In 2015, the Texas Rangers finished 88-74 and won the AL West, ultimately losing to the Toronto Blue Jays in the division series. This year, the Rangers look like a legitimate World Series contender. They’ve got great arms at the top of their rotation, a fearsome middle of the order, and, perhaps most importantly, an underrated yet highly effective bullpen.
“I agree,” Rangers television announcer Steve Busby said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You look back to last year and people look at the Hamels deal at the deadline. Well, what came along with Cole Hamels was probably as important as a starting pitcher. They got Sam Dyson, they got Jake Diekman – a couple guys that fit in the back end of the bullpen and throw extremely hard. All of a sudden you’re looking at a Ranger team that, as they did last year, is able to shorten ball games down to six innings. That’s a big positive.”
Dyson and Diekman combined for 22 holds in 57 games and allowed just nine earned runs in 53 innings. They also averaged nearly a strikeout per inning.
Yu Darvish, meanwhile, is expected back from Tommy John surgery in mid-May or early June.
“It’s exactly what they hoped for,” Busby said. “They just want to make sure that when he comes back, he’s able to stay back in the rotation.”
Offensively, the Rangers are banking on another brilliant season from Prince Fielder, who last year led the team in hits (187), average (.305), OBP (.378), homers (23) and RBIs (98). Fielder struggled in 2014, hitting .247 with three home runs in 42 games. Then he had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
Based on Fielder’s statistics, the surgery was quite successful.
“I think health is the big thing and peace of mind that comes along with being healthy again,” Busby said. “Injuries are probably the most difficult thing mentally on a guy in professional sports to come back from. Fielder had that neck surgery a year before last and didn’t really know coming into spring training if he’d be 100 percent game-ready or healthy. He found out that he was and all of a sudden it was like somebody lifted a huge weight off of his shoulders. He relaxed. He started swinging the bat the way he is capable of. The one thing that didn’t come back right away was the power aspect, the home run aspect. That’ll be back this year to whatever it’s going to be. I look for him to be a 25-30 home run guy again.”
Ultimately, Busby sees a two-team race between the Rangers and Astros in the AL West.
“To me, the most difficult thing in sports is winning for the first time,” Busby said. “The second most difficult thing is winning it again, backing it up. No longer is a Ranger ball club going to sneak up on people. (Jeff) Bannister is going to have to manage hopefully a healthy group of guys, but he sure has a lot to work with this year.”