The 2020 Major League Baseball season was unusual, to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic halted Spring Training in its tracks, creating unknown and uncharted territory for fans, players, and owners. When play finally got underway, 119 days behind schedule, the product wasn’t exactly what fans had grown accustomed to. A shortened 60 game season, no fans present, game postponements, and Coronavirus outbreaks among teams made the 2020 MLB season, in a word, weird.
For the Texas Rangers it was a year with little clarity and reason behind expectations. The 2019 club finished below .500 (78-84). This was considered an overachievement considering new management and lack of talent. Most excitement revolved around the inaugural season of Globe Life Field: the $1.2 billion dollar prize now residing across the street from former home Globe Life Park. Of course, this enthusiasm was curbed due to COVID-19 eliminating in-person attendance. Talent was sprinkled throughout the Opening Day roster, making the upside enough to validate fans’ hopes.
Unfortunately, any optimism surrounding this year's Ranger squad was quickly silenced, and fans found themselves being thankful the brutality of bad play only lasted 60 games rather than 162.
Texas stumbled out of the gate, getting off to a 3-8 start. The pitching staff, which held promise entering the year, promptly exhibited lack of depth, experience, and stability. Though the pitching failed to live up to some expectation, it was the bats that proved to be the primary cause behind the sputtered start. The anemic offense became the theme of the shortened season. The Rangers ranked in the bottom 3 in all of baseball in hits, runs, and batting average. The Rangers’ hitters’ inability to produce made it difficult to win ball games, as one could imagine, and created a season in which the team found themselves in the cellar of the standings for the majority of the year. The Rangers completed 2020 with the second worst record in all of MLB at 22-38.
The 2020 Texas Rangers season was a forgetful one. Attendance restrictions at games made it impossible for fans to create memories at the new ballpark with friends and family, thus making the former point all the more reality. Nevertheless, in the face of disappointment, rests some promise. In remembering a forgotten season, there are some positive takeaways and reasons for optimism.
The Kids Played
Young players were part of the plan from the start for Texas. The Opening Day lineup found 4 starters aged 26 and younger. However, as the season progressed, losses and injuries opened the door for more young players seeing time on the field and prospects getting promoted from the Rangers’ farm system. The starting lineup for the final weekend of the season was unique in that all 9 position players were under the age of 27.
Why is this a positive takeaway? There may be no place more bleak as a professional organization, than failing to be competitive while carrying a myriad of old players and bad contracts. A “youth movement” provides hope for the future and opportunity for optimism. In the midst of one of the toughest seasons in the franchise’s 60 year history, the Rangers’ organization committed to such an approach full-force. Throughout the 60 game sprint, Ranger fans saw 21 different players under the age of 27 find playing time and 9 make their Major League debut.
The 2021 Ranger club is expected to be filled with youngsters. Among them are proven starters: Nick Solak, Joey Gallo, and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa. Center fielder Leody Taveras and catcher Sam Huff displayed flashes of potentially great talent moving forward. As for the pitching staff, management and ownership seem thrilled over what they saw from the likes of Jonathan Hernandez, Kyle Cody, and others. Next year will likely feature many losses and extreme growing pains. But young players budding with potential are being provided with space for growth. This allows fans to look ahead with hope.
Combining an abysmal offense with a basement win-loss record makes a MVP candidate or batting champion for the Texas Rangers a pipedream. However, this Rangers’ club boasted some talent and award-worthy performances on the other side of things: pitching and defense.
Let’s start with the Rangers’ best player: Lance Lynn. Primarily due to other outstanding seasons from a few other starting pitchers around the American League, namely Shane Bieber of Cleveland, Lynn will not win the Cy Young award for best AL pitcher. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old righty, absolutely dazzled in his 2nd year in a Texas uniform. The Indiana native recorded a 3.32 ERA while striking out 89 batters in 84 innings. His phenomenal numbers are slightly skewed by a terrible performance in his final start against Houston (more on them later), but still managed to place top 10 in all major statistical categories among AL pitchers. Texas ownership can hang their hats on the brilliant, largely under-the-radar signing of Lynn during the 2018 offseason and applaud the Cy Young-like production of their ace.
The other area of possible trophies rests with the defense. The Rangers saw a pair of everyday starters grow into their roles and display tremendous ability with their glove and arm. Right fielder Joey Gallo and third baseman Isaiah Kiner-Falefa both put together campaigns worthy of Gold Glove consideration at their respective positions.
Split with the “Bad Guys”
The Houston Astros have been rivals of the Arlington club since joining the American League West in 2013. Along with that moniker, the defending AL champs entered 2020 as the villains of MLB following the cheating scandal that broke this past off season. In light of the circumstances, the battle for the Silver Boot felt like it carried a little more weight this time around.
The COVID-19 abbreviated season meant the two Texas clubs would face one another a total of just 10 times. Texas took the final 3 of the year, knotting the season series at 5-5. Unfortunately, Houston won the Silver Boot due to more runs scored in the 10 game set. But, hey, in a lost season like 2020, the Rangers can chalk up splitting the season series with their I-45 rivals, and league “bad guys,” as a win.