It took the Rangers a bit longer to clinch the AL West than some
might have expected. While that might be cause for pause when examining the
team’s chances in October, it shouldn’t be. In what might be a first: I
actually learned something from ESPN the Magazine.
While the magazine usually inundates me with information like whether LeBron James prefers catsup or mustard (i.e. information
that I forget as soon as I throw the magazine into the recycling bin), this
month’s magazine had an article that suggested that coming into October on a
hot streak is not that important. For example, in 2006 champion St. Louis
Cardinals were 12-17 in their last 29 regular season games and their opponent,
the Tigers, lost 15 of their last 26 games. That’s good news for the Rangers.
Because the Ballpark in Arlington is a hitters’ park, the
team has usually tried to outslug their opponents. This season, they have a
nice balance of power hitting, on-base guys, and a surprisingly good pitching
staff. Like the Twins, the Rangers’ best offensive weapon – Josh Hamilton – is
limping into the playoffs. Hamilton has not played since September 4 after
breaking his a couple of ribs. He hopes to get some
swings in before the playoffs, but his uncertain situation would cause me to
lower him on my draft chart. Prior to his injury, Hamilton was having an MVP
caliber season with 31 homers, 97 RBI, and a .361 average. Hamilton hit .300
against his former team, Tampa, with two homers in 20 at bats. If you can get
him in the third round, he might be a steal.
As a member of the Angels, Vladimir Guerrero had always had
success in Texas. Therefore, it makes sense that the 35-year-old would have a
nice comeback year as a member of the Rangers. He is hitting .301 with 28
homers and 111 RBI after hitting just 15 homers in his last year with Los
Angeles. One might have expected Guerrero to slow down in the dog days of Texas
summer, but Vlad the Impaler
has hit .322 in September. Guerrero has been a postseason star over the last
two years with 21 hits in 52 at bats (.403 average), which more than makes up
for the futility he showed in his first three postseason performances.
Nelson Cruz’s 2010 campaign might be seen as a drop off from
his breakout 2009 season in which he slammed 33 homers. Other than the fact
that Cruz missed more games this season (limited to 100 games), his actual
production has been better. Some of the hits that went yard for Cruz in 2009
have hit the fence so he has more doubles and fewer homers. Cruz has also seen
his average rise to .310 after hitting .266 this year. The one split to pay
attention to is that Cruz has hit .360 at the Ballpark and .267 on the road.
Because of his injuries, he did not see the Rays. He also failed to hit above
.250 against the Yankees and Twins.
The Rangers have a great hitting infield. Ian Kinsler has had a disappointing fantasy campaign because
injuries have limited him to 97 games, but his overall numbers aren’t terrible.
He is hitting .293 with nine homers and 45 RBI. Kinsler
hit .400 in ten at bats against the Yankees. Shortstop Elvis Andrus showed that
his 2009 rookie season wasn’t a fluke. Even though he showed decreased power in
his sophomore season, Andrus has been a pest on the base paths and has stolen
more than 30 bases for the second straight year. Third baseman Michael Young is
a very consistent hitter, which is a factor fantasy owners should find
valuable. He has faded some in the second half of the season (.260 vs. 301
before the break), but he has hit more than 20 homers for the second
consecutive season and for the fourth time in his career. David Murphy is
hitting .290 from the outfield and Mitch Moreland has held down first base
since Justin Smoak was traded.
Smoak, a highly valued prospect,
was traded to Seattle for Cliff Lee, who will start the first game of the
Divisional series. Lee’s season has been divided evenly between the Mariners
and Rangers, and he was actually more effective in Seattle. Nevertheless, in 13
starts with Texas, Lee has stuck out 88 batters in 111 innings with a 4.25 ERA.
Lee has two wins in three starts against the Yankees, but lost all three games
to the Rays. After getting skipped in the rotation at the beginning of
September, Lee authored a pair of eight-inning, one-run wins. He was hit hard
by the A’s in his last outing. Lee was terrific for the Phillies last year in
the postseason (five starts, four wins, 1.56 ERA).
In game two, manager Ron Washington will give the ball to C.J. Wilson. In his first year in the rotation, the former
closer provided a 3.15 ERA with 161 K’s in 194
innings. Wilson opened September with a pair of stinky starts, but has
rebounded in his last two to beat the Mariners and Angels. The problem is that
those two starts were against the Twins and Yankees. Wilson has an ERA higher
than 5.40 against all three AL playoff teams, so he may be the Ranger starter
than you want to pass on.
Colby Lewis has been one of the nicer stories in baseball
and has given the Rangers the quality third starter they required. Lewis
started his career with the Rangers in 2002, but missed three seasons due to
arm troubles. He has come back with a vengeance in 2010 and struck out 192
batters in 196 innings. The flame throwing righty missed out on both the
Yankees and Rays this season and was hit hard by the Twins (7.88 ERA in three
starts). He still has a 3.72 ERA this season and might be able to surprise an
AL East team. If the Rangers decide to go to a fourth starter, it will be Tommy
Hunter who has a 3.19 ERA at home.
Unlike the Twins, the Rangers have no questions at the end
of the bullpen. Neftali Feliz
has closed all season and has tied the rookie record with 37 saves (tying
Seattle’s Kazuhiro Sasaki). He has struck out 69 batters in 66.1 innings and
has a sub 1.00 WHIP (0.90). The 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic
was off in July, but has rebounded in August and September, and has not given
up a run this month. He is a combined three for four in save opportunities
against the Rays, Yankees, and Twins. The Rangers also have a solid middle
relief crew led by rookie Alexi Ogando. The rookie sports a 1.35 ERA in 40
innings and has only given up two runs at the Ballpark in 21.1 innings. He
might get a vulture win or two.
***All stats through Saturday, September 26, 2010
Perry Missner provides content for
Fantasy Postseason. He is also the lead writer and editor for College Fantasy
Basketball Insider, a writer for the Fantasy Football Oasis, and the Secretary
of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.