Friday, October 7, 2011

Rangers will fall short of World Series

As part of a two-sided piece for another publication, I was tasked with explaining why the Rangers will NOT reach the World Series.

The 2010 Texas Rangers were pioneers, reaching the first World Series in franchise history.  But the 2011 postseason will be different.  The Rangers will fail to reach the World Series and here’s why.

To consistently win in the playoffs, you need an ace.  Since the departure of Cliff Lee in the offseason, the Rangers simply don’t have one.  While C.J. Wilson won an impressive 16 games during the 2011 regular season, he hasn’t been dominant in the playoffs.  After an abysmal performance in a game 1 loss to Tampa Bay, the left-hander has a 6.26 ERA, and the Rangers are a dismal 0-4 in his past four playoff starts.  Aces win the big games.  That’s hardly an ace.
Defensively, the Rangers have a number of players with plus-athleticism and abilities.  Elvis Andrus has exceptional range at shortstop.  Mike Napoli has been phenomenal behind the plate.  The outfield is filled with speed and powerful arms.  The numbers just don’t show it.  The team committed 114 errors this season, the seventh-highest total in baseball.  These errors led to 70 unearned runs, the most among American League playoff teams.  While the defense is capable of being a weapon, the Rangers are vulnerable to defensive miscues, which can be costly in a seven-game series.
A lack of hitting could also derail the Rangers postseason run.  Yes, the team scored more runs than every team in baseball outside of the Red Sox and Yankees.  However, the ‘daytime’ Rangers and ‘nighttime’ Rangers are two different beasts.  In night games, the Rangers have the most explosive offense in baseball, averaging a staggering 5.66 runs per game.  When the sun is up and the lights are off, that number plummets to 4.38 runs per game.   Josh Hamilton alone sees his batting average fall from .324 at night to .220 during the day. With four weekend games on the schedule, daytime baseball is a probability, and frankly, a liability for the Rangers.
The biggest reason the Rangers will not advance has nothing to do with the team, but their opponent.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers has been an unstoppable force this season and is a lock for the American League Cy Young award.  Since July 21, the Tigers have gone 13-1 in games started by Verlander.  Verlander will take the mound twice in the series, and potentially a third time in a decisive Game 7.
Reaching the World Series in consecutive seasons is statistically unlikely.  No team has appeared in consecutive World Series since the New York Yankees appeared in four consecutive from 1998-2001.  Injuries, human error, and luck inevitably factor into determining the outcomes of games.   And in 2011, the Rangers will need more than luck to get past the Tigers.

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