A while ago, there was discussion about a prolonged stretch where the Rangers hovered around .500, but were actually playing extremely well and just losing a disproportionate number of close games.
Lately, the slump has simply been horribly bad play, however. Over their past 10 games, spanning three series against the AL West, the Rangers have lost all three. They've been outscored an abysmal 65-34. Against the Mariners and Athletics -- probably (by far) the two very worst offenses the American League has to offer -- Texas allowed an astounding 33 and 24 runs.
The past 10 games do not tell us more about the Rangers than the entire season of 58 games does. A team should always be expected to perform to its true talent going forward, not to the level of the most recent small sample. Over those 58 games, Texas happens to have the best record in the AL, a four game lead in their division, and a +64 differential that has plummeted, but still remains the best mark in baseball.
All that said, a 10 game stretch is not entirely dismissible. It's enough to begin thinking the Rangers are not as good as we thought they were a couple of weeks ago, unless there is a good reason to dismiss the play as being affected by some non-baseball factor.
There might just be a good reason, though.
On May 27th, Mike Napoli returned from battling the virus. That same day, Yu Darvish spoke of suffering from a sore back as a result of the virus, but pitched through it, anyway. Josh Hamilton had spoken of not feeling well during games, and is also cited as having suffered from the virus, as it has run rampant through the Texas clubhouse.
That's May 27th. May 28th, the Rangers began this current terrible slump. Derek Holland most notably is on the disabled list with shoulder soreness related to the virus, which cost him 15 pounds.
We've seen shockingly terrible play from the team, but is it so hard to believe that can be at least partly the result of trying to play through a virus that can wreak enough havoc to send people to the DL?
Which conclusion feels more logical: That the Rangers looked like an awesome team before the games were even played, and through most of the season, but have the affinity to be really terrible for an extended period? Or that the Rangers are an awesome team that looks terrible right now because of a known stomach bug?
This all could obviously be a result of the former problem, but the optimist has a good reason to believe these games are just an annoying series of events due to contagious illness. Not that they can get these games back, but that's why getting a huge lead in April matters.
We'll see how this turns out, but don't go writing the Rangers off as falling apart just because they're sick.