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August 12, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Unlikeliest Part of the Rangers' Collapse

by Sam Miller


Two years and two months ago, the Rangers looked so invincible that it inspired me to write about the ways that seemingly invincible civilizations nevertheless collapse. Of the seven that I attempted to apply, a case could be made that five are relevant to the Rangers:

  • Their ability to make hugely profitable trades dried up, or, probably more accurately, regressed;
  • Their cache of excellent prospects failed to develop into productive major leaguers (so far);
  • The teams around them got much, much better;
  • In competitive situations, they made short-term moves at the expense of long-term sustainability; and
  • They got hurt.

The last one is the big one, the one that every post-mortem of the 2014 Rangers will focus on, and the justification for some springtime-optimism pieces come February. The Rangers have already lost 1,500 days to injury, 40 percent more than any other team. But while the Rangers have undoubtedly been crushed by long absences of Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Geovany Soto, Neftali Feliz—deeeep breath—and others, the effects have been multiplied by the other collapse factors, particularly the inability to develop and/or hold onto prospects. Here are the 20 Rangers prospects who were most highly regarded in, at the time, a very highly regarded system:

  1. Jurickson Profar, SS
  2. Martin Perez, LHP
  3. Mike Olt, 3B
  4. Neil Ramirez, RHP
  5. Jorge Alfaro, C
  6. Leonys Martin, OF
  7. Christian Villanueva, 3B
  8. Roman Mendez, RHP
  9. Ronald Guzman, OF/1B
  10. Robbie Ross, LHP
  11. Cody Buckel, RHP
  12. Nomar Mazara, OF
  13. Tanner Scheppers, RHP
  14. Jordan Akins, OF
  15. David Perez, RHP
  16. Rougned Odor, 2B
  17. Matt West, RHP
  18. Kevin Matthews, LHP
  19. Leury Garcia, SS
  20. Will Lamb, LHP

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Related Content:  Texas Rangers

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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mhmckay

A very interesting article. I'd suggest you would strengthen your argument adding a 2nd variable, payroll, into your approach. There is a strong positive correlation between payroll and wins. There is also a strong positive correlation between payroll this year and payroll last year (big market teams remain big market teams, and vice-versa). I suspect that if you added this as a factor, your regression results would become even more stark. If you spend like the Yankees and Dodgers, you are going to be much more likely to win 90 games irrespective of farm system. If you are 2nd or 3rd quartile payroll team like the Rangers, I would expect that the quality of the farm system is significantly more meaningful in predict t+3 or t+5 results.

Aug 12, 2014 08:29 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

Glad you brought it up. Originally intended to, but payroll is a bit trickier because payroll often responds to winning; teams that expect to be good spend more, teams that expect to be bad spend less. You're right that it would have been a more complete look at it to figure out the right way to incorporate it here, but I was aiming to keep it simple. But you're right!

Aug 12, 2014 09:46 AM
 
Richie

Excellent stuff. Thank you.

Aug 12, 2014 09:09 AM
rating: 0
 
Nacho999

No mention of The Curse of Ian Kinsler?...What?!...

Aug 12, 2014 09:28 AM
rating: 1
 
myshkin

The second table makes me think that there is some greater than normal chance that a 90-loss team is stuck in an organizational rut from which it will take more than five years to emerge. Fewer forces actively push a bad team up than do a good team down, and if your ownership and management aren't doing the right things to get out of the doldrums, you may be stuck there for a while.

Aug 12, 2014 10:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Oldwell89

Payroll is certainly a factor but absolute dollars don't really tell the story accurately, as the 'cost' of paying a player 10million dollars to the Yankees certainly looks a lot different than the A's or Pirates doing it. More interesting in terms of a case study is whether the Rangers look at what they have (potentially) in terms of young offensive talent vs. the struggles to develop and attract high quality pitching. Whether it's injuries or not, if there are processes that generate pretty good odds in some areas and not so much in others, how much should your organizational philosophy shift? If a team like the Cubs doesn't convert some of their offensive minor league and young MLB talent into some young controllable pitching, do they run the risk of missing their window, as it would appear the Rangers may be? The combination of injury risk and what seems to be a very pricey market for pitching creates an interesting environment for teams of all means to address.

Aug 12, 2014 15:13 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

I would be very surprised if the Rangers didn't bounce back with a contender next year. However, it seems to me that their success over the last couple decades has been directly related to the degree of Nolan Ryan's involvement with the team.

Aug 12, 2014 17:43 PM
rating: -1
 
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