When you peer in the annals of postseason success, you will not find the Texas Rangers franchise. The Rangers enjoyed a brief run at the playoffs when they won three division titles in four years from 1996 to 1999. But in those three playoff appearances the Rangers have just one win. And that’s it in their history. One playoff win dating back to their inaugural season in 1961 as the Washington Senators. Not exactly the New York Yankees. Hell, not even the Florida Marlins.

That’s why it’s a story in 2010 to see the Rangers at 39-28 and first place in the AL West, two games and half games ahead of the Angels. They are on a six-game winning streak and are 9-1 in their last 10. After two consecutive second-place finishes, are the Rangers ready to dethrone the Angels and get back to the postseason? I think they are.

How are they winning this year? They’ve had great hitting teams for years, but this year they are pitching well and pretty much doing everything right. A quick search through team stats with everything from ERA and runs scored to every split and situational stat you can find, this team is pretty much near the top of the list. I think their greatest reason for success this year is the fact that they build a big lead early in the game and then let their bullpen close the door. They have the best batting average through the first six innings in the American League with a .287 mark and second only to Boston with 264 runs. The Rangers are jumping out the gate on teams and then shutting them down with a bullpen that features one of the best young arms in the game.

Neftali Feliz is only in his second season in the majors, but he’s been the main man for Texas with 18 saves a 2.97 ERA and 10.1 K/9. The bullpen goes from a 22-year-old in Feliz to a 39-year-old in Darren Oliver, who has been just as impressive in setup posting a 1.44 ERA and a 5.29 K/BB ratio. Frank Francisco, Chris Ray and Darren O’Day round out a very solid AL bullpen.

Overall, the pitching has been stellar as Texas ranks fourth in the AL with a 4.05 ERA. The decision to move CJ Wilson to the rotation looks brilliant so far as he’s 5-3 with a 3.48 ERA and two complete games already this season. Like Wilson, the Rangers are getting solid innings from other pitchers they drafted: Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland have all been effective this season. Having veteran Rich Harden back off the DL will only help this team’s depth down the stretch.

So the Rangers are pitching well this year and everyone already knows about the offense. They are doing it again too. Texas is second in the AL with a .277 average, fourth in runs scored with 345, sixth in home runs, fourth in stolen bases, fifth in on-base percentage, etc. They are doing well in just about everything offensive category.

Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero have provided the pop with 31 homers combined. What a pickup Vlad has been for Texas. He’s currently hitting .331/.368/.563 at the DH position. Michael Young (did he officially go to Mike Young?) is a doubles machine, Elvis Andrus has found a home as the leadoff hitter with 19 steals, Justin Smoak has provided some pop with seven homers in his rookie season and the scary part is Ian Kinsler has yet to get going since missing a month to start the season. He has only one long ball in 44 games this year, but you have to think his surge is right around the corner. Once he gets going and joins in on the action, this team will be tough to slow down.

I’m worried about their chances should they reach the playoffs because right now they lack that true ace that can carry a team in a series. It’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers do at the deadline to see if they add a veteran starter to be that guy for them in the second half. Texas is 13-5 against its own division opponents so far and that’s always a good sign. With the Mariners down and out and the A’s annually hovering around .500, I still believe the Rangers will beat out the Angels for the division and reach the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history.

Advertisements