Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rangers Set to Defend American League Title

American League Championship Series Preview

The Texas Rangers begin defense of their 2010 American League Championship tonight at home versus the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers dispatched of the Tampa Bay Rays in four games and the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees in five games.

Each team will have their aces on the mound.  Cy Young Award candidate Justin Verlander, working on normal rest, hopes to return to regular season form, while C.J. Wilson looks to put an awful start in the ALDS behind him.

Detroit received bad news this afternoon.  Delmon Young, their team leader in all major offensive categories during the ALDS, (.316 BA, 3 HR, 3 RBI, 4R) will not be available due to an oblique injury and has been removed from the roster. Besides Young, the Tigers offense was putrid during its series with the Yankees.

The Rangers offense was not much better versus Tampa Bay, though they received a three home run game from third baseman Adrian Beltre in the ALDS finale.

Statistical Notes:
  • Verlander is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his career at Rangers Ballpark
  • Each team's run differential in their three wins during the ALDS was +4.
  • Detroit was outscored by the Yankees 26-17 in the ALDS
  • Texas hit .211 with a .674 OPS during the ALDS
  • Texas' staff ERA was 4.25 with a 1.31 WHIP during the ALDS
  • Detroit hit .228 with a .690 OPS during the ALDS
  • Detroit's staff ERA was 5.73 with a 1.50 WHIP during the ALDS
  • The Rangers had won six straight and 12 of 14 to end the regular season
  • The Tigers won 20 of their last 25 regular season games to bury the rest of the AL Central

The Rangers are rested and the Tigers are coming off an emotional Game 5 and series win just two days ago. They had to head straight to Texas the day after celebrating their victory. The Tigers enter a ballpark where runs are usually easy to come by, but with their hottest hitter off the roster. They'll need Miguel Cabrera to revert back to his MVP caliber regular season form to have a chance of knocking off the defending American League champs. The Rangers lineup, which also struggled during its series with Tampa Bay, is much deeper than Detroit's. Beyond Verlander and Doug Fister, the Tigers rotation is slightly behind the Rangers rotation. Each team has good but inconsistent arms at the end of the game.  This figures to be an important aspect of the series. Detroit's closer Jose Valverde, who did not blow a save the entire regular season, walked a tightrope in the first two games he pitched against the Yankees and then closed out Game 5 with a perfect ninth. Nefali Feliz had a less successful regular season with 6 blown saves, but was 3 for 3 in save chances in the ALDS. In the end, the Rangers will be thankful for winning one more game in the regular season than Detroit to gain home field advantage, as they celebrate a return to the World Series by beating the Tigers in seven games.