones), the Rangers come in the stretch run with holes and questions that need to be answered.
Let’s review three questions Texas needs to answer in the second half.
1) Are the Rangers the Team From the First Half, or Who Showed Up at the End of the Half?
Before our expectations got blown away at the beginning of the season, many people expected Texas to be more of the team that they’ve been in the past couple of weeks rather than the team they were throughout April and May.
In the past month and a half, the issues of the depth at starting pitcher and the bullpen have been thoroughly exposed.
Guys like Martin Perez and Andrew Heaney really struggled down the stretch thinning out the Rangers once “immaculate” depth at starting pitching, and the bullpen was just about a full-blown disaster after Texas had 28 games in 29 days.
With an All-Star Break reset in the books, it’s time to see if the Rangers are going to go back to their early season success or their recent struggles.
2) When Will Josh Jung Hit a Rookie Wall?
Coming into the year, we knew if the Rangers could get solid production from Rookie 3rd Baseman Josh Jung, then this offense could turn from good to great.
I don’t think anyone expected Jung to start the All-Star Game at 3rd base and be slashing .280/.331/.504 with 19 home runs and 56 RBI in the first half, but here we are.
Now the question that remains is, can he sustain it?
We saw a major falloff in the second half with Adolis Garcia in the second half of his rookie year in 2021, and the Rangers certainly hope the same doesn’t happen with Jung.
With only 153 career minor league games under his belt, this will be by far the longest season that the former Texas Tech Red Raider has ever played.
You have to imagine that Jung will hit a wall eventually, but now all that’s left to do is not that it’s not a huge one that lasts for long.
3) What is Needed at the Trade Deadline?
Now that the Rangers have exceeded all expectations, they are in a position to be major buyers at the Trade Deadline for the first time since the club acquired Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman in a 2015 blockbuster.
After selling for much of the last five years, it’s time for Chris Young and the front office to be aggressive in trying to improve the club, something we’ve seen CY not be hesitant to do since he took the reins as GM in 2020.
So far, the message from the front office is that this will be no issue, and that was shown in late June when the Rangers went out and took Aroldis Chapman, one of the most prized trade chips, off the board early.
Sure, Texas has been getting good production from the likes of Dane Dunning and, more recently, Cody Bradford, but we don’t know if it can be sustained and especially don’t know if it can be carried over to the playoffs.
I think the Rangers need a legit number three starter who can slot in behind Nathan Eovaldi and Jon Gray, whom you can rely on in the playoffs.
Think of it like this, suppose that you are tied 1-1 in a three-game Wild Card series or need a 3rd win to close out the series in the ALDS. In that situation, you certainly would rather have someone better than the likes of Dunning, Bradford, Heaney, and Perez throwing the ball.
The bullpen is much like hitting, guys can get hot at times, and then at other times, they can struggle. It’s for that reason I think that there is someone from within who will step up at the right time and help the Rangers down the stretch.
A candidate for that could be the likes of Grant Anderson, who, despite having struggled in leverage this season, has shown flashes of greatness, including four scoreless innings against the Nationals last week.
With that being said, it’s been proven that this bullpen is not enough, even with the addition of Aroldis Chapman, so you’re gonna need to add in that department if you want to have success in the playoffs.
At the end of the day, even though the holes and the struggles exist, the Rangers still sit exactly where you’d want them to at this point in the year.
It will be a fun second half of baseball and a stretch run that DFW has not seen in six years.