Your Texas Rangers have the honor of opening the Major League Baseball season — and officially welcoming the Houston Astros to the American League — at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Minute Maid Park in Houston (the game’s on ESPN). Will it be the start of a World Series-winning campaign after a crushing late collapse resulted in a second-place finish in 2012?
The team has had a strange offseason, saying goodbye to players that were important to their two recent trips to the World Series (Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young) while only making a few decent-if-underwhelming acquisitions (Lance Berkman, Joakim Soria, AJ Pierzynski) in return. Meanwhile their division rival Angels got lots of press for stealing Hamilton away. (Of course, the Angels got lots of press for big moves last offseason and were sitting at home come October.)
The most scientific-ish anticipation of the 2013 for the MLB season, by Baseball Prospectus, right now says that the Angels and Rangers will finished tied at the top of the American League West, each with 91 wins. (Of course, BP emphasizes that its are projections, not predictions.) Bleacher Report says the Rangers will finish third (behind Oakland and LA of Anaheim) with 85 wins. Sporting News has the Rangers third. Two Yahoo Sports writers put the Rangers in third, one in first with 92 wins, and one finishing in a three-way tie for first (with the A’s and Angels.) Five of Sports Illustrated‘s seven experts tap the Rangers to win the West, while one other gives them one of the AL wild cards (though none of them predict a Series championship). The fellows at SB Nation are split: with one of them rating the Rangers third, the other first.
Here’s where I take a moment to remind you that I correctly predicted last year that the Rangers would finish in second place and win one of the American League wild cards. This is also where I ask you to forget that I missed the Rangers’ actual win total by two games (91 vs. 93) and state that it was going to be the Angels who edged them out for the division crown (when it was Oakland instead.)
So what’s my entirely reliable, how-could-this-possibly-be-wrong prediction for the season? The Rangers are going to falter more than we’d like to think they will, and will finish second again. This time with only 87 wins. And they’ll miss the playoffs entirely.
They’ve just lost too much run production from the lineup, with a shakier pitching staff. But don’t get me wrong: this is still a good team that’s bound to be competitive all summer long. It should be another fun summer of sweating at the Ballpark in Arlington.