Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Just In: Expect Nothing

As I stayed awake for what seemed like an eternity last night, I pondered my Ranger post-season predictions through my head:

-Nelson Cruz would have a 2004 Carlos Beltran-like postseason.

-Cliff Lee would be a Will Smith action-comedy - satisfying but not memorable.

-The Rangers catching situation would not only produce fruitless outs, but let the Rays run wild. (Granted that falls a lot on Ranger pitchers) I really had no faith in Bengie Molina.

-Ian Kinsler would be the 2009 Ian Kinsler without the home runs. So pretty much a lousy player.

-Rays win the series 3-1 with the Rangers dropping the first two at the Trop (HEY THOSE INITIALS LOOK FAMILIAR), Rangers win Game 3 then drop Game 4. 

After today's 5-1 win in dominant fashion, I couldn't of been more wrong. Cliff Lee looked like a combination between Fregie Jenkins and Jesus (see what I did there?), Bengie Molina looked like the greatest hitter in the world and the Rangers dominated the Rays in their own dome. At least I was right, for now, of Nelson Cruz. His 440'+ monster took the noise out of Tropicana Field (like there were enough fans to make noise anyway, ZING.) 

It was a surreal feeling for sure. I'm used to high-fiving complete strangers in the moment of an intense sporting event...but for the Rangers? Unreal. One of the funnest moments of my life and yes, I lead a very plain life. Sue me.

But back to the game. Lee was masterful, working both sides of the plate with a variety of pitches. After a rough first inning (admit, you thought "here we go again") he retired 14 of the next 15 batters, allowed only one run to a solo home run to Ben Zobrist and then left, like he always does, sprinting off the mound and heading to the dugout, job well done after finishing the seventh. The thing I love about Lee the most today was he never fell in love with one pitch (Note: which was the opposite of David Price. I think he threw 99.9% fastballs. Yeah, no wonder Cruz crushed him. Did Price have a secret sponsorship with Ferrari or something to throw that many fastballs? "Here's the 15th fastball from Price. And remember, if you get a Ferrari you can go 100 mph fast like Price in 0-15 seconds!") Whenever the Rays seemed to get comfortable, if you can call it that, with Lee's fastball he'd drop the curveball. Or a cutter. Or the change up. It was a masterful performance that I should of never doubted and will probably go to baseball hell for. At least Tom Hicks will keep me company. (Note: ZING!)

Speaking of someone who could run a little more back to the dugout after an inning, Bengie Molina must of thought he was in Boston or something. Or maybe he was just being Bengie. After all, for his career Molina is a .274 hitter with a .718 OPS (which is a stark contrast to his .599 OPS he put up with Texas.) I'm not trying to say Molina is an offensive juggernaut, but he had never been the type of catcher you had to worry about putting him into your lineup. He has some of the most postseason experience on the team, which I'm not sure how much it helps, but it's something else to explain his 3-for-4 game with a soft RBI single and perhaps an even softer home run to left (he never got around on the pitch and seemed to hit it off the inside part of the bat.)

What else surprised? How about Jeff Francoeur continuing his relevancy. Ron Washington using Neftali Feliz in a non-save situation. Feliz walking the first two batters of the ninth. Chad Qualls pitching a perfect inning and a third. Josh Hamilton throwing caution into the wind with a head first slide into second on a stolen base attempt, which had the entire population of North Texas ripping their hair out. 

But not everything was dandelions and popsicles. The Rangers were able to capitalize on jumping on Price's fastball for 10 hits, but they also struck out eight times and walked none. Jorge Cantu proved that his role in the division clinching game in Oakland would be about the only role he'll play. Michael Young squandered run-scoring chances with an 0-for-4 game. 

But who cares, right? It's time for Game 2. And as the title of the post suggests, don't get comfortable. You may be reading, hearing or watching that James Shields pitches as well as a narcoleptic on acid lately (I really don't know how well a narcoleptic on acid would pitch, but my guess is not very well). Well here are some "stats" to back that statement up:

13-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and a .294 BAA. That looks awful right? Rangers should club Shields to death right? Wait just a minute.

Shields BABPIP (Batting Average on Balls Put in Play - which tells of how lucky or unlucky a hitter or pitcher is) sits at .354, which is .38 points higher than his career average. Which tells us he has been a wee bit unlucky. How about how he pitches at home? His ERA in Tampa is 4.53. Not a great number, but still, if he's good, he's going to be good at home. How about his record against the Rangers this year? Two starts, 14 innings, four earned runs (2.57 ERA) and a .255 BAA. The Rangers have not done particularly well against him this year. So when you wake up tomorrow and wonder if you'd rather play the Yankees or the Twins, just calm down for a moment.

Then again, what do I know? I'm the guy who thought Cliff Lee would suck today.

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