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2012 Texas Rangers Preview And Projection

A run down of the Rangers' position outlooks, and an eye opening forecast for the season.

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 23:  Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers streches during spring workouts at Surprise Stadium on February 23, 2012 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 23: Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers streches during spring workouts at Surprise Stadium on February 23, 2012 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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2012 Texas Rangers Projection

This is normally the place where one would fit an inspiring narrative about getting back up on that horse. About the third time being the charm. About finishing the job, and defending pennants. All that fun stuff.

Unfortunately, this is going to be a little bit too long for a heck of a lot of narrative, and Christopher already did a pretty good job of that, anyway. Besides, do any Rangers fans want to read another word about the 2011 World Series?

Instead of tasty seasoning, this is simply the meaty preview. What follows is a brief look at each position for the 2012 Texas Rangers, and my attempt at creating a transparent win forecast for the team that anyone can play with and adjust as they feel fit.

Okay. Ready?


The Rangers have improved every season for a while now, to the point that they were likely the best team in baseball in 2011. The team won a franchise-record 96 games, but bad luck and a bad bullpen held them back. Their true talent at the end of the season was likely significantly better than 96 wins, and that is saying something.

The 2012 squad is largely the same unit, complete with the additions to the bullpen, though the rotation is significantly new-look, with two new young starters.

Their biggest rivals, the Angels, lost the division by 10 games, and were probably not even that close from a true talent standpoint. The Angels added Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and that is something of a big deal. He's also old, though. They also took the Rangers' best pitcher C.J. Wilson away, and added Chris Iannetta to make their laughable catching situation actually kind of good.

The media narrative is that the Angels surpassed the Rangers with all these moves, but that is simply media narrative. Not one of these outlets has actually shown any one of you why the Angels were better with any reliable numbers, they just want to pick something fun and different. Could the Angels win the AL West? Absolutely. They might even be the favorites, but 10 games -- if it was even that small -- to make up with a couple of new players.

Rangers fans shouldn't expect a cake walk again, but there is no reason for panic, either.

And, as you will see, every reason to pick them.


Catcher is a questionable spot in Texas, but not so much because of a lack of potential. Rather, it is a lack of clear intention. When Texas acquired Mike Napoli, he was not considered a strong enough defensive player to get regular time behind the plate, but that changed as the season went along. It didn't help that his companion Yorvit Torrealba was inept at the plate. In 2012, one of the questions is whether or not Napoli can continue to be trusted behind the plate.

A poll of Rangers fans at Lone Star Ball -- and rest assured fans are the best people at predicting this stuff -- largely sees Napoli getting at least half of the time at catcher, some even seeing a significant majority of the time. If that is the case, and Napoli's defensive chops continue to be better than advertised, he is an MVP candidate with health. He probably will not hit as well as he did a year ago, because that was just insane offense, but a catcher putting up some of the best offense in baseball is incredibly valuable.


In another poll, the people of LSB figured Mitch Moreland will be the primary first baseman this season. A small group do expect a platoon, but the majority think he will even face the left handers. Without a significant improvement on his last season, however, that will result in a black hole at first base for the Rangers. If he continues to struggle against right handers, we may see more of Torrealba behind the plate and Napoli at first or DH.


There is no real question mark here, outside of how healthy Ian Kinsler can be. There was indication in 2011 that he slowed up some of his play specifically to stay on the field. If that was actual work towards being healthy, rather than a fluke, Anaheim will have a problem.


Very few middle infielders have shown the talent and plate discipline Elvis Andrus has at such a young age. We should all probably be expecting a significant step forward at some point in the next few years, the question is whether or not we have to wait for it.


When you scroll down and get to the forecast, here is a good position to be taking a bet of OVER. Forecast systems are not too high on Adrian Beltre staying healthy, but they are most likely influenced by missing significant time in two of his last three seasons. The thing is, his 2009 injury was a complete fluke (look it up if you're not squeamish), not a sign of degeneration. I'd wager he's more of an injury risk than he used to be, but still relatively likely for a player his age to stay on the field. None of the systems used in the projection below even have him hitting 570 plate appearances. That seems low for someone who has shattered that total most of his career.


So many questions.

