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Friday, September 25, 2015

Here are we...and yander yawns October.



Lets make it red 'caps' for our purposes here. Haha...



Before we begin, Rangers fans. Allow me to unlock the 162+ Vault...

 



August 1, 2014


"...these 2014 Rangers get a chance to not rebuild, but reload. Remember the 2012 Red Sox? They lost 93 games due to injuries and other issues and a year later they were World Series Champions."

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


"This team is still flawed. Its only real right handed power bat is an aging Adrian Beltre. We have no true Ace...again (Cole Hamels??). The bullpen is next to last in ERA and has the 3rd most blown saves in the AL.."





Just going to leave those right there. Haha...



So, the date is July 19th and I have tickets to a Rangers/Astros game. I don't end up going and luckily so because Cy Young favorite (I suppose) Dallas Keuchel goes 7 strong and strikes out a career high 13 in a 10-0 shutout/beating of the Rangers as the Astros take 2 of 3 in the series. This was a home start and win for Keuchel (remember this combination). The Rangers fall to a dismal 43-48 on this particular afternoon, but it felt like something of a fire was lit under this forced 'rivalry' and this team that weekend, ostensibly due to the 'always' truculent Rougned Odor....








The Astros would reach their high water mark of 14 games over .500 for the 2nd time this season (and 8 games ahead of the Rangers) on August 2nd, a mere 3 days after the Rangers traded for Cole Hamels, and 4 days after this debacle...



We were winning 5-0!!






Lets re-open the 162+ Vault again to May this time (when the Astros were 11 over), Rangers fans...



"...you have to point to a May 4th series against the Astros at Minute Maid. The Astros were riding high and the Rangers were 10 games out when this series began. They would go on to sweep Houston and never looked back for the rest of May..."



Fast forward back to August. So here were the Astros (60-46, the aforementioned high water mark) riding high again ready to deliver the knockout blow to our Rangers, but once again another sweep of those Astros seemed to spark the Rangers season. A series where the Rangers finally got to and above .500, by the way...





It's time to admit the Astros got off to a hot start and just kept their head above water while the majority of the West, full of expectations, performed terribly. The only teams no one expected much from? The Rangers and Astros (especially the Astros haha). Don't believe me? Let's examine...



Here's what the 'experts' predicted...




http://espn.go.com/mlb/preview15/story/_/id/12588378/expert-team-predictions-2015-mlb-season




So, in case you didn't want to count that's 13 'experts' whom had the Mariners winning the West, leaving only 2 choosing the Halos as the West Champs. Let's not stop there, ten of these clowns had the Mariners making it to the World Series with one such prognosticator actually having them winning it all...






Don't believe me when I say those Astros series sweeps sparked our season? Since the May 4th-6th sweep of the Astros? The Rangers have gone 75-53. Astros? 62-66. Since the August 3rd-5th sweep of the Astros? The Rangers have gone 32-16. Astros? 20-27...




Shall we examine further? I read a stat recently (which I've now amended) via Jamey Newberg via Richard Justice which is very telling. The Astros are 21-10 in games started by Cy Young favorite (I guess) Dallas Keuchel. All other games? 59-63. Keuchel is also a dominant 14-0 at the juice box with a 1.47 ERA. Away from home though? 4-8 with a 3.82 ERA...




This actually serves as a bit of a microcosm for the Astros team itself. They have the best home record in the American League at 51-27, but are downright abysmal on the road with a record of 29-46. Only the Marlins have fewer road wins. The Astros have played less than .500 ball (66-70) against the American League. Against their former National League counterparts though? 14-3, the best mark of an AL team...





In summation, what I'm getting at is...when I look at the Astros I see a team who strikes out a ton, knocks the absolute cover off the ball when they do connect (209 HRs, 49 more than the Rangers), and are practically unbeatable at home even more so when their dynamic Ace is pitching. Otherwise they're tantamount to a .500 or so team...





