Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
Blog Entry

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 2:57 pm
 

By Evan Brunell

The Rays and Rangers will meet for the second year in a row. Last season, Texas came away with a victory, needing the maximum five games to do so. They would go on to advance to the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Both teams are in dramatically different places this time around, with the Rays team undergoing turnover while the Rangers' offense is one of the most fearsome in recent memory. Let's break down each team's position and determine who has the advantage....

TEAM INFORMATION

Tampa Bay Rays (host games 3, 4)
91-71, AL wild card champions
Manager: Joe Maddon
Team batting statistics: .244 batting average (25th in AL), .322 on-base percentage (13th), .402 slugging percentage (13th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.58 ERA (8th), 1.22 WHIP (2nd), 2.27 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: SP James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 65 BB, 225 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, AL West champions
Manager: Ron Washington
Team batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)

Full Playoff Coverage

Game 1: TB @ TEX, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)**
Game 2: TB @ TEX, Oct. 1, 7:07 p.m. -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
Game 3: TEX @ TB, Oct. 3, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95)
Game 4*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 4 -- Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40) vs. David Price (12-13, 3.49)
Game 5*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 6 -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)

* If necessary | ** all pitching matchups projected

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Texas: Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba
Tampa Bay: John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach

The Rays' catcher situation is like that of shortstop: Choosing between bad or worse. Jaso and Shoppach have both combined for extremely disappointing seasons while Napoli was one of the best offensive players in the game, robbed of his due because his counting statistics aren't up to snuff due to playing in just 113 games, but Napoli can do serious damage. Torrealba isn't a zero either, but most of his value comes on defense.

Advantage: Rangers

First base
Texas: Mitch Moreland, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Casey Kotchman

Kotchman came out of nowhere to give Tampa fantastic value out of first base, hitting at a .306 clip and providing his usual stellar defense at first place. While no one expects Kotchman to keep this up next season, what matters is right now. And right now, Kotchman is head and shoulders better than Moreland, although if Texas goes with Torrealba behind the plate and Napoli at first base, this conversation changes.

Advantage: Rays

Second base
Texas: Ian Kinsler
Tampa Bay: Ben Zobrist

Both Kinsler and Zobrist had excellent seasons -- both at the plate and in the field. Picking one or the other amounts to nitpicking as both players have 30 stolen bases. Zobrist holds a small edge in batting average and Kinsler holds a small one in slugging percentage. Even fielding numbers aren't any help. This is as even as it gets.

Advantage: Tie

Shortstop
Texas: Elvis Andrus
Tampa Bay: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac

As mentioned before, Tampa's shortstop spot is horrible. Between Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Eliot Johnson, Rays shortstops combined to hit .193/.256/.282. League average was .266/.321/.386. That's simply awful, awful production. The Rangers clearly win out here, with Andrus' solid bat and strong glove.

Advantage: Rangers

Third base
Texas: Adrian Beltre
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria has been one of the best third basemen in the game for a long time. Up until this year, you could have argued that he was the best AL third-baseman for years running. Alas, Beltre's second straight excellent season has supplanted Longoria, coming off a down year. Beltre's 32 homers rank fifth in the AL, and he missed a month and a half! Add in his all-world defense, and he runs away from Longoria even though Longo is still a threat and hit .289/.454/.589 in September.

Advantage: Rangers

Left field
Texas: David Murphy
Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings

Murphy looked like he would have a lost season, but turned it on down the stretch and forced the Rangers to move Josh Hamilton to center for the playoffs in order to get Murphy's bat in the lineup. It's easy to remember that Jennings debuted with fantastic numbers in August, but September told a very different story. All in all, both players have things working both for and against them and nothing quite standing out.

Advantage: Tie

Center field
Texas: Josh Hamilton
Tampa Bay: B.J. Upton

This is pretty easily Hamilton's domain here after Upton hit just .243. Hamilton remains one of the best players in the game despite being injury-prone. When he's on the field, he produces. Upton can't say the same, although he turned on the jets at the right time for Tampa and had a productive September.

Advantage: Rangers

Right field
Texas: Nelson Cruz
Tampa Bay: Matt Joyce

Here's an interesting matchup. Cruz missed time with injury but when he was right, enjoyed yet another productive season, missing 30 homers by just one blast. Cruz's calling card is power, while Joyce counters with a better overall game, flashing a strong glove. With both players' offensive games basically evening out, the balance tips to defense, and Joyce wins there.

Advantage: Rays

Designated Hitter
Texas: Michael Young, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Johnny Damon

Yet another win for the Rangers on offense. We all know what Napoli can do, but Young figures to get most of the at-bats at DH. Despite Young having to adjust to the DH spot on a full-time basis for the first time in his career, Young coolly racked up 106 RBI and should get some MVP attention. Damon, by comparison, falls far short.

