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So, what are the Rangers up against?

Oct 29, 2010, 9:06 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants, Game 2 Getty Images

On the one hand I want to be at least somewhat optimistic about the Rangers chances. I mean, there’s no way that Ron Washington can screw up the bullpen so badly a second time in one series, right?  There’s no way that a formidable Rangers lineup will remain so utterly impotent, right?  There’s no way they won’t do a lot more damage against lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner — at home no less — than they could do against Lincecum and Cain, right?

But then I look at the numbers and realize how dire things truly are:

  • Teams have taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series 51 times.  Forty of those teams went on to win it;
  • The last 11 teams that took a 2-0 lead at home have gone on to win it;
  • The last three teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series went on to win the thing in a sweep.

I mean, sure, you can point to the 1996 Yankees who went down 2-0 at home and went on to steamroll the Braves in the next four, but they were rather exceptional for that very reason. And, in hindsight, that was the beginning of a sustained run of excellence for the Yankees, the likes we haven’t seen since Mickey Mantle’s day. The exception that proved the rule, as it were. Unless the Giants sign Mark Wohlers between now and Sunday I don’t know that the 1996 Yankees’ example is very instructive.

So get the antlers and the claws ready, Rangers fans. Be prepared to scream your head off.  But likewise be prepared for this thing to end poorly, because it usually does for teams in the Rangers’ shoes.

  1. Kevin S. - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    Among Yankee examples, I actually think ’01 might be a bit more instructive. Arizona steamrolled the Yanks out in the desert, but they came home, regrouped in remarkable fashion, and were two outs away from winning in Game 7. Nothing we’ve seen in the first two games changes what we had learned in the previous hundred and seventy, and I’d have to conclude from the body of work this season that the Rangers are a slightly better team, heading home for the next three games. Tall odds, but certainly not impossible.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM

      Gotta agree with pretty much everything Kevin said, adding only that the Rangers also have yet to pitch their best non-Lee pitcher, Lewis. Holland might be better than Wilson at this point as well, but Washington will probably stick with Hunter for Game 4.

      But yeah, tall odds. Only 20% of the time has a team come back from that kinda deficit. There are some mitigating factors, but I can’t see pushing it up too much higher.

      I, for one, welcome our new bearded overlords.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM

      That’s only if you assume the AL is stronger than the NL still. Texas may not be “slightly better” than SF. They may just be “slightly worse” than SF. And so far it seems to be the case. SF knocked Philly out, who by all standards was the strongest team in baseball at the end of the season. And now look. They have OWNED the Texas Rangers so far. IMO. SF is the better team.

      • BC - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:52 AM

        Even a broken watch is right twice a day. SF is hot at the right time. On paper, Texas is the better team. On paper.
        Heck, even my Mets were hot for a couple stretches last year.
        All you gotta do is get into the playoffs and then get hot at the right time. Happens 57,000 times more in baseball than any other sport.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 29, 2010 at 10:26 AM

        Yes, but they also have stronger pitching. Stronger pitching in the playoffs usually equals stronger team. No? The Offense has basically just stepped it up a notch, and when you keep the Rangers batters on their heels like this, while you’re seeing the ball well, it’s just a plus. Put it this way, even if the SF offense wasn’t hitting so well they’d still be pretty equal with Texas right now. The fact their bats are hot is making it into a blowout so far. And the fact that they got hot at the right time was enough with their pitching, to beat Philly. I stand by my statement that Texas is not “slightly better”.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM

        Why wouldn’t we assume the AL is stronger than the NL? Again, Arizona owned the Yanks in the first two games of that series. It turned around in a hurry back in New York.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM

        Is this the real Kevin S.??? You are now going to assume things??? Ok, where did you hide his body? Kevin S. reviews data, does calculations, reviews stats that measure abilities, does more calculations, checks the weather report for the rest of the series, calculates ability in reference to weather patterns, then KNOWS who’s stronger of a team. Me I like to rely on your ability to score runs while preventing the other team from doing so (wow btw). And I have a natrual NL bias to factor in as well.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM

        Read this Kevin. I know you’ll enjoy it. It just goes to show everything you “know” about baseball could be wrong.

      • mcsnide - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM

        The AL has dominated interleague play for the last seven years. That seems to indicate to me, at least, that it’s the better league. Now which team is better is a completely different animal. But to argue that the NL is on par with the AL is what requires evidence, not the other way around.

      • mcsnide - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:16 AM


        When the book you excerpted was written (1999), the NL was likely the superior league, and interleague results from the first 6-7 years of interleague indicate that.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:19 AM

        Exactly, mcsnide makes the point. We would assume the AL is the better league because it has consistently dominated interleague play for a long time now. Sure, it’s possible the NL is better, but the evidence makes that extremely unlikely. Thus, we “assume,” based on the evidence we have, that the AL is the stronger league.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:25 AM

        Mcsnide,I was waiting for that. But the theory remains the same if you read it. If an Al team doesn’t have superior pitching to the NL team the theory is they are not “better” while an NL team can be “better” with equal pitching. Pretty much in a roundabout way of saying it. But that wasn’t my point. My point was more of ” who the frig knows anymore because people can come up with 50 different answers by changing one little statistical calculation”.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 29, 2010 at 1:00 PM

