Texas Rangers season-preview review


In which we debate whether a 93-win team can be disappointing

Before the season started, the Texas Rangers looked like the best team in baseball. It was at least a respectable position to take. They weren't exactly locks to win their third straight pennant -- no team will ever be a lock to win the pennant -- they had as good of a chance of appearing in the World Series as any other team. They had youth. They had depth. They had money. They had oodles of talent. They had a little picture of David Freese by their chin-up bar, Sideshow Bob-style.

Of the 165 to 180 games they were supposed to play, they were a good bet to win 95 to 100 of them. But the Rangers played only 163 games, and a team that was built to succeed in the postseason as much as the regular season didn't make it past the Wild-Card round. In this stirring overview of preview reviews, we turn our view to the Rangers' 2012 season preview.

Overall tone of preview
Laudatory. Really, really bullish. If the Rangers were selling timeshares, I was in for a couple. They looked like the perfect team, strong up the middle, a great rotation and bullpen, and solid defensively.

What actually happened
One playoff game and out, which is still hard to comprehend. It's not like we were going nuts with ill-founded optimism, either. The Rangers won 93 games, so they didn't exactly miss the mark too much.

What changed between the preview and the end of the season?
I don't think the Rangers get enough credit for winning 93 games, for one. For another, I don't think they get a lot of credit for winning 93 games in a season where more than a few things went wrong for them. It's not just about Ian Kinsler's first blah season, or Michael Young disintegrating, or the mercurial season of Derek Holland. Forty percent of the Rangers' projected rotation missed most of the year because of elbow problems, which left them scrambling for most of the year, where they found varying degrees of competency and incompetency with Scott Feldman, Roy Oswalt, Martin Perez, and, eventually, Ryan Dempster.

But we wouldn't be talking about this right now if the Oakland A's didn't go completely bananas in the second half of the season. At the end of June, the A's were 13 games behind the Rangers. Thirteen games! It's not like the Rangers totally messed the bed after that, either, going 43-40 over the last three months. It wasn't so much about what the Rangers did or didn't do as much as it was about. holy crap, the A's.

It's hard to comprehend how the Rangers went from world-beaters in April to a wild card team. In April, people were writing things like this, and we eventually had to fire them because of it. But the Rangers were only a disappointing team because of the context of their division. Consider that the Tigers won five fewer games in the regular season despite playing the Twins, Royals, and Indians over and over again. A hot month later, though, and the Tigers are the relative success story of the American League. That's almost certainly unfair.

Player(s) I ignored for whatever reason
I didn't mention David Murphy once, probably because I'm still not sure which one is David Murphy, which one is Donnie Murphy, and which one is Daniel Murphy. It turns out that David can hit a little bit, as the 30-year-old busted out and had something better than just a rebound campaign to his 105 OPS+ glory years. He hit .304/.380/.479, setting career highs in all three marks.

Biggest surprise?
Murphy, I guess, though the average-driven success of Craig Gentry also qualifies. The Rangers didn't have any crazy breakout seasons, certainly nothing like Mike Napoli in 2011 or C.J. Wilson in 2010. That's another reason they couldn't fend off the A's.

Obscenely stupid quote

I love the Neftali Feliz move. His value has a good chance of increasing in the rotation.

To be fair, I mentioned the risks involved. But assuming Feliz and Colby Lewis were going to be around and productive was my biggest mistake, though it's not like there were serious red flags with either pitcher.

The tone of the next preview?
Stubborn insistence that the Rangers really are this good, dang it. They have a Cardinals vibe to them, actually, where they could lose their best player and, with a few tweaks, come out the other side as a team that's just as talented without any of the long-term worries they would have if they locked up the player in question.

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