Monday, May 14, 2012

Texas Rangers looking like the team to beat in the American League (so far)

We are fast approaching the one-quarter point of the Major League Baseball season, and the Texas Rangers look powerful as they attempt to repeat as American League champion. Heading into the season, I thought the American League race looked like a four-headed beast.  The Detroit Tigers earned a lot of pre-season hype, mostly because of the strength of their pitching and the addition of free agent Prince Fielder. I must admit that I hopped on that bandwagon, but it has not worked out so far. The Tigers are a respectable 17-17 and are only one game out of first place in their division, but they really have not caught fire. Obviously, there is a lot of baseball left to be played, but at this point, it looks like the sum of their parts are not equaling a whole.  They play in a weak division, and if nothing else, that probably guarantees a divisional title.
Additionally, the Eastern Division is not as strong as in previous years. Sure, there is a lot offense there, but the pitching staffs of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox often resemble a rag-arm factory.  The Yankees task got that much tougher when closer Mariano Rivera was lost for the season with a knee injury.  The class of that division may turn out to be the Tampa Bay Rays. Anchored by David Price, the team has a formidable starting pitching rotation.  Evan Longoria is their best hitter, and his batting average was .327 when he was lost to a hamstring injury.  He is expected to return in a few weeks, and if the Rays can tread water until then, expect them to be the likely winner of the division.  I know the Baltimore Orioles are currently leading, but I do not expect them to hold on.
However, the class of the American League is the Texas Rangers.  I don’t know why so many people shied away from them before the season. True, their pitching took a hit when C. J. Wilson signed with the Angels in the offseason. However, his loss has been absorbed, and when the team is hitting, they cannot be stopped.  The team is currently 23-12 and already leads their division by five games.  The big story has been outfielder Josh Hamilton who is hitting .402 with 18 home runs and 44 runs batted in.  He is being touted as a triple-crown contender, and why not?  He is knocking the crap out of the ball, and if he stays healthy (easier said than done with him), he should have a marvelous year.  Japanese import Yu Darvish has replaced Wilson nicely.  He already had five wins with a 2.84 ERA.  Will he sustain this?  Typically, new pitchers benefit from their anonymity the first time they go through the league then struggle when teams get a second look at them.  This could happen to him, but he appears to have good tools.
The season is long, and I will revisit this topic again.  However, the Rangers look strong and exciting.

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