Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

AL West preview: Texas Rangers

OK, time for the "other" team in the AL West, the Texas Rangers.

2004 Record: 89-73

Significant Additions:

Sandy Alomar, C
Pedro Astacio, RHP
Greg Colbrunn, 1B
Richard Hidalgo, OF

Significant Subtractions:

Rusty Greer, OF
Jeff Nelson, RHP
Brian Jordan, OF
Jay Powell, RHP
Eric Young, IF/OF

A team that seemed to be content to stand pat, let their young players get one year older, let their hitters take the next step in what should be a special lineup, and let their pitchers take the next step in what should be a "special" rotation. Seriously, John Hart must see something in that rotation that I do not. But more on that later. Let's get to the analysis.

Possible starting rotation: Ryan Drese, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park, Chris Young, and Pedro Astacio (if healthy)

Possible bullpen: Francisco Cordero (closer), Carlos Almanzar, Doug Brocail, Ron Mahay, Ben Shouse, etc.

Can you say "weak link"? Nothing special about this rotation, which is why I consider it strange how many pundits really like this Texas squad. Ryan Drese is a solid starter IF he continues the growth he exhibited last year. That is not a sure conclusion, as Seattle fans have witnessed in the regress of Gil Meche and Ryan Franklin. Let us say for the moment that he remains a solid starter. Is he a #1 starter in a rotation? Definitely not. That is an even easier question to answer then Joel Piniero. Next up is Kenny Rogers, who visited the magical Fountain of Youth last year (18-9, 4.76) and would be hard-pressed to duplicate those numbers. Expect a record closer to the .500 mark with an ERA over 5. Next up is Chan Ho Park. Need I say more? Injured often, inconsistent when healthy. Chris Young has had a nice spring (3.86 ERA) but is young. Finally, Pedro Astacio is solid when healthy, but also has a nasty habit of getting injured. Just a rotation that should not scare anyone. They will allow a team to have a modicum of confidence entering every game, knowing that the pitcher could easily have an off day, allowing the opposing team to have a field day. The rotation, as always, will not be helped by hitting-friendly Arlington, where balls just fly. As for the bullpen, it will be better than the travesties the Rangers would put out a few years ago. Cordero will be good if he can stop flinging chairs at people. Everyone else? *Shrug*

Gavin: Can't agree with Colin more on this pitching staff. Ryan Drese as your ace? Please. He was mediocre the second half of last season. Kenny Rogers did discover the fountain of youth. Can an old pitcher who relies on location continue? We're hoping Moyer can... and he doesn't pitch half of his games in the bandbox of Arlington. Chan Ho Park is Chan Ho Park. He's not going to become an All-Star after years of being the worst overpaid pitcher in the league. Chris Young is a nice question mark. Pedro Astacio... there's a reason he hasn't stayed with any team. I do think the bullpen might be nice... the Rangers have stockpiled some good relievers out of all their failed starters, and Cordero may be one of the best closers in the game. Still, this is a major weakness of this team, and will never allow for a prolonged winning streak.

Possible starting lineup:

One word: GREAT!!

Rod Barajas, C: A nice defensive player who works well with the pitchers. Hitting wise? Nothing special. However, it seemed as if he was always on against the M's last year. Of course, who wasn't?

Gavin: I like Barajas quite a bit... he's like Dan Wilson, except he can actually hit.

Hank Blalock, 3B: This guy is incredible. Works the count, can hit to all fields with power, left-handed, just special. If Texas makes a run, it will be largely due to Blalock along with...

Gavin: This is the first in a long line of impressive youngsters. Talk about a murderers row, the Twins are the only team who have had a more impressive run in churning out hitting talent. Blalock is special... and kills the M's.

Michael Young, SS: Just a great leader who has worked himself into a wonderful hitter as well. He will do whatever the team needs, whether that is a single, a sac-fly, a stolen base, or a home run. I wish the M's had a team full of Michael Young's.

Gavin: I like Michael Young quite a bit. He's worked himself into an impressive player. If he's able to continue to improve, he may end up getting better stats than Jeter.

Alfonso Soriano, 2B: Should have another 40/40 year, which is special. He loses value with his defense, which allows more baserunners then a 2nd baseman should. Will he learn the value of the walk? Remains to be seen.

Gavin: I am on and off with Soriano. His power and speed are undeniable, and in Arlington those skills will be amplified. However, there are major holes in his swing, his defense is terrible, and his OBP is sub-par. Still, one of the best second basemen in the league.

Mark Teixeira, 1B: Man, this line-up is killer! Here is ANOTHER hitter who should continue to improve and, probably, get 100 RBIs. Also another hitter who was deadly against the M's.

Gavin: Murderer's row, I'm telling you. Could be the best fantasy first baseman in the league. Their infield is insane. Blalock, Young, Soriano, and Teixeira. Is there a better offensive set?

Kevin Mench, LF: Finally a below-average hitter. He is a hustler who can produce, but after moving through the rest of the lineup, the pitcher can rest at least a little.

Gavin: Now we get to the outfield, where they start to throw out some sub-par talent, starting with Mench. They seem to like Mench, who essentially is Bloomquist with a bit more pop and a little less defense. Personally, I could do without.

Laynce Nix, CF: People are going a little sour on this prospect as his hitting and fielding have both declined. If he can turn it around he will add to the young lineup in a big way.

Gavin: Can he come back? I'm not sure.

Richard Hidalgo, RF: The one question mark in this lineup. The Rangers can expect anything from 50 to 100 RBI's from this inconsistent hitter, as any Astros fan can attest.

Gavin: Look for a comeback season from Hidalgo. He is the question mark, like Colin said.

Wow. I know I posted earlier that the Angels lineup was the best in the division, but the Rangers are an extremely close 2nd. Contact and power hitters abound, with excellent role players ready to step up if the stars falter. If they continue their growth and remain healthy, the Rangers should be in contention for a large part of the season. Will they be enough to carry the Rangers into the playoffs? Not with that rotation. I admit, I was extremely surprised that Hicks and Hart did not go after a few veteran pitchers in the off-season. A Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, or even a Kevin Millwood could have caused the stock of this team to really rise. In the end I expect a very similar season to 2004, with the Rangers ending with about 86-88 wins.

Gavin: I disagree with Colin, as I did with the Angels. This is easily the best lineup in the division, filled with young talent that still hasn't hit its peak. Far fewer question marks than the Angels have. However, I see way too much of the 1998 Mariners in them. Power hitters up and down the board... and absolutely no consistent pitching. They got lucky last year, thought Buck Showalter did it all. No, Orel Hershiser got the pitchers to completely overachieve. Can he pull it off again? I don't think so. I pick them for 78-83 wins.

posted by colin_hesse @ 5:56 PM  0 comments

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