Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays @ Texas Rangers - Lowered Expectations

Forever Young - FotF

In a brave new world where the Rangers lose series to the Astros and are below .500, Texas must keep playing baseball and you must find a reason to care

Series Schedule:

Friday, May 16 7:05: RHP Drew Hutchison vs. RHP Yu Darvish

Michael Young Night, May 17 7:15: LHP Mark Buehrle vs. RHP Colby Lewis LHP Robbie Ross Jr.

Sunday, May 18 2:05: RHP R.A. Dickey vs. ??? (Probably Scott Baker) RHP Nick Martinez

From a fan perspective, maybe this whole mess isn't such a bad thing. If the 2013 Texas Rangers taught me anything, it's that my team can be pretty good -- better than like 90% of the other years in franchise history -- and still be unenjoyable. If the 2008 Rangers taught me anything, it's that my team can be kind of bad -- bad enough that it almost got Ron Washington fired -- but still be quite entertaining.

Maybe it's because of expectations. When the Rangers kicked open the window with the acquisition of Cliff Lee back in July of 2010, things changed. The Rangers made it to the World Series. It was glorious and the fruits of success were tasted at last. When the Rangers looked like ass-kicking baseball gods during September/October 2011, we reached the zenith of what it's like to root for the best team in baseball. (Screw Game 6. We all know who the best team was that year.) Even in 2012, we had an entire season, minus a week, where the Rangers looked like the best team in baseball.

So, yeah, of course we sort of came to expect success. Maybe we're as close to spoiled as Texas Rangers fans can get. There's nothing much wrong with that. Baseball is more fun with the promise that those rare 2010-2013 years exist. But there's something freeing to the potential of the 2014 season cratering before our eyes. From a team perspective, I hope the Rangers use this as a rallying opportunity and murder the American League. Make no mistake, the Rangers are still quite talented. They're going to win more games than they lose. They might even contend for a playoff spot in the era of expanded playoffs. Given the meager 40 something years of this franchise in Texas, you take that any chance you get.

But maybe they won't. And maybe we shouldn't expect them to. And maybe because we don't have to expect them to win, we can get back to watching baseball without worrying so much about a bad inning here or a missed opportunity there, game-to-game. It's the promise of a stress and anger (ha!) free 120 games that we haven't really had around here in a long time.

You don't have to like it, of course. We'd all rather the Rangers be eyeing another long run in October rather than just hoping they can be in the picture. But if that's not in the cards, maybe this just gives us a chance to breathe and enjoy the game.

You can watch Yu Darvish. He's a Texas Ranger, and he's pitching tonight. If Yu Darvish gives up a game-tying home run late in a 2-1 ballgame, it won't matter as much that the Rangers didn't score for him. Instead, you can just marvel at having the pleasure of getting to watch a true ace on the Texas Rangers.

You can watch Colby Lewis continue to be one of the weirdest, wildest success stories the franchise has had without worrying so much that his talent level might only be that of a No. 5 pitcher these days. You can watch bullpen reclamation projects like Aaron Poreda and Shawn Tolleson try to become 2013 Neal Cotts without concerning yourself too much when they inevitably give up a run or two.

You can just watch the Rougned Odors. It doesn't matter so much that the Roogies are maybe too raw for the Major Leagues right now. In Roogie's case in particular, he's here, as Michael Young said, to whoop your asses and it won't hurt as much if his growing pains cost the Rangers a run here or there.

Of course, where it hurts is it might not matter as much.

Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups against the runners-up for Yu Darvish's services:

  • Yu Darvish: 3-1, 10.49 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, .297 BABIP, 84.0% LOB, 2.59 FIP, 3.32 xFIP, 1.6 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 18.1 innings
  • Drew Hutchison: 1-3, 9.73 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, .328 BABIP, 69.9% LOB, 3.15 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, 1.1 WAR - Last three starts: 12 runs allowed in 19.1 innings

Thoughts: Yu Darvish isn't facing David Ortiz. There's no one on the Jays who can call the commissioner's office and request hits, so Yu Darvish should have his no-hitter all wrapped up.

The only time that Drew Hutchison faced the Rangers was back in 2012 when Neftali Feliz was in the Ranger rotation. By August, both of those pitchers were having Tommy John surgery because they throw baseballs with their human arms and that's what happens to people who do that. Hutchison has made his return this season and has been a nice addition to the Jays' rotation. Hopefully Martin Perez has a little more Hutchison in him than Feliz.

