MLB Predictions: Handicapping the Texas Rangers Down the Stretch
by Trevor Whenham - 8/13/2010
The Texas Rangers are in a very interesting spot right now. It’s the middle of August, they are up by 7.5 games in the division, they are playing decent baseball, and neither of the two teams chasing them - the Angels and the A’s - seem to be built for a menacing stretch run. Anything can happen in baseball but Texas is in a pretty confortable spot.
None of the other leaders in the division have a lead of more than 2.5 games. The Yankees are the closest to the Rangers in terms of playoff stability - they have a 1.5-game lead on the Rays and a 6.5-game lead over the second place team in the Wild Card race if it came to that. They still have something to play for, though - the incentive to stay ahead of the Rays in the standings and keep the home field through the AL playoffs is high.
Texas is far more in limbo - they are far enough ahead that they aren’t likely to get caught, but far enough behind the Yankees that they can’t likely improve their overall standing in the league too much.
That all makes the Rangers an interesting handicapping puzzle down the stretch. Can they keep their focus strong and their motivation high? Will they play their best down the stretch, or will they look to save themselves for the playoff? How will their security affect them? It seems to me that there are at least four types of questions we can ask about teams in a situation like this to determine what their mindset may be:
How are they performing against the strongest opponents? - There are two things you can tell about a team based on how they play their strongest opponents - how serious they are, and how good they are playing right now. With Texas, for example, I will be much more interested in their series down the stretch with the Yankees and Rays than in their trip to Baltimore and their two series against the Mariners. Against the Yankees this week they got a relatively lousy outing from their ace and the bullpen imploded to hand the game to the Yankees. That doesn’t do a lot to build confidence. Texas needs to continue to play with the swagger that got them to where they are, and they certainly didn’t in that loss.
Are the stars playing? Are they playing like stars? - The obvious indicator of decreased effort from a team, and the easiest to spot, is if the centerpieces of the team aren’t playing. They aren’t likely to sit out for long stretches unless they are hurt, but the alarms should go off for you if the big players are taking more days off than they typically would, or if they are being pulled out of games before they end with regularity. If the best players aren’t playing all of the time then the team likely is more concerned about what’s to come than what is happening right now, and that’s an obvious issue for bettors. If they are playing regularly then it’s important to take a look at how they are performing recently compared to how they have been performing all season. If they aren’t as sharp or effective recently, and they aren’t the only one like that, then it could be a sign that the team isn’t playing like they were, and again that’s not a good thing for bettors. With the Rangers, four of their top five hitters in their order are performing in August well below what they have done in the year.
What other motivations could there be? - For the Rangers there are still a couple of things left to play for. If Josh Hamilton can get his act together again he is certainly in the mix for the AL MVP, and that would be a good honor for the whole team to share in. They could also be inspired to stay ahead of the AL Central leader so that they don’t have to play the AL East winner in the first round of the playoffs. It’s hard to know how much of a motivation those things will be, but the more significant motivations there are, the better the chance that a team will put forward a sincere effort down the stretch, and the better chance that they will be trustworthy to bet on.
Is the team in familiar territory? What has the manager done in the past? - The Yankees are very familiar with being well positioned for the playoffs in August, and very good as well at dealing with the pressures that mount as the playoffs get nearer. The Rangers really aren’t. They are the oldest team in any of the four major leagues to have never appeared in the league championship game or series, and the only current MLB franchise to have never won a playoff series. There is some playoff experience on the roster, but not a whole lot of real success. In general this team is heading into unknown territory, and that’s a good reason to be uneasy.
There’s not a lot of organizational experience, either. Manager Ron Washington played in the pros for most of a decade, but didn’t enjoy much deep success in that time. GM Jon Daniels never played. President Nolan Ryan is a hall of famer and a king among men, but his only World Series appearance - a win, mind you - came in 1969 when he was just 22. The team should be fine as long as their position stays comfortable, but the more tense things get the more concerning the reality becomes.
Most Recent Baseball Handicapping
- 2021 AL Central Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL West Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL East Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 AL West Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL Central Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 AL East Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 Minnesota Twins Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
- 2021 Chicago White Sox Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
- 2021 Detroit Tigers Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
- 2021 Kansas City Royals Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series