Advantage: Rangers

Starting pitching
Texas: C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis
Tampa Bay: Jeff Niemann, James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson

The Rays win here, although Rangers fans will probably beg to differ. Yes, Wilson had a fantastic season -- you can't take that away from him. But Shields, Price and Hellickson all had excellent years as well. No one's shorting Holland and Harrison here, but at best, these two pitchers are no better than fifth best overall with three of the first four spots belonging to Tampa. The Rays are in the postseason for their pitching, not their offense.

Advantage: Rays

Relief pitching
Texas closer: Neftali Feliz
Tampa Bay closer: Kyle Farnsworth

Feliz's future as a closer was in doubt even as late as early August, but he clamped down the rest of the way and will pair with Mike Adams for a formidable 1-2 punch. There isn't a soft underbelly of middle relief either, and this bullpen has the potential to pick up the slack left over from the starting rotation to beat Tampa. But the Rays have taken a completely remade bullpen and turned it into an elite corps, too. Tampa's relief ERA of 3.73 is 10 spots higher than Texas' 4.11, but Texas' bullpen is different after importing Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. Let's call it even.

Advantage: Tie

Total advantage: Rangers (5), Rays (2), Tie (3)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Rays in 4
Gregg Doyel: Rays in 4
Danny Knobler: Rangers in 5
Scott Miller: Rangers in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Rangers in 4
Matt Snyder: Rays in 5

Evan's take: The Rangers are a fearsome club, there's no doubt about that. The offense is awe-inspiring and the pitching has the ability to hang tough with Tampa Bay. The Rangers basically cruised to the division title in September, so it's easy to overlook the club because of lack of press, but those who overlook the club are making a mistake. I selected the Rays in four because in the postseason, I believe far more in pitching than offense. I also give credence to how teams played down the stretch. Tampa went 17-10 in September (of course, Texas went 19-8, so there's that) and was in playoff mode for two weeks, constantly playing must-win games then seeing it all pay off when Evan Longoria's second homer of the night went over the fence to give T.B. the wild card. The combination of pitching and the hot hand tilt me toward predicting the Rays to advance.

More Rangers-Rays ALDS coverage

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Comments
hotmeuly
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 9:57 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator



peulouy
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 18, 2011 2:28 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 7, 2011 5:01 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Wassup, Only given up on with to visit your internet page in addition to wanted I might pronounce I will really liked my self.



Since: Aug 7, 2008
Posted on: September 30, 2011 11:36 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

The one who looked awful was the Rangers by far by letting a rookie who just get in the majors just about a month or less ago to win the first game of the first round. I'm sorry but it's pathetic that a run down organisation the Rangers and there fans are even in the playoffs.



Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:10 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Hey guy I need some of what you are smoking!!!

Rangers in 3 - that's right.  A sweep.  

This kid today stands no chance.

LET'S GO RANGERS!!!

BOOMSTICK!


wow good call....matt moore looked awful and wilson was basically unhittable.....got any other predictions madam cleo?




Since: Oct 18, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:20 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Uuh, no, it does have something to do with them having the best record in baseball in the months of August and Septmeber combined.

Yes, the Red Sox choke is the main reason, but don't say it has nothing to do with the Rays.

The Rays contributed to the Red Sox demise by beating them 8 out of 10 times since August 12.



Since: Oct 18, 2006
Posted on: September 30, 2011 2:15 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

I am a Rays fan and know how up & down the offense is.  It is why the won-loss totals of most the starting pitchers aren't that great.  Yes the Rays have the pitching to shut Texas down, to a point, but they will still need to keep the offense going and we have seen all year how when you look at a pitchers ERA you can knock about 3/4 a run off of it to see how well they usuallyd do against the Rays.

That all said, I think the Rays win.  Longo, Kotchman, Zobrist, Damon, Joyce and Upton are hitting pretty well right now (except Longo who is on FIRE) and if Jennings picks it up a little they should be good.

I am very surprised Niemann was left off the roster and JP Howell was left on. 
3 HOURS TO GO!!!!!!!!



Since: Sep 29, 2011
Posted on: September 30, 2011 1:23 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

So Brunell takes the Rays in 4....even though he "states" no discredit to Texas's pitching staff, that's basically what he's done.  Take nothing away from the Rays, they played their guts out to get here.  But so did Texas.  They didn't merely cruise...they played tough all the way to game 162 to get this 1st round home field.  Despite all the east coast love and hatred for the AL west, the Halos are a good team Mr. Brunell.  I don't recall CC or Mo pitching against the Rays at the end of the season (Did CC pitch?).  The media wrote the Rangers off after losing the Cliff Lee circus to Philly....but the Rangers ended up winning more games than last year anyway.  Yeah, I know...the Rangers played 162 games against the AL West so finishing 1 game behind the Yankees means nothing....give me a break!



Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:43 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Lucky is a better description. They are only here because of a historic flop by the Red Sux. Has nothing to do with the Rays winning.



Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:08 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

Im not sure whats so "MIRACLE" about the Rays beating the scranton-wilkes barre Ynakees the last 3 days. Oh right, the yankees had their starters in the first 2 innings of each game, my bad.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com