It's safe to say that nobody expected this type of season so far for the Texas Rangers. Yes, many expected them to turn a corner and become competitors, but their 100-win pace through April and May caught the MLB world by storm and showed that they might just be a little more than competitors. But, perhaps it might be time to tap the breaks for just a moment, and here are five reasons why.
Reason 1 -- The Rangers are actually underperforming
Now before anyone grabs their pitchforks and comes after the writing staff, let's think of this a little more logically. It's hard to believe but the Pythagorean win-loss record for the Rangers after 110 games sat at 71-41. However, the Rangers haven't exactly kept up with that at a clip of 66-46. That five-game disparity could make a massive difference between a 2.5 game advantage and a 7.5 game lead over the second-place Houston Astros. Things would sure feel a lot more comfortable in the standings with that kind of command over the in-state rivals. But more on that later.
Reason 2 -- The Rangers need to beat better teams
Sure, a team can only play the teams on their schedule. But teams that are performing better than .500 have given the Rangers all they can handle. Granted, solid victories over the Miami Marlins have helped greatly with that. But the Rangers split the season series with the Baltimore Orioles, and actually have lost four of seven to the Los Angeles Angels and were even swept early in the season by the Cincinnati Reds.
It should be noted that both the Rangers and Reds are much different teams since then, but don't forget that the Reds have actually improved since then. The point here of course, is that Texas will face some even tougher competition come playoff time, where every team will be a plus-.500 foe. It's time to turn it up against the better teams.
Reason 3 -- The Rangers have faded in the second half
Let's not get it twisted here. The month of August has looked really good for the Rangers. And who knows? Maybe the advantage of getting to play 12 games in the air conditioning during the hottest month of the year in Texas has its perks. But the rough combination of June and July did a number on them, dwindling what had reached a 6.5 game lead in the standings back on June 23. Since then, the pesky Astros have done their best to play catch-up with the Rangers. Which, let's talk about them again.
Reason 4 -- The Rangers need to take down Houston
There's no doubt that all the eyes of the American League West will look to Arlington for three days starting on Labor Day. The Astros will come to Globe Life Field with their sights set on taking down the team ahead of them in the standings. Make no mistake, they want nothing more than to take down the Rangers and rub it in their faces if they do. And why shouldn't they expect it? They have "hand."
Houston has won six of 10 thus far, meaning the Rangers will need to sweep the three game set to win the Silver Boot. Not that the boot is the ultimate prize, but taking down the defending champions on the season would really spark some momentum at the front of the final month of the season. Not to mention, it could justify how Texas has towered over Houston most of the season in the ESPN MLB Power Rankings. But at the end of the season, nobody will remember power rankings. They'll remember playoff dominance, which leads to the next thought.
Reason 5 -- The Rangers will still need to go through Atlanta
Sure, a lot can happen between now and the end of September. But it's pretty clear right now that the most dominant team in all of baseball is the Atlanta Braves. And at this point of the season, it would be foolish for any team to think they could just run roughshod over them. At this point in the season, the Braves are the gold standard. They're even meeting their Pythagorean win total, for crying out loud. And of course, it doesn't help matters that Atlanta took two of three when they came to Texas back in May.
But perhaps things are different between them now. This post-deadline Rangers squad just might be able to run through all five of those hurdles and prove the nay-sayers wrong. And you know what? That would be a heck of a show to see.