Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers, Playoff Race
Many Ranger fans out there are wondering if this will be the year the Rangers make the playoffs. Nine years of futility have haunted loyal Ranger fans, and hope seemed to have seeped away mid-season last year when Mark Texeira was tradedto the Braves.
This year has proven to be a more productive season than most Ranger fans expected. So, the question is, is this the year?
To answer this question we must look at what has contributed to the team's success. Of course, the biggest story of the Rangers this year has been the reemergence of Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton has found a comfortable home in Texas where the pressure of winning is not the top priority. Tom Hicks only cares about revenue, and could care less if the Rangers ever win a World Series as long as they bring in money.
Hamilton has risen to the top faster than anyone could expect, and in order for the Rangers to make the playoffs he will need to continue his quest for the triple crown. Ian Kinsler has exploded this year, and of course he will need to keep it up.
Michael Young, the most underrated player in baseball is doing the same thing he has done his entire career. Which is hit above .300, and he is en route to another 200 hit season.
Of course, we cannot forget the Rangers' wildcard, Milton Bradley. A lot of skepticism on Milton at the beginning of the season about his health. Everyone knew Bradley would put up decent numbers, but questions about his health, and temper kept many people unsure.
Fortunately, Bradley has crushed any skepticism about him by having a career best year, and remaining healthy this season. Ron Washington knew who he was getting with Bradley, and the rapport they built in Oakland has carried over to Texas.
A special kudos goes out to the non-all-stars in the line up; Ramon Vazquez (similar to Mark DeRosa in 2006), David Murphy (rookie), Brandon Boggs (rookie), Marlon Byrd, Chris Davis (rookie), Max Ramirez (rookie), Taylor Teagarden (rookie).
Let's not forget Hammerin' Hank Blaylock who has returned to the line up, and adds another offensive punch to an already powerful line-up. To sum it up, the Rangers have the best offensive team in the American league.
So, is this the year? Well, here is where the answer gets tough. The biggest problem with the Rangers has been their pitching. Can the starting pitching be consistent in the second half?
Millwood and Padilla have proven themselves to be the best starting pitchers the Rangers have to offer. For the most part, young pitchers have carried the pitchers through tough times.
The return of Brandon McCarthy, and Jason Gabbard could be what the Rangers need, but that depends on how they pitch when they get back. The bullpen is solid.
Rangers have used their bullpen so much the first half that once McCarthy and Gabbard come back it means more rest for their bullpen, which could carry the Rangers over the top. A solid closer in C.J. Wilson has emerged this year.
Although, he has had some close calls he has seemingly put the game away most of the time. The question is the starting pitching, and their playoff hopes lay in their hands.
To conclude, if the starting pitching can out perform expectations the Rangers have a real chance of winning the AL West. The majority of their games will be home games which only helps them.
I think the Rangers will make the playoffs this year, because Ron Washington has inspired his team to new levels, and the Rangers will overcome the strangle hold the Angels hold on the AL West.
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