The Competition: Texas Rangers

As we all agreed upon here at MCB before the season started, we didn’t want to just talk about the Tigers in terms of the Central division. After all, the sights are set a little bit higher this year, and the division isn’t exactly the toughest. The first team we looked at in this series, the Boston Red Sox, was done by Chris Hannum a few days ago. I wanted to continue it with a look at the Texas Rangers.

Texas is of course the 2 time defending American League champion, and strangely enough is kind of flying under the radar. The noise coming from Anaheim is kind of drowning them out. Don’t be fooled, however, the Rangers are still a very good ball club and will be in the hunt until the end.  So, today I look at how the Tigers stack up versus the Texas Rangers position by position in the same vain that Hannum did a couple days ago.

First Base: Prince Fielder vs. Mitch Moreland

Advantage: Detroit

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Not much to say here. Prince’s defense isn’t good, but he more than makes up for it. Moreland is pedestrian.

Second Base: Raburn/Santiago vs. Ian Kinsler

Advantage: Texas

Much like first base, this is easy. Kinsler is an offensive and defensive plus from the 2nd base position. We aren’t even positive who Detroit’s 2nd baseman really is.

Third Base: Miguel Cabrera vs. Adrian Beltre

Advantage: Texas

Much like Hannum in the Boston version, I am sure I am not going to be popular for this choice. There is no doubt that Cabrera is an offensive juggernaut, but Beltre has posted excellent offensive numbers the past couple of seasons as well. He is also one of, if not the best, defensive 3B in baseball. There literally could be a 30-35 run difference in what he saves compared to Cabrera, who is going to struggle at the hot corner.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta vs. Elvis Andrus

Advantage: Texas

There is no doubt Peralta had a fantastic year last year. This is just a personal preference here, as I think Andrus is still getting better offensively, and is a better defender.

Catcher: Alex Avila vs. Mike Napoli

Advantage: Detroit

Well, if defense counts, it counts. Both players are quality hitters, with Napoli showing more power. I like Avila quite a bit better with the glove, so he gets the nod here.

Designated Hitter: “Committee” vs. Michael Young

Advantage: Texas

Kind of another no-brainer here again. Young can hit still, and given the potential guys like Andy Dirks, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, and Don Kelly will get at-bats here, I can’t consciously pick the Tigers.

Left Field: Delmon Young vs. David Murphy

Advantage: Draw

I wasn’t going to do a draw, but these guys are pretty similar players. Young is slightly better offensively, and I prefer Murphy with the glove. Neither has much of an advantage over the other.

Center Field: Austin Jackson vs. Josh Hamilton

Advantage: Texas

Not as much as a no-brainer as it was two years ago, but still, Hamilton and his offensive production when healthy can’t be ignored, and he is still a good defender. He was still a win and a half better according to fWAR last season over Jackson.

Right Field: Brennan Boesch vs. Nelson Cruz

Advantage: Texas

This one is pretty close. Offensively, Cruz is a little better than Boesch, at least until he can show he can put together a 2nd half. And, with the exception of last season, Cruz is normally a positive UZR defender out in RF. Boesch has shown to be a little rough around the edges out there.

Bench:

Advantage: Draw

Texas’ backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba is better than Detroit’s Gerald Laird, but the Tigers certainly have better defensive versatility overall with Clete Thomas and Don Kelly. Craig Gentry is a good defender, but they have Brandon Snyder and he isn’t really proven anything.

Rotation:

#1 Justin Verlander vs. Colby Lewis

Advantage: Detroit

Yes, this is how it was listed on the Rangers official site depth chart, Colby Lewis numero uno. Ummm……yeah. Verlander.

#2 Doug Fister vs. Derek Holland

Advantage: Detroit

Holland is getting better. Not quite there yet though, and Fister is getting better himself. Fister by a decent margin right now.

#3 Max Scherzer vs. Matt Harrison

Advantage: Texas

Believe it or not Detroit fans, Harrison right now is the better pitcher. Not many probably realize Harrison posted a 3.52 FIP last season and a 4.2 fWAR.

#4 Rick Porcello vs. Yu Darvish

Advantage: Texas

Porcello is what he is. A 4th starter. I watched Darvish, and the guy is nasty. I think he is going to at least approach being worth the money, and that means I would take him over Porcello right now.

#5 Drew Smyly vs. Neftali Feliz

Advantage: Draw

Feliz of course has fantastic stuff, and was a very successful starter in the minors. But he is just as big a question mark in the rotation as Smyly is. My feeling is that Feliz will be better, but he has some health questions as well.

Closer: Jose Valverde vs. Joe Nathan

Advantage: Detroit

Valverde IS one of the top closers in the game, and until he proves otherwise, Joe Nathan WAS one of the top closers in the game.

Rest of the bullpen:

Advantage: Texas

Mike Adams and Joaquin Benoit are pretty much a wash. The Tigers have a lefty advantage, but I am giving this to the Rangers because of Alexi Ogando and Koji Uehera. They essentially have 4 guys that could legitimately close. The Tigers have 3 right now, and righty specialists like Scott Feldman make a difference.

There isn’t a lot of teams that can match up with the Tigers offensively. Texas happens to be one of them, and they might be slightly better than Detroit. Pitching wise, the top of the rotation is definitely in Detroit’s favor, but the middle favors Texas. With similar bullpens, I cannot look past the fact that the Rangers post some significantly better defenders especially in the infield. Also, they run the bases better than Detroit. They are essentially the same team as last year, only with Darvish instead of C.J. Wilson.

As much as I would like to say different, I think the Rangers are still the better team. Doesn’t mean Detroit can’t beat them, but they will have to have some breaks go their way to do so.

 

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