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MLB Predictions: Rangers Season Wins Over/Under Odds

2009 Texas Rangers Wins Predictions – Lines & Baseball Props

Texas Rangers (2008 Record: 79-83, 2nd place in AL West, 21 GB)

Since their late ’90’s run of division titles and playoff appearances, the Rangers have done a complete about face when it comes to winning baseball. With the exception of a decent 2004 season under Buck Showalter, in which they finished 16 games above .500, this team has failed to push their record into the black in ten years.A lot has gone wrong over the last decade, most notably a large number of bloated contracts handed out to sluggers and embarrassingly poor decisions when it came to arms. An organizational shift has been underway lately, however, and an emphasis on pitching has been spreading. At the head of this movement is 31-year old General Manager Jon Daniels and the Rangers team president, The Ryan Express. It is fitting that Nolan Ryan, a man with seven career no-hitters, be at the forefront of this new culture in Arlington. A great deal of patience will be required though, as it may take years to correct the mess created by the previous regime and many of the young arms being cultivated are far from ready.

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The 2008 Rangers, with of all their problems, actually finished in second place in the AL West. That isn’t saying much, as they ended up 21 games behind the 100-win Angels. One very bright spot last year was the team’s offense which, as a whole, managed to lead the American League in hits, runs, doubles, batting average, and slugging percentage. Led by modern day Roy Hobbs, center fielder Josh Hamilton, and a steady balance of on-base conscious players like second baseman Ian Kinsler and the resurgent All-Star Milton Bradley, the team wound up crossing the plate 901 times.

On the mound was a completely different story, as has been this club’s modus operandi for a long time now. All the runs in the world couldn’t help a pitching staff that compiled an AL-worst 5.37 ERA. The most effective starter was Vincent Padilla, who finished with a respectable 14-8 record but allowed over 250 baserunners in just 171 innings and also served up 26 dingers. The shape of the bullpen wasn’t much better, with closer C.J. Wilson saving 24 games to the tune of a mammoth 6.02 ERA.

There wasn’t much turnover this offseason for the Rangers, and a lot of the new faces you will see in 2009 are youngsters making their way up from the team’s farm system. The biggest loss is definitely that of Bradley, who heads to the National League after penning a three-year, $30 million dollar deal with the Cubs. The majority of his at bats in the DH hole should be filled, barring injury, by veteran Hank Blalock. Starting full-time in left field will be young Daniel Murphy, who showed solid production last year in 415 ABs before succumbing to a knee injury down the stretch. Fully entrenched in center is Hamilton, who should add another remarkable chapter to his comeback story. After slowing down a bit in the second half in ’08, he should be better conditioned this year to handle the rigors of a full season. I believe that an MVP-caliber campaign is in store for the man who electrified Yankee Stadium one magical night in July as well as several other cities throughout the rest of the year. Right field will be patrolled by Nelson Cruz, a 29-year old with tremendous pop who could turn out to be one of the AL’s big sleepers in ’09. After tearing up Triple-A in ’08 and batting .330 with 7 homers in a short stint with the big club, Cruz has showed no signs of slowing down this Spring. If he keeps it up, this could turn out to be one of the most productive outfields in all of baseball.

The infield is also comprised of a solid group, both offensively and defensively. There is a major shift going on here, however, one which has been criticized in many circles since it was announced. Perennial All-Star and reigning Gold Glove shortstop Michael Young has been shifted to his right, all to make room for a 20-year old kid. Elvis Andrus, the top prospect in the Rangers system, is on the fast track and will start at short come Opening Day. The fact that the organization was willing to shift their superstar player from a position in which he excelled year after year tells you what they must think about Andrus. He is a five tool player with game-changing speed that has shown that he can handle himself in the field so far this Spring. Only time will tell how Young handles the move, but if Andrus plays like a Rookie of the Year candidate out of the gate I’m sure it will be an easier pill to swallow.

 In a somewhat minor move that I really like, the team signed one of the best fielding shortstops of this era in Omar Vizquel to mentor the youngster and spell him at short from time to time. At second base is All-Star Ian Kinsler who, in his third year in the bigs, broke out in a big way in ’08 to the tune of a .319 batting average to go along with 26 steals. The Arizona native will continue to improve, and could easily put up even better numbers this season. First base belongs to Chris Davis, entering his sophomore season after hitting 17 home runs in just 295 ABs as a rookie. Behind the plate is probably the most intriguing position for the Rangers, as they possess three youngsters all with the potential to be stars in their own right. The most likely starter at the moment is the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a first round draft pick of the Braves back in 2003 who was acquired in the Mark Teixeira deal two seasons ago. Saltalamacchia, or “Salty”, has been coveted by many teams and has often been the subject of trade rumors, most recently in an alleged deal with the Red Sox for right-handed starter Clay Buchholz. This is a deal that makes sense for both teams, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened soon. Behind Salty are prospects Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez, both viable options should the trade actually occur. Overall, this is a very scary lineup that may prove to be a bit shaky on defense.

With that kind of production the Rangers will definitely contend for a playoff spot, right? Wrong. The pitching situation, although improved from ’08, is still pretty ugly. Leading the starting rotation is the once-reliable Kevin Millwood, who has seen his ERA top 5.00 the past two seasons. He’s healthy this Spring and supposedly ready to go, but he should no longer be anything more than a number 3 or 4 starter on a staff. Unfortunately for Texas at the moment, he appears to be the best they’ve got. Falling in line behind Millwood is Padilla, who has at least been serviceable since arriving in Texas by averaging 12 wins over the past 3 years. The 3 and 4 slots will more than likely be held by two intriguing yet unproven youngsters, righty Brandon McCarthy and southpaw Matt Harrison. McCarthy, once a top prospect in the White Sox organization, sat out all but 5 games in ’08 due to an injury but has looked really good so far this Spring. If he can keep it together this year and begin to realize his potential, the possibility to win between 15 and 20 games with the potent Rangers offense behind him is not out of the question. Counting on that is definitely a big roll of the dice, however. Harrison, on the other hand, went 9-3 in 15 starts last season but had some awful outings which led to his 5.49 ERA. In between those rocky starts were some very impressive ones, including a 5-hit shutout in Oakland on September 12. In the end, these two young arms will be the deciding factor in whether Texas makes some noise in the West or if 2009 becomes just another lost season. The fifth spot will most likely be held by the ineffective Scott Feldman, at least until a better option comes along. The bullpen situation was a bit of a mess of a few weeks ago, but things have settled down a bit. Frank Francisco, who was impressive in 58 games last season, will take over the closer’s role from Wilson, while the rest of the pen will be filled out by veteran Eddie Guardado and several other guys who are prone to getting knocked around.

The Rangers are going to hit in 2009, and they’re going to hit a lot. Teams without depth in their rotations will have their bullpens worn out when playing this club, and you’ll see a lot of softball-style line scores when all is said and done. Anyone who plays the Rangers are going to get the opportunity to pad their offensive numbers as well, as this pitching staff is not built to withstand two months of baseball, let alone an entire season. Even if all the stars align over Arlington with McCarthy and Harrison proving their salt as big leaguers while Millwood and Padilla have renaissance seasons, this bullpen will find a way to give up enough leads to keep Texas out of contention. The Rangers won 79 games last year, and that isn’t going to happen again. Unless Buchholz comes from Boston and makes a major impact, and the bullpen is somehow fortified between now and Opening Day, the 2009 Rangers are no better than a 73-win ball club.

2009 Texas Rangers Wins Prediction

Betus.com Updated Over/Under Odds: Over/Under 73 1/2 Wins (-130/EV)

Scott’s Prediction: Under 73

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