        Part of the reason the AL appears to be the better league is because the NL has 2 additional teams which totally dilutes the talent pool. I don’t buy into the idea that the best teams don’t always win in the playoffs. Maybe in a 5 game series you can get hot and roll, but in 7 games? No, in 7 games the best team wins. Anyone who continues to hold on to some notion that the team that lost was really better is just trying to make themselves look better for a bad prediction. The Giants aren’t suddenly good, they’ve been good for most of the second half of the season, and they have the best starters and bullpen in all of baseball. There’s a saying, been around for a while, that good pitching beats good hitting. That’s what happened vs Philly and that’s what’s happening vs Texas. Whichever team has the best pitching, as long as their offense is semi-competent, wins a 7 game series almost every time.

      • Adam - Oct 29, 2010 at 4:27 PM

        AL vs NL Interleague record overall is AL 1673 wins vs NL 1534 wins. If you extrapolate that to a 162 game schedule (assuming both are teams), you get an 84 win team. Nobody would call that team dominant.

        Interleague play, in general, favors the AL. Since the AL doesn’t play real baseball and teams pay 5-10+ million for a DH, they have an extra hitter either on the bench or in the field. Few, if any, teams in the NL has a bat on the bench as good as the DH in the AL. It just doesn’t make monetary sense (for team or player). When the AL comes to NL parks the AL teams has a much better pinch hitter waiting and pitchers normally bunt or make outs anyway.

        And if you’re really going to have Interleague play they’re doing it wrong. NL parks should have DHs in play and AL parks should have pitchers bat. Otherwise you’re not showing how the other league plays.

      • feartherallythong - Oct 29, 2010 at 6:34 PM

        Is this even the right argument, though? Once you are down to two teams, does the average strength of the other teams matter? I know everyone’s excited, and diving headlong into statistical minutiae, but it seems to me that the ONLY argument worth having – since we are all just jabbing impotent fingers into the dark anyway – is which of the two remaining teams is the better?

        And hell, since the Giants got by the Braves (about even) and the Phils (almost incontrovertibly better than the Giants on paper) – and that the Rangers got by two good teams as well – isn’t the ONLY discussion who happens to be hotter right now, and will that momentum change in Arlington?
        Just sayin’ maybe it’s time to narrow the focus of the argument…

        Aw, whom I kidding? Bring on the minutiae!

    • willmose - Oct 30, 2010 at 9:53 AM

      Most of you believe the AL is stronger than NL based on interleague play. The AL wins more games so they must be better, right? All that might be true if interleague play was a balanced schedule each year and perhaps even if the schedule was balanced out over several years. Of course, it is not. Simple example, if interleague play consisted of the Yankees playing the Pirates every year, guess what, the AL would win more than NL. When a team with a 700 winning percentage plays a team with 300 winning percentage, guess what? The team with the 700 winning percentage wins more of the games. Until 1969, MBL stats were pure, every team played every other team in their league, home and away, the same number of times. Many statistical difficulties came out in the wash.

      The real difference between the leagues: the NL has two more teams. That means that NL has two more bad teams than the AL. In the 70s and 80s it was the other way around and NL was clearly superior to AL.

      The Giants are the better team. They have better pitching. They hammered the “unhitable” Lee. They are knocking the crap out of the Texans’ bullpen. The Texans’ defensive looks like they need to take infield before the game at the very least.

      This baseball, so you never know. but the Giants are the way to bet.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    A series doesn’t actually take shape until the home team loses a game. The Giants have the home field, and did what they had to do by winning the first two games. Now it is up to the Rangers to win the next 3 at home. If they do that, then we will see all the stories with headlines of “So, what are the Giants up against?”

  3. BC - Oct 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    ” the likes we haven’t seen since Mickey Mantle’s day”
    Um… what about the Reds in the 70’s?

  4. Richard In Big D - Oct 29, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    “I mean, sure, you can point to the 1996 Yankees who went down 2-0 at home and went on to steamroll the Braves in the next four, but they were rather exceptional for that very reason. And, in hindsight, that was the beginning of a sustained run of excellence for the Yankees, the likes we haven’t seen since Mickey Mantle’s day.”
    Herein lies the hope I hold as I prepare to trudge out to Arlington and will the boys to collect their mojo (which they apparantly left in their lockers), and dispatch the Giants as they should. Claw and antlers should beat a silly old beard every time.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM

      “As they should”? What evidence have you seen in the first 2 games that tells you Texas should win a single game this series? Texas has been:

      1. Out-pitched
      2. Out-hit
      3. Out-managed
      4. Kicking the ball around

      Ah, now I can definitely see where they hold an advantage.

  5. madglen - Oct 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Why can’t folks just come out and say the Giants are just a better team at this time and stop making excuses on why they are winning. The Giants in 5!

  6. sailcat54 - Oct 29, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    “Claw and antlers should beat a silly old beard every time.”

    The Giants have better starting and relief pitching and better fielding than the Rangers. Clearly, they are better managed. They have less consistent hitting, but the Giants can hit when the mood strikes, obviously. Overall, I fail to see where one could say the Rangers would be the better team of the two.

    But we will find out soon, won’t we?

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