On a fateful night last week, the Angels held a 10-7 lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning, up two games to none in the series in Arlington, and eventually coughed it up as part of arguably the greatest collapse in all of baseball during the 2012 season. The Rangers won the game 11-10, and saw what was potentially going to be just a 2.0 game lead bounce back up to 4.0, and since, the division lead has ballooned up to 7.0 games on the now third-place Angels. It was a victory dramatic and epic and any other adjective you could conjure up, and for all intense and purposes, it was the last chance the Angels had this season of winning the American League West.
If you were lucky enough to witness the final innings transpire, I imagine you’d understand that this was, in essence, the Texas Rangers you have come to know and love. No, this isn’t the Dave Burba and Ismael Valdez Rangers pitching staff you knew of the middle-2000′s; it was just a classic backyard beat-down where each team produced double digits in runs, but the Rangers had the last laugh.
But what does a 7-game lead mean in August? Should we be worried about Oakland sustaining their run of success?
First, we must understand the logistics of a full-season baseball schedule. Being that the Rangers are again 20 games over .500 (65-45), we are past the two-third’s point in the baseball season. The Rangers have 52 games to go; the second-place Athletics 51; the third-place Angels just 50.
If the Rangers played .500 ball for the rest of the season (26-26), they would finish the season with a record of 91-71. For the A’s to win the division, they would need to go 32-19 (.627); for the Angels to win the division, they would need to go 33-17 (.660).
If the Rangers played .550 ball the rest of the year (29-23), they would finish with a record of 94-68. For the A’s to win the division, they would have to go 35-16 (.686); for the Angels to win the division, they would need to finish 36-14 (.720).
If the Rangers played .600 ball for the rest of the season (31-21), they would finish with a record of 96-66. For the A’s to win the division, they would have to go 37-14 (.725); for the Angels to win the division, they would need to go 37-13 (.740).
You might find this type of information as redundant, but it’s really just the facts we are dealing with. Even at worst-case scenario, it would take an uncharacteristically strong stretch from either Oakland or LAA to uproot us from the position we are in. Of course, the Athletics have greatly benefitted from a strong record in one-run and extra inning games, so the odds of them sustaining the level of success they’ve been playing at
would be quite remarkable. The Angels are the stronger team in the division, but making up 7 games in August is much more difficult than the 9-game deficit they faced back in April, and I just don’t see it happening.
The Rangers have been decimated by injuries to pitchers like Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, but they still remain the prohibitive favorites to take the AL West. Of course, only time will tell how this great puzzle will play out, but at this stage, the Rangers have to like their chances moving forward.