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September 30, 2011

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Preview: Rays vs. Rangers

by R.J. Anderson

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Why the Rangers Will Win
Not only did Texas finish the season tied with Boston for the best TAv in the majors, but they also held the second-best Defensive Efficiency, behind—you guessed it—the Rays. Jon Daniels building a bullpen so strong and deep that even Ron Washington cannot manage himself into a corner is just icing on the cake. Texas is a serious threat to return to the World Series.

Why the Rays Will Win
By some measures, the Rangers have the worst rotation in the postseason, while the Rays have one of the best backed by the finest defensive group in the league. The key for Tampa Bay is whether their offense can score enough runs to keep up, and that may depend on how well Joe Maddon massages his bench during the later innings.

The Most Glaring Contrast Between These Teams
No team struck out less often than the Rangers, just as no team had a higher batting average. Conversely, the Rays finished in the bottom third in strikeout rate and 25th in batting average, despite first baseman Casey Kotchman hanging around the batting title race for most of the season. 

Guess the Annoying Cliché the Announcers Will Harp On
Either suggesting that one of these teams play a National League style of ball—because they run the bases well, field well, and steal plenty of bases—or praising Johnny Damon’s and/or Michael Young’s leadership to the point of nausea.

This Probably Won’t Happen But It Could
Tampa Bay could go the entire series without starting Matt Joyce, who had the third-best TAv on the team. The Rays usually benched Joyce versus left-handed pitching, and the Rangers have the capability of using a lefty starter in each game of a five-game series. More likely, though, is that Maddon decides Joyce is a better bet to produce than Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano.

A National Audience Will Learn This About Baseball
That defense can be fun too. These teams were the two more efficient at turning balls in play into outs, and they have the star appeal—like Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Desmond Jennings—to leave fans buzzing about splendid glove work even if the games are low-scoring.

Game One Matchup
C.J. Wilson was on tap to start for the Rangers the whole way, and for good reason, as he led Texas in earned run average, Fair Run Average, and FIP. Meanwhile, the Rays have decided to roll the dice with Matt Moore, who has just one major-league start under his belt (a five-inning outing against the Yankees that saw him strike out 11 batters, walk one, and allow four hits and no runs).

Game Two Matchup
Texas intends to open this series with three straight southpaws, and the second man up is Derek Holland. After a so-so start, Holland finished the season strong, striking out 88 batters and allowing 89 hits over his final 98 innings pitched. Tampa Bay will counter with the league’s leader in complete games and the man with the nickname of “Big Game James,” James Shields.

Game Three Matchup
Expect to see Matt Harrison make the start for Texas in Game Three, completing the Rangers’ lefty trifecta. Harrison finished the season with the second-best Wins Above Replacement Player score on Texas’ staff. Harrison’s opposition could be Jeremy Hellickson or David Price, depending on where the Rays stand at that point in the series.

 Series Prediction
Last year, the Rangers knocked off the higher-seeded Rays in five games. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the same result in the same length, as the Rangers appear to be the better overall team, although anything can happen in October.   

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Matt Harrison

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Why wouldn't Maddon massage his starters in addition to his bench?

Sep 30, 2011 07:21 AM
rating: 0

In past years, I really appreciated the statistical tables comparing the lineups, starting pitchers, relievers, and bench players. I also thought discussion of postseason roster decisions was a bonus. This bullet point style is great, but is there any chance of heartier analysis before the series starts?

Sep 30, 2011 07:25 AM
rating: 8


Sep 30, 2011 08:49 AM
rating: 4

I have to agree, the posts you have traditionally run for the post-season match-ups, with the tables comparing the line-ups, benchss, starters/relievers, was one of my favorite things to look forward to all year. This format would be a nice addition, but please post something similar to the last few years.

Sep 30, 2011 08:33 AM
rating: 3

While this is a fun little "Viewer's Guide" type deal for each playoff series, this is more than a little underwhelming compared to the meticulous analysis of each series in years past.

Sep 30, 2011 09:05 AM
rating: 4

If Moore is good enough to start Game 1 of the freaking playoffs why did it take so long to bring him to the bigs?

Sep 30, 2011 11:01 AM
rating: 1
Owen Green

Based on the lede I was looking forward to a discussion of the merits of Moore as the game one starter.

Sep 30, 2011 11:04 AM
rating: 1

Yes, I can get this type of superficial bullet-point commentary from any number of sources. And the "teaser" headline that the article would analyze the merits of Moore as starter was deceptive.

I normally wouldn't post to criticize this - and the article itself isn't bad, just lacking depth of analysis. But this type of mediocrity seems to have become more common on BP - superficial content, misleading headlines, personal opinion over factual analysis. What happened to editorial standards around here ?

Sep 30, 2011 12:30 PM
rating: 0

I totally agree. I just read analysis on another site (a free site) that blew this one away. Of course, the other site had Jonah Keri and Rany writing.

Sep 30, 2011 23:29 PM
rating: 2

I lived for the "old" Playoff Prospectus. I know it's hard to do, but it was a real differentiating factor for the site.

Sep 30, 2011 12:33 PM
rating: 4
Mike Juntunen

I found the old playoff prospectus!

It's on Grantland for free written by .. Jonah Keri and Rany Jazayerli!

Oct 01, 2011 17:28 PM
rating: 0

Six years after leaving Boston, Johnny Damon gives Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

Sep 30, 2011 14:55 PM
rating: 0

Tampa is just fearless. Could you see the Yankees or Red Sox starting a rookie in Game 1?

Sep 30, 2011 17:05 PM
rating: 2

Yankees are starting Ivan Nova in Game 1, 3rd Inning

Oct 01, 2011 09:11 AM
rating: 1

Ouch. Left yourself open for that one. Shoulda said starting a rookie in his 2d major league game. ( hate it when Yankees score even rhetorical points!)

Oct 01, 2011 11:31 AM
rating: 1
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Regular-Season Awards (09/30)
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