Cruz control and Verlander

Here's how you know the Texas Rangers have a good team: they have a player in Nelson Cruz who just finished one of the greatest postseason series in history, in which he hit a record six home runs, drove in a record 13 RBI, became the first postseason batter to hit multiple extra inning homers in a series, and even threw out Miguel Cabrera at home plate in Game 4 that prevented a Rangers loss, if it didn't save their season entirely. And he bats seventh.

Cruz is the hottest hitter in the game, and yet Ron Washington can legitimately go to his lineup card and pencil Cruz in to the No. 7 slot in the order. He can actually find six batters who he believes needs to hit ahead of him. That's scary. Texas may not have an overpowering Justin Verlander-type ace, but with their lineup, it's hard to imagine they won't be the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series -- regardless of who they play.

Interestingly enough, the Detroit Tigers lost despite the presence of Justin Verlander, who could become the first pitcher in nearly two decades to win the Cy Young award as well as the MVP. If Verlander does win the MVP, his team's performance will rank slightly behind the other teams with pitchers to have won the award. Of the nine pitchers since 1953 to win the MVP award, seven of them played on teams that went to the World Series. Three played on teams that won it all: Sandy Koufax, Denny McLain and Willie Hernandez. (McLain's Tigers, incidentally, beat a Cardinals team in 1968 that had Bob Gibson, who was the National League's MVP that year with a 1.12 ERA. So a World Series was guaranteed from one of those nine pitchers that year.)

Only Rollie Fingers, whose Brewers blew a 2-0 ALDS lead to the Yankees in 1981, and Dennis Eckersley, whose A's lost to the Blue Jays in six games in the 1992 ALCS, failed to make the World Series. Of the last nine pitchers to win the MVP, only Rollie Fingers played on a team didn't either didn't win the World Series or lost to the eventual World Series champion. All nine pitchers either went to the World Series or lost in the playoffs to a team that went to the World Series, which is the only trend Verlander would continue if it turns out he's the MVP.

Naturally, some of the finer points are a tad deceiving. It makes sense that most of the pitchers to win the award went to the World Series, since there was no NLCS or ALCS for most of baseball's history, and the only pitchers in the running for the MVP would likely be on one of the pennant winners. Of course, that doesn't make this defeat any easier to deal with. No team entering the postseason with someone like Verlander has any expectations less than winning it all.

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