The 2011 Texas Rangers, fresh off their first American League pennant and World Series appearance last season, will return one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
The heart of their order features the AL's reigning MVP in Josh Hamilton, slugging second baseman (when healthy) Ian Kinsler and all-around outfielder Nelson Cruz.
The club added third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is coming off a season in which he posted a triple-slash line of .321/.365/.553, via free agency.
They also acquired slugging catcher Mike Napoli to play solely against lefties (Career versus LHP: 404 at-bats, 20 doubles, 27 homers, .928 OPS)
The Rangers have finished in the top 10 for runs scored every year since 2000. They finished fifth in 2010 and first in 2008.
Because of their ballpark, the Rangers shouldn't ever have an issue scoring. With the cast in place for 2011, Texas should have no problem placing in the top five once again, if not higher.
But, as the old adage goes, good pitching beats good hitting in baseball.
With apologies to the Los Angeles Angels, which have a very underrated staff and a lineup that will play tremendous defense, the Oakland A's own the best pitching staff, top to bottom, in the American League West.
Oakland's lineup is filled with contact-based hitters who know how to find their way on base. They too play terrific defense.
But is the quality of their pitching staff enough to overcome the firepower of the Rangers and win their division title as a dark horse?
We'll make a few comparisons and find out that answer after the jump.
Data courtesy of:
Ron Shandler's 2011 Baseball Forecaster