The month of July didn’t go so well for the Texas Rangers’ offense. As a unit, the club combined to hit .243/.309/.375 (OPS of .684). Their season average stands at .278/.340/.446/.786. Their OPS+ was 88 in July, but is 116 for the season. In other words, the Rangers’ offense is well above average for the entire season, but was significantly below average in July.
August turned over a new leaf for the Rangers, as the team has hit .288/.347/.463/.810 with an OPS+ of 124. An offense that is really good has been even better in August. While the offense isn’t the only facet of the team that improved from July to August, it is a big reason for a 9-14 July record, compared to an MLB-best 18-10 in August.
An OPS increase of 126 points month-over-month is no small thing. That is the kind of improvement that doesn’t come from just one player, and that is certainly the case for the Rangers as well. Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton are among the players having good months in August, but those are two middle-of-the-order bats that you’d expect to be leading an offensive surge. A couple of players that you may not expect to be such key pieces are found at the bottom third of the Rangers’ lineup: David Murphy and Mitch Moreland.
In the month of August, Murphy is hitting .361/.417/.505/.922, and Moreland is hitting .341/.378/.585/.963. These are two players that you will find stationed in the seventh and ninth slots of the Rangers’ lineup on most nights. Moreland usually hits ninth, and he has the ninth-best OPS in the month of August in the American League. Murphy’s ranks him at fifteenth. When Murphy and Moreland are two of the Rangers bottom three hitters in August, Texas has gone 9-3.
Both of these players are having the best offensive seasons of their career. Their performance in August has been an incredible boost for the Rangers’ offense, but they have been providing a shot in the arm from the bottom of the lineup all season. What has changed for Murphy and Moreland to help them explode at the plate in 2012?
In their careers, both players have significantly different performances against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. For Murphy, his career OPS is .842 against RHP, and .672 against LHP. For Moreland, it is .830 and .630, respectively. Those are All-Star numbers against right-handers, and substitute numbers against southpaws. This season, those large splits don’t exist. Murphy has crushed lefties at a .881 OPS clip, and Moreland isn’t far behind at .810.
The explanation for Murphy and Moreland improving so much against lefties is twofold. First, Murphy and Moreland should be credited for making adjustments at the plate to generate the improved results, or be thankful that they may have caught some extra luck. Second, the Rangers management should be credited for not over-exposing these two lefties to left-handed pitching. Of Murphy’s 399 plate appearances, 85% of them have come against right-handers. For Moreland, 86% of his 270 plate appearances have been against righties. In 2011, Murphy only saw 73% right-handers, and 76% for Moreland.
While Murphy and Moreland will never get the name recognition of Hamilton and Beltre, they deserve recognition as offensive threats in the Rangers’ lineup. Without Moreland and Murphy, the team OPS for the Rangers in August falls from .810 to .778. For the season, Rangers hitters in the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots on the lineup have an OPS+ compared to the league of 138, 143, and 164, respectively. That is a big reason that no one has scored more runs than the Texas Rangers in 2012, their lineup is filled with batters that can bruise opposing pitchers from top to bottom.
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