Texas Red Bulls: A Return to Prominence

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re aware of why last week’s article reviewing 2027 and updating on 2028 never got posted. Let’s take a quick look back at the ’27 season before diving deep into ’28.

2027 REVIEW

After an ugly 74-88 in 2026, we were demoted from Iron back to Stone and we took advantage of moving down a level with a robust 96-66 record. Unfortunately, it was only good for a 2nd place finish behind a 102-60 ballclub. In fact, the 96 wins would’ve only won one of the six divisions and not only did it fall a game short of the wildcard in my conference, but it would’ve been three games shy in the other conference, too!

Five teams won 100+ games while six were at 60 or fewer. Five teams also had a Pythagorean Record of 100+ wins which I only point out because two of them are different than the ones who actually reached the mark, INCLUDING US!

Our 876 runs scored were our highest total ever (topping the 862 of 2025 when we won 103 games) and 202 runs clear of the 674 we allowed, giving us a Pythag Record of 100-62 per OOTP (though they might use a different formula as I got 102-60 using the FG one). Despite missing the playoffs, we’re headed back to the Iron level. We had four All-Stars on the season: Jerry Mumphrey (3rd time), Ray Durham (2nd), Nick Madrigal (1st), and Jackie Jensen (1st).

League leaders from the team include: Jensen 2nd in HR (43), 3rd in ISO (.295), 5th in BB (96), Melvin Mora t2nd in Games (161), Adam Wainwright 2nd in ERA (2.46), 2nd in Ws (22), and 5th in pitching WAR (6.4), and our two best relievers in Games Pitched with Satchel Paige tied for 1st (83) and Willie Hernandez in 3rd (75).

Here are a few statistical standouts, too: Jensen with a 146 wRC+ and 6.1 WAR, the keystone combo of Ray Durham and Joe Sewell notching nearly 10 wins at 4.9 and 4.8 WAR, respectively. Madrigal walking three times (12%) as often as he struck out (4%) en route to a solid-but-punchless .292/.382/.391 line. Derrek Lee bounced back from a mediocre 2026 (93 wRC+) with an excellent 127 mark that finished 3rd on the team.

Outside of Wainwright (2.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 212 IP), the staff floundered a bit with only Alex Fernandez on the right side of a 4.00 ERA. He put up 199.7 innings of a 3.70 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Ace Noah Syndergaard was awful with a 5.53 ERA in 193.7 innings. The aforementioned Paige and Hernandez were great. Paige had a 3.52 ERA and 1.25 in 102.3 innings, accumulating 22 saves, 12 holds, and 6 wins (but also 9 losses… not nice). Hernandez was even better with a 2.12 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 85 innings with 17 saves, 20 holds, and a 3-1 record.

2028 REVIEW

*I usually write these on a Tuesday or Wednesday when the season has rolled over to the new one and the information available isn’t as plentiful. Writing this one on Sunday night gives me full access to the season so I’ll be getting into a lot more detail than normal. I’m not always able to do the write ups on Sunday nights but if you like the more detailed look at the season, let me know and I can start collecting screenshots on the stuff that isn’t accessible once the calendar flips to the new season.

I wasn’t looking forward to the return to Iron after the failed 2026 campaign. I didn’t make any personnel moves prior to the season and while I thought they could improve upon the 74-88 mark from ’26, I was seeing something like a .500 team.

We jumped out to a fast start with a 19-10 record in March/April. Jensen looked like he was going to carry over his ’26 performance with a 182 wRC+ and 11 HR in 119 PA. My response to the start was tempered by the staff again struggling as three of the five starts toted ERAs north of 5.50, including Waino (7.99 in 23.7 IP).

It didn’t matter.

We were even better in May at 21-6 as the offense stayed hot and was joined by the rotation. Alex Fernandez posted a 0.99 ERA and 0.66 WHIP in 36.3 IP. Three hitters landed north of a 160 wRC+ in the month: Melvin Mora (186), Victor Martinez (169), and Elmer Flick (161). Another strong month in June left us at 56-25 through the first half of the season. July was the first tough month as we went just 11-13, thanks in large part to a 2-9 record 1-run games. We did have a league-high 8 All-Stars, though:

