From April 9th on, the Rangers led the AL West quite comfortably. However, the Oakland Athletics caught fire in July and kept it rolling until the finish line. They slowly snuck up behind Texas and before you knew it, they were just 2 games back heading into a showdown 3-game season to close out the campaign. The Rangers dropped all three games in Oakland, being outscored 19-9 in the series. One of the biggest problems in this series was the lack of production from Josh Hamilton, the same guy who had the incredible start to the year. He was a combined 2-13 with 6 strikeouts, 6 men left on base, and zero extra base hits. This series cost the Rangers a division title and a free pass right into the ALDS. Instead, they had to play a very loose Orioles ball club who had nothing to lose going up against the heavyweight Rangers. This proved to be a big problem as the Rangers fell to Baltimore 5-1, with the offense sputtering again. In the Wild Card game alone, Hamilton struck out twice, grounded into a double play, and grounded out to the pitcher on eight combined pitches. This is just a blatant lack of plate discipline for a guy who wasn't lighting the world on fire either at the time. Down the stretch, Hamilton hit just .245 from June 1 to the end of the season. That won’t get the job done batting out of the number three spot in the lineup. Elvis Andrus ended up having a solid season but was also fairly inconsistent, especially down the stretch. In September and October Elvis hit just .233/.285/.333. That as well won’t get the job done batting near the top of the order. Just as these two very important offensive pieces struggled, so did the Ranger pitching staff.
Matt Harrison and rookie Japanese sensation Yu Darvish were rocks in the rotation all season. Harrison threw 213.1 innings and had an ERA of 3.29 and ERA+ of 138. Darvish logged 191.1 innings with a 3.90 ERA and 116 ERA+. After these two men, the rotation was either very inconsistent or riddled by injuries. Colby Lewis was off to a solid start (3.43 ERA 133 ERA+) before going down for the season with an injury after making just 16 starts. Neftali Feliz , the former closer, was converted to the rotation and made only 7 starts (3.16 ERA 145 ERA+) before he had his season come to a halt. They had to rely on guys like Derek Holland and Scott Feldman who proved to be unsuccessful in 2012. Holland ended the year with a 4.67 ERA and 97 ERA+ in 175.1 innings and Feldman ended with a 5.09 ERA and 89 ERA+ in only 123.2 innings. Because of these problems Texas added Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster mid-season. These looked like solid moves at the time but neither panned out. Both had ERA’s north of 5 and ERA+’s below the league average of 100. The combination of a struggling starting rotation and two offensive superstars who failed to produce at their normal rates down the stretch is the reason Texas fell apart in 2012 (although I guess you can give some of the credit to the magic that is the Oakland A’s, if you are one to believe in that sort of thing).
Look for Texas to be right back in the race for a division crown in 2013. Texas will return Darvish and Harrison as a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. They will also have Feliz back healthy and they have to hope for a bounce back season from Derek Holland. Although Texas has money to spend, is seems unlikely they will re-sign free agent Josh Hamilton, as General Manager Jon Daniels will allocate that money to better alternatives . I look for them to possibly add a starting pitcher and an outfield bat. I personally believe Nick Swisher is a good fit. A deal of about 4-5 years would be acceptable for Swisher. He has proven to be extremely durable and very consistent throughout his career and I think Texas should look at him for a Josh Hamilton replacement. Additionally, they have been linked to Zack Greinke (3.48 ERA, 8.48 K/9, 3.10 FIP), this year's top free agent pitcher, in hopes that he could be the ace they have lacked the past several seasons. Regardless, the formula that made them so successful back in 2010 and 2011 is starting to lose its luster and look for Daniels to be aggressive in order to reach October immortality.