The Cleveland Indians open their final inter-division series of the 2012 season tonight as they head to Arlington for a three-game set with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers look poised for a deep playoff run and are likely in for a busy winter, so I talked to Nolan Writin’ Editor Jared Book about Texas’ playoff hopes, what he expects in the offseason, and what Tribe fans should look for from the Rangers this series.
The Rangers enter Monday with a 3.5-game lead in the AL West and 5.0 games ahead of the second wild card. Is there any doubt that they make the playoffs?
Is there doubt? There’s always doubt. The Cardinals and Rays were farther back than that last year and made the playoffs. Can Texas collapse and still make the playoffs? I think that’s unlikely. But if Texas keeps playing solid baseball, they will make the playoffs.
- Is Texas’ roster built for a deep postseason run?
Oddly enough, yes. They are built for 6 innings from their starter and handing it to a great bullpen. They are built to get an explosion from their offense. The problem with Texas is that there are some games where they don’t get either the good pitching or the good hitting. In a short 5 game series, that can be your downfall. But I think the team is good enough to make the World Series again. This team has a lot more volatility though which could make for a long postseason run or a short one.
- Do you think the Rangers should re-sign Josh Hamilton this winter? What could of a deal would you be willing to offer him?
Should they? Depends on the price. I think a short-term contract is right for the Rangers, but I don’t think Hamilton will be alright with that. I think a 2 year deal worth 30-40 million could work even though the yearly salary is high, but I am sure Hamilton could get more than that on the open market. Hamilton went through personal issues in the middle of the year that affected his performance and was called out by Ron Washington and Nolan Ryan. He has started hitting the ball well again, but I’m not sure if Texas is ready to commit long-term dollars to Hamilton at this point and given his history, I’m not sure they would be wrong. You saw in St. Louis that you can recover after losing a star player and you see in the Angels that getting one doesn’t make all the difference. I think that’s the model Texas is looking at right now.
What else should we expect from Texas this offseason?
A trade. I think that you will probably see Elvis Andrus traded unless they switch Ian Kinsler to outfield/DH full time and have Jurickson Profar move to second base. I understand Washington not wanting to play Profar now as an un-tested teenager (although I surely would like to see more of him) but going into next year, you can’t put him in AAA or on the bench. That means something has to give. (And I think that that scenario helps fill the Hamilton void I think will be there). I think you will also try and see Texas get a starting pitcher. They are the only AL contender that doesn’t have a true ace. That’s fine for this year, but as a team that’s always trying to get better, that’s a definite sore spot.
I also think you will see a sign that Michael Young will have a reduced role next year. Either in the position change example I gave earlier or somebody coming out and saying it. He has been hitting the ball better in September than he has all year, but I don’t think there is room for him in the starting lineup on the 2013 team.
- Give us some quick scouting reports on the pitchers the Indians will face this week.
Matt Harrison is going on extra rest, being pushed back from his scheduled start on Sunday. Harrison struggled in his last two starts and the extra rest was just a precaution and an attempt to get him back on track. He had been Texas’s best starter this season and the team will need a good Matt Harrison to compete in the playoffs. You can usually tell how good he will pitch by one thing: ground balls against right-handed hitters.
Ryan Dempster‘s numbers aren’t pretty but he is doing exactly what the Rangers got him for: Giving his team a chance to win every start. The team is 6-1 in his starts (Dempster is 5-1) and I don’t think anyone expected him to match his numbers from the first half in Chicago but he has been better than people thought, especially in his last two starts. He eats innings, gets people out and is a very good (not great) Major League starting pitcher.
Derek Holland, with Dempster is also someone who has been pitching much better as of late. He has had trouble with the one bad inning lately, but even that has gone away in his recent starts. His big problem is giving up homeruns but even that has happened less, and with less runners on base than when he was at his worst. He went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in a 1-1 game a few weeks ago and has been very good since then too except for one bad inning against the Yankees in a game that the team still won.
- What’s your prediction for the series?
I am going to say Texas will win 2-of-3. They have their most reliable starters going this series and I think that will lead them to the series win but this is baseball so you never know what will happen.
I say they lose the opener but pick up the next two behind Dempster and Holland.