Friday, October 22, 2010
Rangers had 'em all the way
I will probably go to my grave believing that the New York Yankees were better than the Texas Rangers in 2010.
I believe, right now, that the difference between them probably wasn't as large as most of us thought, a few weeks ago.
The Yankees outscored their opponents by 166 runs this season; the Rangers outscored theirs by 100 on the nose.
The New York Yankees outscored their opponents by 66 more runs than the Texas Rangers outscored their opponents this season. But the Rangers are the ones celebrating a pennant.
That is a large difference, typically the difference between winning 97 games and winning 91 (which was roughly how many games the Yankees and the Rangers actually won).
Looking just at the players who were actually on the field in the American League Championship Series, the difference was not as large.
Mitch Moreland is now the Rangers' first baseman; he's better than the players who manned first base for most of the season. Ian Kinsler missed nearly two months of the season. So did Nelson Cruz. Five Yankees played at least 150 games; only three Rangers did the same.
Perhaps most strikingly, Cliff Lee started only 15 games for the Rangers.
I think it's safe to assume that if the Rangers had Cliff Lee all season and their hitters had been exactly as healthy as the Yankees' hitters, the Rangers would have won nearly as many games as the Yankees.
Which is, for six months, utterly irrelevant. Staying healthy isn't just a matter of luck, and the ability to stay healthy (or not) should be factored into our evaluations of a team's true quality.
In October, we toss all that stuff out the window. In October, all that matters is who gets the breaks, and who can put the most talent on the field over the course of one measly week.
Having said all that, I still think the Yankees might have put slightly more talent on the field in this series, if only because Cliff Lee pitched just once. But in a series that is closely matched -- as this one was closer than most thought -- catching the breaks is a lot more important than having slightly more talent.
Postscript: Just to underscore, consider:
The Rangers were my preseason pick to win the American League West;
I don't have the foggiest idea. I can't predict the breaks, and we don't yet know who the Rangers will have to play. I suppose they'll be slight favorites if they have to play the Giants, and slight underdogs if they have to play the Phillies. Their fans will look at what they've done and figure their hearts are too big to lose; the fans of whoever they play will figure the same thing.
Go figure. We'll have three or four days with nothing to do but figure. Right now isn't the time for figuring. If you love the Rangers, it's a time for pondering the once impossible. If you love the Yankees, it's a time for pondering the once inevitable. And if you love the Giants or the Phillies ... all you can do is hang on and try to enjoy the ride. Right now, the figures won't tell you anything worth knowing.