The Texas Rangers have a flexibility about them that would make Mary Lou Retton jealous.
From pitching to fielding, slugging to plate discipline, stealing bases to a fat kid that runs funny, the Texas Rangers can beat a team using more variety than a Swiss Army knife.
The following slides will present analysis into the various ways the Texas Rangers can finally realize their first World Series championship.
Could California kid CJ Wilson help provide a knockout punch?
Throughout the MLB Playoffs, Ranger starters have a combined ERA of 3.07—and that includes the 6.14 ERA that Tommy Hunter has posted during the playoffs. Further, the average innings pitched per start for Ranger pitchers who have at least three starts during the playoffs has been 7.0 IP.
Suffice to say, that has made a world of difference on what could be considered as a shaky-at-best bullpen. However, with the emergence of lefty Derek Holland—who will likely get a Game 4 start, barring a significant deficit in the series— the bullpen has shown improvement.Perhaps the best exhibition of said improvement is rookie closer Neftali Feliz, who delivered by closing out Game 6 in style by retiring the top of the Yankee order—including a called strike three on a devastating slider to Alex Rodriguez.
If the Rangers' starting pitching continues to deliver and the bullpen can continue to overcome their nerves, look for the Ranger pitching to play a huge role against the Giants.
Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton provide the range needed to cover spacious AT&T Park.
When looking at the Ranger order a lot of things become apparent: They have a number of guys who can hit home runs, they have a number of guys who can wreak havoc on the base paths.
What doesn't immediately stand out is: These guys can field.
While fielding percentage does have statistical significance in baseball, it can be misleading, primarily, official scorers all see things differently. In fact, the difference between the Rangers, who ranked 23rd over all in fielding percentage, and the Giants, who ranked 3rd, was a mere .006 of a percentage point.
Talk about splitting hairs.
Defensively, the Rangers had 23 more double-plays than the Giants, and allowed for 15 less stolen bases—two statistics that could play a huge role in determining who will win the series. Further, the Giants played in the National League, where pitchers likely average about 2.5 AB's per game (just a spitball stat on my behalf).
In the outfield that Rangers have speed and arms galore.
With players like Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, and a platoon of David Murphy, Jeff Francouer (former Gold Glover), and Vladimir Guerrero, the Rangers will surely cause base runners to think twice about taking an extra base. Say what you will about Vlad's speed, but he can still throw a rope.
On the dirt, the Rangers have what is fast becoming one of the best middle-infield tandems in baseball between Elvis Andrus at shortstop and Ian Kinsler at second base. While the corner infield spots are questionable, Mitch Moreland has proved he has a decent amount of range, and Michael Young will at least make routine plays.
Fielding is an essential part of winning in baseball, and with heads up plays like the one Andrus made in Game 4 of the ALCS, the Rangers couldn't be in better hands if the had All-State in the dugout.
I am Nelson Cruz. This is my boom stick!
If there has been one constant during the Rangers' journey to the World Series it has been offense. Just look at the numbers:
1.) Elvis Andrus: 6R 17H 7SB .333 AVG .751 OPS
3.) Josh Hamilton: 9H 4HR 8RBI 10BB .975 OPS
5.) Nelson Cruz: 15H 5HR 8RBI 11R 1.294 OPS
6. )Ian Kinsler: 13H 3HR 9RBI 1.067 OPS
9.) Mitch Moreland: 10H 4RBI .303 AVG .737 OPS
You'll notice that the one common statistic listed is OPS, which for those of you who aren't familiar with the statistic, is On-Base plus Slugging, which is quite possibly the best statistical measure of a player's offensive performance. Essentially, the Rangers are hitting safely at a very high rate, as well as finding other ways to get on base.
Further, since the hiring of hitting coach Clint Hurdle, the Rangers developed a new approach at the plate. Instead of swinging from the heels as they did in the Rudy Jaramillo days, the Rangers have learned to take pitches and grind out at-bats. The best evidence of such an approach can be seen by Elvis Andrus, who in the ALCS averaged 21 pitches seen per game.
But don't let the new approach fool you. The Rangers can still swing it.
Players like Hamilton, Cruz, Guerrero, Kinsler, and even Bengie Molina have the ability to take a pitcher deep.
Just ask Phil Hughes.
Speed kills. Ask the Rays.
Thanks to Ron Washington, Texas has learned how to play small ball, which is a key reason that the Rangers are playing for a title.
Washington's ability to teach the team how to manufacture runs—as opposed to swinging for the fences—has left a huge imprint during the playoffs. To see exactly the impact thus change in philosophy has had, we need to look no further than the ALDS series against Tampa Bay.
In the deciding Game 5, Texas got on the board first by hustling. On a would-be double play to end the inning, Ian Kinsler legged out his ground ball to second allowing Elvis Andrus, who was on second, to score on a ball that never left the infield. Similarly, later in the game it was the not-so-fleet-of-foot Vladimir Guerrero who victimized the Rays for a second time on.
Also, with burners like Andrus, Hamilton, and Cruz, the Rangers have three legitimate threats to steal at any time. Further, with players like Julio Borbon or David Murphy coming off the bench, Texas has an immense amount of speed at it's disposal, which could prove as a distraction to opposing pitchers.
Reserve? More like calvary.
Too often in series where teams are evenly matched something has to give. What can sometimes be the deciding factor is who comes off the bench.
Just ask the 1988 A's. Kurt Gibson anyone?
While the Rangers lack star power on their bench they do possess a list of players who could potentially come off the bench and do some damage.
Because The Series begins in a National League park, Vladimir Guerrero is likely to see some time in the outfield, as result, someone is going to have sit the bench. But who?
With Vladdy taking up an outfield sport the Rangers will have bats like Jeff Francouer and David Murphy to come off the bench for a lefty or righty match-up. If a pinch runner is needed, Murphy and Francouer can also fill the void, but so can speedster Julio Borbon or utility man Andres Blanco.
Suffice to say, the Rangers have a pretty solid bench.
Hello Win Column!
After having read through the slides I'm sure its obvious who I pick to win, but just in case. . . .
Give me Rangers in 6.