Waking up this morning, the Rangers are 66-47. Due to a 9th inning rally in last night’s contest against the Rockies, Texas managed to bump up the current winning percentage to .584, which would put them on pace for 95 wins and, likely, an AL West crown.
Taking a look over at FanGraphs, the playoff odds this morning have Texas at 87.3% to win the division. If you’re into projecting the playoffs, the odds have the Rangers winning the ALCS at 19.0%, and the World Series at 8.2%. But that’s another conversation for another time.
For now, the point is that Texas has a commanding 7 game lead in the AL West at this juncture of the season over the Seattle Mariners. The Houston Astros, expected to be their stiffest competition, sit 8.5 games back.
To put it in perspective, Texas has 49 games remaining on the 2016 schedule. If we assume they play .500 baseball the rest of the way, that puts them at 24.5 wins, or 90 to 91 wins on the season. To finish with 90 wins, the Mariners would need to go 32-19 the rest of the way (.627 winning percentage) and the Astros would need to finish 33-17 (.660 winning percentage). While not unachievable, it’s a tough proposition regardless. If Texas performs any better the rest of the way, it only makes it more difficult and improbable that either Seattle or Houston can catch up.
Exacerbating that a bit is the remaining schedule for the teams. After a rough road stretch in July, Texas will play 33 of their remaining 49 games at home, with 7 games outside the division against teams that might legitimately be competing for a playoff spot by the end of September.
Seattle will have 29 of 51 games at home and 8 outside-the-division games against potential playoff teams. Houston will play 29 of 50 on the road, and will also play 19 outside-the-division games against potential playoff teams.
The reason I leave those divisional games out is to introduce them here. Texas will play Seattle 7 more times, Houston 3 more. Beyond that, Houston and Seattle play one another 6 times in September. So, instead of each gaining games in the standings, they’ll spend approximately 12 percent of their remaining schedules beating up on one another. That makes a .627 or .660 winning percentage seem even more unlikely, forcing each team to conceivably compete for a wild card spot.
While I’m not saying the division race is over, I am saying that the Rangers losing what amounts to a commanding lead at this point seems like a statistical improbability that I’d rather not see manifest in reality.
I’m not the only one that holds this belief, but I’ve long held the attitude of “just get in”. Just get into the playoffs, and let everything else play out. A year ago, Texas was clearly the lesser talented team, but came within one bad inning from eliminating Toronto in the ALDS. Anything can happen when you take baseball and narrow it down to what effectively amounts to a small sample of a five or seven game series.
The name of the game is pitching. Yu Darvish has looked great, and Cole Hamels is, well, Cole Hamels. Literally any other contribution from the starting rotation is great. And with a bullpen that now runs deep with -- in no particular order -- Bush, Barnette, Dyson, Kela, Jeffress, and Diekman, you’re talking about a group that can reliably be counted on. With more off days in postseason play, Jeff Banister can afford to use his favorite arms perhaps a bit more, which is an advantage for Texas.
Add on top of that the recent acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy, and we have ourselves a group of 25 guys that, if you had given me before the season, I’d have taken against just about any other roster that isn’t the Chicago Cubs.
Nothing in baseball is certain, and there’s still a lot of season left, but where things stand today, it’s thrilling to be a Rangers fan.