The Yankees have had the best record in baseball for most of the Summer. That kind of performance will get you acknowledged as the best team in your league 100% of the time, but it would be unwise for the Yankees and their fans to get complacent. For most of the season the Texas Rangers have been right on the Yankees’ heals, competing for the best overall record. A lot can change between now and the end of the season, but there’s a good chance that the Yankees’ path to the World Series runs through the Lone Star State. All this begs the question: How good is Texas?
The short answer is pretty good. According to Fangraphs, the Rangers have the second best position players in the AL and the best pitching staff in all of baseball. We can debate whether or not fWAR is the best means of evaluating a team, but there is no doubt that this serves as a reliable indicator that the Rangers are a solid squad.
Digging deeper into the numbers, their position players have a solid wOBA of .339 and rate highly with the leather, accumulating a UZR of 14.8. Josh Hamilton has cooled quite a bit after getting off to a supernova hot start, but he continues to rate as Texas’ best player posting an even .400 wOBA. The second best player with the lumber on the Rangers is Adrian Beltre. Beltre may swing at everything, but he hits for a high average (.319) and has considerable power (.526). Ian Kinsler probably rates as the team’s next best all around hitter, especially now that Nelson Cruz is having a poor year, and while Elvis Andrus has just a .396 SLG he always seems to give the Yankees fits. While the lineup may not be as circular as the Yankees, even just this cursory glance at the team demonstrates that these guys can hit.
The team can pitch as well. As a staff the Rangers’ pitchers have a slash line of 3.75/.3.78/3.93 over 831 IP. The team’s peripherals are good as well, posting 7.68 K/9 versus just 2.68 BB/9. The Texas starters rate well, posting a slash line of 4.01/.3.97/4.07, but they are backed up by one of the best bullpens in baseball. The Texas bullpen has given the team 3.18/3.41/3.63 over 263 innings, making them just about as good as the dominant Yankee bullpen.
The individuals names in the pitching staff are not as famous as those in the lineup, but Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis are all quality starters who can keep a team in a tight ball game. Joe Nathan, Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross, meanwhile, headline that strong bullpen. None of these stars may shine as brightly as names like Josh Hamilton or Beltre, but these guys can all pitch.
In total, the Rangers remind me a bit of the Yankees this year. Neither team is off the charts in any single aspect of the game, but both teams are good in a number of ways in a combination that proves lethal for the opposition. Normally I’d reflexively say that in a head-to-head match up I favor the Yankees, but the past couple of seasons the Rangers have been the better team, at least when it comes to October. It’s also no longer the case that the Rangers are not as good as they appear due to their division. With the Angels starting to play well that excuse fades a bit, even if the AL West is still a far cry from the AL East. If current trends hold it is hard to imagine the Yankees and Rangers not colliding in October. It is equally difficult to imagine that either team cruises through that challenge.