What Is Causing the Texas Rangers' Stunning Collapse?

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers
Houston Astros v Texas Rangers / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

On August 15, the Texas Rangers were 72-48 and led the American League West by 3.5 games over the Houston Astros. It looked like the Rangers were set to cruise to the postseason in Bruce Bochy's first year as the team's manager. Then disaster struck.

Since that day three weeks ago, the Rangers have gone 4-14. After being blown out 14-1 by Houston Tuesday night, the Rangers fell to 76-62 and now trail the Astros by two games in the divisional race and now even trail the Seattle Mariners by one game. Somehow, Texas is now a half-game out of the final wild card spot as well. It has been an almost comical collapse. A perfect example of everything falling apart for a franchise all at the same time.

The Rangers are still second in the AL in run differential (+148), but would miss the playoffs if they began today. From August 16-25, they lost eight in a row and nine of 10. The bullpen -- never a strength this season -- has completely collapsed. It now ranks 26th in baseball with a 4.97 ERA. The team's overall ERA has now fallen to 4.26 which ranks 17th.

For most of the season, the team's prolific offense and its starting rotation made up for a terrible bullpen. As the season has gone along that has changed. The Rangers tried to fix that at the trade deadline by adding Aroldis Chapman. That appeared to be a smart move, as Chapman didn't allow a run in his first seven appearances with Texas, and held the opposition scoreless in 14 of his first 15 outings. Since then he's been a mess. Chapman has allowed seven runs in his last six appearances and has only thrown 5.2 innings in that time.

To give you an idea of how terrible Texas' bullpen has been, on the season the group has more blown saves (29) than saves (26). Yeah, it's that bad. That said, in the last few weeks, everything has gone downhill.

Before the All-Star break the Rangers ranked 12th in ERA leaguewide (4.01). Since the break they've dropped to 21st with a 4.72 ERA. The offense has seen a drop-off as well. Before the break, Texas was second in MLB with an OPS of .801. They've dropped to 10th (.775) since. The Rangers led baseball in runs scored in the first half of the season (531), with 25 more than their closest competition. Since the break they've dropped to 14th in runs scored (228). Everything is coming apart at the same time.

Maybe the Rangers were playing far beyond their ability in the first half and this is just the team sinking back to its true level. After all, Texas went 68-94 last season. Whatever is going on, things need to change quickly if the Rangers want to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016.

If they can't get there this will look like an all-time collapse.