That's not to say your Texas Rangers aren't statistical anomalies themselves. Looking at the numbers irrespective of the win-loss mark you would expect to find a .500 or worse team. Here's an 83 win team with a slim/harmless/uninspiring +9 run differential in September...easily the lowest of any contender in the AL. Just for some perspective, the 75-76 Indians whom are 4 games out of the second Wild Card have a +14 run differential. The Astros are +93 if you were wondering...





Here's a team (the Rangers) near the bottom of the league in ERA and BAA (although according to ESPN.com the Rangers have the 3rd best ERA in the AL since August 3rd). A team continuing a disturbing trend from 2014 of just plain fielding terribly with 110 errors this season (though somehow they've turned the most double plays in the AL). Only the A's (the AL's worst team) have more errors...




What's the adage? Pitching and defense wins championships? If you wanted to play devil's advocate, here's where you could point out the Astros are first in the AL in team ERA and 2nd in fielding...




You could say the lefty heavy Rangers are a slightly above average (yet surging) team on offense. You could say they do all the little things. They're near the top of the league in stolen bases and sacrifices, after all. You could say they're road warriors (44-34) which is what you have to be in October to win in this league...




Even so, they always say your goal in a 162 game season is to play .500 on the road and play your best ball at home. Take division leaders Kansas City and Toronto as exhibits A and B. The Royals are 50-28 at home and 39-35 on the road. The Jays are 50-28 at home. On the road? A dead even 37-37...




Well, the Rangers had been playing terribly at the Ballpark all season. It wasn't until the aforementioned 21-5 beating from the Yankees when we began to turn our fortunes around at home. In fact on this night (July 28th, well into the season) they had the fewest home wins in all the majors (16). Since said loss? The steady Zen like-Rangers have gone 23-6 at home...





You also have to tip your (red) cap to JD for sticking with Yovani Gallardo when he looked like an easy trade asset and for pulling the trigger on the Hamels trade (despite the haul we gave up)...


There went our catcher of the future...


You can't ignore Colby Lewis and his career high 17 wins (first 17 game winner for the Rangers since Scooter Feldman).


Warrior.


You can't ignore what Derek Holland and Martin Perez returning to this rotation has meant if for no better reason than we don't have Wandy Rodriguez, Phil Klein, or Ross Detwiler starting anymore...


...but not without some of Holland's requisite tomfoolery.

You can't ignore the arrivals of Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman (via the Hamels trade) and Shawn Tolleson's 33 saves in the bullpen (Ranger bullpen boasts only 3 blown saves since Aug. 3rd). You can't ignore DeShields and Roogie. You can't ignore the consistent and absolute clutch hitting of Mitch Moreland...





You can't ignore the season Prince Fielder .303/.376/.463 has had...





Or Shin Soo Choo's return to form (.270/.372/.452) after hitting .096 at the end of April. Both of whom were supposed to be major factors a year ago, or so we thought...



http://162plus.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-new-year-prince-and-lots-more-to-choo.html



So...here we have a pair of incongruous playoff contenders in the Rangers and Astros. I mean even now they aren't 'sexy' picks for the postseason. Give us a little spin there, Astros and Rangers, and let's see what you're working with...





Haha. You would think the head-to-head matchups would be more competitive. Yet, all of this and none of this tells the story (so far) of the 2015 Rangers and how they turned it around. I mean, here's a team that won 7 games in April. 7!




Most of the numbers seem to point to early August for this dramatic turnaround, yet once again you have to point to a September 14th home series of 4 against those Astros. The Rangers had finally crawled within 1 game of first place for the first time since our abysmal month of April. So here were the Astros riding high again ready to deliver the knockout blow to our Rangers, but once again another sweep of those Astros seemed to spark the Rangers season. After Prince Fielder crushed a 2 run Homer to break the suspense (and tie) of game 1...


You can almost smell the defeat...


...and Mitch Moreland walked off with a sacrifice fly in game 2...




Rangers fans were able to, at long last, wake up that Wednesday morning to this glorious sight...








Not even Dallas Keuchel survived the Rangers onslaught with a line of 4.2 IP with 11 hits and 9 earned on September 16th. Once again as we've illustrated though...he and the Astros were away from Houston. The Rangers would outscore the Astros 33-13 in the series to take a 2.5 game lead in the West. While we didn't kill the Astros playoff hopes in that series we definitely hurt them...


