D-backs-Rangers position-by-position breakdown

October 27th, 2023

The World Series is here, and if Arizona-Texas is a most unexpected matchup, it's also quite a compelling one. Both teams went from more than 100 losses two years ago to the World Series – the first time such a thing has happened – and both teams have an identical 9-3 record so far this month, both having swept their first two rounds and having required seven games to win their LCS. Each team has a truly outstanding young rookie (or two) in its lineup.

But that might be where the similarities end. Texas has a living legend Hall of Fame manager, and the core of its roster largely came via big-ticket signings and trades; the Rangers and their fans are desperate to overcome the ghosts of 2010-11 to finally win their first title. The D-backs are this year’s official giant slayers, having taken down the Phillies, Dodgers and Brewers; they may literally be the least likely World Series participant ever.

If you don’t get too hung up on the narratives about big markets and regular-season win total, you might just find some really interesting baseball. Let’s break the two sides down position by position – and remember, it’s not just about “who has played better in the playoffs.”


Both teams have a strength here, though there’s definitely a difference in Arizona making a big trade for a highly touted prospect () and Texas finding a late-blooming star on his fourth organization (), acquired in a deal mostly meant to ship out long-time stalwart Elvis Andrus.

To look at their regular-season hitting line, they’d be about identical (Heim: 103 OPS+ // Moreno: 104 OPS+). But the shape there is very different, as Moreno overcame a slow start to mash in the second half, while Heim did the exact opposite (around, it should be noted, a wrist injury). They each even have 12 hits this month, though Moreno’s got two additional extra-base hits, and while Heim did have a considerable advantage in framing this year, they’ve been about identical in the postseason. They’re both good at throwing, but Heim is strong and Moreno elite; given Moreno’s late-season hitting, we’ll ever so slightly give him the edge.

Advantage: D-backs

First base

is the best defensive first baseman in baseball, by kind of a lot, and while we should pause to note that Nathaniel Lowe made some considerable steps forward in that regard – he went from one of the weakest around to being named a Gold Glove finalist, which is just an incredible year-over-year improvement – he’s not Walker, who is truly elite.

While Walker hasn’t hit much in the playoffs so far (.699 OPS), neither has Lowe (.698 OPS, with a strikeout rate of nearly 40%). Given that Walker hit better over the course of the regular season (.830 OPS to .775) and retains that fielding edge, the D-backs have a somewhat small advantage here.

Advantage: D-backs

Second base

We said we wouldn’t just look at postseason performance to date, and we mean it, as you’ll see at other positions. But it’s a little hard to look past the fact that has a 16-game postseason hitting streak, while has had a pretty miserable October overall, hitting a mere .192/.276/.231. That alone wouldn’t be enough to tip things Arizona’s way, except we’re guessing that plenty of people are going to be surprised to learn that Marte actually out-hit Semien by a little in the regular season, as well (128 OPS+ vs 122 OPS+).

It’s fair to point out that Semien is an elite defender, and Marte is a merely average one. But Semien often gets talked about as “baseball’s most underrated star,” and while that’s true, it’s true for Marte too.

Advantage: D-backs


With all due respect to Arizona shortstop – who did, we should remind you, make the All-Star team and then pitch in eight hits against the Phillies – he’s a nice player who is definitely not the most likely player to finish second behind Shohei Ohtani in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting, as  is. It’s not like he’s cooled off any in October, either; Seager is merely hitting .333/.483/1.127 this month, with eight extra-base hits.

Advantage: Rangers

Third base

Arizona uses both  and here, but neither has hit much at all this month – Longoria in particular has been rough, with a .135/.214/.189 line this season contributing to a mere .172/.238/.391 line across 47 career postseason games – and Rivera has actually been worse. All of which is to say, the Rangers don’t have a high bar to clear here to gain the edge, and star rookie  has more than done that, following up a strong 23-homer season with three postseason homers among his 13 hits.

Advantage: Rangers

Left field

Texas rookie has been an absolute sensation on both sides of the ball in his first postseason – remember, again, that he only made his Major League debut on Sept. 8 – and even though the team usually platoons him with righty  against lefties, the D-backs don’t have any lefty starters. (They did use lefty  as an opener once in the NLCS, which they might do again.)

While Carter has been tremendous (.308/.449/.538 with strong defense), Arizona’s  has had a more up-and-down postseason, chipping in some big hits at times but managing just a .250/.265/.438 line overall. Throw in the huge defensive difference, and Texas will be happy to go with the 21-year-old Carter.

Advantage: Rangers

Center field

On one side: a pretty good defensive center fielder who didn’t hit that much this year (Arizona’s , at +6 Outs Above Average and a 75 OPS+). On the other side, a pretty good defensive center fielder who took some steps forward to being almost league-average with the bat (Texas’s , at +8 Outs Above Average and a 97 OPS+). This isn’t the spot where you’ll find the biggest stars on either side, and so there’s not much of an edge here. We’ll take Taveras due to the better regular-season bat and that he’s reached based far more often in October (.354 OBP to Thomas’s .290), even if Thomas has offered a bit more power.

