The Texas Rangers have been one of the better teams in baseball the last few seasons. They made consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011 though they did lose both. In 2012 the Rangers like the Braves played in the first MLB Wildcard playoff game and like the Braves they lost (with far less controversy however.) Last season the Rangers were eliminated from playoff contention when they lost a 163rd game to the Tampa Bay Rays to determine who got to play in the subsequent Wild Car playoff game. The pattern for the Rangers was of being in slight decline from being the best team in the American League a few years ago. This season however the Rangers went from slight decline to complete collapse and enter the series against the Braves with the worst record in all of baseball at 54-92.
The Rangers disastrous 2014 season was fuelled by an offseason in which the Rangers made major changes all of which backfired spectacularly in the short term. The biggest headline grabbing move was one in which the Rangers traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder a trade that has been as one sided as possible so far in 2014. Fielder has only played in 42 games for Texas this season amassing an 83 wRC+ while being predictably bad on defense and on the bases. The bad production is one thing, but one of baseball's most durable players throughout his career has barely seen the field for Texas. Meanwhile Kinsler is having an excellent season for Detroit and is on a much friendlier contract.
One touted benefit of the trade was it would open up second base for highly regarded prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar though went down with an injury before the season started and hasn't played a bit of baseball in 2014. The trade was as big a disaster as could be imagined for Texas.
The other big move for Texas was signing free agent Shin-Soo Choo to a big money deal. Choo has at least been on the field most of the season but his production has come nowhere close to justifying his big contract. Choo has been as bad on defense as he has always been but his on base skills have completely vanished this year as well. Choo led the NL in on base percentage last year with a 423 mark but this season his OBP has plummeted to 340. Choo was never a big power hitter, so without his ability to get on base his offensive value has dropped below league average. Choo has been below league average on offense, abysmal in the outfield, and nothing special on the bases. It isn't just the Braves who whiff on free agent signings.
Yu Darvish has been excellent this year but with nothing to play for Texas has shut him down. Adrian Beltre has continued his hall of fame career apace but he has been one of the few bright spots for a team who has seen everything possible go wrong. Longtime manager Ron Washington's recent resignation for "personal reasons" has just been the cherry on top of the season from hell for Rangers fans. This is a bad team with nothing to play for and the Braves should win this series. Doomsayers might say that means the Braves are screwed but I am predicting the opposite. The Braves will sweep Texas just so they can get your hopes back up before crushing them again next week. But enjoy this series, it should be a good one for Atlanta against a team the Braves rarely play.