...really, really bad.

Nevertheless, the Astros headed to Minute Maid and began their final 9 game homestand at 3-3 while the Rangers dropped 2 of 3 at Temple to the M's then swept the A's in 3 at O.co (where the road warrior Rangers averaged nearly 9 runs a game). So, a mere week later the Rangers managed to gain another game on the Astros to bring us where we stand today...




...and if not for a miracle George Springer catch back in May, maybe it's a 4.5 game lead...





As we always say though, it tends to even out over 162. So is the 'rivalry' finally a RIVALRY? Quick history lesson before you answer...


http://162plus.blogspot.com/2013/03/your-opening-series-opponent-yes.html


It's definitely the first time in 14 years that games between these teams have actually meant something beyond bragging rights...


It will never be Dodgers/Giants or Yankees/Red Sox, but anytime you get a team from Dallas and a team from Houston together and put something on the line it's going to be interesting. So, it's time for the biggest series between these two since the last biggest series between them...




The Astros are great at home and reeling. The Rangers are great on the road and rolling. Game 1 is tonight. Scott Kazmir typically owns the Rangers. Yovani Gallardo typically owns the Astros (maybe not so much this season). Something's gotta give. Holland vs. McHugh (17-7 3.93) on Saturday afternoon. Keuchel is a virtual lock pitching at home (as you now know), but hopefully by this Sunday afternoon it will be all for not...







10 games to go...







The 'red' caps are coming!!








Bring on the Astros!!!!








Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Don't Call it a Comeback...



We've been here for years!!


L.L. is symbolically pulling double duty on his classic jam today. For, it is the 'triumphant comeback' of 162+ and in a way the same can be said for your 2015 Texas Rangers as we stand here nearly halfway (numerically) through the season. Though it's been almost 11 months since you've heard from 162+ I trust that the downright dour 2014 Texas Rangers campaign didn't scare you all off altogether...




Perhaps you kept on watching. Perhaps you didn't. You may have even decided to watch reality TV or Youtube instead...



Hopefully you've at least made your way out to the Ballpark this summer or spent some time on the beach or bellyflopped...in pools, that is. Unlike our buddy Prince Fielder...




Haha...I digress. When last we left you, the Rangers were on the fast track to last place whilst trying to avoid a 100-loss season. They were obviously sellers at the deadline...and didn't part with much (or gain much, I suppose) when it was all said and done. Strangely, what turned out to be their biggest departure was that of the most successful Manager in team history, Ron Washington. Now this wasn't quite a Tom Landry/Jimmy Johnson style exit...Wash was 'untrue' to his wife (whatever that means). It was a fairly bizarre turn of events, seemingly out of the blue, that had some speculating whether or not he was forced out by JD. Nevertheless under iterim manager, Tim Bogar, the Rangers avoided the dreaded 100 loss season by finishing 67-95...


We'll take it, I guess.

Not much else you can say to expound on what Wash did for this team: 664–611 (.521) record, four consecutive 90-win seasons (2010–13), and two pennants...


Thanks, Wash.


Now, as we well remember, the narrative for 2014 was of losing and more losing and injury upon injury upon injury. So, with a new meticulously selected Skipper and some injured pieces coming back there was reason to believe 2015 would be different. Then this happened...





...but even more alarming this would happen...






...and then not even a flippin' month into the season...






Here we go again, but no worries, right? The Rangers' offense is healthy again and they'll circle the wagons and pick up the pitching staff. Wrong...




The team posted a team batting average of .210 in April. They scored 75 runs in the entire month. 75! When the calendar turned to May the Rangers were an abysmal 7-14...






Here's a team who averaged right around 15 wins by May 1st since 2010. Hell, they even managed exactly 15 wins last year. You might be asking yourself right now if this was the worst April in team history. Well you would be correct...percentage wise it was. The Rangers managed single-digit-win-Aprils, 6 other times: 2000 (9-15) 1988 (8-13) 1985 (7-12) 1984 (8-14) 1982 (6-11) and 1973 (6-10). None of those teams finished above .500, if you're wondering. So game over, right? Season over. 2014 all over again. Shut the doors on the Rangers...





