David Murphy #7, Nelson Cruz #17and Leonys Martin #2 of the Texas Rangers watch the video board of Cruz's grand slam home run in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners.
With the third-best record in the American League at the all-star break, it's hard to be too upset with the Texas Rangers' first-half performance this season, especially when you consider all of the injuries they've had to contend with.
Sitting pretty with a 54-41 record, two games back of the Oakland A's for first place in the AL West and four games back of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the AL, the Rangers have had plenty to look back at positively in the first half as well as some disappointing storylines.
MVP — This is a tough call with a few really viable candidates with guys like Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, but the name here is Joe Nathan. At 38 years old and approaching 39 in a few months, Nathan is having perhaps his best season as a big-leaguer. He's blown just one save and has been the constant force in what has without a doubt been the Rangers' strongest unit this season, their bullpen. He has 30 saves at the break and is gunning for his career-high of 47.
Pleasant surprise — Leonys Martin entered the season as a guy with a ton of unrealized potential, and nothing more. He figured to split time in center field with Craig Gentry but with Gentry's injury and Martin's outstanding play, the Cuban import has wrestled the job away and taken the "competition" out of the picture. He's hitting .330 over the last month and is sitting at .283 and just recently got promoted from No. 9 to No. 2 in the order. He's hit five homers and has 16 RBIs with 19 stolen bases in 23 attempts while showing a cannon of an arm in center.
Biggest disappointment — So far, this dubious honor has to go to Elvis Andrus, who signed a big ol' long-term extension at the beginning of the season and so far has paid the Rangers back by hitting .242 with 19 stolen bases and just 11 extra-base hits this season to give him an awful slugging percentage of .280. Just awful.
Mr. Consistency — Huh? Consistency and Nelson Cruz has never gone together, but this year, you can actually say that about Cruz. Throughout a looming investigation, Cruz has stayed focused and persevered through it all to give the Rangers a really good option in the 3-hole and has turned in an all-star caliber year. He's hitting .277 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs through the first half, well on pace to top his career-highs in both of those power categories. Usually, in the past, Cruz has been known to go on vicious tears then fall into miserable slumps, but so far this season he's been steady as a rock.
Biggest storyline — The Rangers have become known to be players at the trade deadline, and this year should be no different with just two weeks before the MLB trade deadline. Will the Rangers go after a stud pitcher to bolster their ailing rotation or go after a power bat to add to a funk-prone lineup? Or both? We'll find out soon.