Timing is everything in life. No team in baseball knows that better than the Texas Rangers who are off to a 20-12 start, giving them the second-best record in the American League. Considering their success in recent years, there is no doubt that the Rangers are good, but are they really as good as their record suggests or are they just the beneficiaries of some really good timing?
At worst, Texas is just a big bunch of bullies. Through the first 32 games of the season, they have played all of three games against a team that currently boasts a winning record; that would be a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, who have the best record in baseball. The rest of the time they have been roughing up known cellar dwellers like the Cubs, Mariners, Twins and Astros as well as a trio of early season disappointments in the Angels, Rays and, to a lesser degree, the White Sox. That all adds up to the Rangers having the third easiest strength of schedule played thus far this year.
This is not their fault, obviously, so we certainly shouldn't look down on Texas for doing what good teams do and pummeling inferior competition. What we can do is wonder if their cream puff schedule might not be masking some real weaknesses on the Texas roster. Most notably, their rotation, which looks terrific right now but could actually just be benefiting from playing against a slate of lineups that range from truly miserable to average at best, save for the Red Sox.
With their AL leading 3.19 ERA, the Texas rotation looks pretty amazing. A lot of that is Yu Darvish, who is amazingly amazing. What it isn't though is their expected rotation. Timing once again bestowed a great gift on Texas by having them suffer through a rash of rotation injuries right on the softest part of their schedule. Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis are all on the disabled list right now for Texas, which makes their stellar pitching performance all that more impressive. But that doesn't mean it is going to last. Shoring up the back of the Ranger rotation are youngsters Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm. They've both performed admirably in their efforts to replace the fallen veterans, but the weak opposition certainly aided in that effort. The same goes for Derek Holland who currently looks as if he is finally making good on all of his potential, but he too still has more proving to do once the competition gets tougher as it wouldn't be the first time Holland pitched well for several weeks before going in the tank for just as long.
How well the rotation can continue to perform once the opposition gets tougher and the weather in Texas gets hotter is of paramount importance for the Rangers because they no longer appear to possess the league-best offense that has carried them the last several seasons. Despite their weak competition, Texas is only sixth in runs scored in the American League. There are real concerns in the lineup as well with none larger than the slow start of Adrian Beltre who has a pedestrian .729 OPS and looks like his 34th birthday hit him like load of bricks.
Of course none of that may matter because, again, timing is everything. Not only are the Rangers likely to get Perez and Lewis back as rotation options by the end of this month, but they also picked the right year to be in the AL West. The Oakland A's still look like a formidable foe, but the once mighty Angels are falling apart at the seams. Plus the sadsack Astros are in the division now. Thanks to unbalanced schedules, Texas will continue to have a steady stream of cupcake opponents run out before them, which should serve them well if the rotation doesn't regress too much and struggling hitters like Andrus and Beltre can show a little more life.
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