Can Texas Really Win 92 Games?

Yesterday, Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan said that he believed that his team could win 92 games, and that the expectation was that his team would win the division.

"I just feel like that's a number [92] that this ballclub should be able to reach. It's hard to sit here before we play a spring game and predict, but I feel like we have the depth and talent and we're capable of doing that," Ryan told Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas on Wednesday.

Now, Ryan mentioned that there's always the possibility that his team is capable of taking the AL West with less wins, but for most of us, 92 wins would seem like some awfully lofty expectations, even for a team coming off of an 87-win season with the run differential of an 85-win team.

Here are how the different projection systems see the Rangers for next season:

CHONE: 86-76, 1st in the AL West, five games ahead of Oakland and Los Angeles (as of 2/5/10)

CAIRO: 81-81, 2nd in the AL West, two games behind Seattle (as of 2/23/10)

PECOTA: 85-77, 1st in the AL West, two games ahead of Seattle (as of 2/25/10)

So clearly, Ryan is getting ahead of himself a little bit with the high hopes of a 92-win season. But of course, if the Rangers are accurately a 85-86 win team based on true talent, which both CHONE and PECOTA indicate, then with some good luck a 92-win season is more than possible.

The rotation could be absolutely dominant with Scott Feldman, Rich Harden, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz. Feldman was pretty solid last season, we all know what Harden is capable of when he's health, Holland still posted a 4.38 xFIP in Texas last season and has a good deal of room for improvement, Lewis was arguably the best pitcher in Japan during his stint there, and Feliz has the raw stuff to keep up with practically any pitcher in the game. Toss a good bullpen in there along with additional options like Brandon McCarthy, Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison, and the Rangers have a pitching staff that could potentially keep up with anyone in that division.

The defense should once again be solid, with a good defensive outfield of Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon and Nelson Cruz, along with solid defense up the middle from Taylor Teagarden, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. They certainly won't be able to keep up with what the Athletics and Mariners are putting out on the field daily, but once again they should be a pretty solid defensive squad as a whole.

The lineup is pretty interesting as well. Kinsler is clearly one of the better players in the AL, and I think that it's reasonable to expect quality seasons from Cruz, Young and Andrus. Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero give the offense some serious upside, Borbon has a chance to be Juan Pierre with more patience and better defense, and it's too early to write off Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Teagarden just yet. A few lucky breaks (healthy seasons from Guerrero and Hamilton, a breakout from Salty, Davis or maybe even Justin Smoak) and it could be one of the better offenses in the game.

Now, I think that PECOTA and CHONE probably have it about right, that the Rangers' true talent level isn't remotely close to 92 wins, and probably sits more so in the mid-80's. Which means that a 92-win season isn't particularly likely, and the team could just as easily dip their win total in the high-70's if things don't go as planned.

But the projection systems don't really seem to disagree with Ryan's notion that Texas should expect to win the AL West this season, and with a few lucky breaks and the right midseason acquisition, Ryan may not be that far off base with his comments.

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