There are a few reasons why the Texas Rangers haven't been quite as good this season as we thought they might be. Again, we're not talking about a large difference. The Rangers were supposed to win 90-some games this season, and they've won ... well, they've won 88 games. They've still got roughly a 50/50 chance of winning 90-some games. But they've also got worse than a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs, which wasn't supposed to happen if the Angels faltered (they have) and the Astros were the worst team (they are).
Anyway, I said there were a few reasons. The Rangers do miss Josh Hamilton's production, and Mike Napoli's. They missed Nelson Cruz's production while he was serving his 50-game suspension. They've pressed a bunch of rookies into service as starting pitchers, and two of those rookies have struggled mightily. Their every-day shortstop hasn't hit much. But one thing that was supposed to balance those sorts of problems? The Rangers' young talent. Remember that? The Rangers had a bunch of young talent in the pipeline and wouldn't miss a beat. They might even be unbeatable.
Well, so far the young talent hasn't done squat. The phenoms haven't been phenominating. Starting pitcher Martín Peréz is 22 and he's done well, but he's basically alone. Starters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm are 24, and they've struggled. Cuban outfielder Leonys Martín is 25, and he's been just fair (with the bat, anyway). Mike Olt didn't play for the Rangers this season at all before they traded him to the Cubs.
And then there's the gem of the system: Jurickson Profar, hailed in some quarters as a savior last season. Still just 20 this season, Profar was considered a strong Rookie of the Year candidate ... if only Ron Washington could somehow find somewhere for Profar to play. His best position is shortstop, but the Rangers have a shortstop. His second-best position is probably second base, but the Rangers have a second baseman.
But Profar has played. He's played some second base, a little shortstop, a little third base, a bit of outfield; he's even DH'd in 16 games. Profar has not hit. There are 153 American Leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances this season, and Profar's OPS+ ranks 136th.
So yes, there have been worse hitters. But Profar might be the worst among saviors.
None of which mattered Thursday night. Thursday night, the Rangers and Angels were tied in the bottom of the ninth inning. With the Indians winning in Minnesota, a Rangers loss would drop them two games out in the wild-card standings with only three games to play. Cue savior:
Jurickson Profar joined Jimmie Foxx in 1928 as the only players in MLB history to hit a pinch-hit, walk-off HR before turning 21. (Elias)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 27, 2013
Meanwhile, Chris Perez nearly blew the Indians' big lead in Minneapolis, but Joe Smith saved the game (and the day), leaving the Rangers a game behind. This weekend, the Rangers play three more against the Angels, the Indians three more against the Twins. And who knows? Maybe Profar will get another chance on Monday. When you still haven't turned 21, the chances must seem infinite.
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