Tomorrow afternoon your Texas Rangers will make the trip to Toronto to face the Blue Jays, commencing the 2015 American League Division Series between the West and East Division Winners.
You know the main points by now. The historical Blue Jays offense, David Price‘s 5.15 career ERA against the Rangers (worst against any team with at least 6 innings), the Blue Jays first postseason appearance since they won it all in 1993.
Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Rangers second half explosion, coming back to win the division after being 8 games back to begin August. With no Yu Darvish, the Rangers brought on Cole Hamels. Shin-Soo Choo hit .343 after the All-Star Break, Adrian Beltre and his broken thumb posting an insane 53 RBI in his last 48 regular season games and the rebirthing of Elvis Andrus. All these have been catalysts for the second half surge.
The Rangers storylines are a lot to do about beating odds, the Blue Jays about being all in and having one of the best offenses baseball has ever seen.
So, who’s better? Let’s break it down.
Blue Jays Projected Lineup
- Troy Tulowtzki, SS
- Josh Donaldson, 3B
- Jose Bautista, RF
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH
- Chris Colabello, 1B
- Russell Martin, C
- Kevin Pillar, CF
- Ben Revere, LF
- Cliff Pennington, 2B
Rangers Projected Lineup
- Delino DeShields, Jr., CF
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF
- Prince Fielder, DH
- Adrian Beltre, 3B
- Mitch Moreland, 1B
- Josh Hamilton, LF
- Elvis Andrus, SS
- Rougned Odor, 2B
- Robinson Chirinos, C
Projecting the Rangers to carry one more bench position player equates into one less bullpen arm, but with Delino DeShields needing defensive replacing, that likely pushed Stubbs onto the roster. The Blue Jays have two starting catchers in Martin and Navarro, Goins is a DeShields-like spark plug in the infield and Pompey/Carrera is pure speed/defense, much like Stubbs just with better bats.
The Blue Jays offense is historical, to beat the dead horse. Major League Baseball’s Canadian member scored 891 runs this season, slugged .455 against righties and .463 against lefties, all leading the league.
Josh Donaldson, acquired from Oakland in the off-season for sunflower seeds on the dollar, is an AL MVP candidate.
Donaldson hit 41 home runs, Bautista 40, Encarnacion 39 and Russell Martin had 23, the same as Prince Fielder, who led the Rangers in the long ball category.
Chris Colabello was a huge surprise this year, after hitting .214 in two seasons with the Twins. Colabello slashed .321/.367/.520 and can play every corner on the field, infield and out. Troy Tulowtzki’s health is a big, big factor and one to watch. A Trade Deadline acquisition like David Price, “Tulo” missed the Blue Jays last 32 games with a cracked left shoulder blade (which is simply painful to write).
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
The Rangers, known to be annual offensive juggernauts, had a tale of two halves. But if you’re going to split your production like that, they chose the right half of the season to get things going.
Shin-Soo Choo hit .221 prior to the All-Star Break, .343 after.
Adrian Beltre hit .255 pre-All-Star Break, slugging just .396. He hit .318 after the intermission, slugging .509.
Elvis Andrus hit .242 before the Break, stealing just 9 bags on 14 attempts. He hit .277 in the second half and stole 16 bases on 20 attempts, 14 of those steals coming from just August 27th to season’s end. Thankfully Elvis has rediscovered his running game.
On the flip side, Prince Fielder –who hit .305 in the regular season– has a career .192 postseason batting average with 32 strikeouts.
After his demotion, Rougned Odor was total fire for the Rangers. However, he ended the season cold, hitting just .217 with a .281 OBP in the season’s final month. He is one of the few Rangers without postseason experience.
Blue Jays Projected Rotation
Rangers Projected Rotation:
Photo Credit: Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Despite arm troubles, Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels says Kela will be on the ALDS roster. He can be removed for injury and replaced, but cannot return in the series. Hopefully we don’t get there.
I would venture a guess that of the bullpen arms projected, Sam Freeman could fall casualty to Nick Martinez or Chi Chi Gonzalez if the Rangers opt for a long man rather than a lefty specialist. If DeShields is healthy enough to omit Stubbs, they can have both situational pitchers.
