Friday, October 10, 2014

2014 in review - Shortstop and Third Base.

Going to take on the left side of the infield today. Thanks to Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, shown here on 2012 Topps Archive #131, things were pretty stable in those areas.

Shortstop was pretty simple during the 2014 season. Elvis Andrus showed up for work with a smile most all year. Luis Sardinas got some work at the position as did a few others but they were backups to Elvis.

Andrus' 157 games were a team high as were his 685 plate appearances. He batted .263 with a .314 on-base percentage. Both were dips from 2013. His stolen bases were also down from 42 to 27. He hit 35 doubles though as compared to 17 in 2013 so that probably ate up some of the theft chances. In 153 games and 1309.1 innings at second, Elvis posted a .971 fielding percentage. That's two points below the league average and a significant dip from last season. Some of that's probably due to the increased pressure of playing with a constantly changing cast around him and the sometimes suspect defense at first base.

Elvis is still the front-runner for the Rangers starting job at short in 2015 but he needs to get back into his old form quickly. Luis Sardinas would be glad to take the starting shortstop gig and Jurickson Profar would rather have it than spend 2015 in the minors. There's a lot of pressure in the middle infield right now for Texas. Andrus is the veteran and is in the driver's seat but he's going to have to work to stay there.

Third base was a bright spot for the Rangers in 2014. Adrian Beltre was the rock the team rested on most of the season. He did do a short stint on the disabled list but Kevin Kouzmanoff ably filled in until his return. A few other players appeared at third but, like at short, they were fill-ins or backups for Beltre or Kouzmanoff.

Adrian Beltre continued to be outstanding at third and at the plate in 2014. With practically no support in the lineup, he made a serious run at a batting title. Manager Ron Washington was asked how that could happen. “Bad ball hitter.” We all know what Ron meant but any ball hitter is more accurate. Adrian played in 136 games at third base during 2014. He posted a .967 fielding percentage in the course of the 1171.1 innings he played there. That 11 points over the league average. Beltre also made 614 trips to the plate – second highest on the team. He tallied a .324 batting average, a .388 on-base percentage and a .492 slugging percentage. He had 33 doubles (second highest on the team), one triple, and 19 home runs (team best). All in all another solid season from the old man on the team.

Kevin Kouzmanoff was a feel good story with a bad ending. After two seasons out of the Majors, he got called up to fill in for Beltre during a short DL stint. Kouz put in 108 innings over 13 games at the hot corner and posted a .909 fielding percentage. That's barely acceptable even for a replacement. At the plate though is where Kevin kept the Rangers from missing Beltre too much. In 51 plate appearances Kouzmanoff put together a .362 batting average, a .412 on-base percentage, and a .617 slugging percentage. Back surgery ended his season just before Beltre came off the DL.

Look for Beltre to be back at third for the Rangers in 2015. Kouzmanoff is a real question mark. He just got out-righted to Triple A and will likely take his free agency. That will remove him from the equation since it's highly unlikely the Rangers re-sign him.

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