Series Preview: Boston Red Sox @ Texas Rangers - Say Chowder

"And that right there is what we call a baseball bat."

There seems to be a joke around here that the Rangers are the "worst greatest team ever" because the offense has shown the ability to slump in an era where offense is slumping overall. Or maybe because Justin Grimm, Martin Perez, and Scott Feldman have combined for 14 first half starts (as many as Derek Holland has started all season) because the impeccable health of the rotation didn't carry over this season from the last few years. Or maybe because the superstar looks bored. Manager's words, not mine.

Regardless of the reasons why, the Rangers simply don't win every game even as the win more than almost everyone else. That's been deemed frustrating simply because we know they are capable of winning every game they play. We've seen them win games over the last few years from practically every scenario. Sometimes, maybe even many times consecutively, they don't win the games for various reasons that are only supposed to affect regular, mortal teams. It used to be that we would only dare to hope that the Rangers could win each particular game as they came up on the calendar, now we expect them to.

Of course, that leads to a debate on greatness. For the Rangers, being back-to-back American League champions and within percentage points of the best record in baseball at near August constitutes as much greatness as the franchise has ever had. But in terms of historical reverence--besides the event of another long October run--the dream of being the 1998 Yankees is no longer relevant. Team of the Decade consideration? Still intact. Instead of all-time great team in the history of over 100 seasons, we're left to suffer with attempting to watch the best team in baseball for a whole season. Woe be it to be a fan of the Rangers these days. Because we all know it could be worse than going exceedingly well.

Expectations could lead to the real worst greatest team ever. If we want to feel bad for ourselves we should consider the 2011/2012 Boston Red Sox. There's a team sunk by expectations. I'm not saying I thought they would be the best team ever but I do believe I predicted they'd win the World Series. Hell, everyone did. The Boston Media considered the possibilities. We've all seen the Boston Herald image with the "Best Team Ever" headline (Will we ever know who won the frozen yogurt wars?) from before the season began.

Consider, however, those 2011 Red Sox were 58-36 over 94 games last season. Other than a terrible start and finish to their season (.333 combined winning percentage in April and September, .660 winning percentage in all other months) those Red Sox were a pretty darn good team. But add a little apathy, a dash of chicken and beer in the clubhouse, a sprinkle of worn out veterans after playing 29 games in August, and a whole bunch of expectations of a cake walk toward a third championship in seven years and you get one of the biggest collapses in sports history.

Now the Red Sox are a .500 team and in last place in the always difficult American League East. Many figured Bud Selig instituted his one game play-in Wild Card adventure simply because making the playoffs out of the East had become too difficult. Well, even with practically everyone qualifying for the playoffs now, the Red Sox are still 3.5 games out of a playoff spot a year after basically spending the majority of 2011 planning their victory parade. Not only are the two Wild Card spots currently occupied by A.L. West teams, but the Orioles are also tied for one of those spots and the next in line is the White Sox now with Kevin Youkilis. It's gotta sting.

So, yes, it could be worse than being the worst great team.

Monday, July 23 7:05: LHP Felix Doubront vs. RHP Scott Feldman

Tuesday, July 24 7:05: RHP Clay Buchholz vs. RHP Colby Lewis (Probably LHP Martin Perez or RHP Justin Grimm or maybe LHP Cliff Lee)

Wednesday, July 25 7:05: RHP Josh Beckett vs. LHP Derek Holland

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups for this series against the last place Boston Red Sox:

  • Scott Feldman: 3-6, 6.38 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, .308 BABIP, 54.4% LOB, 4.47 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, 0.6 WAR - Last three appearances (Feldman hasn't started a game since embarrassing American on July 4 and hasn't pitched in a game since July 8): 6 runs allowed in 12.2 innings
  • Felix Doubront: 10-4, 8.74 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, .302 BABIP, 72.1% LOB, 4.27 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 1.4 WAR - Last three starts: 5 runs allowed in 16.2 innings

Advantage: If Felix Hernandez is the king, then Felix Doubront is the archduke of baseball Felixes over it's not Roy Oswalt but it's the next best thing in Scott Feldman.

  • Colby Lewis: 6-6, 7.97 K/9, 1.20 BB/9, .279 BABIP, 73.5% LOB, 3.85 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, 2.0 WAR - Last three starts: 9 runs allowed in 16.0 innings
  • Clay Buchholz: 8-3, 6.44 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 70.5% LOB, 4.91 FIP, 4.46 xFIP, 0.7 WAR - Last three starts: 10 runs allowed in 20.1 innings

Advantage: If it is Colby Lewis--which I am assuming is pretty doubtful at this point--he'd give up a couple of solo home runs but pitch well through the 7th inning. If it's Martin Perez or Justin Grimm, who knows. All I know is the Rangers offense has the ability to make Clay Buchholz look awesome.

  • Derek Holland: 6-5, 6.90 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, .272 BABIP, 66.4% LOB, 4.61 FIP, 4.39 xFIP, 0.9 WAR - Last three starts: 9 runs allowed in 20.1 innings
  • Josh Beckett: 5-8, 7.02 K/9, 2.40 BB/9, .295 BABIP, 66.2% LOB, 3.52 FIP, 3.94 xFIP, 2.3 WAR - Last three starts: 13 runs allowed in 17.0 innings

Advantage: It's a right-hander who seems to disappoints often versus a left-hander having a disappointing season in a battle of expectations lost.

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Boston Red Sox (48-48, 5th Place AL East)

Rangers Record vs. Boston: 2-0 (Only at Fenway)

Boston's Recent Results: 0-3 series sweep against the Toronto Blue Jays

Boston's Away Record: 23-20

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 121/113 - wOBA: 104/107

SB Nation Red Sox Blog: Over the Monster

Match-up: (as of 07/23) Rangers Red Sox Advantage
Batting (RAR) 44.9 (3rd) 24.7 (6th) Rangers
Base Running (RAR) -1.4 (18th) -4.3 (25th) Rangers
Starters (RAR) 33.1 42.2 Red Sox
Bullpen (RAR) 39.1 (2nd) 34.6 (5th) Rangers
Defense (UZR) 20.8 (4th) 13.0 (9th) Rangers
Overall (UZR + RAR) 136.5 110.2 Rangers

Questions to Answer:

  • Which of these three is the more surprising member to be among the top 4 in WAR on the Red Sox: Cody Ross, Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Ian Kinsler is home!)
  • Over/Under: 3.5 runs allowed by Scott Feldman under the bright light of Mike Trout's ESPN tonight?
  • If Colby Lewis is shelved, who would you rather see pitch: Martin Perez or Justin Grimm?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how much do you miss watching Vicente Padilla play Rangers vigilante?
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