Yes, I think many of us were hoping -- maybe even expecting -- the Rangers to contend for another AL West title. And perhaps Toronto making the postseason could have been expected as well. And yet, to actually predict that -- after all that's happened over the past year to create bad blood between the teams -- the two clubs would actually face one another in a playoff series, at least to me, would have been an exercise in pure guessing.
Nearly five full months later, here we are. Toronto, the team that survived the toughest division in baseball and a win-or-go-home Wild Card game. Texas, the team that defied all expectations en route to winning the AL West going away and, in the process, setting a record for winning percentage in one-run games (.766).
The numbers would say that Texas should be a .500 ball club. That record in one-run games was the difference. Is it sustainable? Probably not. But that's a problem for next year. It has nothing to do with the playoffs.
Let me say that again: Run differential has no bearing on this playoff series, or any series that might come after.
So while, on paper, Toronto may actually be the better team in everything but winning percentage, there's a very real chance that the Rangers could tap into something special and go on a run. They did it in 2010. And again in 2011.
If you asked me to pick a catalyst with which to pin the forthcoming success or failure on, I'd tell you it's Cole Hamels.
Hamels saw his walk rate reach a career high in 2016, and his home run rate was up from 2015. His groundball rate was up, finding him relying more often on his defense to make plays. As anyone who has watched Martin Perez pitch knows, sometimes that's not a repeatable skill, at least from a pitcher's perspective.
He's still managed nine games in 2016 in which he amassed a pitcher game score of 70 or higher. Cole Hamels is at his best, as are most pitchers, when he's striking hitters out and not walking them.
The Blue Jays like to swing the bat. The way Cole Hamels pitches -- especially considering he has the opportunity to pitch twice in the series -- may very well determine who moves on to the ALCS.
Before everything gets started, it's important to remember that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination. No matter how things end, it's been a fun, frustrating, entertaining, energetic season. And that counts for something, even if -- unlike prior to 1969 -- they don't give out American League Championship rings to the team with the best record.
Your Texas Rangers defied all projections and forecasting systems to get here. And there's no reason to believe they can't continue to surprise us all. Go Rangers!