The Angels have passed the final quarter pole for the season and still they find those pesky Texas Rangers nipping at their heels. Though it pains me to say it, it looks like Angel fans are really going to have to start taking the upstart Texas club seriously. For those of you still not convinced, here are 7 reasons the Angels should be worried about the Rangers in the chase for the AL West division title:
- Best of the West. The Rangers are 5.5 games back as of right now, but that gap could close up real fast thanks to the Rangers' remaining slate of opponents. Of their final 39 games, 20 come against AL West rivals, which Texas is a dominating 24-13 against this season. The Angels have 23 games left in division, but are just 15-19 against the AL West. I'm no mathematician, but if those trends hold up, the Angels are in deep trouble.
- Angel Killers. Just to hammer the point home even further, a major reason that Texas has such a great record in the AL West is because they own the Angels this year, winning 9 of the 12 match-ups. With seven games remaining between the Angels and Rangers, Texas really just needs to keep pace outside of those games and then just take care of business like they have been all season versus the Angels.
- Back on Cruz Control. The Rangers fell off the pace recently due to a slew of injuries, but they are getting healthy again. Ian Kinsler got healthy earlier this week and now slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz is back in the line-up as well. Texas has always relied on a potent offense, but that has been missing of late, but having a fully healthy starting line-up could easily change that and make the Rangers that much more dangerous.
- Pitching always wins. The age old axiom that good pitching always beats good hitting doesn't just hold true in the playoffs, it applies to the pennant chase as well. That could be a real problem for the Angels because their team ERA is just a tick below 5.00 since the All-Star break whereas the Rangers boast a 3.73 ERA over that same span, by far the best ERA in the American League. Yes, you read that right, the Rangers can FINALLY pitch. That alone should send shivers down your spine.
- Neftali Feliz. As if the Ranger pitching staff wasn't already good enough, the Rangers now have fire-balling rookie Neftali Feliz working out of their bullpen. This kid is literally almost unhittable, allowing just 4 hits in 14.1 innings this season while striking out 19 batters. If visions of a rookie K-Rod are flashing in your head, you're not alone.
- No rest for the weary. The remaining schedule continues to favor the Rangers. Between today and October 4th, the Angels have just two days off while the Rangers get to enjoy four off days. That gives the Angels two 20-day stretches with no break at all (they are in the middle of one of those stretches right now). The Rangers have one 17-day stretch of no rest, but after that they play in six and nine-day stretches. When it comes to that final four-game series between the two clubs during the final week of the season, it could be painfully obvious to Angel fans just how much more rested Texas is.
- Math. The Pythagorean Record formula states that the Angels and Rangers should basically have the same record right now. However, the while the Rangers are pretty much right on with their expected record (69-54 vs. 68-55) the Angels are mightily overachieving (74-48 vs. 68-54). If anything I ever learned in math class hold true, the Angels are bound to regress to the mean and close the gap between their real record and expected record. If that be the case, then this AL West race is going to go right down to the wire.