Today, two big trade deadline deals were announced in Major League Baseball. One was a small market team making a high-stakes, meaningful acquisition of still useful Major League talent, the other was a big market team taking on a fading star well past his prime. Naturally, the Yankees acquiring Ichiro took most of the headlines away from the Tigers’ newest additions of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, but don’t be fooled – the latter is vastly, incalculably, outrageously more important than the former to the World Series hopes of your Texas Rangers.
The Yankees are the best team (in ESPN Power Rank and in record) in baseball, and other than their dependence on the home run really don’t have any glaring weaknesses. Their pitching could stand to be improved, but the starting unit has been better of late and I really don’t see any major moves on the pitching end going down. But the Yankee’s pitching staff is not the point of this article.
Bluntly put, Ichiro probably won’t make much of a difference for the Yankees, now or ever. He just isn’t that good anymore. This afternoon, when I was at the gym and saw the news on the TV, they featured a graphic of Ichiro’s stats against the other Yankees left fielders. Ichiro’s stats were worse in every category, from home runs to slugging to RBI’s. I give him a mulligan on the RBI’s since he played for the Mariners, but having a slugging percentage a full 70 points below the current left fielder’s isn’t going to get it done. If he doesn’t catch fire, then he’ll be riding the bench in New York.
I don’t see him catching fire.
The move that actually maters for the Rangers is the Tiger’s trade, where they acquired pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante from the Miami Marlins. As almost every sports-news outlet this side of the hemisphere has noted, early this season the Tigers grossly under achieved as they wallowed around 3rd in the weakest division in baseball. Recently, though, they turned things around. They have won 12 of their last 14 games and now lead their division by 1.5 games.
By power rankings, the Tigers are only three behind the Yankees, and on paper match up really well come playoff time with the Rangers. Here’s how I believe a seven game series would play out between the Rangers and Tigers:
Game 1: Justin Verlander vs. Derek Holland
We all know who’s going to win this. Yes, Verlander didn’t pitch great in the playoffs last year, but you can’t count on the best pitcher in the game not showing up for two years in a row. 1-0 Tigers
Game 2: Max Scherzer vs. Yu Darvish
The Tigers are up 1-0 and this one is mostly a toss up. Both pitchers have their control problems, but can also be incredibly dominant. Rangers win it to even the series.
Game 3: Anibal Sanchez vs. Matt Harrison
Matt Harrison probably takes this one as he’s having a great year. 2-1 Rangers.
Game 4: Doug Fister vs. Roy Oswalt
A few poor starts early in the year have portrayed Fister as a worse pitcher than he really is, but honestly, I would take Fister over Oswalt any day. No one masters an 88-90 mile an hour fastball like he does. Series tied 2-2
Game 5: Justin Verlander vs Derek Holland
We already established this. Tigers take a 3-2 series lead.
Game 6: Max Scherzer vs. Yu Darvish
A pitcher with control and longball problems in a hitter’s park like Arlington? Scherzer is screwed, even if Darvish is too. Series is tied again at 3-3.
Game 7: Anibal Sanchez vs. Matt Harrison
Anything can happen in a game seven, so this is inherently a toss up, but the Rangers probably win. The point of this wasn’t to declare how the series is going to play out, it was to show how close these teams are with pitching and how the starters (save for the game 4 matchup) are so close in skill and/results.
Omar Infante matters too. If we pretend that Ramon Santiago didn’t make a ton of crazy-clutch plays last year, he would be a non-factor in this series. But Infante is hitting .287 on the year and adds another potent bat to the number 2 spot. Here’s the likely lineup for game one. Actually, there’s two, one if Victor Martinez returns and one if he doesn’t, so I’ll put out both.
W/O Victor Martinez With Victor Martinez
1.Austin Jackson 1. Austin Jackson
2.Omar Infante 2. Omar Infante
3. Miguel Cabrera 3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Prince Fielder 4. Prince Fielder
5.Andy Dirks 5. Victor Martinez
6. Brennan Boesch 6. Andy Dirks
7. Jhonny Peralta 7. Brennan Boesch
8. Alex Avila 8. Jhonny Peralta
9. Quentin Berry 9. Alex Avila
Does that really seem like a lineup you’d want to face? It sure doesn’t to me. When your number seven hitter averages around a .270 with 20 home runs a year, that’s a problem for any staff.
These teams after this trade are surprisingly close to each other, so much so that if the series get’s to a game six or seven I’m not sure who’d win. If the Rangers get Cole Hamels, this is a different story entirely and the series would be done at a max in six. But for now, the biggest threat to the Rangers’ World Series hopes isn’t the trade that got the big press-it’s the trade that happened right under your nose.