A Little Optimism On This Race
The Mariners are of course currently chasing one of the more elite hitting baseball teams in the Rangers. While the two teams are quiet opposites in design, it currently stands to reason that while the Mariners have kept up with the slumping Rangers, a second half resurgence is in order for our rivals from the south. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities where they run away with the division after the all-star break. Getting Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler back in the starting line-up, fully healthy only stands to help the Rangers.
But as the season goes on and I sit down and actually take a look back at last season, the Rangers didn’t exactly standout as much as they had in my mind. They took advantage of a lot of key match ups. Part of what helped them is they were 32-25 against a meager AL West last year and then went 14-4 playing against bad inter-league teams such as like Pittsburgh, Houston and catching Milwaukee during injuries.
This a lone accounts for a 46-29 record which in a way doesn’t seem “dominate” despite being 17 games over .500. I’m not saying they were bad by any means, good teams beat bad teams. Isn’t that the saying? But then you look at their record against teams above .500 (Minnesota, Chicago, Tampa Bay, New York, Boston and Toronto) they were a combined 23-30. So while they weren’t a bad team, maybe they weren’t as impressive as we made them out to be and I think this year they are a bit more exposed.
While the Rangers have one of the best hitting teams in baseball, Josh Hamilton isn’t what he was last year and Nelson Cruz has had a Milton Bradleyesque drop off despite all the home runs, Elivs Andrus has had his own issues at the plate and David Murphy is yet another that was a steady producer for last year’s team that has seen his production drop off. While the Ranger’s offense is potent its not as good as from home.
Looking at the next 20 games the Rangers have a lot of easy games ahead of them and we know what they’ve done in the past with those. Despite playing a good pitching club in Atlanta on the road they will come home and play the next 15 of 18 games at home. Starting with 2 series (1 home and 1 away) against the Astros, another against a shaky Mets team, a slumping Florida team and another against Baltimore and then Oakland before the break. They should and could very well post an easy 12 – 8 record.
With a bit of a tough schedule ahead of us that could leave us around 3.5 games out of first (assuming the Mariners split the next 20 games). That’s when things get interesting. After the All-Star break we immediately find ourselves face-to-face with a chance for either team to immediately take control of the division.
After that there are 67 games left in the season. That’s a short amount of time during any host of possible scenarios could happen.This is where I’d give you a bunch of obscure player splits in small sample size and you go “Wow! Anything CAN happen!”
The Rangers have shown they most likely aren’t a 90 win team this year. Potentially do they have the pieces? Sure. I believe they do. But, their starting pitching isn’t very good and while they’ve got superstar potential guys they’ve needed their lesser players to step up in lieu of all the injuries and sub par play.
Not only have they played poorly you also have to taken into account over the last 10 years only on three occasions have they actually posted a better record in the second half than that in the first half and that has only happened once in the last 5 years. You can reason that part of that is the heat down south and how harsh the weather gets in July and August. It takes a toll on the players in the field and I suspect that this year is going to be no different.
Assuming that they end the first half 49-42, which I think is fair, if the second half trend continued they would win about 33-34 games. Which puts them on pace for about 83-85 wins.
Now this is all pure speculation and assumed future circumstances. I haven’t been very optimistic on the Mariners chances this year and I felt I owed some type of youthful optimistic view on this team going forward rather than just saying I doubt it will happen. The truth is that it’s not likely to happen but that there are circumstances and situations
This isn’t breaking down any of the players production or their possible declines or rises in the second half. It’s possible that the Rangers finally see guys hit their strides and take off and steal the AL West. But it’s also possible that this team isn’t as good as what they were last year.
The Rangers aren’t the juggernaut they seemed to be at the end of last season and if there was a time in which the Mariners seem as if they can challenge them it’s now. But while it seems a little rosy there are certainly some downsides to trying to take down the AL-West reigning champs.
They do have pitching talent in C.J. Wilson, who continues to make a case for this upcoming free-agency, and while Neftali Feliz has been good he’s not been electric. Colby Lewis has actually pitched worse than his 4.97 ERA indicated but, he’s also capable of pitching better. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison have had an up and down season but both have had solid performances.
Not to mention the Rangers have prospects to spare and their “window” is now. They won’t think twice about pulling the trigger on someone that they think can help them win not just the division but also give them the shot to go back to the World Series. Guys like Edwin Jackson,
Joel Pineiro, Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis are all guys that I’m sure the Rangers will consider to help upgrade their pitching staff. There are also outfield options among the league if they feel they need to upgrade that position as well.
The Mariners have we have stated time and time again are in the opposite position. Where they should, in my opinion, hold on to their prospects for the coming years. As I’ve said countless times already this season, if they do make a move it should be in their vein of helping them next year as well.
The Rangers aren’t as scary as they were to begin the season and while we are all painfully aware of the Mariners holes and fallible nature there are also chinks in our enemies armor as well that while they don’t stand out as much are definitely concerns for them.
I don’t know if I believe the Mariners can continue playing above .500 ball and take this pennant race any further than the start of August (if even that). But, one things I know for certain is if the Mariners can just keep up the pace they are on they will most certainly be in a position to take a shot at the AL West crown.
The Rangers season isn’t going how they wanted it and while they hope to see guys step back up to where they were last season, we as Mariners fans have seen how that plan can go wrong. It may only take 85-87 wins to get into the playoffs from the AL West and with the way things are going for the Mariners that’s not out of their reach just yet.