Since beginning the season at 12-2, the Texas Rangers have played just under .500 baseball, going 14-15. They haven't yet won more than two in a row in that stretch. It has not been fun to watch.
That is precisely where the bad feelings about the 2012 Rangers and their recent performance should end: the past month hasn't been fun. Beyond that, things are great.
To begin with, they have played better over that stretch than sub-500 suggests. In that span, only three losses have been out of a save situation, with the worst being a six run loss to Toronto. Five times they have lost by one game.
Meanwhile, eight times they have won by more than three. Four times they have won by more than seven. Once they even won by 11, which is exactly as many times as they've won by just one run. So, in short, their losses are usually fairly close, and their victories are typically not nearly as close.
That is an extremely good sign. Their run differential is +27 over that span, which is a 90-72 expected record over 162 games.
On top of that, 29 games is a far less significant sample than 43 games, let alone 43 games plus the wealth of information we had going in to that season. That information is what has the Rangers, as of today, with a 100% shot at making the playoffs per Baseball Prospectus. More importantly, their division chances sit at an incredibly-comfortable-in-May 98.4%. They give the Rangers 99 wins, and no one else even reaches 89!
Adam Morris today referred, as well, to a nearly as favorable forecast from ZiPS, giving the Rangers 95 wins and a 13 game victory over the AL West.
So, the best sources at predicting baseball still think the Rangers are dominant. The Rangers are actually playing pretty well over this slump despite the record. The section of games is not even all that significant, anyway.
Oh, and on a final note, let's address any thoughts that the Rangers can't still be a historically-great team because of this stretch. The 1998 New York Yankees went 11-17 during one stretch (and just 3-2 in the five games following). They won 114 games.
The Rangers will have a hard time comparing to the '98 Yankees because being that good is incredibly hard. An extended period of .500 baseball makes it even harder, but not impossible. They've still been way better in their worst "slump" than the '98 Yankees were. If 29 games of being a game below .500 is the worst stretch Texas has all year, this season is probably going to be very, very memorable. The good way.
It hasn't been fun, and the hot start only makes it more disappointing, but there's a pretty easy way to get over how not-fun it's been: look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture is awesome.