We’re now three weeks into the season, and the Rangers are 8-10. That projects to 72-90, which would put them way out of contention. But when you see that the A’s and Angels are both 9-9, and just one game ahead, you realize that not only are the Rangers very much in contention, but they may even be in the driving seat.
Okay, I might be stretching things there a little, but there’s logic behind that thought. It’s all about the hitting, which is traditionally the Rangers strong point. Right now the Rangers have a terrible offense. Michael Young is hitting .171, Mark Teixeira doesn’t have a single home run, even Gerald Laird is struggling to keep his head above .100. With the exception of Ian Kinsler, every single Ranger hitter is well below their career average. Just based on the theory of regression to the mean, they’re all going to get better, and when they do, this team is going to get hot. I could easily see a ten game win streak in the near future (in fact, after two wins against Oakland, they have two games against Seattle, two in Cleveland and four in Toronto, all pretty winnable games), and if that was to happen, the Rangers could put some distance between themselves and the other teams in the division.
The pitching hasn’t been as bad as usual, either. Yes, you might say they have a combined 5.33 ERA, which from a Rangers standpoint is about average but from a league standpoint is poor. But take out Padilla and McCarthy and that ERA drops to 4.54. If those two can straighten themselves out, and there’s no reason to think they can’t, the Rangers are very much in contention. Between Millwood and the outstanding Tejeda, I can see 35 wins. If Padilla and McCarthy can get 25 between them, and the fifth starter (right now Kameron Loe) can get 10, that’s 70 wins. Add in 20 from the bullpen and you’re looking at a 90 win division title.
If the Rangers were in any other division, they’d be at least three games out of first. In the 2007 AL West, they might have the other teams just where they want them.