Thursday, 1 September 2011

Playoffs Primer-- Walker, Texas Rangers

Well it looks like the Jays might not make it to the playoffs again this year.  As such, I feel like I should probably write some stuff about other teams for a change.  That is to say, the playoffable teams that I only ever write about when the Jays play against them.  Well that's all gonna change now folks-- It's time to preview the playoff teams from both sides of the league.

In this edition, I choose to say some things about the Texas Rangers, mostly because they went out over the last month and did what is very rarely a shrewd move: acquiring a bunch of relievers, sacrificing assets for the least valuable position of a ball club.  The Rangers picked up Mike Adams from the Padres, and, in two seperate trades, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles (Adams cost the Rangers their 4th and 22nd best prospects, Uehara cost them the powerful but positionless Chris Davis and 6th starter Tommy Hunter).

You see, most relief pitchers are guys who couldn't cut it as starters for whatever reason, which makes them worth about the same as those velvetty, fuzzy looking old-fashioned pogs, whereas starters are those good pogs with the plastic coating and clever jokes or hockey players or whatever drawn on them.  What is considered to be quality starting pitching is pretty tough to find in comparison to quality relief (though if we're using qualifiers like "quality" and "hard to find" these things, pogs are probably a bad example, as hilarious as it may be).

In their defense, though, the relievers Texas picked up at the trade deadline are probably the two best fuzzy middle-relief pogs that were available at the August trade deadline.  Further, the fivesome of CJ Wilson, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison have started an incredible bulk of their games (all but 6 so far, by my count), so there's bound to be a bunch of fatigue within those arms.  Perhaps if the next week or two goes the Rangers way to the point where they can pretty much clinch the AL West, maybe we'll see a September callup or two start some games to get some rest for them heading in to the post-season.

Having gone and picked both of the good (or good-ish... I expect Mike Gonzalez to be strictly a LOOGY/low leverage pitcher) relievers from Baltimore, acquiring Koji Uehara (and Mike Adams) a month ago, and Mike Gonzalez yesterday, they replace their bad relievers with good ones, as opposed to the typical "option-a-bad-guy-call-up-a-bad-guy" system, commonly used when the worst reliever sucks enough to justify sending him to the minors in exchange for some other scrub.  They essentially cherry picked the Jesus from Baltimore and added it to their Hulk, getting the best of both worlds.  They also had a guy named Mark Hamburger pitch the 9th for them last night, which is always funny.

I don't think that the offense was at all a concern for the Rangers; they can slug it out with just about anybody when they remain healthy (speaking of which, Adrian Beltre has been activated from the DL today).  They've averaged 5 runs per game so far this season, combining power and speed effectively, while their pitchers, led by CJ Wilson and Derek Holland, have allowed just over 4.  The addition of Uehara and Adams, plus the solid LOOGY's Gonzalez and Darren Oliver should stand to make Texas a solid choice in the playoffs.  Sure, the Red Sox and Yankees are favored in the AL, but there is enough parity and random variance within a 5 or 7 game playoff series that Texas can come in and surprise whoever they play as a dark horse.

It's probably worth noting that there is a chance that the Angels catch up to the Rangers in the West.  They're only 3.5 games behind, and there's a full month of play left.  The Angels are a terribly run franchise, mostly due to Tony Reagin's ineptitude, but Mike Scioscia doesn't know what the fuck he's doing out there either.  Having said that, there are a lot of talented players on that team, and they have a really good pitching staff.  Know who else has a really good staff and was in a similar situation on September 1 last season? San Francisco. San Francisco was 5 games back of San Diego on this date last season (they trail Arizona by 6 today!) and closed the gap by the end of the season, and then won the World Series.

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