6 Reasons why the Rangers Will Win the 2012 World Series (Part 1)
The Texas Rangers are good. They’re really, really good. Good enough, in fact, to be considered one of the favorites to win the 2012 World Series.
Indeed, this is a bold claim. The Red Sox will be much improved next season, and there is good reason to think that they are a viable playoff entity once again. The Angels have added a couple of big pieces, and will pose a threat to the Rangers’ reign atop the AL West. The Yankees are always a threat. The Tigers should win the AL Central again, and Justin Verlander maybe the best pitcher of the last 20 years.
And that’s just in the American League.
I could go on about how the Miami Marlins could rise up. I could opine about how the Brewers are an explosive team like the Rangers. The Cardinals are the defending champs.
All of the aforementioned teams will compete for playoff spots, and several will be picked to make deep runs in the playoffs or even win it all.
The Rangers though, are better than all of them. Here are my reasons why-
#1. The Starting Lineup-It’s a juggernaut unlike any other in baseball. It’s one thing to have one, two, or even 3 guys in the lineup who can punish you. The Rangers have 7 players in the lineup who pitchers have nightmares about. 7. Think about that for a minute. Norm Hitzges talks about sequential offense, which, simply stated is scoring runs by hitting multiples of singles and doubles together rather than relying on home runs for offense. The Rangers’ batting order is predicated by the potential of the future hitters in the lineup, thus putting the pitcher in a constant state of wariness.
For example-Elvis Andrus sees more pitches to hit because Josh Hamilton hits 3rd in the lineup. If a pitcher doesn’t want to pitch to Hamilton, they must deal with Michael Young, a .338 hitter last season. If they don’t want to deal with Young, they must face Adrian Beltre. And so on and so forth. The Rangers’ good hitters all make each other better. Even when the 8 and 9 spots come up in the order, the pitcher again has to think about dealing with Ian Kinsler. What’s scarier is that Mitch Moreland is expected to be healthy for Spring Training. Moreland has hit 25 home runs in 609 career at-bats, the equivalent of one healthy season. If he’s healthy, it’s entirely conceivable that Moreland hits 20 or more home runs out of the 8-hole this season to along with 70 or so RBI’s. That will give the Rangers tremendous ability to be patient and develop whoever bats 9th, and right now it appears that it’s Leonys Martin’s job to lose.
The lineup is good and deep, and it’s the depth in the lineup that makes the offense dominant, not just the guys who hit 3-4-5. 1-9, there is no better lineup in baseball.
#2. Base Running-These are not your Dad’s Texas Rangers. These Rangers run like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah. An accelerant to sequential offense is the stolen base, the hit and run, and taking the extra base when the opportunity presents itself. Advancing to the next base exponentially increases the team’s opportunity to score, puts pressure on the defense, and sends rallies into overdrive. This is very much Ron Washington’s philosophy, and a compelling argument can be made that this is the reason why the team has had so much success for the past two seasons. It’s one thing to be aggressive, and its quite another to combine that with smart baserunning decisions. The lynch-pin of the offense, Ian Kinsler, has stolen 136 career bases and has only been caught 22 times. That’s good for an 84 percent success rate. Elvis Andrus has stolen 102 bases in his career with only 33 times caught. Craig Gentry stole 18 bases last season. He wasn’t caught.
Putting men in scoring position is of paramount importance. This allows for so many other ways to score runs besides the extra base hit. With a man in scoring position, otherwise harmless duck snort flares turn into an RBI singles. Routine double play balls turn into rally-saving fielder’s choices. Wild pitches become runs. By getting men into scoring position, the vaunted crooked number comes into play. Those nice 7-spots allow the team to do things like rest it’s bullpen, and play people who don’t otherwise play much. Many times, those crooked number scores come from small-ball, and base running is at the axis of small ball. In the post-season, games are often won and lost by the ability to run the bases effectively. Combine the Rangers’ good base running with a league leading .283 batting average last season, and you have an offense so explosive it should come with a warning label.
#3. Infield Defense-Between Ian Kinsler at second base, Elvis Andrus at shortstop, and Adrian Beltre at third base, the Rangers have one of the best infield defenses in Major League Baseball. They rank near the top of the American League in fielding percentage, range factor, putouts and assists at their respective positions. Beltre has won 3 career gold gloves, Kinsler is the active leader in range factor at second base, and Andrus has been in the top 3 in putouts during all 3 of his major league seasons. With those 3 men fielding their positions, it makes it far more difficult for the opposition to put runners on base via more cerebral ways. Having a good infield defense inspires the team, provides a sense of relief to pitchers, helps to shutdown rallies, and of course makes the key outs necessary to put teams away late. Mitch Moreland will likely be the starting 1st baseman for most games, and he has proven that he can hold his own at the position with a career .993 fielding percentage. While he doesn’t have a ton of experience at the position, he has shown some flashes of brilliance with the leather.
Infield defense often plays a vital role in the most clutch of situations, and a perfect example of that is Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS Cubs-Marlins matchup. With the Cubs up 3-0 in the 8th inning, shortstop Alex Gonzalez of the Cubs booted a routine grounder that allowed the flood gates to open in an 8-run rally to help propel the Marlins into the 2003 World Series. The game is better known as the “Bartman” game, but the true goat is Gonzalez. It’s a classic case of poor infield defense igniting a rally. Good infield defense is one of the key factors that help separate the Rangers.
Part 2 of this article will detail the other 3 reasons why I think the Rangers should win the 2012 World Series. Visit www.shutdowninning.com tomorrow for the second installment of this article.
Lindsey Day is a Staff Writer for Shutdowninning.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him on Twitter @SDILindsey.