Friday, October 15, 2010

Breaking Down the Rangers

I thought it would be interesting to look at the Rangers on a positional basis, particularly as I've heard both ESPN and TBS refer to them as an 'offensive juggernaut' and a 'team that needs to outscore the Yankees' ... even though the latter applies to any team playing any other team. Let's just jump right in - all stats are from the players' time with the Rangers.

Bengie Molina - .240/.279/.320, .266 wOBA, 59 wRC+, 2 HR, 0 SB (195 PA)
Matt Treanor - .211/.287/.308, .268 wOBA, 61 wRC+, 5 HR, 0 SB (272 PA)

Perhaps I'm being overly pragmatic, but I don't view either as much of a threat - at the plate or behind it. Both are capable of doing some damage on a mistake pitch, but that's about it.

First Base
Mitch Moreland - .255/.364/.469, .357 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 9 HR, 3 SB (173 PA)
Jorge Cantu - .235/.279/.327, .270 wOBA, 62 wRC+, 1 HR, 0 SB (105 PA)

Moreland is impotent against lefties (.604 OPS), strong against righties (.869 OPS). He's a fine hitter that's been mostly under the radar this season, and he does give the Rangers a nice boost against Hughes, Burnett, and most of the bullpen ... but he's all but an automatic out for Sabathia and Pettitte. Cantu has historically hit lefties well, but he's been quite poor against both this season - particularly with the Rangers.

Second Base
Ian Kinsler - .286/.382/.412, .357 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 9 HR, 15 SB (460 PA)

When healthy, Kinsler is one of the better all-around second basemen in Major League Baseball. Despite missing around fifty games in 2010, he's feeling better now, batting .444/.500/.944 with 3 HR against the Rays.

Third Base
Michael Young - .284/.330/.444, .335 wOBA,106 wRC+, 21 HR, 4 SB (718 PA)

Young has always reminded me of a poor man's Derek Jeter. That's not a perfect comparison, as Jeter has always taken more walks and had better speed ... but both have always lived and died by going the opposite way. Young's coming off of a solid season, and I have a great deal of respect for his bat.

Elvis Andrus - .265/.342/.301, .298 wOBA,81 wRC+, 0 HR, 32 SB (674 PA)

Were it not for his very good to great glovework, I'm not sure that Andrus would have a job in the Majors. He has a fair amount of patience at the plate, but he's a virtual non-factor in the power department, and is easily beaten by a pitcher challenging him. While he is fast in the purest sense of the word, he's also a middling baserunner, succeeding on only 68% of his stealing attempts this season.

Josh Hamilton - .359/.411/.633, .447 wOBA, 182 wRC+, 32 HR, 8 SB (571 PA)
Nelson Cruz - .318/.374/.576, .408 wOBA, 156 wRC+, 22 HR, 17 SB (445 PA)
David Murphy - .291/.358/.449, .358 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 12 HR, 14 SB (471 PA)
Jeff Francouer - .340/.357/.491, .359 wOBA, 123 wRC+, 2 HR, 0 SB (56 PA)

This is the real strength of the Rangers line-up. Hamilton and Cruz are among the best offensive outfielders in the Majors, and neither is subject to a harsh platoon split. Both have dealt with injuries this season, and Hamilton appears to be showing some ill effects thus far, but they remain dangerous. Murphy is a fine hitter and, while he does struggle a bit against lefties (.696 OPS), he's not completely impotent - and he's had success against the Yankees. Francouer's the same old story - he has some raw power, but he's incredibly impatient with little to no strikezone judgment.

Designated Hitter
Vladimir Guerrero - .300/.345/.496, .360 wOBA, 124 wRC+, 29 HR, 4 SB (643 PA)

Rumors of his (midseason) demise appear to have been premature, as Guerrero rebounded from a swoon in July and August quite nicely with a strong September. He's a bit older, his bat's a bit slower, but he's come through with some big hits this year and, barring Hamilton, he's the last Ranger I'd want up in a big spot.

CJ Wilson - 204.0 IP, 3.35 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 4.20 xFIP, 7.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
Colby Lewis - 201.0 IP, 3.72 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 8.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Cliff Lee - 108.2 IP, 3.98 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 3.27 xFIP, 8.0 K/9, 1.0 BB/9
Tommy Hunter - 128.0 IP, 3.73 ERA, 4.99 FIP, 4.70 xFIP, 4.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9

Wilson is a bit wild, and the Yankees patient approach could force him to pitch himself into and out of trouble. He's been a bit lucky on flyballs, but he's also a groundball pitcher. Lewis is a great story and a very good pitcher - his flyball tendencies, though, could prove to be a boon to the Yankees, both at home and on the road. Lee is ... well, Lee may be the best starter in the American League. Hunter reminds me of the Twins non-Liriano starters, and he represents the starter that the Yankees need to take advantage of, particularly as none of the Rangers starters will work on short rest.

Neftali Feliz - 69.1 IP, 2.73 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 3.68 xFIP, 9.2 K/BB, 2.3 BB/9
Darren O'Day - 62.0 IP, 2.03 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, 6.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9
Darren Oliver - 61.2 IP, 2.48 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 2.86 xFIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
Alexi Ogando - 41.2 IP, 1.30 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 3.84 xFIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9

When taken hand-in-hand with the rotation, I cannot help but feel that the Rangers real strength lay in their pitching. The bullpen has had its ups and downs, but Feliz, O'Day, Oliver, and Ogando have been better more often than not as Washington's go-to relievers. Feliz did struggle against the Rays, but I'm not sure there's much one can draw from that (particularly as he posted a 1.13 ERA and 4.6 K/BB in August and September).

Overall, this series appears to be fairly close. The Yankees have an offensive advantage, but I'd argue that the Rangers have the pitching advantage. While the offensive edge is probably larger, I do still worry about Pettitte, Hughes, and Burnett (though I'm quite hopeful I'll be eating those words). On paper, I'm giving the Yankees the edge, but I expect a close series.

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