The two best teams in the second half meet up in a surprisingly lopsided matchup.
Back on July 27th, the Blue Jays and Rangers were both in third place and more than seven games out in their divisions. The following day, the Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki; a few days later, the Rangers secured Cole Hamels; then, right before the deadline, the Blue Jays struck again, landing David Price. The flurry of big-name additions helped these teams do more than grab headlines. From thereon they compiled the best records in the American League, posting a collective 84-42 mark—equal to a 108-win pace over an entire season. Those runs were good enough for both teams to overcome the odds and steal their divisions. Now they'll match up for the right to advance to the ALCS.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The last playoff battle is a good one, and got tighter still on Thursday.
The Thursday Takeaway
The 2015 season has been filled with unpredictability. The Nationals collapsed. The Mets clinched the NL East with a week and a half to go in the season. The Blue Jays became a super team. The Royals defied the projections and have had the AL Central in the bag for a couple of months. The Twins are still playing meaningful games!
Prince Fielder is hitting .300 and helping lead the Rangers to the postseason.
Prince Fielder isn't the slugger he once was, but he's still managing to be very productive, transforming himself into a contact hitter with some pop. Fielder has also contributed to the Rangers loose clubhouse and dugout atmosphere, providing moments of levity for all to enjoy. Over at BP Milwaukee, Jack Mooretakes a look at the impact Fielder has had on and off the field.
The Rangers are exceeding expectations. Where did the expectations go wrong?
In our preseason predictions piece, 45 of us tried to forecast the 2015 season. Not one of us thought the Texas Rangers would finish first in the AL West. That’s okay; they’re three games out and the Astros are still likely to hold them off. There also wasn’t a brave enough soul to predict that Texas would finish second in the division. Alright, they’re three and a half games clear of the Angels, but that still might not be enough cushion. The thing is, only one of the 45 of us (Bret Sayre, cheers) even had the audacity to suggest that the Rangers could finish third. Sixty percent of this staff of so-called experts had the Rangers finishing last. Instead, they wake up Monday morning with a game and a half to spare for the second Wild Card spot, at 68-61 and riding a four-game winning streak.
Were we wrong about the Rangers? About the Royals? About the Twins? That’s the question we’re here today to answer. (If we were wrong about those three teams, of course, we were also wrong about the Red Sox, Mariners, and Nationals, but we’ll explore the reasons for that wrongness—or innocent victimization at the hands of the universe—another time.) It’s perfectly possible, of course, to not foresee something simply because it couldn’t be foreseen. There’s no blame there. Some things happen simply because anything can happen, and not because they were likely to happen all along. Then again, there are cases every season in which we really, truly should have taken a little longer to understand a team a little better, and where if we had, we might have forecast their seasons better.
In 2000, when Alex Rodriguez was a free agent, Scott Boras did something amazing that we just don't appreciate enough.
On Sunday, Darren Rovell tweeted a handful of pages from the free agent binder that Scott Boras put together for a 25-year-old Alex Rodriguez. As most of us around here tend to be projections junkies, surely you’ll find this page particularly interesting:
Sign all the Latin America shortstops, figure out the positions later.
Every day until Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus authors will preview two teams—one from the AL, one from the NL—identifying strategies those teams employ to gain an advantage. Today: the shortstop factories of the Braves and Rangers.