Week Stats: 7 Games, 29 PA, 10 H, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 R, 8 RBI, 3 K, .345/.345/.690
Today the Rangers travel to the Bay for a series with the division-leading Athletics, and they enter that series within striking distance of Oakland’s position: a sweep would rewrite the standings by Wednesday evening. This, despite a roster whose chief characteristic thus far has been susceptibility to injury, and despite a lineup bereft of power. Texas and Kansas City are unique among major league clubs in that no player on either team has hit three home runs yet. (Will Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas get there before anybody on the Rangers? Oh, the shame on House Fielder if that day should ever come.)
But you can see above that Kevin Kouzmanoff is knocking on number three’s door, having knocked two home runs last week in a crucial role as the Rangers’ interim third baseman. By now, Kouzmanoff has surpassed injured starter Adrian Beltre in plate appearances, 44 to 33, and figures to hold the job for another week or so before Beltre returns. When the season is said and done, Kouzmanoff’s April stint will have counted for about ten percent of the Rangers’ starts at third base. Instead of losing an All-Star and making do with a washed-up replacement, the Rangers have lost nothing; they have the second-best park-adjusted offense of any team’s third basemen. In Texas’ first good week of offense, 12 of the team’s 37 total runs were scored or driven in by Kouzmanoff. He had twice as many extra-base hits as strikeouts. He never walked, but the way he was swinging it didn’t matter. Fangraphs’ even has him as a better defender than Beltre, a perennial Gold Glove. You may cry “Sample Size Alert!” and you’d be right, especially about the defense. But the way the race is shaping up, a certified Small sample size will likely be the difference between division champion and wild card, playoffs or no playoffs. Kouzmanoff, who before this stretch hadn’t been in the big leagues since 2011, did his part and then some to keep the team humming through what could have been a rough patch.
Run-scoring hits like this and this will not always find defenses so favorably shifted, and that’s essentially what we mean when we say BABIP fluctuates in small samples. But Kouzmanoff hasn’t been the luckiest duck in the BABIP department, and sometimes even when his hits have been fielded a run scores anyway. The important thing is not whether he can sustain this level of success, because his role was short-term to start. Kouzmanoff got the runs when and where they were needed, the Rangers got some needed wins. He is a stopgap solution with a lasting impact.
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