By James Stockton
Las Vegas has the Boston Red Sox winning the American League. ESPN’s analysts mostly have Boston, and none have the Rangers. What does this tell me?
That the Texas Rangers will fly under the radar to win the American League pennant yet again.
The Rangers have tons of it. So far in the season, the team has shown the most impressive offense in Major League Baseball. If you look through the Rangers’ lineup, it’s easy to see why.
They have a good combination of speed and power.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus and center fielder Julio Borbon could each steal 40 or more bases, and even the Rangers’ big hitters like left fielder Josh Hamilton, right fielder Nelson Cruz and second baseman Ian Kinsler are smart base runners who utilize their know-how rather than speed on the base paths.
And in addition to base running, Cruz can hit the ball too.
Cruz has begun the season on fire. With his fourth home run Cruz became the third player ever to hit a home run in each of his first four games.
He leads the Rangers in nearly every offensive statistical category, and while he probably won’t keep this pace up, if he stays healthy (he hasn’t played more than 128 games in a season) Cruz is on track to have a career season.
The Rangers can beat you with home runs or with single after single. Offensively they can play any style and should be placed at the top of the elite offenses in all of baseball.
The Rangers, an already solid defensive team, upgraded in the off season with the addition of third baseman Adrian Beltre. The tandem of Beltre and Andrus makes for one of the best left infields in baseball.
Andrus is a year older, and at 22 has already cemented himself as one of the top defensive shortstops in the game.
Add to that the Rangers’ second baseman and first baseman are solid defensively and the outfield has four strong arms and defensive minds.
The Rangers are a team poised to improve on an already good foundation.
I know this is the biggest question mark for the Rangers, but through the first six games — which I know isn’t a lot — Ranger pitching has quieted the critics.
C.J. Wilson, the Ranger ace, has been solid in his first two outings, going 1-0 with and earned run average of 2.84, but the real surprises have been at the back end of the rotation.
Matt Harrison and Alexei Ogando came up big in each of their first starts.
Harrison dominated a highly touted Red Sox lineup, earning his first win and striking out eight last weekend. Ogando was as impressive, if not more so, against the Seattle Mariners, allowing no runs in six strong innings.
Couple the starters’ strong start to the season with the fact that they have four veteran starters on the disabled list, come May or June, the Rangers will have some difficult decisions to make in who gets starting spots.
Which leads to the Rangers’ biggest strength: depth.
With a team that has two hitters batting over .500 on its bench and at least two opening-roster starting pitchers on the disabled list, manager Ron Washington knows he has a lot of options going forward.
As the season continues, two things are certain: The Rangers will eventually lose and injuries will occur. And while the latter might influence the former, the Rangers are one of the best teams equipped to deal with inevitable injuries.
If the Rangers’ bullpen pitches like it did last year, they will be back in the World Series.
And who knows. Maybe this time they’ll be the team that everything happens perfectly for.
James Stockton is a senior journalism major from Frisco and a reporter for the Lariat.