ARLINGTON, Texas — After starting the season 18-18, the Texas Rangers have gone an abysmal 7-28. The recent stretch has taken nearly all hope from fans that this team could overachieve and flirt with a .500 record.
Now, there are fans that seriously doubt the Rangers can even avoid 100 losses.
You don't have to go very far on social media to find fans who are fed up with the Rangers piling up losses at one of the worst rates in franchise history. Believe it or not, Rangers manager Chris Woodward is fully aware of the fans' frustration with where the team sits in the standings — and he even empathizes with the feeling.
"Right now, the fans need to know what's happening," Woodward said prior to Sunday's loss to Minnesota. "Obviously, we're not playing well. They need to know. If I was a fan, I'd want to know. I'd want to know what the team is doing. How are we doing this? What are you guys doing to get better? That would be my question."
When the team was 18-18 after the first 36 games of the season, those questions were few and far between. If anything, the questions centered on how this team had competed at that high of a level.
Then the league adjusted.
Nate Lowe, who was the league's RBI leader early on, entered a skid. Nick Solak, who boasted an OPS north of .900 through May 1, went into a rough slump. As did Willie Calhoun, Jose Trevino, and Jonah Heim. Now, the only Texas hitters that own an OPS north of league average are Adolis García (.834), Joey Gallo (.787), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (.742), and Lowe (.728).
On the pitching side, Dane Dunning has seen hitters adjust to him, along with Josh Sborz. The change in Sborz is the epitome of the league adjusting to a young player.
In his first 20 outings, Sborz threw 20 innings with 15 hits, a 3.15 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and only one home run allowed with a .545 OPS against. In his last nine appearances, he's logged only 7 1/3 innings with nine hits, a 9.82 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and three home runs allowed with an alarming 1.066 OPS against.
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"That's how it starts. And then it becomes maybe a little bit of a lack of confidence," Woodward said of the league adjusting to his players. "Momentum and confidence are huge things. Early on, they felt like anytime they were down, they were gonna come back and win the game, or at least give themselves a chance. Now it feel like it's the opposite where we give up one run, we've given up 10. It's tough to reverse that."
Young players having to learn to stay ahead in the cat-and-mouse game is something that usually comes with experience. That is something the Rangers just don't have. Of the 26 players on the active roster, only seven players have at least four years of MLB service time. Remarkably, 17 of them have two years or less, and 10 of those 17 have less than one year of service time. David Dahl's inevitable return to the active roster would likely lower that number to 16. However, that is still a very inexperienced ballclub.
Chris Woodward knows his team is very young, and he's been known to come to his players' defense very often — a little too often in the eyes of some. But we've seen Woodward show frustration publicly with his players for not performing up to the standards he and the coaching staff set for them.
"I have high expectations for our guys," Woodward explained. "It's not even about winning games, I know where we're at. I know we're young. I know we have a lot to overcome. But these are things I expect our guys to do. ... These are things where we gotta get better. And they need to understand that. They know that, and I'm not afraid to say it publicly.
"There are other things I know we're working on that I don't say [publicly] that guys are working on because I know it's gonna take some time. We're gonna have to work through those things and learn and grow. But some of these things, we gotta be better at."
There are plenty of valid reasons why the Rangers are struggling this badly. And Rangers management was very clear at the outset of spring training that this season was a year dedicated to growth, development, and evaluation. Even so, Chris Woodward wants the fans to know these struggles are not going unchecked.
"[Our fans] are out there every night," Woodward said. "I don't know how many fans were drawing consistently, but it's been fun. We owe it to the fans to show them good baseball. When we're not doing certain things that I know we've stressed and they know that they're held accountable to, I feel like the fans deserve to hear that these things are being addressed.
"I just appreciate the the support that we've had. Even through the losses, they still come out and they're still cheering our team on. They're still supporting us. So I feel like I owe it to them."
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