Now even the most pessimistic Rangers fan would have to admit the only place to go was up from there. This team had to emerge from the darkness at some point...



These Rangers indeed had other plans, it turned out. They ended up staying true to their off season maxim...Never Ever Quit.




I'm going to have to admit this sounded kind of goofy to me when I first heard it, but this team has seemed to have a way of rallying around a simple notion (as do teams in general). The Claw and Antlers and 2010 immediately comes to mind...





Keep meaning to review this DVD for yall. Haha...


Just for fun lets show the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks and their 'slogan' some love...




Moreover, they've rallied around their manager. You want to hear a tale of 'Never Ever Quit'? Read about Jeff Banister's life/career as a ballplayer. It's remarkable...



There's also been a secondary theme to this season, at least to me, of coming home...




Yovani Gallardo grew up in the area. Shawn Tolleson is from Dallas and attended Baylor (we won't hold it against him). Jeff Banister played most of his amateur ball in Texas. Even Wash after his departure managed to make his way back to Oakland...





Lest we forget Josh Hamilton. Oh Josh, the exalted one, as you know by now he made his return to the Rangers (more on him later). We'll save the pejorative remarks about Josh for now...


Sorry, Josh. It's staying upside down, man...


So, what turned this thing around (to paraphrase Jimmy Johnson)?





For starters, you have to point to a May 4th series against the Astros at Minute Maid. The Astros (more on them later too) were riding high and the Rangers were 10 games out when this series began. They would go on to sweep Houston and never looked back for the rest of May. The Rangers have gone 29-17 since, the most wins from any AL West team...




Most of the numbers look unexceptional due to the looming specter of our god awful month of April. They're play better in road greys (22-17) than home whites (15-16) What's encouraging is this team is hitting the long ball again after finishing next to last in the American League last season. We have spoken at length here about this team's power outage since 2012, after all. The offense is top 10. The team era is just under 4.00. They boast a respectable +15 run differential. A holdover from the Wash era has them stealing bases pretty regularly (49, good for 3rd most in the AL). As the 'Globe Life Park' sound system would say, we're 'all about that base'...

 



Globe Life Park? Pfft...


You also cannot understate what a healthy Prince Fielder (.340/.929/.521) has done for this team. Though he's on pace for a modest 25 Homers he leads the team in RBIs (47) and is near the top of the league in said category. Sure, losing Adrian Beltre for 2 weeks has slowed him down a bit...as teams are currently more inclined to intentionally walk him (he has 9 already), but at least for now this is the Prince we were promised. Basically, less of this...




...and more of this.




And this...





Haha.




Lets not forget how steady this rotation has been with Colby, Yovani, Nick Martinez, and a surprising Wandy Rodriguez. Not to mention the rookie Chi Chi Rodriguez and his ridiculous .90 ERA in 4 starts...



Yeah. I know what you're thinking...



Speaking of rookies you have to tip your cap to Rule 5 robbery from the Astros, Delino DeShields Jr. I mean this guy is all hustle and has to be your leadoff hitter when healthy, right?




I'm not ignoring the elephant in the room either, Rangers fans. We simply cannot discuss rookie sensations right now without mention of one Joey Gallo. Last year I spoke about this team's lack of a Superman or He-Man and speculated when and if the kid would ever be ready for the show. Well he's shown he belongs...in flashes (much like we predicted he would)...









It's definitely been feast or famine. Gallo is only hitting .222 along with 5 moonshot HRs. He's struck out 29 times in a mere 18 games (again much like we predicted he would). Even so, the way this season has been going and its (and his) still burgeoning potential, I don't see how you send Gallo back down at this point. Even when Beltre returns we should find a way to get him some at-bats, right?








