After reaching the World Series two straight years, the Texas Rangers look like the early favorite to get there again from the American League. With two recent series victories over the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, this team looks poised more than ever to finally win it all.
If you didn’t see the Yu Darvish versus Hiroki Kuroda matchup, then you missed a chance to see one of the biggest regular-season starts of the year. Darvish was masterful, cutting up one of the best offensive lineups in the game.
I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when the Rangers let C.J. Wilson go and highly overpaid to get a Japanese pitcher who had yet to prove himself in the major leagues. But Darvish seems to be getting better with each start, and if he can keep fooling hitters with his nasty off-speed pitches running out of the strike zone, the Rangers are going to run away with the AL West.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Darvish. Many Japanese pitchers, like Daisuke Matsuzaka and others, have looked like elite pitchers early in their careers before hitters figured them out. So, I say, if Darvish is to have success in the majors, it will be more towards the beginning of his career than the end.
The rest of the rotation has been equally brilliant. Matt Harrison leads all starters with a 1.66 ERA in three starts and has won all three games. The veteran of the group, Colby Lewis, has started out 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in four starts.
The staff as a whole, through April 26, holds the best ERA in the American League at 2.62 and is third in the majors.
On the other side, the offense is leading the majors in hitting with a .295 team batting average. They’re also first in runs with 107 and have 20 more hits than the next closest team.
There has never been a question with this offense, the only thing keeping them from putting up huge numbers is health. As long as Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and especially Josh Hamilton stay on the field, this team will continue to put up big numbers.
Hamilton is looking to get a huge contract this offseason and is earning that money, so far, as he leads the team in batting average (.390), home runs (8), RBIs (19), OBP (.430) and hits (30).
The always-steady Michael Young is also doing his part, hitting .356 with 13 RBIs. Kinsler is getting on base and scoring runs leading the team with 20. Mike Napoli continues to do what he does best and that’s hit home runs, which he’s done seven times.
Elvis Andrus is the only one in the group who has yet to jump on board. He’s struggled through the early going hitting only .239 in 18 games. Nelson Cruz is batting .247 and has only hit two home runs to date.
So, while their core group of hitters is putting up huge numbers as you would expect, you have to think that Andrus and Cruz will get going at some point to make this team even more powerful.
I wondered how this team would respond after losing their second straight World Series and thought they would have a down year, but they’re proving me and a lot of other people wrong by coming out early in the season and making a statement.
But it’s not always how you start, it’s how you finish. As of right now, they sit eight and half games ahead of the Angels, which is a significant number for any point of the year. I think they’ll hit a couple of bumps along the road, but for right now, it doesn’t look like there is any team in the league that can compete with the Rangers.