Owning a .500 record on May 10 already puts the Texas Rangers above most expectations. After all, this team is young, inexperienced, and not as talented as many of the other teams in Major League Baseball.
Yet, here they are.
Not only are the Rangers right on the coattails of the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros in the American League West, they are also doing some very tangible things that is putting fear in the opposition.
Entering Monday's slate of games, the Rangers' 46 home runs were tied for third in all of baseball. What's more, Joey Gallo — a slugger with the most home run potential on the team — is only fourth on the Rangers with six of them.
The Rangers have been hitting the ball over the fence much more often over the past couple of weeks, and that isn't a coincidence.
"This is thing that really excites me," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "We've talked about the two-strike thing for a long time . . . Our strikeout percentage has gone down the last 10 days, significantly. And our two-strike, opposite field hits have gone up. That speaks volumes to the approach that these guys have right now."
The Rangers currently lead all of MLB in opposite field hits, which shows an unwavering commitment to using the entire field. It also means if a hitter is on time for a fastball, not selling out to the pull side allows the batter to drive the ball more consistently. And then, when pitchers make mistakes with offspeed pitches, that's when the true opportunity for damage comes.
Three home runs over the past few games really display what Woodward is talking about.
Adolis García, hitting a slider to left-center field:
Joey Gallo, hitting a changeup to straight-away center field:
Nate Lowe, hitting a changeup to straight-away center field:
Notice, all of these home runs are at Globe Life Field. Remember when everyone thought the Rangers' new home was going to be a pitcher's park?
The Rangers' aggressive style on the bases plays into the power game as well. Woodward and his coaching staff believe more pressure on the pitchers means his team will see more mistake pitches in the middle of the zone. The fear of throwing a ball in the dirt or too many breaking balls gives the his hitters a better opportunity to anticipate what's coming.
The one thing the Rangers are not doing during this power surge is selling out for the long ball.
"I heard somebody on MLB [Network] say that the other day 'oh, that's all people do nowadays,' And I wanted to throw up because that's not we do," Woodward said. "We don't talk about that. We don't go up there and just say, 'home run or nothing, every at-bat.'
"We go up there and try to hit hard rockets through the middle of the field, stay on pitches, work on our adjustability, and it's showing. It's actually showing a little bit faster than I anticipated. But we're hitting homers because of it."
Woodward admits this approach by his hitters won't always result in a power surge like we are witnessing right now. However, it still plays into the mantra that has his team at .500 nearly midway through May. While wins and losses don't truly matter for this team this year, establishing a winning culture does matter. And this approach is helping them do both at the moment.
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