Advantage: Rangers

Right field

Easily the closest and most difficult call to make, and there is not a choice that will satisfy everyone, or even anyone. is the breakout young star of the entire 2023 season, the almost certain National League Rookie of the Year, the one who overcame a relatively unimpressive first six games of the NLCS to have a tremendous impact in Game 7, the one who can change a game both at the plate and on the bases.

On the other side, Texas has , who has merely pounded his way through the entire postseason, mashing seven homers – including at least one in each of the final four games of the ALCS – and with a massive .327/.352/.750 line. Carroll slightly out-hit García during the regular season, and he’s a far more dangerous baserunner, but there’s one difference between them that’s striking, and that’s in their throwing arms, where García has one of the strongest and most valuable outfield arms, while Carroll’s is extremely weak, even allowing Kyle Schwarber to go first-to-third on him in the NLCS. It might be an important difference in a big spot.

Advantage: We don’t want to pick. Please don’t make us choose. (Throws a dart: Rangers.)

Designated hitter

didn’t even appear in the first three games of postseason for Texas, but a grand slam in ALDS Game 2 – and 12 total postseason hits – has made him Bruce Bochy’s regular choice as DH ever since. Garver slugged .500 with 19 homers this year, despite playing in only 87 games, and for years, he’s been one of baseball’s best four-seam fastball mashers. (Since 2019, only Aaron Judge has a higher slugging percentage on four-seamers, among those with at least 250 plate appearances against them.) While offers a tough at-bat and the ability to play the outfield, he’s got a .590 OPS this October, and Garver outslugged him by 54 points in the regular season.

Advantage: Rangers

Starting pitching

Were we to simply rely on postseason performance, then we would have to say that (5.24 ERA, 6.93 FIP in the playoffs) is a poor pitcher, and certainly that’s not the case, not after he posted a season that’s likely to garner him some Cy Young support. The whole thing gets tricky, really; you can’t just look at Gallen’s postseason ERA, and you can’t just look at 's incredible resume without realizing he’s not that pitcher right now – even if, like Gallen, he’s not really a “9.45 ERA” pitcher, as he’s been this postseason.

So what do you do? The D-backs and Rangers can probably each use their top two starters (Gallen and for Arizona; and for Texas) twice in a potential full-length seven-game series. If there’s an edge there, it’s a tiny one; it’s here we’ll at least note that Montgomery has been tremendous this month, while Gallen has not.

Beyond that, Scherzer is a legend not performing like one, while is a rookie who did not have a good regular season (5.72 ERA) before allowing just two earned runs in three starts against the Phillies and Dodgers. The real issue here, however, is that the Rangers have ever so many options to start a fourth game – or or  or however Bochy may like it. The D-backs do not have a fourth starter, which is how they ended up using an opener in the NLCS. It’s tight, but that difference in depth is enough for us.

Advantage: Rangers

Relief pitching

The bullpens aren’t a strength of either side, really; they might be the largest weakness on both clubs, which could lead to some wild late-inning outcomes. Not that regular-season bullpen performance matters much right now – many of the faces and names have changed – but both teams had bottom-half bullpen ERAs, and even though the postseason ERAs look better ….

  • Arizona: 2.94 ERA
  • Texas: 3.72 ERA

… the underlying numbers are appropriately spooky for the Halloween season:

  • Arizona: 8.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, an xERA of 4.01
  • Texas: 6.9 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, an xERA of 7.21

What that’s saying is that both teams have allowed fewer runs than their bullpen performance might indicate, but that the Rangers have really allowed fewer runs than expected. Were you to ask Rangers fans, might be the only name they consider trustworthy, and it’s not like he’s had a clean postseason himself (4.35 ERA, 7.35 xERA). It might come down to Leclerc, and however many starting pitchers Bochy wants to use in relief before entrusting (and his wildly misleading 1.42 ERA, against his 7.35 xERA) in a big spot again.

It’s not, of course, that the D-backs have some endless stable of great bullpen arms. They do not. But if you were to rank all the relievers on both teams, 1 through 15, you’d probably have to start with and . You might include , too. Torey Lovullo has a few lefties he can spot in, as well – important against Carter, Seager and Lowe. It’s not a great bullpen. It might not even be a good one. But it is a better one in this series.

Advantage: D-backs


Given that both LCS went the full seven, there’s no “does a layoff matter” narrative here. Given that neither team won more than 90 games, there’s not even really a David vs. Goliath story to tell; they can both claim "momentum," and the D-backs can push back against Texas’s home-field advantage by pointing out that the Rangers are 8-0 on the road this month, and just 1-3 at home. There’s not even much of a shared history between the clubs, if you care about that.

What we have, instead, are two teams that might not be the most visible on the national stage, yet are fully equipped to play some truly interesting and exciting baseball, and isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s truly hard to pick this one apart – you have to figure someone like Semien will step up at some point, right? – but series like these so often come down to the bullpens, and as much as we can’t believe we’re saying this, Arizona has the (slightly) more trustworthy one. Twenty-two years ago, Arizona won a ring in seven. We’ll see it again.

D-backs in 7