The Dodgers have the second best record in MLB at the end of April. This is especially impressive in that little was expected of the Dodgers, but really shouldn’t be all that surprising given the small sample size. The best record in baseball belongs to the Texas Rangers over in the American League, and unlike the Dodgers, I seriously doubt anyone is surrpised about their quick jump out of the gate.
The Rangers have outscored their opponents by 56 runs so far, an outstanding pace, in their sprint to a .739 winning percentage and first place in the American League West by 6.5 games (and 9 games over the underachieving Angels). With most teams who win at this rate early in the season (i.e. the Dodgers) we brace ourselves for the inevitable regression, but looking at the Texas roster, it’s easy to find reason to believe the Rangers have the ability to sustain this level of excellence.
Texas is an offensive juggernaut, but perhaps have the chance to be even better than in year’s past, in small part due to players who are underperforming right now (Nelson Cruz’s OPS is currently 150 points below his career average, and while he won’t likely repeat his .318 batting average in his abbreviated 2010, his numbers seem destined to improve, and likely the same with Mitch Moreland, whose OPS is 100 points below last year’s mark) but mostly because the Rangers are populated with players who have been less than durable in their careers.
Average games played in the last five years:
Josh Hamilton – 118
Ian Kinsler – 131
Elvis Andrus – 147 (since rookie year in 2009)
Adrian Beltre – 136
Mike Napoli – 104
Nelson Cruz –97
Michael Young – 152
David Murphy – 124 (since first full season in 2008)
Yorvit Torrealba – 91
Mitch Moreland – 134 (2011 only)
Obviously there are factors at play here that contribute to these numbers that I don’t have the patience to delve into with the attention they deserve, the most obvious being position, role and age, but what would happen if the Rangers had more than one key player, and their primary DH at that, play more than 150 games? Since 1886, only 14 teams have ever finished the season with a winning percentage above .700, so the likelihood is Texas will fail to maintain such a pace, but if the star players can stay healthy, the American League West may already be decided.