Rangers reworked roster key in ALCS victory

Fan Confidence Poll: October 25th, 2010
Cashman: Eiland will not return as pitching coach

Of all the 2010 AL playoff teams, the Texas Rangers finished with the worst record. But that didn’t mean that they were the worst team. During the six months of the regular season plenty changes. For the Rangers it felt like everything changed. It was those mid-season tweaks that made them better than their record indicated. For the past three weeks they’ve been the best team in the AL.

Here is the starting lineup the Rangers sent to the field on Opening Day:

1. Julio Borbon, CF
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, LF
4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Chris Davis, 1B
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
8. Andres Blanco, 2B
9. Elvis Andrus, SS

The only out of place player is Blanco, who was subbing for the injured Ian Kinsler.

The pitching staff, too, was quite different. Do you know who started Opening Day? Scott Feldman. You might remember him, though I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, for his solid 2009 season, in which he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA. His peripherals were a bit worse; it’s unlikely that a player who doesn’t strike out many and still walks around the league average rate will sustain that type of performance. The crew behind him wasn’t that impressive, either.

1. Scott Feldman
2. Rich Harden
3. C.J. Wilson
4. Colby Lewis
5. Matt Harrison

During the course of the season the Rangers made the necessary improvements to the club. Borbon started off poorly before picking it up, but by July it was clear that the Murphy-Hamilton-Cruz outfield was optimal. In fact, had it not been for Cruz’s two DL stints and Hamilton’s missed September, Borbon probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the 468 PA that he did. Kinsler eventually came back and replaced Blanco. Saltalamacchia and his fellow backstop Taylor Teagarden were eventually optioned, opening the door for Matt Treanor and, eventually, Bengie Molina. Davis was horrible, which led to Justin Smoak, which eventually led to Mitch Moreland.

The pitching staff, of course, received the biggest makeover. Three of the five Opening Day starters didn’t make it to season’s end. This happens to plenty of teams, but rarely to a playoff team. Yet the Rangers upgraded where needed. It helped that Wilson and Lewis had better than expected years. Tommy Hunter returned from the DL and provided quality innings. And, of course, the Cliff Lee trade reshaped everything. To that point Wilson was the ace of the staff. Putting Cliff Lee at the top made the rotation that much deeper.

What killed the Yankees was the Rangers’ mid-season acquisitions. Lee is the obvious culprit here, as he pitched well enough to win Game 3 on his own. Molina also provided destruction of his own. We’ll remember him because of his dream-crushing three-run homer in Game 4, reminiscent of his dream-crushing homers of playoffs past. But for the series he went 5 for 16 with a double in addition to that homer. His counterpart, Matt Treanor, who didn’t join the club until the second week of the season, went 2 for 6 with a homer and a walk.

The regular season can tell you plenty of things. It lets you know which team performed best over the long haul. It tells you which teams were built to last. It makes clear which teams have strengths that can mask weaknesses. What it doesn’t tell you is which teams have changed and to what degree they did. It doesn’t tell you, at least not explicitly, that the Rangers suffered because they got off to a slow start and then limped to the finish because they were assured a playoff spot by the beginning of September. The Rangers were better than their record indicated, and their in-season changes were a big part of that.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 25th, 2010
Cashman: Eiland will not return as pitching coach
  • larryf

    I am impressed by Cruz and I have said previously that he is the one player I have seen who reminds me of Jesus physically and at the plate. Quick/powerful bat: 22HR and 78 rbi’s and 2 DL stints. Not bad. Bengie Molina is actually slower than his brother Jose! Didn’t think it was possible. Montero is faster than both of them.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      How does Cruz remind you of Jesus if Jesus himself hasn’t had a plate appearance in the major leagues yet :(

      • larryf

        I have seen Jesus hit several times in person. Very open stance/lightning quick bat through the zone. I guess Jesus reminds me of Cruz would be a better way of saying it.

        • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

          That sounds better :) I am all for the Jesus love, but sometimes it gets a tad crazy!

