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The Baseball Notebook


October 25, 2010 6:55 AM

Introducing The Texas Rangers

ALChamps.jpgThe World Series is set to start in San Francisco on Wednesday night. The Notebook will take the next two days and go through each team, player-by-player before the final Wednesday morning preview where all the individual parts get tied together into seeing how they work as a team. Since Texas opens on the road, I'll start with them...

C: Bengie Molina: He'll turn 36 in December and brings a veteran presence behind the plate. Molina spent the last two years in San Francisco, and he was a part of a 2002 World Series winner in Anaheim. He hit a big home run in Game 4 of the ALCS that decisively swung the entire series, but overall his bat isn't how he contributes, it's his handling of the pitching staff.

1B: Mitch Moreland: A rookie who swings a good bat. He gets on base consistently and drives the ball for power, and has OBP/Slugging numbers comparable to New York's more heralded Mark Teixeira.

2B: Ian Kinsler: Over the last five years, he's solidified himself as one of the better offensive second baseman in the American League. His weakness is defense, at a spot where defense where really matters. I

3B: Michael Young: People who follow baseball where happy to see this guy finally get a chance to reach the sport's biggest stage. He's been a loyal Ranger since 2000 and a productive one, hitting for both average and power and playing short & third well.

SS: Elvis Andrus: The 20-year old came of age in the ALCS, completely outplaying his role model, Derek Jeter. He's an excellent defender and base-stealer. His ability to get on base at the top of the lineup will be a big factor in whether Texas has another celebration ahead of them.

LF: David Murphy: What a trade Texas made in getting him for Boston as part of a package for Eric Gagne in 2007. Murphy has pretty good power and is decent at getting on-base. Against lefthanded pitching, Jeff Franceour also gets time here, and that's a dropoff for Texas.

CF: Josh Hamilton: His story is well known, as he's recovered from drug addiction to be a lead candidate for AL MVP. His swing is a work of art and he's an absolute machine in all offensive areas. A great story and a great player.

RF: Nelson Cruz: Injuries limited him to 22 home runs this year, but don't be fooled--Cruz brings some serious muscle to the lineup and is almost as potent an offensive threat as Hamilton.

DH: Vlad Guerrero: A long-time warrior and former MVP (2004), he was let go by the Angels this past offseason, came to Texas and showed he could still produce and drive in runs. He'll have to play the field in the road games, since there is no DH in the National League park. He was once renowned as one of the top rightfielders in baseball, thanks to his rifle arm, but his bad knees now make him a risk on defense. Tough decision for Ron Washington.

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SP: Cliff Lee: What else can be said here that you haven't read already? Complete dominance and a real workhorse. His coming free agency means every successful start adds the $$$ signs to his next contract.

SP: C.J. Wilson: He's been in the bigs since 2005, but this year was the first chance he really got to start. The lefty made the most of it, winning 15 games, logging over 200 innings and posting a 3.35 ERA. Two of his three postseason starts have been very good.

SP: Colby Lewis: Another pitcher who got his chance this year. He got his career started in Japan in 1999 before coming back to the States, and finally became in regular starter in 2010. A good year was highlighted by two dominating games against the Yankees in the playoffs, including Friday night's clincher.

SP: Tommy Hunter: At 24 years old, he was a nice #4 starter this year, winning 13 games and posting a 3.73 ERA. But he's struggled in both playoff starts. I doubt he'd get the ball in Game 4 if Texas trails in the series.

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RP: Darren O'Day: The submarine-delivery has quietly made O'Day one of the game's top setup man. He's the man Washington will rely on to get San Fran's righthanded hitters (Buster Posey Pat Burrell) out late in games.

RP: Darren Oliver: A quality veteran who's been through the wars since coming to the big leagues in 1993. He was with playoff teams with the Mets (2006) and the Angels (2007-09) before coming here. He's a solid lefthander and gives Texas the ability to match up late with Giant hitters like Aubrey Huff.

RP: Derek Holland: Holland's in his second year and normally a starter in the regular season. His 4.08 ERA is pretty good, and he was excellent in the ALCS.

CL: Neftali Feliz: He's only 22 years old and saved 42 games this year with a 2.42 ERA. To date in the playoffs, he hasn't faced a major test. Texas had kicked away Game 1 of the ALCS before turning to him, and the other games they won so decisively they weren't save situations. But perhaps pitching in low-pressure situations was just what he needed to acclimate himself to the postseason.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily MLB playoff coverage and game analysis in college football and the NFL. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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