Well, are they? Absolutely. Yes, the 2012 Texas Rangers are superior to their 2011 American League Champion predecessors. And with the unbelievable amount of injuries the ‘12 suffered through during the dog days of summer, it seems ridiculous to say so.
First, it was closer-turned-starter Neftali Feliz who went down. Then, Derek Holland had a stay on the dreaded DL. Colby Lewis, the franchise’s most successful postseason starter, was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament. Like Feliz, Lewis was lost for the entire season while undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Yet still, the Texas Rangers just kept on winning. In fact, through their first 147 games, the 2012 Rangers have a solid chance to eclipse their win total from last season. In 2011 the Texas Rangers went 96-66—a franchise record—but did so thanks to winning 12 of their last 10 games to close out the season.
Here are a few reasons why the 2012 Rangers are superior to their 2011 version.
The Offense Has Remained Off of the Disabled List
Sure, recent “sinus issues” aside, Josh Hamilton—along with Nelson Cruz—have stayed remarkably healthy all season long. Hamilton has already played in the second-most games of his career, at 138. Nelson Cruz has surpassed his previous high in games played, with 145 and counting.
Nelson Cruz’s power numbers are down from a year ago, but everyone in Ranger Nation—as well around the country—are well aware of what Cruz and his “boomstick” are capable of accomplishing come October.
Despite having two consecutive months of near replacement-level productivity, Josh Hamilton’s numbers certainly garner MVP consideration. Mike Napoli has been a disappointment from his career year last season, but he has shown signs of coming out of his season-long funk since being reactivated from the disabled list late last week.
Yu Darvish is Better Than C.J. Wilson
Yes, Yu Darvish is better than C.J. Wilson. Some second-guessers are quick to point out that no, we haven’t seen Darvish do his thing in the postseason yet. Clearly, that’s a solid point. However, we have seen C.J. Wilson "perform" in the playoffs. Let’s just say that the standard that Wilson set last postseason is going to be pretty easy to eclipse. All it takes is one solitary playoff win by Darvish and he’ll automatically become Wilson’s superior.
It remains to be seen how the Texas Rangers will manage without Colby Lewis in the postseason. Ryan Dempster is very similar to "Colbyashi" in almost every way, but he doesn't have the postseason experience (or success) that Lewis brought to the table. Simply put, you just really don't know how a player will react to baseball on the grandest of stages until they are thrust into the limelight of postseason play.
Regardless, a playoff rotation of: Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Ryan Dempster and Matt Harrison (or any combination of the four) is a solid one and clearly capable of taking the Rangers to the World Series for a third-consecutive year.
The Bench is Much Better
I’m not sure what is more tortuous from last year’s World Series, David Freese’s haunting performance, or the disturbing images of Esteban German on the bench, in left field, or flailing helplessly at St. Louis pitching.
Okay, it's David Freese, no question. Still, last year's bench definitely wasn't a strength for the Texas Rangers, and that weakness was subsequently exposed during the World Series.
The Texas Rangers have improved their bench greatly this season. Jurickson Profar, the Rangers’ elite No. 1 prospect, is a no-doubt improvement over the aforementioned German, as well as Andres Blanco and Alberto Gonzalez. Don’t even ask about Omar Quintanilla…save your breath. Look, I want to be very clear—I don’t practice “Quintanilla,” I ain’t got no crystal ball, if I had a million dollars…
You get the idea.
No one said this season was going to be easy, and with all of the injury woes, this 2012 club has had a tough time on occasion. A third consecutive playoff run deep into October is far from guaranteed. Who would have foretold last year’s seemingly unstoppable Philadelphia Phillies getting ousted in the first round?
Regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead for the Texas Rangers, this 2012 version of the two-time defending American League Champions is their best model to date.
October baseball: bring it on.