David Price will start Game 1 for the Blue Jays as well as Game 5 if necessary. Price is 3-4 in 11 career starts vs. the Rangers, with a 5.15 ERA in 64.2 innings. The 5.15 ERA is only worse against the Mets, where Price holds a 12.6 ERA in just 5 innings. Not an apt comparison.
However, the last time David Price met up with the Rangers in a playoff-type game, he threw a complete game in the 2013 American League Play-In Game. I say ‘playoff-type’ because the Play-In game is technically considered regular season game number 163.
Young Jays stud Marcus Stroman tore his ACL in March and was supposed to be out for the season. The second year player returned, however, on September 12th. He made four starts, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA. He’s really good.
Marco Estrada has been a saving grace, giving the Jays a number two/three starter as former Ranger R.A. Dickey reaches the twilight of his storied career. After five seasons of above average but not great seasons in Milwaukee, the Jays acquired Estrada for Adam Lind prior the season. A trade that has worked out beautifully for both parties involved. Estrada threw a career high 181 innings in 2015 with a sparkling 3.13 ERA in 28 starts. He began the year as a long man in the Blue Jays bullpen.
For the Rangers, their epic Saturday collapse to the Angels cost them a chance to not only make game 162 a Cactus League game, but had to use Cole Hamels on Sunday to secure the American League West title, making Hamels unavailable for Game 1 usage. He would still likely see the mound Game 5 on shorter rest to duel with David Price, but that could subsequently limit his usage for the ALCS…but that’s getting waaaaay, way ahead of ourselves.
Regardless, Yovani Gallardo will get the ball against Toronto in game 1. Gallardo was a different pitcher after the break, undoubtedly fatigued after carrying a Darvish-less, Holland-less, Harrison-less first half staff that featured players like Wandy Rodriguez and Ross Detwiler. A first half ERA of 2.62 got as high as 3.47 in the second half.
But against Toronto, Gallardo was not scored upon in two starts totaling 13.2 innings this season. He struck out six and walked five, a ratio that would do well to be a bit further apart in the postseason against the big Blue Jays lineup.
After Gallardo and Hamels, the Rangers have yet to announce their remaining rotation. Whether it’s Holland, Perez or Lewis that faces Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey in Games 3 or 4 is to be determined. Lewis won 17 games but had a 4.66 ERA, but he has the postseason track record and a 2.34 playoff ERA to back it up.
Holland missed the first several months of the season to return to form, then lose said form and who knows what kind of Derek Holland there is to get. Derek does have postseason experience, highlighted in bright colors by winning Game 4 of the 2011 World Series.
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Martin Perez is the last Rangers pitcher to go in a ‘playoff-type’ game, throwing opposite David Price in 2013’s Play-In game. Perez gave up 3 runs over 5.1 IP, pitching, as they say in baseball, “well enough for his team to win.” He has never pitched a true postseason game.
Whichever starter doesn’t pitch will be available out of the bullpen.
Speaking of bullpens, the Blue Jays revamped theirs –just like they did everything else– at the Trading Deadline. They acquired former terrible Ranger Mark Lowe from the Seattle Mariners and 18-year veteran LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies in the Tulowitzki deal.
Brett Cecil is a former starter turned quality reliever, but the arms in the Jays pen of intrigue are both rookies. Future starter Aaron Sanchez and perhaps another future starter Roberto Osuna are both powerful bullpen arms. The Jays began the year with a rookie closer (Miguel Castro, demoted and then traded to Colorado in said Tulow deal) and ended with one in the 20-year old Osuna.
Osuna, 20, is the youngest player in baseball. Teammate Hawkins, 42, is the oldest. Knowledge is power. Hopefully the Blue Jays don’t have too much of it, though.
Ok, you’ve met the word version of Chuck Morgan announcing the American League Division Series starting lineups. Time to make a prediction.
Hitting Edge: Blue Jays
Pitching Edge: Rangers (barely)
Season Series: 4-2 Blue Jays
Prediction: I said this on my radio show Monday night, if the Rangers can steal Game 1 against David Price, I think they can win this puppy in 4. I don’t expect that to happen, though and see the Blue Jays outlasting the Rangers in 5. Raise a glass to hoping I’m wrong as per usual!