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So here’s how the Rangers prevailed in their contest against the Mariners on Tuesday night …

Yep, Rougned Odor with a single swing turned a one-run ninth-inning deficit into a one-run Texas win. Manager Jeff Banister? He appeared to be titillated by baseball events and outcomes. Here’s how it looked in terms of win probability …

As you can see, the Rangers had nearly an 80 percent chance of losing as the bottom of the ninth began. Odds, though, were defied.

As noted above, it wound up being a one-run win for Texas, and that’s something that’s happened quite a lot in 2016. In fact, Tuesday’s white-knuckled triumph moved the Rangers to 30-8 in 2016 when the game is decided by one run. If that sounds impressive, that’s because it is impressive — historically impressive. Here’s this note from MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan and Greg Johns:

That .789 winning percentage in one-run contests would top the modern era single-season record (since 1900), which was set by the 2012 Orioles, who went 29-9 in such games (.763).

Yep, history is within the grasp of the 2016 Texas Rangers. That knack for winning the tight ones (in tandem with the Rangers’ losing record when the game is decided by five or more runs) is why Banister’s squad is 25 games over .500 even though their run differential, +9, suggests they should be only one game above .500.

Typically when a team thrives in one-run situations, we attribute it to bullpen excellence. While the Texas pen is in better shape right now, overall it’s been a notable liability this season. At this writing, the Rangers rank last in the AL in relief ERA and last in relief FIP, by a substantial margin on both counts. While the staff as a whole has been better in clutch situations this season, that’s not what’s driving the Rangers’ success in one-run affairs. Rather, it’s clutch hitting that’s doing the trick — clutch hitting not unlike, say, Rougned Odor’s blast seen above.

Consider the following numbers for the 2016 season to date …

  • Ranger hitters this season have an OPS of .742 with the bases empty, but they enjoy a modest bump with runners on base (.758) and runners in scoring position (.757). Yes, the league as a whole tends to hit better in such spots, but it’s worth noting that Texas is no exception.
  • The Rangers have an overall OPS on offense of .749 this year, but in late-and-close game situations that figure goes up to .785.
  • In low-leverage situations — i.e., spots that aren’t all that important in terms of game outcomes — the Rangers have an OPS of .717. In high-leverage situations — i.e. spots we think of as being clutch — the Rangers have an OPS of .794.
  • When the Rangers are behind, they have an OPS of .788, which helps explain how they’ve notched a whopping 39 comeback wins in 2016.
  • Add it all up, and FanGraphs’ metrics deem the Ranger offense to be the most clutch in all of baseball, and it’s not a particularly close race.

The thing, though, is that clutch performance, particularly at the team level, and by extension success in one-run games almost always isn’t sustainable. Last season, for instance, the Rangers were a good-but-not-great 27-22 in one-run games, and their offensive outputs were substantially worse in clutch situations. The 2012 Orioles name-checked above? Indeed, they went, as noted, 29-9 in games decided by one run. In 2011, though, they went 22-22 in one-run games, and in 2013 they went 20-31 in one-run games. In other words, those record-setting 2012 Orioles followed it up by being one of baseball’s worst teams in one-run affairs. Really, though, find any team that spikes their one-run record in a given season, and they’ll almost always regress the following year. It’s just how baseball works.

To be sure, though, there’s no reason the Rangers can’t keep this going. Presently, the SportsLine Projection System gives them a robust 99.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, so it’s entirely possible they’ll ride this all the way to the belt and the title. The standing, of course, hold away over the runs scored and runs allowed ledger, as any good Ranger fan would hasten to remind us. When it comes to success in one-run games, though, a “market correction” inevitably shows up. For Texas, the the hope is that it doesn’t show up until 2017. On that front, so far, so good.


Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Clutch hitting has Rangers on pace to make MLB history this season