Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lineup Against the Wall: The Blasted Texas Rangers

Though I haven't been open about this matter all that often here inside this House of Georges, I'm certainly not one to lie: I cannot stand the state of Texas, and that goes for most everything associated with it. I sometimes have pipedreams of retiring on a farm and rolling around on a tractor all day, but if that were ever to happen, it certainly wouldn't be in the Lone Star State. I just can't get into a place that boasts about one-time resilient efforts to secede, one that identifies itself as the lone star in our great union, one that so carelessly flies its quiet flag of rebellion over a piece of land that was supposedly stolen from Mexico. And there's something about the ignorance of Texas pride that translates through their professional sports teams, too. I don't have a beef with the Mavericks, other than the implication the team name carries, but the Cowboys are obviously obnoxious clowns, and the Stars are just, well, stupid. The Houston Texans? Duh-umb. Now the Astros I had a boyhood affinity for, but I pay them little mind now. The Rangers, however, irritate the piss out of me, mostly because their team has been pretty bad for a while now, but typically manages to get the best of the Royals. Like the previous two nights, for example. They are, nevertheless, in the AL West, which falls under my umbrella of coverage, so after the jump, we'll have a look at them, and try to keep all biases aside.

If there's a team that has a chance at marked improvement in this division, it might very well be the Rangers. Granted, they've a long, uphill battle to reach Angels' status, but they should have little problem keeping Seattle in check, and if Ron Washington plays his cards right, they might even make the boys in Oaktown a bit nervous. Regarding their off-season activity, Texas didn't really do a whole lot on the surface. They pushed a lot of farm-system papers, and that may've been a wise decision. At least that way, they're thinking about the future, and they appear to be building a little pitching nest egg, which is smart. Up in the bigs, however, they didn't do much beyond inviting guys like Omar Vizquel, Andruw Jones, Eddie Guardado, and Jimmy Gobble, among others, to spring training. And to some degree, that's fine; they know what they've got to work with for 2009, and they're going to try and make the best of it. So, when they kick things off on Monday with a home-opener against the Tribe, they'll likely know what to expect. I imagine their lineup will look a bit like so:

1) 2B Ian Kinsler
2) RF Nelson Cruz
3) 1B Chris Davis
4) CF Josh Hamilton
5) SS Elvis Andrus
6) DH Andruw Jones or Hank Blalock
7) 3B Michael Young
8) LF David Murphy
9) C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Frankly, that lineup isn't too bad. You have a couple of up-and-coming kids plugged in around some guys that can hit fairly consistently, and a couple can even mash. So, assuming that the Rangers won't struggle immensely producing runs, let's have a look at how their rubber-steppers look:

1) Kevin Millwood
2) Vicente Padilla
3) Kris Benson
4) Brandon McCarthy
5) Matt Harrison

This rotation might be the hardest to assess in the AL West. I gotta believe that the Texas brass knows a bit more about the game than I do, but I can't for the life of me understand how this club has continued to view Kevin Millwood as a number-one guy these past few years. He had a decent 2007, but only managed to put together nine wins last year, some of which is attributed to poor run support, I suppose. It looks as if he'll be their ace again this year, and kicking off the season against Cliff Lee and the Indians will be no small off-on-the-right-foot task. Next is Vicente Padilla, who actually notched 14 Ws last year, and together, the top two Texas starters have pretty decent strikeout-walk ratios. Things get fuzzy after that, though. Kris Benson hasn't seen any big-league action since 2006 when he was an Oriole, and his numbers then were run-of-the-mill at best. Brandon McCarthy looks to be the four guy, and he only tallied 22 innings of duty in '08. Matt Harrison is their only lefty, and his efforts last season weren't bad, but his E.R.A. was a darn near five and-a-half.

Now the bullpen doesn't look too bad. Actually, scratch that. They look really bad,

but they don't appear to be terrible. Most of their middle relief are big boys that can bring some heat, and their setup-closer pairing in C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco should be able to get the job done. I certainly don't see any post-season hopes for this team, but they just might be making some strides to get the thing headed in the right direction.