2011 MLB Team Preview: Texas Rangers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Texas Rangers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Texas Rangers
 

2011 MLB Team Preview: Texas Rangers

There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for the Texas Rangers in 2010.

The team won their first post-season berth, played in their first World Series and for the first time are the reigning AL Champions.

Expectations have certainly gone up for the Rangers heading into 2011, as both the fans and the players got a taste of what it takes to get to the World Series only to lose.

The opportunity to highlight a reputation as one of the best teams in baseball is now deep in the heart of Texas. Let’s take a look at the AL Champs as they try to do it all over again.

The Positives:

The Rangers can hit lead by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler, who all had a batting average above .280, which is not a great stat, as it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Still the Rangers offense can produce big time and will have too.

Also, Rangers rookie Neftali Feliz emerged as one of the best closers in baseball in 2010. At just 22 years old, Feliz had 40 saves and proved to not break under pressure in the post season. Feliz is an asset for the Rangers for years to come.

Leading the rotation are starting pitchers CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis, who both proved to be solid starters at the end of last season. The stuff is there for both and they can both eat 200+ innings in 2011.

Following Wilson and Colby is a new addition, former CY Young winner Brandon Webb. Webb is coming off a major arm trouble could really help the Rangers rotation if he stays healthy. Webb hasn’t pitched in the majors in two years, but so far so good in Spring Training.

Things internally were on shaky ground for the first half of the season, until Nolan Ryan took control of the team. Ryan was one of the best pitchers in baseball back in his heyday. You could not ask for a better owner and Ryan can provide experience to a team who is not used to having success.

The Negatives:

The Rangers lost their ace Cliff Lee, who only brought his talents for second-half of last season. That was long enough for Lee to make a huge difference. Trying to make up for the loss of Lee is no easy task and the Rangers will be noticeably hurt by his absence.
This makes Ranger fans concerned about Josh Hamilton playing center field. Hamilton is the nucleus of the Ranger hitters and he cannot afford to be on the DL at all in 2011. Hamilton has dealt with injuries over his career and moving him to the right or left might be in the cards to make him less prone to getting hurt.

It is hard to believe that the Rangers were a below .500 team on the road. It explains how the team couldn’t close out the easiest division in baseball in 2010. Out of all four clubs representing the AL in the postseason Texas had the least wins and I don’t think Texas would survive any other division.

Texas led the majors in batting average in 2010 with .276 is really meaningless stat considering the Royals came in second place with .274. That explains why the only stat the Rangers lead in was hits, which are meaningless if you don’t make it further than first base.

When I have watched Manager Ron Washington, I do not think he always make the best decisions. I am talking about as a manager not as a person. In the ALCS last year, he made some very odd pitching changes and in a game against the A’s he had a textbook bunting situation to tie the game but let the hitter swing. I just wonder if he is watching the same game that his team is playing in.

Than there is Adrian Beltre’s history, which has to be a factor, as Beltre numbers tend to slide, when he is under contract compared to season’s when he is looking for a new one. This could spell trouble if Beltre doesn’t produce like he did for the Red Sox last season, as that is why Texas hired him in the first place.

Finally, will Michael Young saga affect Michael Young? It got ugly and he did leave Spring Training for a few days for personal reasons, which isn’t good.

Players To Watch:

SP Brandon Webb, SP Colby Lewis, SP CJ Wilson all three have to pitch as closer to perfect as possible. Without a certifiable ace or one that looks to emerge, the starting three have to be consistently good.

OF Josh Hamilton is not the AL MVP for nothing and he can make or break the Rangers season. Hamilton brings power both mentally and physically to a team that is not feared much without him.

2011 AL West Prediction:

The Rangers have to face a healthy and determined Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which is a scary thought for any team. Whether last season will prove to be a fluke or not will not be based on whether they get to the World Series again, but making the playoffs will.

Unfortunately, my bet is that Texas will miss the playoffs in 2011, as the Angels will take back the AL West again. Whether Texas finishes behind or ahead of the Oakland A’s is very possible too.

Lee crippled this ball-club much more than it did the Yankees or would have the Phillies. Lee said you were his number two, but I am taking that more as a consolation prize Lee gave out of guilt.