  • Colby Lewis: 3-2, 8.51 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, .414 BABIP, 76.9% LOB, 3.89 FIP, 3.81 xFIP, 0.6 WAR - Last three starts: 9 runs allowed in 15.0 innings The Rangers have opted for Robbie Ross, instead
  • Mark Buehrle: 7-1, 5.26 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, .287 BABIP, 81.1% LOB, 3.26 FIP, 4.31 xFIP, 1.2 WAR - Last three starts: 4 runs allowed in 19.2 innings

Thoughts: Mark Buehrle leads baseball in wins. I know no one but Cy Young voters care about pitcher wins anymore but Buehrle has seven wins so far this year. That's a third of the Blue Jays' wins. Mark Buehrle makes me sad because he (like everything else, apparently) reminds me of Martin Perez. Buehrle has long been my post-Johan Santana comp for Perez.

Colby Lewis topped out at 93 MPH on his fastball last time out. 93! I'm sure he's going to shatter a dozen hips just because I'm acknowledging his health, but the Rangers could really use a medical success story this season. Besides pumping out that low 90s heat, Lewis had his best start since 2012 on Monday and is looking to build on that outing. The Rangers have juggled things around and now Robbie Ross Jr. will make this start with Colby bumped until Tuesday.

  • (Probably) Scott Baker.: 0-0, 3.38 K/9, 1.69 BB/9, .222 BABIP, 66.7% LOB, 3.47 FIP, 5.92 xFIP, 0.1 WAR - One relief appearance: 2 runs allowed in 5.1 innings Nick Martinez will make the start.
  • R.A. Dickey: 4-3, 7.88 K/9, 4.53 BB/9, .299 BABIP, 66.4% LOB, 3.80 FIP, 4.56 xFIP, 0.9 WAR - Last three starts: 7 runs allowed in 18.1 innings

Thoughts: R.A. Dickey was drafted in the first round by the Rangers in 1996. Dickey was about to sign for a nice bonus when his physical revealed he didn't have a UCL in his right elbow. The Rangers signed Dickey anyway at a drastically reduced rate. Turns out, 18 years later, being born without a UCL in your elbow might just be optimal conditions for a pitcher.

This is Matt Harrison's spot in the rotation. Because Matt Harrison is off seeing how his quality of life will be affected by back surgeries, and because Perez is about to go under the knife for having one of those pesky UCLs, the Rangers had originally intended to use Nick Martinez in this spot. However, Nick Martinez pitched on Wednesday because the bullpen was taxed. So now this start will probably go to Scott Baker who a week ago was designated for assignment. There is, however, still time for the Rangers to trade for Cliff Lee. It's Nick Martinez, after all.

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Toronto Blue Jays (21-21, 4th Place in AL East)

Rangers' 2013 Record vs. Toronto: 1-6 (0-4 at The Ballpark)

Toronto's Recent Results: 2-1 home series win over the Cleveland Indians

Toronto's Road Record: 11-10

Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 106/95 - Runs: 112/109

SB Nation Blue Jays Blog: Bluebird Banter

Match-up: (as of 05/16) Rangers Blue Jays Advantage
Batting (RAR) -14.3 (19th) 17.0 (4th) Munenorimania rolls through Arlington
Base Running (RAR) 2.6 (5th) 1.1 (9th) And now Elvis is aerodynamic
Starters (RAR) 20.1 30.0 Dec 19, 2011, jerks
Bullpen (RAR)

13.5 (7th)

1.7 (19th) Neal Cotts is back - again
Defense (UZR) -6.7 (21st) -1.6 (17th) Anthony Gose has a hose
Overall (UZR + RAR) 15.2 48.2

Advantage: The World Cup is just weeks away!

Questions to Answer:

  • Are you going to continue joining me in the Game Day Threads if the Rangers are super bad by July?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Yu Darvish. If we're the Seattle Mariners now, at least we have our Felix Hernandez.)
  • Over/Under: 2.5 Paintings crafted by Vernon Wells' dad and gifted to Michael Young during his on-field ceremony on Saturday?
  • What's your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by whomever starts for the Rangers on Sunday in the series finale (probably Scott Baker Definitely Nick Martinez)?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers put the latest blows to their season behind them and win this series against Toronto?
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