Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Monday, April 23, 2012
The two most perfect teams of the past 15 years were the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners. Those teams won 114 and 116 games respectively, as they steamrolled opponents with a combination of starting pitching, offense, bullpen, speed and defense. The Rangers remind of those two clubs in that I can’t find a weakness. Entering Monday’s action, the Rangers lead the majors in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. Their run differential is an amazing +52 already, a bigger differential than the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox and Indians added together (the other AL teams with a positive run differential so far).
3. Offensive firepower. Josh Hamilton went 3-for-3 on Sunday with his seventh home run. He’s hitting .418. Michael Young is hitting .403. Mike Napoli has six home runs and a 1.042 OPS. Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler has four home runs and a .597 slugging percentage. As hot as they are, there is one big difference between this club and the ‘98 Yankees and ‘01 Mariners, both of whom led their leagues in runs even though they didn’t lead in home runs. Those teams walked a lot: the Yankees drew 653 walks and had a .364 OBP; the Mariners drew 614 walks and had a .360 OBP.
The Rangers, however, are a different breed. Entering Sunday they ranked just 16th in the majors in walks. Last season they ranked just 21st. It’s difficult to lead your league in runs scored if you don’t walk more; so far, the Rangers have been relying on an unsustainable .334 average on balls in play. The fact they rank ninth in line-drive percentage indicates a fair share of grounders that are sneaking through. What’s interesting about the Rangers is that while they don’t walk a lot, they don’t really expand the strike zone either. Entering Sunday, only six teams had swung at a lower percentage of pitchers outside the strike zone. It seems they have a controlled aggression at the plate. You can try to get ahead of them with a strike, but guys like Hamilton, Young and Adrian Beltre also like to attack those first-pitch strikes.
Thanks to Drew.
for his generous support.
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