Sunday, October 16, 2011

Power Rangers Returning to the World Series

The Texas Rangers are heading back to the World Series for the second straight year. Before the 2010 season, the Rangers franchise, and that includes the decade they spent as the Washington Senators, had NEVER reached a World Series. But here they are. So how'd they do it?
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In short, a total team effort. ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz has been the big name on offense with his extra inning heroics and postseason records for home runs (6) and runs batted in (13) in a single series, but he hasn't been the only contributor.
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Five other Rangers have at least 5 runs batted in in their 10 playoff games, three other players have scored at least 8 runs, and while the team is only hitting .259, they've been getting big hits at the right time. David Murphy, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler... Heck I might as well name the entire roster. EVERYONE has been pitching in.

Speaking of pitching, we just did a write-up on St. Louis's unconventional starting pitching performances that have them a win away from the World Series. Apparently starting pitching is overrated because the Rangers are advancing to the World Series despite just one quality start (6+ innings, 3 or fewer earned runs) in 10 postseason games. Check it out:

Only Colby Lewis's Game 3 start against the Rays qualified as a quality start. Now there have been some other strong performances in there, i.e. Matt Harrison in both Game 4s, but the Rangers, like St. Louis, would not be in the position they're in right now if not for their bullpen. In particular I want to point the performances by Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz.

Feldman, a 17 game winner in the Rangers rotation back in 2009, missed half of the 2011 season after offseason knee surgery. Now the Rangers long reliever has put together a pair of 3+ scoreless inning performances this postseason, and all together in four postseason appearances he has tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings giving up just 3 hits, walking nobody and striking out 9. His 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief in Game 2 of the ALCS set up Nelson Cruz's walkoff heroics in the 11th.

Ogando started 29 games for the Rangers this year going 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA and made the All Star Team as a starter. However for the playoffs, Ogando returned to the relief role in which he was so good as a rookie in 2010. In this year's postseason, he's been even better. Ogando has appeared in 7 of the Rangers 10 playoff games and in 10 1/3 innings he's allowed just 1 run on 4 hits walking only 2 and striking out 12. He won a pair of games in the ALCS and has 4 holds this postseason.

Finally there's Feliz, the Rangers closer. While he didn't match the 40 saves he had in 2010, he still saved 32 games this year and had a 2.74 ERA. He's in the midst of his second straight strong postseason appearing in 7 games and allowing just 1 run on 3 hits in 7 2/3 innings while saving 4 of the Rangers 7 wins. In Feliz's postseason career he has a 1.20 ERA in 14 appearances spanning 15 innings.

If you put the numbers of those three guys together, you end up with this:

I'll spare you the trouble of doing the math. That's an ERA of 0.68 over a span of 18 appearances. It hasn't been just those three guys either. Mike Adams has a win and four holds, 41 year old Darren Oliver had three holds, lefty Mike Gonzalez has been used effectively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist... As I said, the Rangers are getting contributions from everywhere. And now they once again find themselves just four wins away from their first World Series Title.

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