Now that we’ve gotten past both play-in games, we can focus on the real playoffs. Today’s the American League’s turn in the sun and we’ll look at the three teams that have been resting throughout the day today.
We’ll start with the Texas Rangers. Using a late season run that vaulted them ahead of their cross-state rivals, Texas then withstood an Angels onslaught on the last weekend of the year (and you know, seeing David Freese and Albert Pujols had to give them some cold sweats) to take the AL West title. Our blogger today is Steve from One Strike Away…Twice! Steve told me he’s had some personal issues that have kept him away from the blog, but his opinions are as sharp as ever. Hopefully he’ll have a chance to write about this postseason, so be sure to check over there!
C70: If you had to sum up this season in a word or phrase, what would it be?
OSA: I’d sum up the season as “a surprise”. I was confident that, even without Yu Darvish, the Rangers would be more than the 63-64 win team the “experts” were predicting. Still, I was expecting maybe a .500 team at best and losing Derek Holland after one start likely put my expectations downward in the season’s first week. The fact the Rangers have accomplished what they have considering the state of the rotation at the outset, the horrific performance of the bullpen in the first half, the equally putrid offense put up in the first half by Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and even the lack of RBI from Adrian Beltre in the first half gave fans little reason to hope for much in the second half. What Jon Daniels has done in putting this team together, along with the job Jeff Bannister has done as manager (and, in my mind, he should be AL Manager of the Year) has been nothing short of miraculous.
C70: What worries you the most about the Blue Jays?
OSA: The Blue Jays power and their prowess against left-handed pitching are the biggest worries. The Texas rotation is southpaw heavy (Cole Hamels, Derek Holland & Martin Perez) so they’ll have their hands full with the Blue Jays offense. Over the past few years, as I recall, Texas hasn’t dealt with the artificial turf at Toronto very well either. And David Price has had the Rangers’ number over the past few seasons. I don’t think we’ve done much against him since the 2011 World Series team. I think Texas also doesn’t deal with people saying “Eh?” much either. Is that enough?
C70: What has to happen for the Rangers to have a deep October run?
OSA: The Rangers are still a flawed team and a deep run is dependent on everyone doing their job right at the same time. The offense can be potent, but it’s also prone to going silent for long stretches. Outside of Hamels, the rotation has been very good at times and very bad at other times. Yovani Gallardo is only good for 5 innings these days, and the triumverate of Colby Lewis, Holland and Perez seem to be either very good or very bad with nothing in between. The rotation has to be very good or there won’t be much chance of winning the ALDS.
C70: Is there a player that will be the key to the postseason?
OSA: The Rangers probably epitomize the team approach to baseball. Prince Fielder led the team in RBI with 98 but you’ve got 3 guys in the 80’s (Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, Shin-Soo Choo) and a couple in the 70’s (Elvis Andrus, Rouged Odor). Offensively, I think Prince needs to put to rest that he’s not a post-season player. More key, though, is the back end of the bullpen. Keone Kela had elbow issues at the tail end of the season and was used sparingly. Meanwhile, closer Shawn Tolleson pitched 5 days in a row at the end of the season and the 4th and 5th days weren’t pretty.
C70: How high is confidence running among the Texas faithful?
OSA: Confidence? I’m not sure you can even say there’s confidence. We’re pretty danged happy about everything. We love what the team has done compared to what was expected of them but I’m not sure how many of us will say we’re confident of making a deep run at this thing. And if they are saying it, they’re likely blowing smoke.
C70: What’s the minimum that counts as a successful postseason for the Rangers?
OSA: Which leads me to…Personally, I’m not confident about getting out of the first round, though I sure hope they do. Just getting to the postseason is my qualification for a successful postseason. That said, I sure don’t want the Rangers to get swept. Let’s get at least one win and just take it from there.