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ALDS Preview: Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays: The Time Capsule

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Tomorrow, about 24 hours from now as I type this, the Rangers will play a playoff baseball game. If that hasn't sunk in for you yet, it might be because it's been 11 years since you could say such a thing. 11 years ago the Rangers were a powerful bunch who happened to run into perhaps the only thing that beats the crapshoot that is baseball's postseason, that is, they played a juggernaut New York Yankees dynasty at its peak. If you crack open the buried memories from the Rangers last playoff appearance, 11 years ago, perhaps you would remember that TLC's "Unpretty" was the top song on the charts. Or that "The Sixth Sense" was the buzz-worthy movie in the theaters. If you want to look a little further back, to the first time we felt this kind of excitement, in 1996, "Independence Day" was ending its summer run when the Yankees were ending the Rangers' hopeful season.

Those cultural references are as much a guide to a memory and era as Juan Gonzalez's 1996 1.901 series OPS. Or Dean Palmer's Game Two error. Or Darren Oliver pitching the game of his life in Game Three only to fall to Yankee mysticism. In 1998, the Rangers' season ended with a torrential downpour that delayed the inevitable but only for a few hours. Darren Oliver serves as a bridge from then till now. Maybe he'll even be a dam. I think back to that era and remember the Rangers lost because of Darryl Strawberry and Cecil Fielder. Todd Zeile and Mike Henneman. They are relics now. We unearth them from time to time to remember what it was like.

That 1996 run, the first division championship, the "Hunt for Red October" team, it feels similar to this season. That feeling probably comes from how long we've had to wait for another one of these chances. It feels like the first time again. But the 2010 Texas Rangers are different than that 1996 team. And the 1998 one. And the 1999 one. And while this 2010 Texas Rangers team might run into a juggernaut--they might get swept themselves--they are built for October success in ways those past Rangers playoff teams were not. While pitching was often not the issue in those past playoff series, you could also never once say the Rangers had favorable pitching match-ups, until now. And while the '90's Rangers offense was feared for its power, it absolutely had the kind of weaknesses that the very best pitching, the kind of pitching you see in the playoffs, was able to exploit.

That isn't to say this year's team isn't without its weaknesses. That isn't to say they won't be exploited. But for once--for the only time in your life--the Rangers will start a playoff series with a check mark by their name in the box marked for starting pitching. And in the playoffs, that's the one you want a check mark by the most.

We've waited 11 years for the Rangers to win 11 games.

Wednesday, October 6 12:37 @ Tropicana Field: LHP Cliff Lee! vs. LHP David Price

Thursday, October 7 1:37 @ Tropicana Field: LHP C.J. Wilson vs. RHP James Shields

Saturday, October 9 4:07 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Matt Garza vs. RHP Colby Lewis

*Sunday, October 10 TBD @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Wade Davis vs. RHP Tommy Hunter

*Tuesday, October 12 TBD @ Tropicana Field: LHP Cliff Lee!! vs. LHP David Price

*If Necessary

Why The Rangers Will Win: Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching. Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching. Pitching, Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching, Pitching Pitching Pitching. Pitching. Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching Pitching! Also, maybe some timely hitting and probably some run prevention in there as well. (Just go read what Robbie wrote, christ.)

Why The Rangers Won't Win: They are playing during the day (19-25) probably every game this series. They are playing on turf (2-8) the majority of the games during this series. They are playing on the road (39-42) the majority of the games during this series. They haven't won a single game against any of the other AL playoff teams on the road this season (0-12). C.J. Wilson led the AL in walks allowed, the Rays led the AL walk rate. C.J. has had issues holding runners on and is going to be facing the team with the most steals in the league.

There are a lot of ways the Rangers could lose. But, thankfully, there are so many damn ways that they can win, too. And a lot of the reasons why the Rangers can win is because the Rangers' starting pitching is better than the Rays' starting pitching.

(P.S. The Rangers will win.)

Tampa4_medium

Tampa Bay Rays (96-66 AL East Champions)

Rangers' 2010 Record vs. Tampa Bay: 2-4 (0-3 @ Tropicana Field)

Tampa Bay's Recent Results: No longer matter.

SBN Ray's Blog: DRaysBay

Match-up: (as of 2010)

Rangers

Rays

Advantage

Batting

(RAR)

38.4

(9th)

55.9

(7th)

Rays

Starters

(RAR)

124.6

(16th)

114.1

(20th)

Rangers

Bullpen

(RAR)

43.3

(7th)

42.7

(8th)

Rangers

Overall RAR

206.3

212.7

Rays?

Defense Runs Saved

1

44

Rays :(


Questions to Answer:

  • Will the Rangers be able to stop the Rays rushing attack with such a weak front four?
  • Who will be the Rangers OPS leader for the series? My guess: Nelson Cruz. Who will be the Rays OPS leader for the series? My guess: Carl Crawford.
  • Which player means more to their team? Josh Hamilton or Evan Longoria? Do you feel like since both are coming in with injuries that they cancel each other out in terms of possible advantage to the other team?
  • If the Rangers are down 2-1 on Sunday, do you reverse course and start Cliff Lee?
  • Who do you got? I'm going Rangers in four.