This is another post-mortem I wasn't expecting to write this weekend. The Rangers led the AL West from nearly wire to wire, but were swept by the A's during the season's final series to lose the division crown and fall into the wild card game, where they looked uninspired and fell to the Orioles to end their season rather early, considering the Rangers were coming off of two straight AL pennants.
If you're new here (which about 90% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
What Went Right: Adrian Beltre continued his rebirth since getting out of Seattle, posting a .920 OPS with 36 homers (his most since 2004) and his usual stellar defense at the hot corner. Josh Hamilton was red hot over the first two months of the season, but fell into a malaise over the summer. David Murphy had a fantastic year while topping 500 plate appearances for the first time. Elvis Andrus continued his progression from a glove only shortstop into a glove first shortstop that won't kill you offensively. Yu Darvish's first season in America was fantastic, and Matt Harrison continued to look like a great middle of the road starter. Closer Joe Nathan exceeded all expectations after a distrastrous 2011 in his return from Tommy John surgery. The rest of the Rangers bullpen leading up to Nathan was excellent as well, led by Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Koji Uehara, and Mike Adams.
What Went Wrong: Mike Napoli took a huge step back after a breakout 2011, looking more like the player he was with the Angels for years. Ian Kinsler had a down year after a 2011 season that saw him hit the 30/30 mark, hitting just 19 homers and stealing only 21 bases. Nelson Cruz's power took a step back in a healthy season for him. Geovany Soto was terrible after being brought over from the Cubs at the trade deadline. Michael Young's season was abysmal, and a waste of 651 plate appearances. Ryan Dempster was terrible on the mound after being acquired from the Cubs (just like Soto), Derek Holland couldn't repeat his breakout 2011, and Colby Lewis needed Tommy John surgery after just 16 starts. Roy Oswalt's mid-season signing went nothing like planned, and he was pretty bad overall. Neftali Feliz also blew his elbow out this year after being moved back to the rotation.
Most Surprising Player: David Murphy seems like a good choice here. He's always been a solid contributor, but had never topped 2 fWAR in a season…until this year, when he finished up with 4. Murphy started in both outfield corners, walked at a double digit rate, kept a low strikeout rate, hit .300, and showed a combination of both power and speed. He'll be 31 in two weeks, so he's not exactly a young building block, but this was a great year for him that really helped the Rangers in 2012.
Most Disappointing Player: Napoli has to be the guy here. After a 5.6 win season last year, Napoli fell all the way to just 2.0 this year, lower than each of his last three years with the Angels. Napoli still bashed 24 homers, par for the course for him, but doubled just nine times and struck out 30% of the time. Napoli will be 31 on Halloween, is essentially a DH at this point, and is going to try to command eight figures a year in free agency. If the Rangers re-sign Napoli, they'll probably be doing it based on 2011, which is looking like the outlier as opposed to this season's disappointment.
Prospects Up: Jurickson Profar continued to be unbelievable, posting an .820 OPS as a 19-year old in AA while hitting 14 homers, stealing 16 bases, and walking at a double digit rate. Leonys Martin had a 1.032 OPS in AAA, looking like the successor to Josh Hamilton in center for 2013. Neil Ramirez continued to have his innings heavily controlled, but finished up at AAA, where he struggled with homers but had solid command both there and at AA. As an 18-year old in A-ball, Rougned Odor had a solid year with ten homers and 19 steals. Robbie Ross slid right into the Texas bullpen, and was great. Mike Olt showed amazing power in the minors, but struggled in a brief major league tenure.
Prospects Down: Martin Perez had a disappointing year in his first season at AAA, striking out just 69 and walking 56 in 127 innings, but he's still just 21.
The Future: Winds of change are blowing in Texas. The farm system is still strong, but the Rangers will need to replace the offense of Hamilton and Napoli, no easy feat. The rotation will also be interesting, with Dempster heading to free agency and Lewis and Feliz both missing at least half of the season. The Rangers may be taking a step back in 2013 after unparalleled success in their franchise's history.