ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have a new ballpark and a surprisingly new area of strength.
The Rangers go into their 60-game schedule believing their starting pitching is the No. 1 reason why they will reach the postseason for the first time since 2016. It’s a strange new world when the rotation is the Rangers' strength, but that’s where they are headed going into Globe Life Field.
“I think pitching’s huge for winning championships and getting to the postseason,” Minor said. “If we all stay healthy, I think we rank in the top as one of the best rotations and, with only 60 games, we can keep our foot on the gas and not let up.”
What needs to go right
The starting pitching needs to be as good as advertised, but the bullpen needs to hold up as well. There were some issues in Summer Camp.
As always, the closer is the most important role out there, and the Rangers have seen both the good and the struggles of José Leclerc. But in 53 appearances from May 4 through Sept. 17, he had a 3.17 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, a .176 opponents' batting average and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
The big question
Will the Rangers have enough offense to compete? That used to be a given, but is no longer the case in Arlington.
The Rangers scored 810 runs last season, sixth most in the American League. But their opponents scored 878 runs. The Rangers' hitters combined for a .750 OPS last season, the seventh lowest in the 26-year history of the Ballpark at Arlington.
On the schedule
The Rangers play 26 games in 27 days in September, 10 of which will be against the Astros. They have two trips to Houston and finish the season with four games at home against the Astros. The Rangers are 20-37 against the Astros over the last three seasons.
It’s still uncertain if fans will be allowed in the park in August. Otherwise, an Aug. 28-30 weekend series against the Dodgers would be a big draw. On that Friday night, Major League Baseball is planning to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, which is normally scheduled for April 15.
Team MVP will be ...
Odor. The default answer is Gallo, but Odor has looked good both in Spring Training and Summer Camp. He seems stronger mentally and his swing appears to be under control. Through his first 14 Summer Camp games, he had five home runs, five walks and just five strikeouts. Odor hit .205/.283/.439 last season but he still led the Rangers with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Team Cy Young will be ...
Kluber. Certainly, Lynn and Minor could be the answer too. But Kluber appears to be healthy and throwing the ball well in Summer Camp. No doubt 2019 was a bad year for him, but Kluber was a 20-game winner in '18 and a Cy Young winner in '14 and ’17 for Cleveland.
The Rangers will get 28 wins from their starters. Their rotation will also have an ERA under 3.50.
Well, 28 wins from the starters over 60 games is the equivalent of 75 wins over 162 games. That’s the club record, set by the 1996 rotation. The Rangers' 2011 rotation finished with 74 wins and a 3.65 ERA. The last time the Rangers had a rotation ERA under 3.50 was in 1983 (3.34). The Astros' rotation led the AL with 79 wins and a 3.61 ERA last season.