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Midseason Takes: Who Must Improve?

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Midseason Takes: Who Must Improve?

Texas Rangers short stop Elvis Andrus.

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The Texas Rangers will get back to the grind on Friday when they open a home series with the Baltimore Orioles, and they'll do so facing a two-game deficit in the American League West and with the third-best record in the American League.

That's a pretty comfy place for the Rangers to be considering some of the issues they had over the season's first half, whether it be starting pitching durability or just some flat-out disappointing performances from some expected contributors.

Let's take a look at a few Rangers who must exceed their first-half performance for the Rangers to have a chance to make a deep run into October.

1. Elvis Andrus — The Rangers' most glaring offender has to be their 24-year-old superstar shortstop, the one they locked up to a long-term deal on the season's league-wide Opening Day, a day after the Rangers lost to Houston in that forgettable 2013 debut. Andrus has been incredibly disappointing after seeming poised for a breakout season. He's hitting just .242 with 31 RBIs with a .300 on-base percentage and a ridiculously bad slugging percentage (.280), even for a light-hitting shortstop. Andrus has 11, count 'em, 11 extra-base hits through his first 92 games, a number that has to improve as he's shown he has gap power in the past and can be a good doubles hitter. Probability of turning things around (scale of 1-10): 7, he's just too talented not to.

2. David Murphy — Murphy was finally set to get his shot as an everyday player this season, and so far he's failed miserably. Murphy has been great in the past as a fourth outfielder or a guy who's picked up slack for injured starters in recent years, as evidenced by his run in September 2010 when Josh Hamilton went down with an injury. Murphy, the club's everyday left fielder, is hitting just .219 this year with 10 homers and 30 RBIs and has finally been moved down in the order. He's grown into quite the "ground-out-to-second" player, something you definitely don't want. In fact, 19 percent of all of his outs this year have come on groundouts to second and he's grounded into nine double plays. Probability of turning things around (scale of 1-10): 5, he's capable, but he's been so bad.

3. Lance Berkman — This one is just sad to see. Berkman was signed as a flyer after missing most of 2012 with knee problems, requiring multiple surgical procedures on both knees. After a hot start to the season, the 37-year-old designated hitter, has fallen on really hard times and is currently on the disabled list. He's eligible to come off the DL on Monday, but don't count on it. Over his career, he's had lethal power from the left side but a stiff right knee has made it difficult for the switch hitter to generate power from the left side. He just looks like he's in pain when he does play and his batting average is down to .254. He can still draw a walk with his great plate discipline, as evidenced by his .355 on-base percentage, but the Rangers didn't sign a DH to draw walks. Probability of turning things around (scale of 1-10): 1, Berkman seems to sadly be finished as a big-leaguer. His knees are just too old.

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