Lone Star Ball felt this season would mostly feature a Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon platoon. There is reason to believe that platoon would work just fine, but the Rangers appear to have lost all faith in Borbon. Gentry makes the opening day roster, but it seems Texas might roll with Josh Hamilton in center as much as possible. For a large injury candidate, though, centerfield only increases the number of balls he has to make plays on, every play representing another chance to get hurt.

Further, the combination of Hamilton and David Murphy keeps the excellent defense of Gentry and Borbon out of the field. The offense may make up for it, but given the injury risks, it seems questionable.

Whether it's the right call or not, though, either LSB will be very wrong about the state of center field, or the Rangers will be changing their minds soon.


There are few things more exciting in baseball in 2011 than the Rangers' rotation. After Colby Lewis, every pitcher is just now entering his prime. Neftali Feliz is finally going to start, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison took mighty steps forward a year ago, and Yu Darvish is probably better than any of them.

Youth means question marks, though. A young pitcher is more likely to take a step back than a position player, and until the games are played, we will not know how much of last season was Harrison and Holland actually reaching their potential. Nor will we know if Darvish can handle the US, or if Feliz can handle the rotation.


The biggest reason the Rangers didn't have homefield advantage in the playoffs last season looks like one of their greatest strengths in 2011.

Alexi Ogando was good enough to be an All-Star as a starter, and now gives tremendous bullpen depth. Mike Adams is seen by just about every forecast as probably the best reliever in 2012, if not very close.

There are question marks, however. Joe Nathan has been handed the closer's role, despite having missed significant time with injury. If people are concerned about him getting high-leverage innings, they're justified. Koji Uehara has been one of the best relievers in baseball for a while, and he's projected to continue that in 2012, but his weakness has always been deep fly balls, and he now plays in the wrong park for that. He has almost certainly not lost his talent, but he may be the very wrong kind of pitcher to be a Texas Ranger.


Okay, here we go. Last week, we looked at several of baseball's best forecast systems, and that was all in preparation for this.

There is one thing forecast systems fail on against the human element, and that is projecting playing time. Fans have a better idea of where players will play, and how often. With that in mind, I got help from Rangers fans to get an idea of how the roster will be used, with the hopes that combining that knowledge with the rate stats of the leading forecasts would churn out the best forecast of the 2012 Texas Rangers possible.

For hitting, I used an equal mix of CAIRO, ZiPS, and Steamer. For pitching, I simply used Steamer, which has done incredibly well in recent years in terms of both innings and rates. The exception is Yu Darvish, where I used all three systems because I have no idea who handles Japanese imports the best. Pitchers and hitters are both park-adjusted.

When needed, I used the LSB polls to designate playing time, using RotoChamp -- perhaps the best forecast system at projection playing time -- as a cap. For defense, I used a player's past four seasons at their primary position, with heavy regression to average. This is a very conservative outlook on defensive contributions.

With all that done, I plugged it in to a projection spreadsheet designed by Sky Kalkman, which took the numbers, put them together, and gave the 2012 Texas Rangers a modest win total.

2012 Texas Rangers Win Talent: 100

Okay, not modest. In fact, extremely optimistic, and frankly a bit baffling.

The spreadsheet is attached so you can play with it however you like, but I am not seeing any major mistakes. Perhaps some regression that should be applied to teams at the high end of win production is not being applied here.

To be fair, there are a lot of optimistic forecasts out there. Like this one. And this one. Simply and quickly replacing every rate stat with ZiPS and Steamer still resulted with just a touch fewer wins than my combination came up with. Last year, when this same process looked a touch more optimistic than some other forecasts, it ended up being still too conservative.

So, perhaps it's the spreadsheet, or perhaps the Rangers are just that good. Some of the best forecast systems in the business, combined with Rangers' fans attempts at predicting playing time, has the team hitting triple digits in wins.

Would I take the under? Absolutely. As fantastic as I think the Rangers are, predicting 100 wins is extreme. At the same time, that's just my unreliable human intuition.

I don't stand by this and say there are no kinks, I say this is how things turned out, and you can play with it however you like.

Or you can just trust that the Rangers are going to hit the century mark and 2012 will be really awesome.













E. Andrus










A. Beltre










N. Cruz










J. Borbon










C. Gentry










J. Hamilton










I. Kinsler










M. Moreland










D. Murphy










M. Napoli










Y. Torrealba










M. Young










*wOBA park adjusted.

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