Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Los Angeles Angels - Pop Quiz

It's almost like now that a real challenge for the Rangers is here, I don't have anything to say. Of course, that isn't true, I have plenty to say, but what should be said? It's almost too simple. Just win. The Rangers are faced with their biggest challenge of the season so far and the last few weeks of dominance have led them to this place. This is a real test. This is perhaps the first true test for this team since they finished getting swept in Minnesota at the end of May. Just win. Since that first day of June when they had slipped into second place, the Rangers have gone 20-5 and reclaimed the division lead and a true believability of their worthiness of being a contender. Now they need to prove it against the one team that probably doesn't have any reason to believe it. Just win.

That's why this test is different. This test is different because it's the Angels. The Rangers weren't too far off this pace last season and it was right around this period in time that the Angels began their quick ascend to the top of the division and left the Rangers in their dust. Nothing much will change if the Rangers don't win this series. They won't suddenly stop being a contender. They can get swept and still have a division lead of more than a game entering the month of July. Perhaps that's something. But as a Rangers fan, where I should take comfort in lowered expectations, I'm ready for positive worst case scenarios to exit the lexicon. Just win. Now that the play-acting against the National League has ended, it's time to get down to business. Just win. It's time to get Elvis into the All Star Game. Just win. It's time to watch Josh Hamilton complete perhaps the greatest month in Texas Rangers history. But most importantly, it's time to just win.

Tuesday, June 29 9:05: RHP Scott Feldman vs. RHP Joel Piñeiro

Wednesday, June 30 9:05: RHP Omar Beltre vs. LHP Scott Kazmir

Thursday, July 1 9:05: LHP C.J. Wilson vs. RHP Jered Weaver

The Angels ability to win consistently even though they do so against the grain of their expected outcome based on statistical models is something that has confounded enough people that it's now a joke. The Angels don't beat their pythag because they rubbed the horn of the last unicorn. The Angels aren't clutch because they found a leprechaun living in the rocks in center field at Angel Stadium of Anaheim and his pot of gold was magical BABIP. The Angels don't actually have angels in the outfield. The fact of the matter is the Angels just capitalize on mistakes. Maybe it's the personality of the team instilled from the manager or the confidence of being a winning team, or all of the other maybes that are tossed out there in an attempt to explain the Angels, but here it is, if you don't get the Angels out when they give you the opportunity, they will make you pay.

So when I read that Jeff Sullivan posted on the Lookout Landing Twitter that, "Angels hitters have a .699 OPS in low leverage situations, .726 OPS in medium, and .861 OPS in high" it becomes clear that the modus operandi for Angelball is to make you suffer for your insolence. "How dare you offend the baseball Gods with your error," they might say as they round the bases for a grand slam after a routine inning-ending double play grounder went for no outs. Guess who leads the American league in clutch wins (2.31) with almost a full win over the nearest AL team (hey look, it's the Rangers at #2 with 1.32)? It's the Angels of course.

Of course.

The Angels will never make it easy.

Look, statistically, the Rangers are better than the Angels. They've pitched better than the Angels have (8.6 WAR vs. 7.5 for the Angels), they've hit much, much better than the Angels (13.8 WAR vs. 6.2), and they've fielded the ball better than the Angels. The Rangers are the better team. But for three games, it doesn't mean much. The Rangers still have to go out there and win the baseball games. If you look at the pitching match-ups, they probably favor the Angels. Joel Piñeiro has been better than Scott Feldman. Omar Beltre is making his major league debut (totally ruining my Joel Piñeiro and Colby Lewis pitching in the same Texas Rangers vs. Division Rival series and it somehow isn't 2002 angle, god bless him), on the road, against the Rangers closest division rival, while the Rangers face a lefty who has struggled recently, but has historically dominated the Rangers in Scott Kazmir. And then you have C.J. Wilson vs. Jered Weaver. The Rangers may have won a game with that match-up earlier this year but Jered Weaver has had a much better season than C.J. has up to this point.

Ah, but then, that's kind of the Angel's "strong" suit. They have had decent starting pitching. They just haven't hit well and they aren't fielding worth a damn. Plus, the Rangers have a not-so-secret weapon in the form of Josh Hamilton. Let's take a look at some of the things Josh Hamilton has done in his monumental June:

1.345 OPS (1st in baseball by .150+ points)

.380 ISO (2nd in baseball, 1st in the American League)

.581 wOBA (1st in baseball by almost .100)

33.9 wRC (1st in baseball by nearly 10 runs)

He's batted .470 and his OBP is .495 for the month. Essentially, for an entire month, Josh Hamilton has reached base every other at-bat. The following are some baseball players who have an OPS for the month of June worse than Josh Hamilton's June SLG of .850:

  • Jason Heyward
  • Matt Kemp
  • Franklin Gutierrez
  • Andre Ethier
  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Ryan Braun
  • Evan Longoria
  • Chase Utley
  • Joe Mauer
  • Justin Morneau
  • Andrew McCutchen
  • Vernon Wells
  • Alex Rodriguez

You know, practically an All-Star team.

There have probably been MVP winners that did less than Josh Hamilton has done in June alone. Josh Hamilton has been the best player in baseball for a not insignificant length of time this season.

W1d0x_medium

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (43-35, 2nd place AL West)

Rangers' 2010 Record vs. Los Angeles: 2-0 (At home)

Los Angeles' Recent Results: 2-1 Series win against the Colorado

SBN Angel's Blog: Halos Heaven (Seriously, don't go there.)

     Match-up: (as of 6/28)

       Rangers

Angels

Advantage

Batting

(RAR)

134.8

         (4th)

61.0

(24th)

Rangers


Starters

(RAR)

55.6

(17th)

64.6

(11th)

Angels

Bullpen

(RAR)

26.5

(4th)

6.9

(20th)

Rangers

Overall RAR

216.9

132.5

RANGERS!

Defense Runs Saved

23

-15

Rangers!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions to Ponder:

  • Did you know that Jered Weaver is right behind Stephen Strasburg and is in third place in baseball with a FIP of 2.01? (Just for fun, R.A. Dickey is 6th and Brandon Morrow is 7th.)
  • Over/Under: Will Josh Hamilton end his June with 11 home runs (He is at 9 right now)?
  • Were you aware that the Rangers have luck on their side as well? They have baseball's highest BABIP at .321.
  • Did you know the Angels have a farm system like all teams but then also a special farm in which they harvest Francisco Rodriguez's upon the need to come to Anaheim and dominate baseball?
  • Wv4y1y_mediumHow much do you think that face affected Trevor Bell's childhood?


View Full Size Image

Francisco (Murillo) Rodriguez

#45 / Wave of Never-Ending Rod Surplus / Los Angeles Angels

6-1

195

R

R

Feb 26, 1983

Role Model: All of the Francisco Rodriguez's before and after him

 


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