Jesus the baseball season goes fast. Too fast, I’d say. It’s now August, and the Rangers are 59-49 (.546); 4.0 games behind the A’s in the American League West; 0.5 games behind the Indians, who recently swept Texas out of Cleveland, for the 2nd wild card spot.
There are 54 games remaining on the regular season schedule. And of the 54, 10 are against the Astros, 10 are against the collection of the Brewers, White Sox and Twins, and there are still 16 intra-division match-ups against the Angels and Mariners — two teams who figure to have very little to play for down the stretch.
If I’m doing my math correctly, that’s 2/3 of the games right there. For what it’s worth. Of course it would be irresponsible to expect the Rangers to go 36-0 just because they are supposed to be better than those teams, but nonetheless, sans Felix Hernandez or Chris Sale pitching for the opposition, it’s a compendium of have-nots you’d think the Rangers could beat at will most nights.
Still, there are 9 head-to-head match-ups against the A’s — starting tomorrow in Oakland — between now and the last day of the season. I could write until you’re blue in the face about how soft the Rangers’ schedule is between now and September 29th, but if they can’t scratch their own backs against the team they’re chasing in the west then, well, I hope this year they win the Game 163 coin-flip.
Baseball Prospectus projects the Rangers to finish 88-74 — a 29-25 record from now until then — with a 41.6% chance of making it to the postseason (30.1% odds of winning the division).
FanGraphs projects them to go 90-72 — a 31-23 finish — which would be a game short of the Athletics (projected 91-71) for the division crown.
As fans of the Rangers just a year ago, we are aggressively familiar with the fluidity of these projected standings, as Texas surrendered a 5-game lead in the division with just 9 to play.
However, that’s not reason enough to say, “To hell with projections because they don’t mean anything.” If we always formulated our conclusions based on flukes, on the exceptions to the rule, then our conception of what the data actually represents becomes entirely disillusioned.
If I were a newspaper writer, this is the time in the article where I would mention how many wins and losses the Rangers had in August and September last year, or the year before, as if to say that has even one fragment of predictive value on what the Rangers will do in 2013. Because, clearly — since you have a functioning brain — you know that the schedule changes from year-to-year, and, more importantly, the team changes.
This year the club has changed significantly from where it stood on Opening Day, perhaps more than any Ranger team I can remember in the last 5 or 6 years. But slowly it’s making its way back to homeostasis. Jeff Baker, Craig Gentry, Alexi Ogando, and Joakim Soria have all worked their ways back from injury. Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz are all expected back during various points of Augusts.
In theory, the Rangers are getting back to full strength in time to play the weakest part of the schedule.
What could possibly go wrong?