Rangers regained top-dog status in West in '15
ARLINGTON -- Resurrection. Reclamation. Validation. Restoration. Regression.
Those five almost-alliterative words are appropriate when reviewing the Rangers' 2015 season. The Rangers used 57 players, the second most in club history, and almost all of them can be placed under one of those five words.
Those five words can also be used to describe the Rangers' season as a whole under new manager Jeff Banister, who validated his hiring by leading the club to the sixth division title in club history.
The Rangers had to overcome a bad start and were 42-46 at the All-Star break, but a second-half resurrection restored them to division champions for the first time since 2011 and validated Banister's quest to once again make the Rangers an "elite" franchise in the American League.
The Rangers also won the first two games of the AL Division Series against the Blue Jays before suffering the ultimate regression. They lost the last three games, including Game 5 after taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
The irrefutable truth about Major League Baseball is only one team can be totally happy at the end, and for the 44th straight season in Arlington, it was not the Rangers.
But the five biggest storylines of 2015 all seem to fall under resurrection, redemption, validation, restoration and regression, as defined by Webster's Dictionary.
1. Resurrection: A rising again
That would certainly fit Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, who returned from season-ending injuries in 2014 to provide offensive firepower to the middle of the lineup. It would also include Adrian Beltre, who missed most of June with a sprained left thumb and enjoyed a tremendous second half. There was also Martin Perez, who gave the Rangers 14 starts after missing 14 months while recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
2. Reclamation: Renewal
The Rangers had to wait three months before outfielder Shin-Soo Choo returned to his rightful course, but he was spectacular in the second half. He went from hitting .221 with a .305 on-base percentage and a .384 slugging percentage in the first half to .343/.455/.560 after the All-Star break.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus and second baseman Rougned Odor also enjoyed a revival as the season progressed. Odor reclaimed his job at second base after a May demotion, hitting .292 with a .527 slugging percentage in his final 91 games.
Cole Hamels also reclaimed his spot as an elite pitcher on a postseason team. He was 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 starts for the Rangers after being acquired from the Phillies on July 31.
Other reclamation projects included the late-season additions of catchers Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson, and outfielders Max Venable, Ryan Strausborger and Drew Stubbs. There was also the late-season reclamation of the Rangers' bullpen with the additions of Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Ross Ohlendorf.
Another guy who shouldn't be forgotten is Wandy Rodriguez. He made 15 starts for the Rangers in 2015, and they were 10-5 in those starts.
3. Validation: Finding or testing the truth of something
Shawn Tolleson may have earned more validation than anybody, taking over as the closer and saving 35 games.
Rookie reliever Keone Kela and center fielder Delino DeShields also validated their standing as Major League players with terrific first seasons, and Robinson Chirinos proved he can be a front-line catcher before going down to a shoulder injury at the end of July. There was also Nick Martinez, who was 7-7 with a 3.96 ERA in 21 starts and three relief appearances.
4. Restoration: Bringing back to a former place, station or condition
The Rangers may lead the league in their obsession over re-acquiring their former players, and there were three notable returns in Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Colby Lewis.
Hamilton and Napoli were re-acquired at almost no cost to the Rangers. Although they did not perform at the same high level as previous tours with the Rangers, they were still able to contribute to the drive to the division title. Lewis never really left the Rangers, but he did re-sign as a free agent and led the team with 17 wins.
Yovani Gallardo and Sam Freeman were not former Rangers. But they were Rangers fans growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and in 2015, they got a chance to contribute significantly to their hometown team.
5. Regression: State in which development has stopped prematurely
There were some disappointments and question marks. Yu Darvish missed the entire season because of Tommy John surgery, and Derek Holland was down for four months because of a shoulder injury. He was inconsistent in his return.
The 2015 season also saw the departure of former All-Stars Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison, two key members from the World Series years. Opening Day left fielder Ryan Rua and center fielder Leonys Martin were not around in the end, reliever Tanner Scheppers struggled with physical issues, and top prospects Joey Gallo and Chi Chi Gonzalez had fitfull starts to their Major League careers.
Still, they all were contributing members to a team that won the division by one game. All contributions were needed to pull this one out.