The champions of the tumultuous AL West, the Texas Rangers, are going to win the World Series. Now, while this may be one article in a series of articles about each playoff team, this one is the most important because it's about the actual World Series winners. They say the third time's the charm, right? Well, the Rangers were in the World Series in 2010 and 2011. They'll make the Series again this year, and they'll win it.
It's been a tale of two seasons for the Rangers, kind of. In the first half, the Rangers went 42-46 while scoring fewer runs than they allowed. In the second half, the Rangers went 46-28 and scored many more runs than their opponents. A poor April held them down, and they kind of treaded water in June and July (after a stellar May). It's really been August and September that the Rangers started kicking other teams' butts.
Comparing each team's 1st half wRC+ vs. 2nd half wRC+, the Rangers rank pretty well in terms of improvement. Going from an 89 wRC+ to a 106 wRC+ (non-pitcher wRC+) ranked seventh among all teams. The "resurgence" of the Rangers' offense has been led by three guys: Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, and Rougned Odor.
Choo's resurgence has been covered here pretty well - his plate discipline is back, and he's spraying the ball once again. Odor's emergence has stemmed from his power. What about Beltre? His 77 first-half wRC+ was pretty bad, but his 136 second-half wRC+ is right in line with his 2010-2014 performance (wow he's been consistent). It's pretty simple. He started taking walks again, and he hit the ball a lot harder (line drive rate up, hard-hit rate up, soft-hit rate down). Like many Rangers players, he spent some time on the DL in June with a thumb injury. Could he have been injured before the DL stint? Maybe. Could it have taken some time to recover from the injury? Sure. I'm not sure anyone wants to acknowledge it, but the guy is 36. [Editor's Note: Wait, he's only 36?!]
Aside from those three, the Rangers' lineup is supported by Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli, a slightly resurgent Elvis Andrus, Robinson Chirinos, and ... Josh Hamilton. Moreland and Fielder had above-average seasons, and Mike Napoli crushed the ball in his short time with the team. Hamilton hasn't been great (92 wRC+), but every lineup has its holes. Hamilton isn't a black hole. Andrus had a 90 wRC+ in the second half, which is fine for a guy with his defense and speed. Even the below average guys are not terribly far below average. Delino DeShields, Jr. and Drew Stubbs can be pinch-running options late in the game**.
On the pitching side, the Rangers have Cole Hamels as their number one guy. Behind him, they have a ground-ball inducing Martin Perez and surprisingly solid Yovani Gallardo, despite the peripherals. Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are lurking at the end of the rotation. Their best three relievers, Keone Kela, Shawn Tolleson, and Sam Dyson can roll with the best. Jake Diekman has been solid in his short time.
Going back to Dyson, he serves as a poor man's Zach Britton. Britton is the Baltimore Orioles closer-extraordinaire. With a 1.92 ERA / 2.01 FIP / 1.75 xFIP and 79.1 percent ground-ball rate, Britton has exceptional skill at limiting runs through inducing copious amounts of ground balls. Despite the 20.0 percent HR/FB, it's tough to get a home run off him because it's tough to elevate the ball. Dyson has similar qualities; he has a 68.8 percent ground-ball rate for the season but a 75.9 percent rate with the Rangers. In addition, his strikeout rate and walk rate are better than last year and better with the Rangers than with the Marlins. His 1.15 ERA / 2.11 FIP / 2.07 xFIP with the Rangers compares quite nicely to Britton.
In general, the Rangers are pretty solid. Top to bottom in the lineup, it's not perfect, but it lacks, say, an Alcides Escobar (miserable second half and bad overall season) black hole. The Blue Jays' strength, their power, is something that the Rangers know how to deal with given their home park. They've made it this far without Yu Darvish. They've come a long way from Carlos Peguero being their team leader in fWAR.
**Editor's note after publication: DeShields, Jr. is NOT a late-game pinch-running option. Stubbs can be. Blame Kevin.
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