The Texas Rangers, a team that look to be on the verge of greatness for the last couple of years, may have seen their window to compete prematurely closed at this point.
Yes, they’ve withstood a fair share of ups and downs in 2013. From a poor season from newly-extended Elvis Andrus to the PED suspension of Nelson Cruz, you could almost say that it’s a moral victory pointing to how strong the core of the team is both on the mound and at the plate that they’re still right in the mix for a playoff spot at this point of the season.
However, there’s a breaking point to all things, and for the Ron Washington and co. in 2013, that might just end up being Adrian Beltre.
It’s almost fitting, really; after the team let Josh Hamilton walk on over to the divisional rival Los Angeles Angels, it was 34-year old third baseman who was supposed to serve as the new heart of the team’s offense. Not to take anything away from Beltre, of course — he’s accomplished the job … for the most part.
With a .320/.376/.515 line and easily being the Rangers’ most valuable positional player at 5.2 fWAR (the next closest in Andrus’ 2.4), the veteran hot cornerman has had himself another All-Star caliber year, even if he didn’t get to participate in the Midsummer Classic.
That said, even the very best in the game goes through slumps, and Beltre’s slump is as poorly-timed as one can be.
Hitless in five of the 13 games he’s played in September going into Monday, the veteran is hitting a paltry .255 over his last 51 at-bats, hardly a number the Rangers want to see from their cleanup hitter. The most alarming thing, however, isn’t just his mediocre hitting — it’s that he’s no longer hitting the ball with any power. With just one double as his lone extra-base hit of the month, Beltre is slugging a miserable .275 … lower than his .321 OBP.
That .596 OPS makes him one of the worst Texas hitters for the month, as does his -0.1 fWAR. For someone who is supposed to drive the team into the postseason, that number can’t be understated.
Has he been unlucky? His .295 BABIP on the month is lower than his .324 on the year, but is right around his .296 average. You could look to his 31.8 percent line drive rate and say that the baseball gods are messing with him, but with a spiking 15.4 percent pop-up rate and a 11.8 percent infield hit rate (7.4 and 9.7 respectively on the year), he’s doing plenty to mess himself up at the plate.
Sure, the Ranger did bring in players like Alex Rios, but even though he’s crushing the ball for a .969 OPS in September, the team’s offense goes as Beltre goes. He might not be as bad as Ian Kinsler‘s .513 OPS, -0.2 fWAR these day, but he’s not too far off, and it’s no coincidence that the Rangers are a brutal 1-9 and in serious risk of falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
… and yes, that’s even considering the fact that they still own a Wild Card spot heading into Monday despite the slump. Time to hit the panic button … or pat Beltre’s head — whatever works.