The Texas Rangers shocked the baseball world by defeating the New York Yankees in the 2010 American League Championship Series to advance to their first World Series. As the playoffs near, and the Rangers currently hold a decent lead on the Angels, they will not be sneaking up on anyone this season.
And without Cliff Lee, they might appear more vulnerable.
There is no doubting the effect Lee had on this young Rangers team from his performance on the field to his influence on the inexperienced pitchers. Cliff Lee made the Texas Rangers a World Series team.
With Lee gone, the Rangers had to rely on a questionable "ace," three unproven starters and the well-traveled Colby Lewis entering the season. Now in September, the "ace" has become a legitimate one, the unproven starters are proving capable and Colby Lewis, well, he is still there.
Even with the promising season the Rangers rotation has put together, is it enough to beat a team like the Yankees again?
How do you define a No. 1 starter?
Is it an ERA under three? Two-hundred strikeouts? A WHIP south of 1.20?
If that is the case, C.J. Wilson is not far from becoming a true No. 1 starter in this league.
Wilson currently sits at 3.01, has posted a career-high 190 strikeouts with at least two games left to pitch and currently has a WHIP of 1.17 which is tops on the team. Wilson has been everything that people questioned he could be.
Even sabermetrically, Wilson is considered one of the top pitchers in the game.
His wins-above-replacement of 5.3 is tied with Felix Hernandez for ninth-best in the majors. Wilson is ranked ahead of pitchers like David Price, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett while falling just short of Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver.
But can he do it in the playoffs, when the pressure is ramped up and you don't get to feast on the A's minor league team?
In his one start against the Yankees in 2011, Wilson threw eight innings of two-run ball while racking up 10 strikeouts against the Bronx Bombers but took the loss when he received little run support. Don't expect a lack of support in the postseason from this offense that is hitting its stride down the stretch.
Wilson has proven throughout the last two years that he is worth every penny that he will make this season in free agency
This rotation is much underrated as a whole. There is no Sabathia, Verlander or even Cliff Lee in Arlington but the Rangers are still poised to advance far in the postseason.
Wilson has filled the thought-to-be-gaping hole left by Lee admirably and he was honored with an All-Star selection for his stellar season. What gets lost is that Derek Holland is filling the hole left by C.J. Wilson's emergence to front-line starter.
Holland has shown since the All-Star break that the "Dutchstache" is more than capable of pitching consistently dominant. Since the Fall Classic, Holland has gone 7-1 with a 3.07 ERA including two complete-game shutouts. Compare that to Wilson's 2010 second-half numbers of an 8-3 record with a 3.37 ERA and one complete game, and you can see why the Rangers feel so confident heading into October.
The Rangers starting rotation's ERA is actually better than that of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. Where the Sox, Yanks and Tigers have dominant front-line starters, they lack in the back end of the rotation.
When your biggest question mark going into the playoffs is whether your 2011 All-Star should make the rotation, I would say you're pretty darn good.
The Rangers bullpen might not be of the caliber of the Yankees, but they're pretty darn good themselves. This is a potential bullpen lineup and you tell me where the weak link is:
Closer: Neftali Feliz
Setup: Mike Adams and Koji Uehara
Sixth and Seventh Arms: Darren Oliver, Mark Lowe and Darren O'Day
Long Relief: Scott Feldman, Yoshinori Tateyama and Alexi Ogando
There's not many weaknesses there, from an All-Star closer to two potentially dominant setup men all the way down to a current All-Star starter and a former 17-game winner. The Rangers bullpen has no excuse for not performing come October.
The Yankees have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in C.C. Sabathia, but who do they really have after him?
Ivan Nova's numbers appear excellent on the surface, but he has only faced one team with a winning record (Los Angeles Angels) since he faced the Texas Rangers on June 15.
In that June contest, Nova allowed four runs in a little over five innings of work. Decent, but nothing to be afraid of. Nova has allowed 15 runs to the lowly Kansas City Royals this season in two appearances—just saying.
Bartolo Colon has had a decent season, but since July 2 his ERA has rose almost a full run and half of those games he has not made it past the sixth inning. In an earlier meeting with the Rangers, Colon gave up five runs and nine hits in just over four innings. That's not going to be enough in the postseason.
And beyond that?
Who is really scared of Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett?