The Rangers and One-Run Games: Incredible!
The Texas Rangers are doing something quite astonishing in 2022. They have played 28 one-run games so far, including a 5-4 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday night (and a 4-3 loss to Seattle on Monday).
Twenty-eight one-run games.
They have won FIVE of them.
Yeah, that’s right, the Texas Rangers are 5-23 in one-run games this year. That’s a .179 winning percentage. It might not be easy to visualize just how horrendous a .179 winning percentage is … so imagine that the Texas Rangers played ONLY one-run games over a 162-game season.
At their current pace, they would go 29-133.
This is incredible — I mean that word literally, as in, it is “difficult to believe.” One-run games, by their nature, are toss-ups. Good teams generally win them at a lower rate than they do other games, and bad teams generally win them at a higher rate than they do other games.
There are still two months left in the season for things to even out at least a little bit for Texas, but at this moment this is far and away the worst one-run percentage for a team in the 21st century.
2022 Rangers, 5-23 (.179)
2021 Diamondbacks, 10-31 (.244)
2018 Reds, 10-29 (.256)
2022 Angels, 6-17 (.261)
2008 Braves, 11-30 (.268)
In fact, the last team to win such a small percentage of one-run games was … never. Yes, that’s right: Never.
Well, wait, it depends on your definition of “never.” According to the best statistics we have, the 1886 Washington Nationals — who played their games at Swampoodle Grounds and had such luminaries as Barney Gilligan, Dupee Shaw, Buck Gladmon* and a young Connie Mack — went 5-25 (.167) in one-run games.
But this wasn’t really baseball as we know it. That season, you needed five balls for a walk, four called strikes for a strikeout, the home team captain got to determine how many innings the game would last, and nobody wore gloves, including catchers.
*To tell you how long ago this was, the aforementioned Buck Gladmon has a question mark accompanying his name on Baseball-Reference. The same is true of Jackie Hayes. We THINK they were on the team, but we can’t be sure.
There’s something else about those 1886 Nationals — while we don’t know for sure who all their players were, we do know that the TEAM was just plain terrible. They went 28-92-5 for the season.
And that gets to the mystery of the Texas Rangers. They’re NOT terrible.
In fact, in NON-one run games, these Rangers are 38-30, a .558 winning percentage that, believe it or not, would put them in the top wild-card spot in the American League.
Again, that word: incredible.
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Anyway, let’s first get the American League West part of this story out of the way. Look at the one-run records in the AL West:
Houston Astros (18-8, best in baseball)
Seattle Mariners (23-12, second-best in baseball)
Texas Rangers (5-23, worst in true baseball history)
Anaheim Angels (6-17, second-worst in baseball)
Oakland Athletics (8-16, third-worst in baseball)
What the heck is going on in this division? What kind of voodoo do the Astros and Mariners have over the rest of the AL West? The Astros are 7-2 in one-run games against the Rangers, Angels and A’s. The Mariners are 10-1. It’s really striking.
We’re going to break down the Rangers’ one-run games, but first let’s reiterate just how fickle and volatile one-run games are. Managers have been trying for a century to figure out how to win more of their one-run games, and have generally failed in their efforts. No matter how good or bad a team is, over a longer period of time they all tend to be pretty close to .500 in one-run games. It’s just the nature of things.
Here, for your enjoyment, are the one-run records for the last 10 teams to win the World Series:
2021 Braves: 26-31
2020 Dodgers: 7-5
2019 Nationals: 17-21
2018 Red Sox: 25-14
2017 Astros: 19-13
2016 Cubs: 22-23
2015 Royals: 23-17
2014 Giants: 18-22
2013 Red Sox: 21-21
2012 Giants: 30-20
Total: 208-187 (.527)
See that? The World Series winners over the last decade are only a touch above .500 in one-run games — and even that’s only because of the extraordinary one-run game performances of the 2018 Red Sox and 2012 Giants. Take those two away and these teams are EXACTLY .500 in one-run games.
So everything in the math tells you the Rangers cannot possibly be 5-23 in one-run games. It just doesn’t compute. But it’s happening just the same. Let’s take a look, eh? We’ll break down those 28 one-run games according to the final scores:
Lowlight: This loss was on May 9, against the Yankees. The game was scoreless all the way into the bottom of the eighth — these were the days when NOBODY was scoring runs. Aaron Judge singled, Anthony Rizzo doubled him in, and that was that.
Lowlight: May 8, the first game of a doubleheader against the Yankees. The score was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth. My pal Mike Schur texted to ask which Yankees hitter would slug the walk-off home run — these are the sorts of texts he sends. We didn’t have to wait long: Gleyber Torres led off the inning with the walkoff.
Lowlight: On July 16, the Rangers fought back to tie the game against the Mariners and force it into extra innings. Seattle scored the zombie runner in the top of the 10th. The Rangers, facing Matthew Festa, went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th, all three swinging strikeouts.
Lowlight: Seattle again. On June 3, the Rangers took a 3-2 lead into the ninth. Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer off Joe Barlow put this one away.
Lowlight: Seattle again — this happened just last night. Texas took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning. Cal Raleigh doubled home J.P. Crawford to tie the game, and then the Rangers intentionally walked Julio Rodriguez AND Ty Law to load the bases. Carlos Santana hit the walk-off sacrifice fly. Oof.
Lowlight: Two of the four losses were to the Mariners, the most heartbreaking one coming on July 14 at home, when the Rangers built a 5-1 lead heading into the seventh. That was the game when Dennis Santana hit Julio Rodriguez with the bases loaded — it was a pretty big mess.
Lowlight: An Independence Day celebration — this was against the Orioles and it was an absolute beaut. The Rangers scored five runs in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead, but obviously blew that. Still, they did lead 6-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. Then Joe Barlow gave up a run-scoring double to Adley Rutschmann.
In the 10th, there was a zombie runner on second, Rougned Odor bunted and beat it out to put runners on first and third. The Rangers intentionally walked Ramon Urias to set up the force at the plate. And reliever Matt Moor plunked Jorge Mateo to end the game.
8-7 Games, 9-8 Games
Lowlight: On July 5 — again vs. Baltimore — the Rangers trailed 4-0 after four innings but fought back, and in the ninth inning actually took a 9-8 lead on a Corey Seager homer. But in the bottom of the inning, Barlow (poor guy) gave up a homer to Rougned Odor to tie the game, and Texas lost in extra innings when the zombie runner scored on Cedric Mullins’ two-out double.
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Wow. It’s a funny thing — nobody expected much from the Rangers this year. So when you look at their 43-53 record, the easy response is: Yeah, that’s about what I thought.
Only this Rangers team is quietly playing better than anyone thought. They have a plus-run differential (+5 at this writing). Corey Seager, after a sluggish start, has been fantastic the last three weeks or so — he’s mashed eight home runs in his last 18 games. Adolis Garcia is thoroughly underrated; he’s one of the league’s better defensive centerfielders, and he hits with some power. Martin Perez is pitching at a Cy Young level. The Rangers as a team lead the league in stolen bases and are rarely caught stealing.
But, alas, for inexplicable reasons, they have that all-time worst record in one-run games.
Yes, that will ruin a season.