Walks, K's a big concern heading into 2018

Walks, K's a big concern heading into 2018

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitchers had 1.98 strikeouts per walk this season, the second-lowest in the American League. Their staff had 1,107 strikeouts, the fewest in the league, and 559 walks, the third most.

Offensively, they were second in the league with 1,493 strikeouts but seventh with 544 walks. They put the ball in play on just 35.5 percent of their swings, the second-lowest in the league.

There are plenty of other statistics to drive home the point, but it's clear why manager Jeff Banister sees one main area that the Rangers need to clean up in 2018.

"When you look at or kind of review -- and this is a very easy one out in front, it's right in front," Banister said. "Walks and strikeouts on both sides of the baseball."

When the Rangers start putting together their 2018 club, they are going to be looking for players who help remedy the situation.

"There are multiple layers of being able to look at both pictures," Banister said.

On the pitching side, the low number of strikeouts should not be a surprise. The Rangers emphasize pitching to contact and getting quick outs. They traded their premier strikeout pitcher in Yu Darvish, but were always frustrated with his inability to get quick outs and limit high pitch counts.

Martin Perez and Andrew Cashner are not strikeout pitchers. Perez averaged 5.59 strikeouts per nine innings, the second lowest in the American League among qualifying pitchers. Cashner had the lowest at 4.64. Cole Hamels struck out 6.39 batters per nine innings, well below his career average of 8.48.

Perez and Cashner turned their seasons around by limiting walks. Perez was 5-10 with a 5.46 ERA through 21 starts while averaging 3.38 walks per nine innings. He had 1.78 strikeouts per walk. He was 8-2 with a 3.71 ERA in his last 11 starts by dropping the walks to 2.51 per nine innings and raising the strikeout-to-walk ratio to 2.05.

Perez induces a 4-6-3 DP

Cashner was 3-7 with a 3.87 ERA in his first 13 starts while walking 4.0 batters per nine innings and a 1.09 SO/BB ratio. In his final 15 starts, he was 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA, 3.02 walks per nine innings and a 1.61 SO/BB ratio.

Walks across the board drove Banister crazy. It contributed to the bullpen implosion. Rangers relievers walked 3.96 batters per nine innings, the second-most in the American League.

"You can't continue to have a high number of walks and not have the strikeouts that balance that ratio out," Banister said. "How does that affect your defense? More baserunners, less strikeouts, more balls in play."

It is not a surprise the Rangers set a club record with strikeouts. But they pulverized the old mark of 1,253 set in 2009. Strikeouts were up all over baseball, except when hitters were facing Rangers pitchers. The Rangers offense was saved in part this year by the home run.

Banister is mandating more balance in 2018.

"The number of strikeouts offensively and the number of walks offensively," Banister said. "Not in a ratio that is conducive to being having that consistent offense that you desire to have. It doesn't necessarily allow you to do the things that an athletic team can do.

"On the other side, I love the mindset of competing by our team. There's no other team that walks out on the field of play that wants to compete and play like this group does. I'll argue anybody. It may not always look clean, but they compete. They show up every single day, they'll play through anything."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.