As currently constructed, Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers will not win the 2013 World Series. Yes, the Rangers currently possess the top record in the American League, but No. 1 starting pitcher Darvish, a strong candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, needs some more assistance from the rest of the rotation. There are a couple of reasons for this—first, history has shown that most World Series-winning teams have had more than one ace at the front of the rotation. Secondly, most of the Rangers' competition for the Series this year will be trotting out two or three star hurlers in a row.
History: How Do Teams Win the Series?
In the postseason, teams often shorten their pitching rotations from five pitchers to three or four. There are more days off, and the pitchers will be able to rest their arms for a while after the postseason is over.
Last season, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series with a superb starting pitching staff, especially their top four pitchers.
During the regular season, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito all won 14 or more games. All but Zito had an ERA of 3.37 or lower and Cain and Bumgarner were the aces.
In 2010, the Giants had Matt Cain, a good Tim Lincecum, and Jonathan Sanchez. Cain and Lincecum were aces during that run.
The 2009, the Yankees won the series with ace CC Sabathia, along with reliable veterans A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. All three of these hurlers were aces, or close to it.
Throughout history, most World Series Champions have possessed elite pitching staffs, usually through their top two or three starters.
Some notable pitching duos that have won the Series are:
Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves
Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, Diamondbacks
To win the series, you need two aces, or, at least, three very good pitchers.
Now: How Does the Rangers Pitching Staff stack up?
While I don't believe the Rangers can win the World Series the way they are currently playing, I do think they will make the playoffs if they don't make any changes. According to ESPN, they have an 83.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is the highest in the American League.
The other two current division leaders in the American League are the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Both of these teams have the starting pitching that has traditionally been needed to win the series.
The Red Sox have Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz as their No. 1 and 2 starters. Lester is on pace to go 16-5 this season, with a 3.60 ERA. He has four 15-win seasons in his career, and is a proven front-line starter.
Buchholz, meanwhile, has gone bonkers this season, with an 8-0 record thus far. His ERA sits at a miniscule 1.62, and batters are hitting just .190 against him.
The Tigers, meanwhile, feature a very good 1-2-3 punch.
The ace, Justin Verlander, has struggled some this year, but is still on pace for 20 wins. Max Scherzer is currently 8-0 and is second in the majors in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), at 0.89. Anibal Sanchez sports a 2.65 ERA and is third to Darvish and Scherzer in strikeouts.
The top team in the National League right now, the St. Louis Cardinals, might have the best playoff pitching staff in the MLB right now. Should the Rangers make the World Series, the Cardinals may be the team they face.
No. 1 starter Wainwright has eight wins and a 2.33 ERA. Lance Lynn also has eight wins, along with a 2.76 ERA. Rookie Shelby Miller has taken the league by storm with seven wins and a 1.91 ERA thus far.
Rangers, Yu Need Help
Meanwhile, the Rangers are much less prepared for the postseason than their division-leading rivals.
At first glance, the statistics for the Rangers' rotation look great. The Rangers rank fifth in ERA (3.54) in the majors, fifth in wins (25) and third in strikeouts (335). But not all is sunny in Texas.
Yes, Yu Darvish is killing it in 2013. He has seven wins, sports a 2.77 ERA, has struck out a MLB-leading 111 batters and batters are only hitting .181 against him. But what about his support in the rotation?
The No. 2 starter, Derek Holland is decent, but not totally reliable. Last season, Holland had a 4.67 ERA for the Rangers in 175.1 innings of work. His ERA is a fantastic 2.82 in 2013, but his WHIP is actually higher than it was last season. Batters are also hitting .299 against him since the beginning of May.
Alexi Ogando, the third starter in the rotation, has had a solid season (2.93 ERA), when he hasn't been injured. There are concerns about his durability, since he was just a reliever for the Rangers last season. His average start lasts just over 5.1 innings. For comparison's sake, No. 3 starter Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers lasts nearly 6.2 innings per start. Can Ogando pitch on fewer days rest, as he might have to in the postseason? Can he go longer than five innings per start in the postseason? These are the burning questions for the Rangers.
The final two members of the Rangers rotation, Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm, are rookies. Both have shown promise, but shouldn't be counted on to get big postseason wins.
The Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where the Rangers play their home games, is known as a hitter's park. However, in 2013, it has surprisingly been a pitcher's haven. ESPN's Park Factor lists it as the 21st best stadium for hitters in the MLB. The Red Sox, Tigers, and Cardinals all play in ballparks ranked in the Top 13 for hitters. The Rangers' ballpark actually benefits the stats of their pitchers, while the three other teams with great pitching are actually more hindered by their stadiums.
What Should the Rangers Do?
My proposition for the Rangers is that they should heavily pursue Cliff Lee.
According to Rant Sports, the Rangers are one of the five teams that could acquire Lee. More recently, sportswriter Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News has stated that the Rangers would be the World Series favorites if they acquired Cliff Lee. I would tend to agree with Cowlishaw.
Lee's superb pitching led the Rangers to the World Series in 2010, where they fell in five games to the Giants.
This season, Lee sports a 2.45 ERA, seven wins and a 0.96 WHIP. He would be a fantastic No. 2 in the rotation after Darvish. That would push Holland to the No. 3 slot and Ogando to the No. 4 slot.
With the addition of Lee, all of a sudden, the Rangers' postseason rotation would go from mediocre to excellent. And that might make all the difference.
Note: All stats are from ESPN, unless otherwise noted or linked to