So, Gallo and Fielder along with an old friend of ours have supplied most of the fireworks/excitement/Superman heroics lately. Which old friend, you ask? Josh freakin' Hamilton. The Angels pretty much gave him to the Rangers for nothing (relatively speaking, in baseball terms)..




I mean, if we think about it logically, we find that Josh has never actually succeeded at a high level anywhere else but Arlington. It stands to reason he would find success here again. Which he did, briefly and dramatically...




Then he did, what Josh does and got hurt and was lost for a month. Josh appears to be enjoying himself and his time back in Texas. He's saying all the right things and for the most part the fans have welcomed him back with open arms. Not say some of us still don't give him tough love...




In reality, this can only be fruitful for the Rangers given the risk taken. It still remains to be seen how the rest of Josh's 2015 with the Rangers will play out though...


Many more of these hopefully...


Soooo...ALL of that having been said, where do we stand today?




Somehow the Rangers have cut the deficit to 3 games and not too long ago had a shot to cut it to 1 game. At best they reached 6 games over .500 but a few tough losses last week...


A freakin' walk off balk...
  ...and over the weekend...


This clown was a defensive sub...

...has us at 37 wins which could easily be 39 or 40 wins. Oh and no, your eyes are not deceiving you, Ranger fans. It's almost July and the Astros are in first place. This isn't bizarro world, I promise...




Just in case you didn't understand it though. Haha...




Me so happy. Me want to cry.


The Astros seem to have arrived a year or two ahead of schedule, if you ask me. Seemingly out of nowhere...


Not quite RKO level outta nowhere though...

...and stunned the baseball world.




Is it as simple as having Nolan Ryan's mere presence in your organization? It certainly appears so..





While I don't expect the Halos or M's to fade away quietly, I don't expect the Astros to keep up this pace either. I'll always keep an eye on those pesky A's (they appear to be putting it together now) no matter what, though they've stumbled out of the gates too...




As usual your best bet is to win your division and I don't see this race getting any easier in the months to come. After all, the Rangers are only 11-17 against West teams though 13 of those losses came in our aforementioned terrible month of April...


That one's for you, AL West. Haha...


It is definitely way too early to peruse Wild Card standings though it doesn't look to be any easier with the Rays, Yanks, Jays, Royals, Twins, O's, and Tigers all looking fairly strong in their divisions...at least right now. I shouldn't have to remind you of our history in that 1 game playoff nonsense baseball has instituted over the last few years...


This doesn't feel like 3 years ago...

I don't mean to get ahead of myself either. This team is still flawed. Its only real right handed power bat is an aging Adrian Beltre. We have no true Ace...again (Cole Hamels??). The bullpen is next to last in ERA and has the 3rd most blown saves in the AL (we're looking at you, Nefty). Even so, guys like Keone Kela and an improving Tanner Scheppers (back in his 8th inning role) are helping matters on that front. Shawn Tolleson and his best friend the changeup have helped to quell some of our fears with the closer situation (10 Saves)...




The Rangers are STILL fielding terribly where we have the second most errors again...another holdover from last season. We appear to have gotten the Prince we were promised, but we're pretty much still waiting on Shin Soo Choo. We've desperately needed him to be a huge contributor and he's struggled mightily on and off... 


About 4 guys combine to do what we purportedly brought Choo in here to do...


So, there's still plenty of room for improvement...and once again...injured starters coming back should give this team a boost (habitually for this team lately) with Beltre, Hamilton, Holland, Martin Perez, DeShields, Kyle Blanks, Neftali Feliz (trade bait?), and Matt Harrison all presumably coming back into the fold soon (are we certain it's not still 2014?). I mean think about the last two years and ask yourself, will this team ever get completely healthy?





Geez. Just imagine where we would be. Anyway, for now we look to close out June with some tough AL West and AL East series and a couple of interleague series before the All-Star Break. You begin to wish this team could have found a way to win at least 3-5 more games back in April and matters would be plenty more interesting right now. As always it tends to even out over 162. Either way plenty of baseball to go, Rangers fans. To paraphrase L.L we're rockin' our peers and puttin' suckas in fear...






Chi Chi on the hill...





7:05




Bring on the A's!!!!