The Texas Rangers have put together a fine baseball team. As a matter of fact, they might have the best team in baseball right now. Right-this-very-moment.
Other than that, lets stop getting carried away.
Now I realize that this is a team that is absolutely crushing the ball and their opponents. I understand that this team has won two consecutive division and league championships. I hope we’re also aware that this is also the team (and lineup) that lost two World Series to pitching staffs that were superior in every way.
That’s what I’m trying to do here in tempering this early season evaluation of the Texas Rangers by experts. While they are the best team in baseball right now, and the offense is prodigious, comparing them to the ’27 Yankees or the 1970’s Cincinnati Reds is the point where I consider it ridiculous.
I can already hear the arguments: “But last year and the year before were then, what about NOW?”
Okay, lets live in the now. While they are riding an offense that is clicking at an admittedly historic pace, we have to remember that their pitching, despite the early season returns, is still a question mark as spring turns to summer and summer to the heat of a pennant race and the playoffs.
Yu Darvish is currently 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA and has been pitching splendidly. He will come back to Earth eventually, joining a staff that already hasn’t been overpowering. Neftali Feliz will also be an interesting story to see how he translates over a full season in the starting role.
If I posed the question of which staff would you take between Weaver, Wilson, and Haren or Darvish, Feliz, Harrison, and Lewis who would you pick over a full season, I would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t want the Angels top three over a 162-game season.
So while their staff currently all have nice numbers, the offense is what really makes this team go; and therein lies this teams issue.
I equate them more to the 1995-1997 Cleveland Indians. Remember them? All they did was run out some of the best offenses in the game for the better part of five years. They had no less than five future Hall of Famers on those teams, and their bench was loaded with future All-Stars (Brian Giles, Jeromy Burnitz and Sean Casey to name a few), and the catchers? Well how’s having a Tony Pena to Sandy Alomar transition suit you?
Those Indians teams were some of the best offenses ever assembled. Yet despite winning five of six division titles, two American League pennants, and accumulating 652 wins between the years 1995-2001 they didn’t win a World Series. Why? Lets run it down:
- The lost to the Maddux-Galvine-Smoltz Braves in 1995 World Series
- David Wells, Mike Mussina, and Scott Erickson Orioles in the ALDS of 1996
- Kevin Brown, Livan Hernandez, and Al Leiter took them down in the 1997 World Series
- David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and David Cone in the 1998 ALCS
- Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox in 1999 ALDS
Are you getting my point? This is no slight to Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, or Chuck Finley. But by the time they were competing for these years they were past their prime and Charles Nagy is not a good match for any of the pitchers named above. My point? You need pitching to back up that offense, and the Rangers quartet strikes fear in the hearts on no one.
The Rangers of 2010-present have the same issue. They lost Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson in consecutive off-seasons, and that can’t be understated. Those are two guys who can match up with anyone no problem. Harrison, Lewis, Darvish, and Feliz are not those guys. I’ll be the one to say it if no one else will.
Good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week. So until the Rangers prove their staff is ready to keep up with any the National League can throw at them in October this could be just a good run by a good team. Not a great one by a great team.