We've been talking about this 20 game stretch of 17/20 road games for seemingly forever, and here we are, at the end, and I couldn't be happier to see The Ballpark at the end of the tunnel. I'm sure that is likewise so for the Rangers. What a deceptive road trip it has been. A bawdy trip filled with false promises and snagged on booby traps and lies. The Rangers would have been better off going to Tijuana on a comical search for the elusive Spanish Fly, erotic equestrian shows, and quest to get Taylor Teagarden laid.
Surely you recall when the Rangers began 6-1 coming off a sweep of the then American League best Cleveland Indians, yes? I say surely because I hope that you cling to the good times to shelter yourself through these bad times because since that start the Rangers have gone 2-8 against the Tigers at home, the Twins at their chamber of terror known as Target Field and a nad-squashing sweep by the boot of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
However, while this road trip will mercifully come to an end regardless of what happens over the next three days, you hope the Rangers can pick up a series win here in Atlanta to reach that 10-10 record over this stretch. Where once that mark looked so assured a week and a half ago, it is now in doubt if the Rangers can't find two wins in the deep south before limping home to their Nelson Cruz Bobbleheads and Silver Boot jokes.
I guess if there's a silver lining, besides the ability finish up the longest road trip and most difficult stretch of the schedule while having it behind them, is that the American League West has been helping the Rangers out by being nearly as terrible during this stretch. The Rangers started this 20 game stretch up one game in the West and are now at half a game up in the West. So, while the Rangers have disappointingly not gained any ground while the rest of the West struggles, they haven't lost any either.
At worst, they would be down 2 1/2 games if, baseball gods forbid, this devilish trip isn't done with them yet. But, regardless of what happens, the Rangers will still be in pretty good shape once they finally get back home. It would just be nice if the Rangers could find a way shake these suitcase blues and finish off this trip with purpose and, most of all, with wins.
Friday June 17 6:35: RHP Colby Lewis vs. RHP Randall Delgado
Saturday, June 18 3:10: LHP Matt Harrison vs. RHP Derek Lowe
Sunday, June 19 12:35: RHP Alexi Ogando vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens
I don't know if anyone reads the RAR chart below, but my goodness, the bullpen disparity between these two teams is heavy on the despair. Not only do the Braves have the best bullpen in baseball by RAR, they have the best bullpen in baseball by RAR to such a degree that it equates to a 4.2 WAR which is an entire win better than the second best bullpen in baseball (the Giants 3.2 WAR). The Braves bullpen has been worth an entire win more than any other team. That's crazy.
On the other hand, our Rangers not only have the worst bullpen in baseball by RAR, but they have the worst bullpen in baseball by RAR to such a degree that it equates to a -1.9 WAR which is 1.2 wins worse than the second worst bullpen in baseball (the Twins -0.7 WAR). The Rangers bullpen has been so bad that it has cost the team more than a win more any other bullpen. That's unbelievably crazy and terrible.
As another example, the Rangers have three pitchers currently with a better than negative WAR on the season. One of them, Pedro Strop, was banished to the minors weeks ago. Another, Yoshinori Tateyama, is only listed because I said better than negative and a 0.0 WAR qualifies. So, the only truly positive pitcher in the Rangers bullpen right now, this season, is Darren Oliver and his 0.4 WAR. Truly horrific.
Alternatively, the Braves have seven members of their bullpen with a position WAR including Jonny Venters (1.4 WAR), Craig Kimbrel (1.2 WAR), Eric O'Flaherty (0.8 WAR), and Cory Gearrin & George Sherrill each with 0.5 WAR. Someone named Cory Gearrin has been better than every member of the Rangers' bullpen this season. Truly an embarrassment of riches.
It's pretty clear that the Rangers need to score early and score often in this series because, if it's a battle of the bullpens late, I'm not so sure that it won't take a miracle for the Rangers to win that battle. And it's also pretty clear that we need to hope for good news out of Tanner Scheppers and Darren O'Day someday soon.
Atlanta Braves (39-31, 2nd Place NL East)
Rangers 2011 Record vs. Atlanta: Interleague.
Atlanta's Recent Results: 1-2 Series loss against the New York Mets
Atlanta's Home Record: 18-15
Turner Field Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 95/92 - wOBA: 97/99
SB Nation Braves Blog: Talking Chop
|Match-up: (as of 6/16)||Rangers||Braves||Advantage|
|Overall RAR + UZR||
Questions to Answer:
- If Barry Bonds had listened to Andy Van Slyke and moves in closer to home with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS is Sid Bream out and the course of everyone's lives changed forever?
- Who is your pick to lead the both teams in innings pitched from the bullpen in this series? (I'll say Arthur Rhodes and Jonny Venters. And this is why we have a problem.)
- Over/Under: .5 wins by the Rangers in this series?
- Taking money out of the equation, who would you rather have over the next three seasons: Nelson Cruz or Jason Heyward?
- Better playoff rally: Tomahawk Chop or Claws and Antlers?