ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara finished this season with a .786 OPS, the highest in his four years in the Major Leagues.
That’s significant because Mazara is understanding that’s the statistic that will define him as a player. OPS combines two categories into one: on-base percentage and slugging percentage and Mazara was starting to appreciate it in the final two and a half months of the season.
Over his last 31 games, Mazara was hitting .291 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. He also had a .330 on-base percentage and a .563 slugging percentage for an .893 OPS. Mazara did that while battling a strained left oblique muscle and a sore right thumb.
An .893 OPS for the whole season would have ranked him 16th in the American League. A .786 OPS doesn’t get you in the top 40.
“There is stuff I need to get better at it, I know that,” Mazara said. “It stinks that when I was doing my best, I got hurt. I was forcing myself to try to be in the lineup but I guess my body didn’t like that. It is what it is.”
The Rangers want Mazara to do three things.
- Control the strike zone and swing at strikes.
- Before two strikes, look to drive the ball deep. Don’t be looking to beat a shift by slapping a ground ball the opposite way.
- Two strikes? Battle the pitcher and put the ball in play.
“For a guy who can hit the ball 500 feet, I want him to get that A swing off as much as possible,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I’m not talking about swinging for the fences. Get the ball in the air, hard contact, stay in the strike zone. If he really controls the strike one and gets his A swing off on strikes, his ability to hit the ball hard and far is pretty significant.
“Not many guys can hit the ball as hard as he does. Before two strikes, I would like to see him more aggressive in putting the ball in the air in the big part of the field. That is going to equate to production and damage.”
What went right:
The Rangers threw a lot of new information at their players this past season. It took time for Mazara and some of the young players to grasp everything. But as the season progressed, Mazara started to gain a better understanding of it all.
“Yeah it didn’t work out in the beginning,” Mazara said. “It took us a couple of months to sink in and learn how to use the information. We were trying to figure out the way they were using it and we were thinking too much. As the season went on, we were doing a better job and they were doing a better job of making us understand it.
What went wrong:
Mazara had a .646 OPS against lefties and an .844 OPS against right-handed pitchers. For his career it is .633 against lefties and .799 versus right-handers. The Rangers don’t want Mazara to be a platoon player.
“I know we pushed him pretty hard,” Woodward said. “It’s not putting added pressure on him, I just want him to have quality at-bats against [all pitchers]. Because the numbers against righties were pretty good. If his numbers against lefties are similar or close to that, he’ll be a pretty good player.”
Mazara had a six-game stretch at the end of April on the road against the A's and Mariners where he seemed to really catch fire. He was 12-for-30 with three doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs.
The Rangers may have to trade one of them and Mazara’s trade value is down. His potential is worth more to the Rangers than his actual production to other clubs. The Rangers will have to make a tough call because Mazara is only 24 and the Major Leagues are full of players who didn’t break through until they reached 25 and had three to four years in the big leagues.
Christian Yelich is a superstar now, but it took him three to four years to figure it out in Miami. The same goes for Marcell Ozuna. Not everybody is Pete Alonso.
The Rangers have been patient with Mazara. This winter will show how much patience is left.