Chuck Norris would be proud. These Rangers are dominating the Wild West, hanging with the Evil Empire, and giving Red Sox Nation a run.
The Texas Rangers were clinging to first in the American League West just two weeks ago. One month ago the Rangers had fallen out of first place and were struggling to remain above .500. The AL West was looking like its winner may not need a very good record.
But that all changed 11 games ago. The Rangers are suddenly the hottest, if not best, team in baseball. Their combination of power, aggressiveness on the base paths, and pitching has completely gelled during the win streak, and the Rangers are sitting on a four game lead over the Angels.
The Rangers have done all this while staring down perhaps the biggest question facing the team at the start of the season: Pitching. With Cliff Lee’s departure, there was concern as to whether Texas could maintain their hold on the AL West. They had the hitting. They rank 2nd in runs scored, 2nd in slugging percentage, and 2nd in batting average. But if they didn’t have the pitching, could they continue to compete?
The Rangers are about middle of the pack in wins, opponent batting average, and WHIP. Where they shine though is in quality starts. A by-product of Nolan Ryan’s ownership philosophy of letting pitchers go deeper into the game, the Rangers currently rank 3rd in quality starts (starts where a pitcher goes at least 6 innings and give up 3 runs or less).
Letting their pitchers go longer in the games and working through jams has led to more confidence among the staff. And it’s not just the pitchers noticing the change. In an article on MLB.com, Ian Kinsler said, “These guys in the rotation that didn’t realize their potential are realizing it now and understanding what they are capable of doing.”
With a continued pitching focus in Texas, expect the Rangers to add a bullpen arm or two and continue to push towards another AL West crown. The torch has been passed once again in the West. The A’s had their run. Then the Angels. Now, the Rangers are proving it’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish.