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Expectations Against The Indians

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The Rangers just played clearly below expectations for the first time since the Minnesota sweep to end May. Even then, that was a really good team on the road. Texas hadn't lost a series to a clearly-inferior team since that horrible Cubs series a week prior.

That's obviously a good thing. More than a month of regularly meeting expectations at worst is a fantastic run. And, at least the Angels faired even worse over those three days. Still, it hurts when all that comes crashing down.

A quick correction the next three days against the Indians would erase that. An the Indians are bad.

And please remember to read Mr. Fittz's far more entertaining preview at Lone Star Ball, too.

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The Indians just haven't been the same since Rick Vaughn retired.

FanGraphs' Top Five Indians

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF: 354 PA, .286/.390/.475, 13/12 HR/SB, 7/-0.9 DRS/UZR, .383 wOBA, 2.9 WAR
  2. Justin Masterson, SP: 94.2 IP, 7.32 K/9, 3.99 BB/9, 4.85 ERA, 4.17 tERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.6 WAR
  3. Fausto Carmona, SP: 109.2 IP, 4.68 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 3.69 ERA, 3.58 tRA, 4.10 FIP, 1.5 WAR
  4. Carlos Santana, C: 89 PA, .300/.438/.600, 4/0 HR/SB, .441 wOBA, 0 DRS, 1.3 WAR
  5. Mitch Talbot, SP: 102.2 IP, 4.38 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 3.86 ERA, 4.36 tERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.0 WAR
The best player on this list is on the DL and will not be harming the Rangers. The fourth best player on this list is a brand-new rookie who's crushing the ball. The 5th is also a rookie. The best active player on this list would place 8th for the Rangers.

I always thought Grady Sizemore would be on this list for years on his way to the Hall of Fame, but he's struggling mightily for his second straight year. It's a shame, though a good thing for the next three days.

Carlos Santana is frightening, but that's about all that's scary about the Indians. It's sort of like we have the opportunity to see one of the most thrilling young players in baseball, without much fear of his teammates helping him do some winnings.

Offense

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Probable Indians Lineup

  1. CF Trevor Crowe
  2. 2B Jayson Nix
  3. C Carlos Santana
  4. DH Travis Hafner
  5. RF Austin Kearns
  6. 3B Jhonny Peralta
  7. 1B Matt LaPorta
  8. LF Shelly Duncan
  9. SS Jason Donald
Small sample size and all, but this gives you an image of how unreal Santana has been. Other than that, it's pretty much all Rangers.

I have trouble finding ways to say "the Indians are bad," so I think you can probably just look at the separation on the graph and move on to the next part.

Pitching

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Probable Indians Starters

  1. LHP Aaron Laffey
  2. RHP Justin Masterson
  3. RHP Mitch Talbot

The Rangers actually face some decent starting pitching in this series, with the lesser starter in 2009 going in two out of three games. Omar Beltre, of course, has the sample size of one whole start.

The bullpens are anything resembling close, as this series pits one of the best against one of the worst. It's quite arguable that no one in the Indians pen would make the Rangers.

Oh, only one left hander!

Fielding

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The Indians are dead last in the AL in UZR. They're above average (and ahead of Texas) in DRS, but the difference is still very bad. Second base is pretty much the only thing going very well for them right now by both standards.

I had to use Nix's career because his sample size was so small it broke my graph.

Expectations

Another straight series loss to a lesser team at home would be crushing right now. More so than the weekend, since the Indians are much worse than the White Sox. A sweep, on the other hand, would go a long way towards getting over the failure against Chicago.

The Rangers should score at least 15 runs in the series, or there will be some concern. More than 13 runs allowed by to the Indians should also be surprising and concerning, though that's based on Omar Beltre getting 1/3 of the starts, and we know almost nothing about what we'll get out of him.

While that sounds a little close, it is good for just about a .600 record over a large sample, and that's in a neutral setting.

Here's what Steve Sommer's projection sees from the series:

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The Rangers have to win this series. In this sort of match-up at home, a team as good as the Rangers have played so far wins the series 70% of the time. They sweep at least 1/4 of the time. Just like over the weekend, anything can happen in baseball, but teams that want to win their division don't lose series at home against bad, banged-up teams very often.

A week ago, I'd go in to this series confident the Rangers were going to get a couple of wins. Now I go in scared that I might be learning something disturbing about them. That's irrational and emotional, but anything less than two out of three is going to be a serious buzz kill.

As always, Go Rangers.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.