Things have not gone according to plan for the Texas Rangers so far this season. They were supposed to be the team that gave the Astros the biggest challenge in the AL West. Instead, they are at 16-20 and sit dead last in the division. They are playing better lately, with five wins in their last eight, but they still have a long way to go to salvage this season - and it is no guarantee that they can do so. So, how do bettors deal with this team? Here are five factors to consider:
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Hitting: This offense can score, but it has struggled to do so consistently - and that has been at the root of their problems. Their offensive output looks strong because they can score runs in bulk in games, but too often the offense has let them down. They are hitting just .220 as a team, though, and that is second worst in the whole league ahead of only Kansas City - a team every bit as disappointing as this one. They haven't shown nearly enough discipline at the plate and haven't walked enough to justify their low batting average.
There are plenty of people to highlight here. Mike Napoli has been a mess. Joey Gallo has some solid power numbers but is doing nothing when he's not going deep. Rougned Odor, who the team signed to a big extension before the season, has been awful. And what the team really is missing is a dominating force in the middle of the lineup like Adrian Beltre. He has been out all year with a calf injury. He took batting practice for the first time on Thursday, but he still isn't running, so he won't be back any time soon. This is a team that needs to hit to thrive, and so far they aren't doing what they are supposed to.
Pitching: The rotation has mostly been okay - at least not the biggest reason for the issues. The fifth starter is an issue as it is for so many teams, and Martin Perez is having a lot of problems as the 1-5 record shows despite an ERA that isn't awful. But the guys who need to be solid have been solid enough. That opens up a potential issue down the stretch, though. Yu Darvish is going to be very attractive on the rental market unless this team gets on track soon. It's not like teams get better when trading away an ace midseason, and the squad knows it, so this not only stands to be a problem if and when he is traded but also a distraction as the deadline draws closer.
Leadership: When a team struggles like this one, everyone looks at the manager. It only makes sense. Jeff Banister is not the problem here. He is a strong manager - in the regular season at least - and the issues this team has had have not been his fault. It certainly makes it easier for a team to come back when they aren't waiting for their manager to be fired.
Schedule: Yes, they have won five of eight games, but don't get too excited. The last three wins have come against San Diego - a squad that isn't even a major league team. And before that they lost two of three against Seattle - a team that isn't exactly burning things up right now, either. Aside from San Diego, their only series wins this year have been against Kansas City, Anaheim and Oakland - teams that are either badly struggling or just plain lousy. So the schedule flatters this team right now. They play Oakland, Philadelphia and Detroit in their next three series, so the team has a chance to keep climbing back into decent shape in the short term. But then they go through a 20-game stretch that is just brutal. So the lesson here is clear. Don't get fooled by what their record is a week and a half by now. Reserve judgment until June 14 when they finish a series at Houston. If they are still playing decent ball by then they could be a useful team down the stretch for bettors. If they play like they have so far, though, then it will all be over, and Darvish may as well start packing his stuff.
Betting performance: The team has been ugly for bettors, but not as bad as you might expect given the reasonably high expectations they entered the season with. They are a long way from profitable on the season from a moneyline perspective, but there are 10 teams that have been worse than them on that front. That's a striking difference from last year when they were, by a large margin, the most profitable team in baseball. Their offensive issues have been problematic in terms of totals, too. They have gone "under" in 21 of 36 games to date. Last year they went "over" 79 times in 162 games and under 73. So they weren't a great over team last year, but they were much better than they have been so far. If they can start to rediscover their mojo at the plate, though, they could start to be a useful over team until the public catches up.
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