Series Preview: Texas Rangers @ Tampa Bay Rays - Yu Are All That I Need

Still my favorite photo in the editor - Mike Ehrmann

The Joe Saunders/Nick Martinez era begins but enough about that, YU DARVISH IS BACK!!

Series Schedule:

Friday, April 04 6:10: RHP Jake Odorizzi vs. LHP Joe Saunders

Saturday, April 05 6:10: LHP David Price vs. RHP Nick Martinez

Sunday, April 06 12:40: RHP Alex Cobb vs. RHP Yu Darvish

I really want the Rangers and Rays to become rivals on a national scale. It would be interesting for me to see these two previously historically irrelevant franchises rise up together at the same time, through shrewd work by the front offices, to battle it out for 20 years to become the American League's preeminent rivalry. The fact that the these franchises have eliminated the other three times already this decade gives me hope that we're already on our way.

As of right now, the Rays and Rangers are the two teams tied with the longest active consecutive 90+ win seasons. Andy Sonnanstine mocked the antlers. Ian Kinsler skipped. The Rangers celebrated on the Rays' field in consecutive years. David Price seemed particularly pumped up to finally end a Ranger season at The Ballpark last year. They've got Longoria, we've got Beltre. They've got DJ Kitty, we've got the Greene's Hill Keeper. Both these teams are good. They're well-run. And, frankly, they're not the Red Sox and Yankees. Let's duke it out.

There are some things working against the Rays/Rangers rivalry, however. Namely, as is usually the case in the parity era of sports, it will be difficult for these two franchises to sustain their success long enough for this whole thing to get too heated. Plus, will the Rays even still be in Tampa/be the "Rays" in 10-15 years? Any burgeoning rivalry kind of loses its heat when one of the teams up and moves to Las Vegas.

It also doesn't help that these teams are in different divisions. It's tough to sustain a rivalry that mainly revolves around October because it's pretty difficult to get to October and there's no guarantee that you'll see a specific team. On that note, this was supposed to be the Angels. The Rangers and Angels were in an AL West arms race. They were supposed to be the new American League Rivals. But then the A's had to go and snort pixie dust or whatever magical powers lie within those homeless-man beards and the Angels have been sunk by annual April showers.

I like to think that this has left an opening for the Rangers and Rays to pair up in a battle that will define the American League for the next little while. It's up to the teams now to make the fanbase and players of the other super mad and then have them settle it in October. Mostly, though, they just need to keep winning and things will take care of themselves.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the team that thankfully ended 2013:

  • Joe Saunders: Rangers debut (Last season) 11-16, 5.26 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, .332 BABIP, 68.7% LOB, 4.72 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, 0.6 WAR
  • Jake Odorizzi: (Last season in 29.2 innings with Tampa Bay) 0-1, 6.67 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, .287 BABIP, 74.0% LOB, 3.89 FIP, 4.33 xFIP, 0.3 WAR

Thoughts: I don't even want to talk about Joe Saunders. I just can't. I won't.

Jake Odorizzi made his Rays debut last season - after a cameo with the Royals in 2012 - and pitched pretty well for the Rays in an audition down the stretch. Now he's the Rays' fifth starter. In case you forgot, the Rays acquired Odorizzi from the Royals, along with Wil Myers - yes, that Wil Myers, for James Shields. Given the Rays' seemingly eternal ability to turn their young pitchers into rotation mainstays, it's crazy that the Rays able to swindle not only Myers out of KC, but a potential member of the rotation, as well. Absurd. Someone slap Dayton Moore in the penis for me.

  • Nick Martinez: Big League debut (Last season in 32 innings at Double-A) 2-0, 6.47 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, .124 BABIP, 72.3% LOB, 2.83 FIP
  • David Price: (Last season) 10-8, 7.28 K/9, 1.30 BB/9, .298 BABIP, 70.0% LOB, 3.03 FIP, 3.27 xFIP, 4.4 WAR

Thoughts: Let's see. There's Nick Martinez in one corner. He's making his MLB debut. He's pitched 32 innings above A ball in his life. His ceiling isn't considered to be terribly high and that's once he's fully developed. Then, in the other corner, there's David Price. That's former #1 pick Cy Young winner David Price. You know, the guy who shut down the Rangers to end their season last year in Game 163. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. I'd say, given the setting, that this is one of the bigger mismatches as far as pitching match-ups go that you're likely to see.

That said, because it's baseball, there's always the chance that on April 5, 2014, Nick Martinez will pitch well enough for the Rangers to win. That's what makes it fun. And hey, it's not like he's Joe Saunders.

  • Yu Darvish: 2014 debut (Last season) 13-9, 11.89 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, .264 BABIP, 83.9% LOB, 3.28 FIP, 2.84 xFIP, 5.0 WAR
  • Alex Cobb: (Last season) 11-3, 8.41 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, .279 BABIP, 81.4% LOB, 3.36 FIP, 3.02 xFIP, 2.4 WAR

Thoughts: Our week long nightmare is over. After Yu Darvish gave us a scare by missing Opening Day with a stiff neck, he returns after only missing one start to make his long anticipated 2014 debut. I think it's safe to say that never before have the Rangers began the season with a pitcher considered a favorite to win the Cy Young award. Obviously, this franchise has never won that particular award and there haven't really been many times that a season began with the hopes that they might. Maybe Kevin Brown in the early '90s or if you bought into Nolan Ryan building on his 1989 season.

But with Yu, there's more than just the chance. My expectations are so lofty for Yu this year that I'd almost be disappointed if he doesn't win it. That's on me, though. That's a really hard award to win. Only one person in the entire league gets it out of hundreds of people. I guess I just wouldn't bet against Yu Darvish being that one.

On that same train of thought, I saw a national baseball pundit (I think it was Jon Paul Morosi) predict that Alex Cobb will win the Cy Young (and since good young pitching grows on trees in Tampa, would anyone be surprised?). However, Cobb allowed four runs while walking four in five innings to lose in his first start of the season while Yu Darvish has an ERA of 0.00. Suck it, Morosi!

Tcwhbop_medium

Tampa Bay Rays 2-2 (Last season: 92-71, 2nd Place in AL East)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Rays: 4-4 (That fourth loss, of course, was the one that ended the Rangers' season.)

Tampa Bay's Recent Results: 2-2 series split against the Toronto Blue Jays

Tampa Bay's Home Record: 2-2

Tropicana Field 2013 Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 101/85 - Runs: 91/87

SB Nation Rays Blog: DRaysBay

Match-up: (as of 04/04) Rangers Rays Advantage
Batting (RAR) 3.8 (8th) 4.0 (7th) Still can't believe the Rays stole Wil Myers
Base Running (RAR) -0.2 (20th) -0.1 (19th) Teams are going to run wild on Arencibia
Starters (RAR) All making '14 debut -0.6 At least Yu's back
Bullpen (RAR) -0.2 (20th) -0.5 (22nd) Seth Rosin for Cy Young
Defense (UZR) No UZR stats yet No UZR stats yet Probably the Rays on the turf
Overall (UZR + RAR) 3.4 2.8 Probably the Rays because Saunders/Martinez :(

Questions to Answer:

  • Do you think the Rays and Rangers could ever be considered mainstream rivals without sharing a division?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Leonys Martin's breakout season continues at The Trop.)
  • Over/Under: 9.5 Ks by Yu Darvish in his 2014 debut on Sunday?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Nick Martinez in his MLB debut on Saturday?
  • Over the life of their new extensions, would you rather have Martin Perez or Chris Archer?
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