A brief look at an opponent we'll be playing this weekend.
Dates we play them: 5/1-5/3 @ Texas, 5/8-5/10 at home
Offense: A potential lineup: Ian Kinsler-2B, David Murphy-LF, Michael Young-3B, Hank Blalock/Andruw Jones-DH, Marlon Byrd-CF, Nelson Cruz-RF, Chris Davis-1B, Jarrod Saltalamacchia-C, Elvis Andrus-SS. Bench players: Omar Vizquel-INF, Taylor Teagarden-C
The first thing you probably noticed with my potential lineup is a strange lack of Josh Hamilton. Everybody's hero from last year's home run derby (despite the fact that he lost to a Canadian) is most likely going on the DL with hurt ribs, so we may not even see him and his glorious tattoos. Ian Kinsler is the shit. Seriously. When Gordon Beckham gets to the majors, I would like him to be Ian Kinsler. Kinsler was worth 5.7 WAR last season, and is currently tied for second in the AL in batting value wins, sharing the mountain top with guys who will always get more attention than him, even though he is doing this as a second baseman. David Murphy is a solid option to have in the outfield now that Hamilton might be out for a while. While he'll probably never be an All-Star, he was worth two wins last year and comes in as the fourth or fifth outfielder. Not a bad situation for the Rangers, and all it took to get him was Eric Gagne. Michael Young and his terrible Gold Glove defense have mercifully been moved to third base. His defense hasn't been that great yet, but its still early and seeing as they massively over-paid for him and don't have much in the pipes at third, he's probably going to be there a while. The two-headed monster of Hank Blalock and Andruw Jones is the current DH. Both are having nice rebounds so far, but Blalock isn't walking (.284 OBP) and Jones isn't playing much (39 PA) so who knows how long this could last.
Not so shockingly, coming to Texas has saved Marlon Byrd from becoming a AAAA player, the baseball equivalent of becoming a habitual felon. I'm not giving the credit to the stadium though, but to the best hitting coach in baseball. Byrd has cut his K rate each season and seems to have finally figured out that hitting thing that confused him in the NL. Nelson Cruz is another outfielder who seemed doomed to the same fate. SSH's favorite hitter, Cruz strikes out at an alarming rate (25.9% for his career) but has legitimate power which should keep him around for a little while longer at least. Chris Davis is a young masher whose presence allowed the Rangers to trade Mark Teixeira to the Braves for a crap-load of talent. Davis absolutely crushes the ball, but the 23 year old needs to learn to walk as his career could end quickly if he doesn't improve on his terrible BB/K of .2. Justin Smoak is waiting in the minors and will probably be ready next season. No pressure or anything. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the original big name in the aforementioned Tex trade. Salty hasn't exactly been everything the Ranger's hoped for, but he is around league-average and only 24 years old, so he has plenty of room to grow. And if he doesn't, its not a big deal as the Rangers have a reservoir of catching depth in the minors. Elvis Andrus was another key part of that trade. The 20 year old already plays phenomenal defense, the only question is will he develop the bat to go with it. The Rangers signed Omar Vizquel, who is over twice as old as Andrus, as insurance and to be a mentor to the young shortstop. Oh yeah, and Andrus is somehow the first major league baseball player named Elvis. Hail to the king, baby.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Kevin Millwood-RHP, Vicente Padilla-RHP, Brandon McCarthy-RHP, Matt Harrison-LHP, Scott Feldman-RHP, Frank Francisco-RHP
Few things have been as terrible as the Rangers pitching over the last few years (though Organic Chemistry and Business Calc come close). Understandably so, they've become a rather easy joke. Kevin Millwood has somehow managed to pitch 38 amazing innings (225 ERA+) without dying or having a limb fall off. I really don't expect him to be able to keep this up though, as his .220 BABIP is about .087 points lower than usual. Sadly, it gets even worse after him. Vicente Padilla is a douche bag who has been teetering on the brink of "meh" for a few years now. He's off to a terrible start and nothing would make me happier than if we got to keep that going. The odds of him not throwing a pitch at A.J. are about as good as the odds of A.J. throwing someone out. Ah, Brandon McCarthy. B-Mac is probably my favorite former prospect of ours, mostly because of how terrible that trade went for the other team. Brandon throws a mediocre fastball and gets hurt. Often. Matt Harrison is left-handed and gets groundouts. He was also a part of the Tex trade, but not a very important one. Scott Feldman will probably step in for Kris Benson and do just as badly but without providing the smoking hot and crazy wife. Frank Frank could be pitching for us, but we decided we needed Carl Everett in 2003. Francisco is pitching well, but will forever be remembered as that guy who threw a chair at a fan. There is hope for the pitching staff, as the Rangers finally have some good defensive players. The future looks very bright as well, with Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland right around the corner.
Outlook: The Rangers are another team whose future looks a lot brighter than the present. The number one farm system in baseball looks like it could finally produce some good pitching that Daniels hopefully won't foolishly trade away again, dooming the team to more mediocrity. The AL West could be wide open this year, so I wouldn't be shocked if the Rangers somehow won it. That being said, I love our chances against them. Sox win the season series 4-2. I just wish this wasn't from last season.