Playoffs pt. 4
by, 10-04-2012 at 04:35 PM (653 Views)
Here is my last blog about the playoffs series', at least until the 1-game wild cards are done tomorrow.
The Rangers, who looked like the strongest team in the West (and probably in the AL) for most of the season, got a rude awakening when the Oakland A's slipped by them to claim the AL West Championship, which leaves them to deal with the Orioles, who are a Cinderella team in their own right. Playing in one of the stronger divisions in the AL, and one of the strongest in the Majors, the Orioles really hung with the Yanks through the whole season, only losing the chance to possibly claim the division title on the second-to-last day of the season.
Everyone knows about the Rangers offense. Hamilton was challenging Miggy for the HR title with three to play, Beltre was solid for most of the season, and everybody was contributing. In 7 games between the two clubs, the Orioles went 2-5 and was outscored 56-24. Yeah, so it was either the hitting cranking on the pitching, or...I don't even know. So, just because of that, the Rangers are (in my book anyway) kinda expected to jump all over the Orioles, especially with the Rangers looking to avenge the last two years' depressing endings. In the stat department, the Rangers this year have Beltre, Hamilton, Cruz, and Napoli, all of whom have hit over 20 HR, with Beltre hitting 30+ and Hamilton 40+. While that is impressive, the Orioles also have big boppers, as they had five players this year get over 20 HR: Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, Matt Weiters, and J.J. Hardy, with Davis and Jones both hitting 30+.
The Rangers have absolutely abused Orioles pitching this year, and I don't see this as not continuing tomorrow, as the Rangers cling to their hopes of reaching their third straight World Series
Despite the recent, and somewhat inexplicable, play of Josh Hamilton in center field (contract pressure getting to him?), the Rangers have a really good fielding team (why wouldn't they, with Wash as their head coach.) They are in the top 5 in fielding percentage, have committed the 4th fewest errors in all baseball (85), are fairly middle of the pack in SB allowed, are near the bottom in catching runners stealing, are 5th highest in SB%, and are middle of the pack again in passed balls and wild pitches. The Orioles, never really known as a defense-first team, are in the bottom third in fielding percentage, are in the top 1/2 in errors, are 3rd to last in SB allowed and stolen base % (mostly because of Weiters behind the plate) but somehow are in the bottom half in caught stealings.
The Orioles don't have people steal on them much, but when they do, they are really good at cutting them down as they have one of the better catchers in the AL on their team. The Rangers have a much better fielding team overall (Beltre, Hamilton, and even Cruz are perennial contenders for gold gloves) and have Ron Washington, a former infielder in the Bigs, as their manager.
This has been a bit of a shaky spot for Wash's crew this year. Their Japanese import, Darvish, has been shaky all year, but has come on late. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz both have had Tommy John and are out for all of this year and probably part, if not all, of next year. Still, they have gotten good pitching from other sources. Their trade for Ryan Dempster, while initially seemed shaky, has turned into a good one. Matt Harrison, Darvish, and Holland lead the team in starts and wins, so they have survived with a moderately good bullpen. The Orioles, on the other hand, have what is probably the shakiest rotation in the postseason, even shakier than the A's almost-all rookie rotation. They have exactly one pitcher who has more than 10 wins (Wei-Yin Chen, at 12). They have three starters who have started more than 10 games with an ERA under 4. Their bullpen is their saving grace. They have very few pitchers in there who have an ERA over 3.50, and their relief staff has accounted for over 30 wins.
Both teams have had their troubles with their starting staff, but the Rangers have just had better years from more pitchers
The Rangers are really the clear bet to take in this game, but don't count out the Orioles. Despite playing in a very tough division, they found a way to win enough games just to get here.
Prediction: Rangers win an unexpected pitchers duel and move on to face the Yanks in Arlington.
Here are the posts to my previous predictions of the set matchups in this year's playoffs:
Braves vs. Cards: http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php?1987-Playoffs-pt-2
Giants vs. Reds: http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php?1975-Playoffs-pt-1
Tigers vs. A's: http://twinsdaily.com/entry.php?1989-Playoffs-pt-3
P.S. Don't take these predictions as what is going to happen. This is just what I, a baseball fan at heart, believe what will happen. Any money you may bet and lose as a result of these posts is your own fault. If you want an expert's opinion on what they opine is going to happen, hop over to ESPN.com with an Insider's pass to read to your heart's content.