  • Alex Fernandez (1x) – 2.37 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in 121.7 IP
  • Willie Hernandez (1x) – 2.39 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in 52.7 IP
  • Victor Martinez (3x) – .301/.365/.534, 11 HR, 139 wRC+, 2.7 WAR in 249 AB
  • Ray Durham (3x) – .291/.346/.504, 14 HR, 8 SB, 125 wRC+, 3.3 WAR in 347 AB
  • Melvin Mora (1x) – .305/.366/.491, 14 HR, 131 wRC+, 2.2 WAR in 371 AB
  • Joe Sewell (1x) – .319/.375/.435, 3 HR, 6 SB, 120 wRC+, 3.5 WAR in 345 AB
  • Nick Madrigal (2x) – .296/.384/.416, 15 SB, 113 wRC+, 1.9 WAR in 358 AB
  • Elmer Flick (1x) – .315/.394/.546, 16 HR, 10 SB, 149 wRC+, 3.7 WAR in 302 AB

Our 63-32 record at the break was the best in the league by 2 games and had us out to a 12.5 game lead in the division. The offense and pitching were clicking, and the team was essentially set for the 2nd half. We went just 36-33 after the break, though, due mostly to the pitching losing some steam from the 1st half. Derrek Lee had a monstrous second half, including a 13-homer August. He entered the break with a .275/.329/.427 only to finish at .281/.347/.486 with 33 HR and 121 RBI, both career-highs.

The Red Bulls finished 98-64 and still won the division by 7 games, but we finished a game shy of the league’s best overall record as the Carolina Southpaws won their last 5 to go 99-63. We finished first in Runs (895), AVG (.283), OBP (.354), OPS (.808), Batting WAR (39), and wOBA (.347). We were 4th in SB (85) and tied for 5th in HR (186). On the pitching side, we were 2nd in FIP (4.02), Bullpen ERA (3.62), and Pitching WAR (25.4), 3rd in Runs Against (664), and 4th in Starter ERA (3.96).

THE PLAYOFFS

As the #1 seed, we awaited the Wildcard winner between Spooner Rails (91-71) and Wooster Wins The Wins (85-78). Yes, that’s really the team name, and frankly, I’m glad they lost 5-4 despite getting 14 hits to just 8 for Spooner. So Spooner made their way to Red Bull Stadium (open to a new stadium name if you have any ideas) in Austin, TX for the 5-game series. We went 10-9 against our division foe on the season.

We entered the bottom of the 9th of game 1 down 3-1. Closer Nick Burdi allowed back-to-back singles but then notched back-to-back strikeouts of Ray Durham and Derrek Lee, bringing the Rails to the brink of an opening win on the road. On a 3-1 count, Jackie Jensen ripped a single to right-center, scoring Joe Sewell easily and prompting Melvin Mora – he of the electric 31 speed rating – to challenge the strong arm of centerfielder Happy Felsch (82 rating, out of 100)… and succeed!

Game tied with two runners still on. Victor Martinez walked and left Jerry Mumphrey with a bases loaded opportunity. He ripped a flyball with a 98 mph exit velocity that took Cliff Floyd to the edge of the warning track where he caught the ball with his back touching the wall. In the top of the 10th, Willie Hernandez, in his fourth inning of work, dispatched the Rails 1-2-3 including two strikeouts. The bottom of the inning saw Burdi remain in the game… 4 hits, a walk, 2 runs, and 33 pitches later.

He got Madrigal to flyout on a 3-1 count, but then Sewell ripped a 101-mph groundball and reached on an error by 1B Austin Meadows (the Rails have trained Meadows at 1B a bit, but only to an 18 rating). Mora was once again in a situation to come up big and he embraced the moment. He tattooed a 1-0 slider into the left-center gap and sent Sewell off to the races. A solid secondary lead before the pitch gave Sewell a real chance to score and third base coach, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, was sending him from the jump. Larry Rosenthal’s weak 31-rated arm wasn’t enough to get Sewell (51 SPD) and we secured a game 1 walkoff win.

That was about it for Division Series excitement, though, as we handled games 2 and 3 pretty easily with 6-2 and 5-1 wins. Ray Durham popped a homer in each, Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright both went more than seven innings in their starts, and Jackie Jensen went 4-for-8 with 2 BB, 3 RBI, and 3 R giving him a .417/.500/.583 line in the series and earning him the Division Series MVP.

The Ilsan Lucite Tokkies (86-76) also swept their LDS to set up our LCS starting in Austin after a few off days. The Lucite Tokkies almost lost the division to the Wooster Wins the Wins as they lost their last four while Wooster won their final eight and came up just a game and a half shy of overtaking Ilsan. We split our six games against them in the regular season and this series would prove to be similarly close.

