2011 ALCS Preview and Predictions by Whatifsports.com From WhatIfSports.com image

Don't Mess with Texas

Rangers win in seven

By Joel Beall, WhatIfSports.com
Oct. 7, 2011

If one were to conjure an image of mirroring ball clubs, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers would not fall into this conviction. In fact, many believe the two franchises to be polar opposites. On one side rests the Rangers, built on the philosophy of power and plate discipline thanks to the launching pad they call home. On the other end of the spectrum sits the Tigers, fueled by their superstar starting pitcher and protected by their cavernous ballpark and sound defense.

ALCS 101 Simulations of Best of 7 Series
Detroit48.5151124 9
Texas51.49711 1123

Yet a closer examination debunks this theory, as Detroit and Texas are concocted from the same mold. True, the Rangers have one of the more explosive offenses in baseball, as their 855 runs ranked third in the majors this season. Yet right behind the Arlington boys are the men from Motown, whose 787 runs were good enough for fourth-best in baseball. The Tigs might not knock as many shots out of the stadium as the Rangers (169 Detroit homers versus 210 Texas jacks), but Jim Leyland’s crew has the same OBP as the Rangers (.340) and a comparable batting average (.283 for Texas, .277 for Detroit).

However, this correspondence does not stop at the plate. Headlined by All-Star and expected Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the Tigers boast a formidable starting five. But the Rangers’ rotation is impressive in its’ own right, as Texas starters maintained a collective 3.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Though he may not possess the same statistical supremacy of Verlander, Ranger ace C.J. Wilson is no slouch, posting 206 strikeouts with a 2.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP on the season.

And while their schedules were far from alike, it seems apropos that the two teams finished the regular season just a game apart, with Texas claiming 96 victories to Detroit’s 95 Ws. Fitting, then, that these similar squads will battle for a reservation in the Fall Classic starting on Saturday.

Verlander’s success (0.92 WHIP, 2.40 ERA, 250 Ks, 24-5 record) rightfully received much of the publicity in Comerica Park this season, but the Tigers are far from a one-man pitching band. Since arriving from Seattle in late July, Doug Fister has been magnificient in the Motor City, owning a 1.79 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 11 games for the Tigers. Though they had their rough patches during the season, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello combined for 29 wins and 377 innngs. Closing duties are handled by Jose Valverde, who was remarkably reliable in 2011 with 49 saves, a 2.24 ERA and zero blown opportunities. Joaquin Benoit (66 games, 1.05 WHIP), rookie Al Alburquerque (43.1 innings, 1.15 WHIP) and Phil Coke (eight holds despite splitting time between starting and relieving) are also vital components out of the Detroit pen.

Sample Box Score
TeamsRHEWIS Interactive
Tigers260Simulate Game

Despite some offseason drama, Miguel Cabrera turned in another fine season at first base, leading the league in average (.344) and OBP (.448) to go along with 30 homers and 105 ribbies. Aiding Cabrera in this offensive endeavor are Victor Martinez (.330 average, 103 RBI), Alex Avila (.389 OBP, 19 homers, 82 RBI) and Jhonny Peralta (21 homers, 86 RBI, .299 average).

The Rangers certainly aren’t lacking fireworks on the offensive side. Despite missing 41 games, Josh Hamilton submitted 25 homers, 94 RBI and 80 runs on the season. Offseason acquisition Adrian Beltre didn’t disappoint, driving in 105 runs on an abbreviated amount of time (124 games). Also impressive was the production from the venerable Michael Young. The veteran Young, who asked for a trade at the beginning of the season and wasn’t projected as an everyday player, played in 159 games while pacing the team with a .338 average. Nelson Cruz (29 homers), Mike Napoli (30 long balls, .320 average) and Ian Kinsler (32 homers) were fellow contributors at the plate.

Besides Wilson, Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95 ERA) and Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39 ERA) kept the Rangers in most contests, and while a bumpy August inflated his season figures, Alexi Ogando (13-8, 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) was a major player in the Rangers’ run to the playoffs. Neftali Felix avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, closing 32 saves for Texas with a 1.16 WHIP. Setup man Mike Adams has been a calming presence in the pen, posting a ridiculous 0.90 WHIP since reaching Arlington in midseason.

So who wins this clash of Junior Circuit juggernauts? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports’ simulation engine, the Rangers squeak out the series, winning 51.49 percent of the time, with a seven-game set the most likelyoutcome. Texas is ignited by Young (.311 projected average), Napoli (.294 average, four RBI) and Beltre (four ribbies, three runs) on offense, while Wilson and Harrison keep the Tiger bats at bay. In the losing cause, Martinez (.343 average) and Cabrera (.336, four RBI, four runs) pace the Tigers, but Verlander is finally silenced, surrendering a 3.83 ERA in the series.

Joel Beall is a writer for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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