Much has been made of the Texas Rangers dominance so far this season. While most baseball prognosticators believed the team to be one of the best in baseball, few would have suggested that by the mid point of May, Texas would be enjoying an eight game lead in the standings of the American League West division over the Los Angeles Angels.
And yet, here we are:
Now, that probably says just as much about how disappointing baseball in Anaheim has been this year as it does about the quality of the Rangers, but the point still stands that the Rangers are really good. With the second best record in the league and a run differential that isn’t even close to being matched by any other club, it would be difficult to argue that any team in baseball has been more impressive at this point in the year.
Nonetheless, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs gave a spirited effort suggesting that the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are, if not the Rangers superior, than certainly their equal.
I like the exploration of contrary ideas. It keeps us on our toes and hopefully forces us to examine and question our own opinions from a new perspective. And suggesting that St. Louis is better than Texas, while having actual evidence to back such a claim up, certainly succeeds at this.
Of course, when we say that one team is better than another, we seldom mean that the players on one team have better statistics than the players on another team. While the numbers to date are certainly a part of our opinion, it’s more likely that we actually mean the true talent of the players on one team is better than the true talent of the players on the other. Certainly, current statistics influence our judgment of the true talent in our minds, but there’s also the element of past accomplishments informing our beliefs about capabilities, as well.
So, to this I would point out that with Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay going on the Disabled List, the only team considered close in class to the Rangers will be sending Shane Robinson out as their starting center fielder for the next couple of weeks.
By contrast, and this is rather remarkable, the active roster of the Texas Rangers still has the exact same 25 players on it right now as it did when the team broke from its Spring Training camp in Arizona. There have been no changes.
When comparing the Cardinals and the Rangers, it’s easy to point out that just as Texas has kept its players on the field, St. Louis has had to suffer through injuries and use players like Robinson. Good for the Cardinals for getting the most out of their back ups, but that’s not something that should automatically count against the Rangers.
While certainly, an element of luck is involved in avoiding injuries, that doesn’t mean that we can’t give at least a little bit of credit to Ron Washington, a manager who has received more than his fair share of shit from us in the past, for keeping the roster fresh and doling out playing time in a manner that’s managed to avoid serious injuries from falling upon any of his star players. And perhaps even extend more credit to the front office of the Rangers, as it would be foolish to assume that the ongoing health of the team’s players is mere coincidence.
Consider this: Last year, the Rangers’ five man rotation started 157 of the team’s 162 regular season games. The five remaining starts went to two other pitchers. This team is something special, not only in terms of their talent on the field, but also their durability.