Last year the Texas Rangers were a real surprise as they won the AL West. It wasn't easy, though - they came out on top by only two games. This year the expectations were high - win totals indicated that they should be able to at least match last year's effort. Well, so far they have not only matched what came before but moved to a whole new level. They have the second-best record in all of baseball and a massive 10-game lead in their division. Oddsmakers are giving them serious respect, too - they are the second choice towin the World Series at +650at BetOnline, behind only the Cubs at +300.
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So, how are they doing it? And what does it mean for bettors?
The risks of clinching in June: The Rangers have a 10-game lead over the Astros and another game over Seattle. It is June and they have all but clinched their division. It could certainly fall apart, of course, but given their strength and the weakness of their rivals - the Astros are the only other team over .500, and that's just by one game - it seems unlikely. When a team has a lead this big and this stable you have to worry about their focus and intensity. They know that they can falter for quite a long time and still maintain their playoff position. They also know that they can't keep the pedal to the metal all season and be at their best in the playoffs - they need time to rest and prepare. The trick for the leadership of this team is to manage their needs without undermining their goals.
The rotation: If I had a worry about this team coming into the season, it was the rotation. I was sure it would be decent, but I wasn't at all sure it would be good enough. So far, though, I have been wrong. It isn't spectacular like the Cubs, but it has been more than solid. Only three teams have allowed fewer runs in the American League than Texas. They aren't dominating teams, but they have a rotation that can win. They have 46 quality starts in 73 games, so they are delivering as needed. Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis have both been particularly good as they need to be, and they have exhibited some decent depth. There is the potential for an upgrade along the way, too. Yu Darvish came back for three games in early June and he looked pretty solid. He landed back on the DL with shoulder issues, but if he can shake those he could be a big boost to the rotation down the stretch. Is this the best rotation out there? Not by a long shot. It's good enough to win their division, though - and a shortened playoff rotation could be fine, too.
The bats: Last year only the Jays and Yankees outscored the Rangers. They aren't producing at quite that level this year - five teams are outscoring them now. They are still doing well enough to succeed, though. The best part of what they are doing is that it just doesn't feel like it is unsustainable. There isn't a guy who is performing at a level that is beyond what seems reasonable. There are still issues, though. Most significantly, Prince Fielder is a totally washed up mess who is a total liability. They need to get him out of the lineup in a hurry and find someone who can provide more production in his spot - which most people in the stands could do at this point.
The man in charge: Jeff Banister took over before last season, and he immediately was named manager of the year in his first season. If anything he has been even better this year. He may not be the best manager in the entire league, but he certainly fits the squad he has as well as any manager out there. He's a major asset to this team.
Betting performance: The Rangers are by far the best betting team so far this season - it's not even close. Betting $100 per game on the moneyline would have you up over $2700 on the season - more than a thousand dollars more than the second-best team. They have been a betting dream so far. They have produced massive profits on both the road and at home, too, and they are very profitable on the runline as well. The over is at 37-33 on the season, though, so the betting success has not extended to the totals.
Schedule: Maybe the biggest issue for the team is that they can't play every game in their division. They have already played 39 games against the AL West - more than half of the 76 they will play all year. They are 26-13 so far in division. That is a huge reversal from last season when they won 88 games and the division despite going just 36-40 against the AL West. This is the single biggest indicator of improvement we have seen.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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