    • Hughesus Christo

      He reminds me of Jesus too. Wiry strong, big heart, a little injury prone but willing to work through it. A little bit of a bigmouth in the lockerroom.

      Wait, oh, Montero. Isn’t Montero considerably bigger than Cruz. Cruz can also run a bit.

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        A+, sir.

      • larryf

        Montero 6’4″ Cruz 6’3″ Both around 230 lbs (the #’s vary) Cruz is a bit faster for sure but he can’t catch. It was more the approach at the plate. Both are open and dive in to the ball with very quick swings.

  • jim p

    Re: Pitching. Last year we saw Texas’ staff being pushed to throw a lot more than has become the custom. I don’t follow the team that closely. Can anybody say if we saw how that experiment worked out for Texas’ arms?

    Was Nolan Ryan right, wrong, or we still don’t know?


    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      No way we can know now. These things take years to start taking effect.

    • CP

      From the analysis I’ve seen, there actually wasn’t a significant change in the workload or usage of pitchers. They talked about going back to the good old days when pitchers pitched complete games every day, but in practice they didn’t really change much.

      Besides, the real test is with young pitchers, and Tommy Hunter is the only young pitcher that made it on the post season roster – which may say something about the strategy…

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        You could count Feliz but he’s the closer so.. yeah.

        • CP

          I was just thinking about starters, since that’s where most of the focus on pitcher injuries is.

  • ChrisNJ

    I can’t help thinking that this entire season came down to the Cliff Lee trade. If Seattle didn’t screw the Yankees by shopping around an already agreed upon deal, we would we heavy favorites in the World series right now. If the Yankees however can sign Cliff Lee and Montero becomes a star, the Yankees may be better in the long run though that doesn’t take the sting out of this defeat.

  • the other Steve S,

    I think we can blame Tampa for the way it turned out. Joe never got the old battered guys the rest they needed because he was in a real pennant race way too long.

  • CBean

    From LoHud, Andy was apparently hurt during the post season which affected the rotation on our side.

    • pat

      That would explain starting Phil over Andy in the ALCS.

      • CP

        I thought Girardi did that just because he was the dumbest, most stupidest manager in baseball.

        • CBean

          Well, clearly.

  • Yank the Frank

    It also helped that our offense went in the crapper and with the exception of Andy,Wood and of course MO, our pitching wasn’t much to speak of.
    I’m not bitter, Texas deserved to win, just disappointed. But the beauty of being a Yankee fan is that next year we will be in the thick of it again.

  • dan genovese

    how come they develop lefty talent and we cannot………?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It’s the grammar, that’s why.

  • vin

    I’m reminded of this post I made back in April following the Yanks 3 game sweep of a mediocre Texas team:

    “Non-baseball fans have been asking me how the Yanks look so far this year. My response is always, “They’re better than last year.” The lineup is diverse, the pitching is deep, the defense is consistently average (which is plenty), and they have more talent than any other team in the game.

    Hopefully enough guys can stay healthy so we can get another dynasty brewing ::knocks on wood::.

    They ripped the heart out of the Rangers, and ate it in front of them. That series seemed to be a message to other teams – if you don’t have your best stuff, don’t bother showing up.”


    Texas was a completely different team back in April. I remember, going into that series, Harden was saying how he had to take some leadership and pitch deep into the game against the patient Yankee offense. His result? 3.2 ip, 94 pitches, 5 bb, 4 er.

    The games in that series weren’t as close as the scores would indicate. The Yanks wore down their starters and

    Wilson, 6 ip (112 pitches) – rain shortened game that CC won
    Feldman, 2.1 ip
    Harden, 3.2 ip

    Gotta give Daniels credit for making a bunch of wise moves, starting with moving Wilson to the rotation. Cutting bait on Davis, Teagarden, Salty. Taking a flier on Colby Lewis. Dealing Smoak for Lee, etc. His rebuilding plan has worked beautifully, though I’m not sure how much staying power they’ll have if they don’t re-sign Lee. Fortunately for them, they play in a weak division.