Texas Rangers Season Preview Mar 6th, 2008
By: Matt Fargo
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Team Preview – Texas Rangers 2007 Record 75 Wins 87 Losses – 4th American League West
2007 Money +$367 Moneyline ~ ($2,587) Runline ~ 68-80 Over/Under
After finishing third in the division for three straight seasons, the Rangers took a step back and came in last in the division in 2007. Inconsistency can sum up the Texas season. In 162 games, the starting lineup was different 139 times. That is a recipe for inconsistency if there ever was one. Texas was the only American League team with a losing record that finished in the black in profits yet it dropped over 25 Units against the runline. That is due to 69 of their 87 losses coming by two runs or more.
The power hitting days of the Rangers are gone. The Rangers led baseball in home runs in 2003 and 2005 while finishing 4th in 2004 but they plummeted to the middle of the pack the last two seasons and could dip even more this year. That is not a bad thing however. Gone are Sammy Sosa and Brad Wilkerson, the two leading home run hitters and in are Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley. Hamilton hit .292 with 19 home runs in just 90 games with the Reds while Bradley looks to recover from an injury-plagued 2007.
The core of the lineup remains with Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Hank Blaylock and Marlon Byrd all coming back. Kinsler will be taking over as fulltime leadoff hitter, Young has had five consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, Blaylock missed 102 games last season and hopes to shine again and Byrd is ready for a possible breakout season. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a great young talent and will look to displace Gerald Laird as the full time backstop.
2008 Starting Pitching
It seems year in and year out, the Rangers are always lacking in starting pitching and this year is no exception. Playing in a hitter’s park does not help but the talent isn’t there no matter where they may be playing. The rotation had the worst ERA among all the starting staffs in the American League at 5.50 while every pitcher who made nine or more starts finished with a losing record. It is impossible to pull an ace out of that group but the designation falls to Kevin Millwood once again despite a 5.16 ERA last year.
Millwood, along with Vicente Padilla and Jason Jennings, the projected 2nd and 3rd starters respectively, all were 200-inning pitchers in 2006 but none reached 180 innings last year and all had the highest ERA’s of their careers. Padilla had a 5.76 ERA while Jennings posted a 6.45 ERA in Houston. Brandon McCarthy is in the 4th spot and he needs to be more durable as he averaged a mere 4+ innings per outing in 22 starts last season. Kasson Gabbard was decent last season but a rough September raises questions.
The Rangers bullpen was one of the best in baseball but because of the enormous problems with the starting rotation, no one really noticed. Texas finished with a 3.71 ERA which was 5th best in all of baseball. The Rangers had only 14 blown saves, third lowest in the Majors but their 56 save opportunities was the sixth fewest in the American League. Texas may have found its future closer as C.J. Wilson converted 12 of 14 saves as the late season closer last year replacing Eric Gagne after he was traded to Boston.
Wilson got the job done but it was dicey at times especially in September where he posted a 7.56 ERA. Joaquin Benoit is the main setup man and he was the Rangers Pitcher of the Year last season. He was one of 15 relievers to toss at least 80 innings last season. Kazuo Fukumori, who comes in from Japan, should be a great pickup. Also in the mix is newcomer Eddie Guardado, who used to be a top quality closer and is a good emergency backup for Wilson. The remainder of the bullpen remains intact.
2008 Overall Outlook
Contending in the American League West is going to be difficult for the Rangers with the Angels and Mariners getting stronger from their great finishes from last season. Staying out of last place is a strong possibility with the A’s in a rebuilding year so there is some good that can happen. The Rangers are one of those under the radar teams that everyone discounts but they are going to sneak in some quality wins every now and again as long as the starting pitching can improve even a little bit. That could be a stretch however.
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