We took the first game 5-4, but then dropped the next two 6-4 and 8-7. A solid 5-3 win in game 4 boiled it down to a best of three for a trip to the World Series. In game 5, Wainwright went the distance and allowed just one run while Jackie Jensen hit a 2-run homer and Elmer Flick chipped in an RBI triple to fuel a 3-1 win. Five runs in the first three innings of game 6 gave us a comfortable lead that we held onto en route to a 7-3 win that secured our second World Series appearance (first since 2022).

Later that day the South Coast Whiptails coasted to a game 7 win thanks in large part to a Tim Hudson shutout that secured the 5-0 win and World Series berth. The two teams traded punches in the first four games with South Coast winning games 1 and 3 while we won 2 and 4. A decisive 6-0 win in game 5 put us up 3 games to 2 but the Whiptails pummeled Alex Fernandez and forced a game 7 thanks to an 8-2 win.

Jack Flaherty and Bump Hadley dueled in the season finale before turning things over to the bullpen with the score knotted at 0. Flaherty went seven strong while Hadley tossed eight excellent frames. Willie Hernandez threw two perfect innings, including an 8-pitch ninth, leaving it to the offense. Ken Giles had a flawless playoff until he faced Ray Durham.

With a runner on and two outs, Durham smashed a high heater into the right field stands at 103 mph for the walkoff World Series win. The homer was his third of the series and made him a lock for the MVP. Durham hit .333/.400/.741 with 3 HR and 9 RBI in 27 AB over the seven games.

This was arguably our best season yet and now we’ll enter Bronze League on a high note.

AWARDS/LEADERS

Platinum Sticks (OOTP version of Silver Sluggers)

  • C Victor Martinez – .286/.348/.505, 19 HR, 127 wRC+, 3.9 WAR in 416 AB
  • 3B Nick Madrigal – .294/.381/.417, 5 HR, 24 SB, 114 wRC+, 3.3 WAR in 626 AB
  • DH Melvin Mora – .316/.379/.488, 23 HR, 119 RBI, 4.2 WAR, 648 AB

RP of the Year

  • Willie Hernandez – 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 94 K, 7 SV, 7 W, 26 HD in 92 IP over 84 app.

Other Top 10 Finishes

  • Alex Fernandez finished 3rd in CY voting (2.80 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 205.7 IP)
  • Melvin Mora finished 3rd in MVP voting (stats above in Platinum Sticks)
  • Elmer Flick finished 5th in MVP (.291/.373/.503, 25 HR, 13 SB, 102 R in 537 AB)
  • Ray Durham finished 8th in MVP (.273/.338/.492, 28 HR, 15 SB, 102 R, 101 RBI in 593 AB)

Offensive Leaders

  • Melvin Mora: t1st in G (162), 2nd in H (205) and RBI (119), t2nd in SF (10), 3rd in 1B (143)
  • Derrek Lee: 1st in RBI (121)

Pitching Leaders

  • Alex Fernandez: t2nd in WHIP (1.09), 3rd in ERA (2.80) and Opp. OBP (.280)
  • Jack Flaherty: 2nd in WPCT (.810), 5th in W (17)
  • Noah Syndergaard: 3rd in WPCT (.708)
  • Willie Hernandez: 1st in G (84)
  • Satchel Paige: 4th in G (79)

Notable Stats

  • 3 players with 5+ WAR: Durham 5.3, Flick 5.2, Sewell 5.1
  • 3 players with 100+ RBI: Lee 121, Mora 119, Durham 101
  • 3 players with 100+ R: Flick & Durham 102, Lee 101
  • 3 players with 40+ 2B: Madrigal & Sewell 44, Durham 40
  • 1 player with 30+ HR: Lee 33
  • 3 pitchers with 90+ IP: I.Snell 99.7, Paige 95.7, Hernandez 92
  • 3 pitchers with 4+ WAR (after rounding): Fernandez 4.4, Syndergaard 4.1, Wainwright 3.8

There’s the 2027 breakdown! The huge season boosted our bankroll up to 34,514 Perfect Points so it’s time to make some improvements. Those will be outlined in a subsequent piece.

We hoped you liked reading Texas Red Bulls: A Return to Prominence by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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