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The Rangers and the A's

I was ruminating about this today, thinking about a small (but vocal) group of fans who see the Rangers as facing an insurmountable task in trying to catch the A's and Angels in 2007, who view the Rangers as a team locked into third place yet again.

Setting aside the Angels for a moment...what, exactly, is it about the A's that makes them a better team right now than the Rangers?

First of all, the A's weren't any better than the Rangers last season. The Rangers outscored their opponents by 51 runs last season, while the A's outscored their opponents by 44 runs. The Rangers' Pythagorean winning percentage -- generally more accurate than actual winning percentage in predicting future performance -- was better than the A's' last season.

On top of that, the A's lost their best hitter and best starting pitcher from last season.

I'm not writing the A's off, by any means...but at the same time, I have a hard time seeing why Oakland should be considered a playoff contender in 2007 if the Rangers are not a playoff contender.