Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/7/14

I really wanted to write about the Braves and Diamondbacks series, which could be a major turning point in the National League. But over in the AL, there is a CLASH OF THE TITANS that begins today: the Rangers travel to Detroit to take on the Tigers in a rematch of the 2011 ALCS. Thusfar this season, the Rangers and Tigers are far and away the class of the American League. The teams have the two best run differentials in the AL (by far), the best records in the league, and quite frankly, they've gotten it down on both sides of the ball so far.

In this four game series, each team will miss one starter. Fortunately, neither is an ace, with Derek Holland not going for the Rangers, and Max Scherzer not going for the Tigers. We are unfortuantely going to be deprived of a Darvish-Verlander matchup, as Yu starts today against Adam Wilk, and Verlander goes on Saturday against Neftali Feliz. The other two matchups are Matt Harrison vs Rick Porcello on Friday, and Colby Lewis vs Drew Smyly on Sunday. Darvish has actually been the worst of the five Rangers starters this season, with a 4.76 ERA, nine strikeouts, and eight walks in 11 1/3 innings. Clearly, the transition to American baseball is going to take some time. Of the other four Rangers starters, the highest ERA belongs to Holland at 3.10, and the strikeout to walk ratios are led to Colby Lewis at a dominant 22:1 in 19 2/3 innings. Texas's bullpen also also been pretty good. Despite closer Joe Nathan's 5.14 ERA, he's struck out nine while walking one in seven innings. Top set-up men Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams have been dominant, combining for ten strikeouts and no walks in 14 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs between them.

Offensively, the Rangers are a juggernaut, which was to be expected. The team has an .861 OPS, and has hit 22 homers. Josh Hamilton leads the party with a 1.242 OPS and five homers, while Ian Kinsler (1.060, four homers) and Mike Napoli (1.042, four homers) trail closely behind him. Of Texas's nine offensive starters, the only ones who have been bad offensively are first baseman Mitch Moreland, struggling with a .492 OPS, and shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has a .643 OPS but is more renowned for his stellar defense.

The Tigers have shown more holes thusfar than the Rangers, but are still a complete team. The only "bad" starter is Scherzer, with a 7.98 ERA that's numbed considerably byt his 17:4 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 2/3 innings. Verlander has been his typical dominant self, while Porcello has taken a nice step forward this season (1.84 ERA, 8:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 14 2/3 innings). While Doug Fister has been hurt, Smyly hasn't been too bad for the Tigers, with eight strikeouts, four walks, and just one run allowed in ten innings so far this season. Detroit's bullpen has been a mixed bag. Closer Jose Valverde has been awful, as have set-up men Collin Balester and Daniel Schlereth. Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke have been solid, while Octavio Dotel, Duane Below, and Brayan Villarreal (in limited duty) have been excellent, combining for ten strikeouts and one walk in eight scoreless innings.

Detroit's offense was heavily hyped coming into the year, and they've delivered to a certain extent so far. Their best hitter hasn't been neither Miguel Cabrera nor Prince Fielder, but in fact center fielder Austin Jackson, who had 15 hits and eight walks in 12 games this season. Of course, he's struck out 15 times, which does nothing to help matters. Cabrera and Fielder have been good, but not great, each striking out more than they walk, and only combining for five homers. Catcher Alex Avila is picking up where he left off last year, while Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch have been pretty terrible for the Tigers. Hell, Boesch hasn't walked yet this season, while playing every day.

I take the Rangers success with a little bit of a caveat. Aside from their two wins over the Red Sox this week, they've beat up on the White Sox, Twins, and Mariners. This isn't exactly a murderer's row. The Tigers aren't much better, but a series each against the Red Sox and Rays trumps the Rangers schedule so far. Of course, Detroit lost a series to the White Sox, so who the hell knows?

As for a pick...I'm going to cop out and say that the teams split this four game set. I like the Tigers to win the middle two games of the series, started by Porcello and Verlander, while the Rangers take the bookend games, started by Darvish and Lewis. Darvish is the real wild card in my mind, but with Wilk starting for the Tigers tonight, he could have a little bit of wiggle room.

Regardless, this is a series that looks like a potential playoff preview already. It might be a little early to claim that, but after two weeks of play, these teams are clearly the class of the American League.



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