The way teams open the season always means something, because the games obviously count, but it doesn’t mean much. Even still. It remains too irresponsibly early to draw any logical conclusions.
So when I see the Astros are 3-3 — the same as both the Rangers and Athletics — I’m not thinking to myself holy shit Houston is going to be as competitive as Oakland and Texas in 2014; it’s more like… okay, sweet. All good things must come to an end, the same as most bad things.
Because, through the first week, 13 out of 15 American League teams have at least three losses already. The Tigers (4-1) and Mariners (4-2) are the two teams with less than three defeats, and the Rays (4-3) are the only other squad on the junior circuit with a better than .500 record.
Essentially — as is expected within baseball’s current climate — the difference between average, above-average, and pretty good, is getting smaller and smaller. As the season pushes forward, the gap partitioning the haves and have-nots will take care of itself, but for the seven or eight teams that stay in contention for the postseason, it should be a dog fight. And, likely excluding teams like the Astros (sorry, guys), Twins and White Sox, the American League offers very few pushovers. 85 or 86 wins might not sound very sexy in April, but in 2014 it may be enough to secure a wild card berth.
For the Rangers, specifically, after a 3-3 first week I can’t bring myself to feel anything but encouraged, particularly with respect to their hodgepodge starting rotation they opened the season with. For the next few weeks, sure, it’s going to be frustrating to watch Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross wet the bed, but as long as Yu Darvish and Martín Perez can each do their thing, keep the team afloat, there’s nothing terribly wrong with going into May as a .500 team… maybe a few games below .500. And who knows? Maybe Scheppers and/or Ross will be better than the low bar I’m setting for them. The point is, they don’t have to be good to get the Rangers to the promised land. Texas has enough talent, and enough depth to supplement the unfortunate injuries to Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto.
I wrote about Martín Perez the last chance I had to write on here, but I’ve already convinced myself he’s going to be surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, I guess) influential towards the success of this year’s team. The Rangers have enough talent — as is — to shit out an 80-win season; but it’s players like Perez, and Profar when he returns, and Holland when he returns, and Colby Lewis (god willing), who can potentially make it to 90 or better.
I’m tempering my expectations for what this team is capable of, but, at the same time, it’s in my nature to be an optimist. I can’t help it. And when it comes to the Rangers, I’m all-in every season… constantly finding silver linings and reasons to believe in the best-case scenario. I like it better that way, because the alternative is to freak out every time something bad happens, or bitch about every loss, or say that Player X has “lost it” after going into a slump at the plate. I’m just not that guy.
Sure, I have my moments where I criticize Ron Washington’s tactics, and whether it’s Michael Young or David Murphy or Mitch Moreland, there is usually always going to be a player on the team who I pick on. (But that’s more for fun than anything else, because of course I’ll love you if you are doing good things for the Rangers.) In the end, I tend to believe my outlook on Texas is at least mildly sane compared to most sports fans. And I’m okay with that.
The rest of the West is interesting. The Mariners probably had the best week, going 4-2 behind two strong Felix Hernandez performances (14.1 IP, 3 ER, 10 hits, 19 Ks, 2 BBs), and an offense that scored 34 runs in 6 games (5.66 runs/game). Even Justin Smoak (.292/.370/.625) and Dustin Ackley (.292/.346/.542) have been hitting the ball, a phenomena which is both weird and likely to straighten itself out over the next few weeks and months. Oh, and Robinson Cano will continue to do Robinson Cano things.
The Angels arrived about just as we expected… Jered Weaver has continued his downward trend… C.J. Wilson should be pretty good, but he didn’t look like much in his first outing… Tyler Skaggs was impressive… Mike Trout is still awesome, and Josh Hamilton has been pretty hot at the plate. My big issue with Anaheim still stems from a rotation that isn’t very imposing; even with what should be one of the best offenses in baseball, the lack of frontline pitching talent would bother me if I was an Angels fan.
The A’s are still the A’s: A big fucking question mark. The loss of Jarrod Parker forces Sonny Gray to be the boss of that rotation, and, assuming he does, all it will take is a third consecutive solid season from the lineup, and the A’s will be right there in the mid-80-wins territory, if not better.