THE RANGERS WILL GET TO THE WORLD SERIESBy Richard Durrett
The Texas Rangers are no longer the team that isn't sure how the postseason works. The unknowns of last year have turned into experience this year. That gives the Rangers some confidence as they head into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Even when Texas didn't know who it would play in the ALDS, it didn't bother anyone in the clubhouse. Why? Because the Rangers know they've got a complete team capable of beating anybody in the American League.
You don't have to be a balanced team to get to the World Series, but it sure does help. And there's no more balanced team in the playoffs than the Rangers.
On offense, the Rangers boast a deep lineup from top to bottom. They were third in the AL in runs scored, first in batting average, second in home runs and second in OPS. But they were also a very versatile group. They used their speed to run the bases aggressively, could put down bunts to move runners over and became a fairly consistent situational hitting group. Texas beat teams with the long ball and the beat them with small ball, just like manager Ron Washington preaches.
On the mound, the Rangers boast the third-best starter ERA in the AL (one of five teams below 4.00) and had the second-lowest opponent batting average. The bullpen, a big problem early in the season, was strengthened with the trade deadline deals for setup men Mike Adams and Koji Uehara and the acquisition of situational lefty Mike Gonzalez. If the Rangers choose to move Alexi Ogando to the bullpen for the playoffs, it only makes that unit better.
Defensively, the Rangers were error-prone early in the season, but they've improved in the second half. Now that they're healthy, the Rangers' infield is still one of the best in the big leagues with Adrian Beltre at third and the double-play combo of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler up the middle. The outfield has good arms and is capable of covering lots of ground.
Add it all up and you've got a team heavy on assets all over the field. That makes them particularly dangerous come playoff time. They aren't going to be intimidated by any location, either, as last year's success in Tropicana Field and Yankee Stadium proved.
The Rangers still own the AL championship trophy and there's good reason to think they'll keep it this year.
You've heard our takes; now give us yours. DISCUSS
THE RANGERS WON'T GET TO THE WORLD SERIESBy Jeff Caplan
The Texas Rangers will not return to the World Series. This will not endear me to all of you Rangers fans out there, but I will just have to live with it.
Now, Wilson is the club's No. 1. I have limited concerns with the quirky lefty and they basically start and end with his penchant for throwing a lot of pitches. Yes, his walks are down (19 fewer than last season), but he typically is not all that efficient.
Rangers manager Ron Washington hasn't set the order for the remainder of his four-man rotation that will include the veteran Lewis and young lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, both of whom will be making their first postseason starts.
Before delving deeper into the rotation, chew on these worrisome numbers. It's no secret Texas beefed up its impressive record on its division foes. Entering Tuesday's game in Anaheim, the Rangers boasted a 94-66 record, 28 games above .500. They were 38-17 against the AL West, 21 games above .500.
They were 9-9 in interleague play, so Texas was just seven games above .500 against the AL East and Central. The picture gets dimmer when narrowed down to Boston, New York, Detroit and Tampa Bay.
In 55 games against their three West division foes, Rangers pitching allowed 192 runs, an average of 3.49 a game. In 37 games against the four potential playoff foes listed above, Rangers pitching allowed 190 runs, an average of 5.14 a game. The Rangers scored 178 runs and were 16-21 in those games.
Lewis' 4.45 ERA is not good, and his 35 home runs allowed is downright scary. He did not face the Yankees this season, but Boston and Detroit beat him up, while his one start against the Rays was an eight-inning gem.
There's certainly plenty to like about Holland and Harrison. Both have matured this season and looked strong down the stretch, but I'd be nervous to have to depend on either in the teeth of a playoff series.
The Rangers have benefitted from a healthy and consistently productive rotation. But there's a significant difference come October between consistency and domination.