Rangers Flex Muscles in AL West
Last season’s march to the World Series probably came as a surpise even to diehard Texas Ranger fans.
A return trip in 2011 won’t be.
The Rangers appear to be on the verge of locking up the AL West title after taking the first two in a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim, pushing their lead to six games.
Since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan became the guiding force deciding the direction of the franchise, they have turned things around in dramatic fashion. Gone are the huge investments in single players – clearly a lesson was learned from the Alex Rodriguez debacle – and in is a philosophy of adding key pieces to a roster mixed with veterans and young stars on the rise. More importantly, they have completely revamped their pitching staff.
The concentration is now on developing pitching through the minors. At every level of their system, the mantra is that starters need to go deep into games and deliver “quality starts” on a regular basis.
The plan is working, as evidenced by the results at the major league level where the Rangers were last in ERA in the AL in 2008 with a 5.37 mark. That was also the last time the team finished below .500. In 2011, the team ERA is currently 3.72 (5th in AL) and only looks to improve with their latest maneuvering. The pickup of Mike Adams from San Diego before the trade deadline was not a headline-making deal, but it was exactly the type of move they now love to make. Adams is an outstanding setup guy who has been virtually unhittable since going to the Padres in 2008. Now if the Rangers want to move Netfali Feliz to the rotation, they have a replacement closer waiting in the wings. Or he could fill in should Feliz go down with an injury. As it is now, having Adams in a setup role means that a lead through seven innings nearly guarantees a win. And of course fantasy baseball owners who have Adams love him in either a setup or closer role. His 0.87 WHIP this season is an eye opener.
While the Red Sox and Yankees offer formidable challenges come playoff time, there’s little doubt that the Rangers are at the same level as those big spending franchises. They have just discovered that the “right way” for Texas is quite different from the approach of those franchises. But it is certainly working.