Talkin Rangers with The Newberg Report

The wait is over, the Yankees are in Texas for game one of the ALCS against the Rangers tonight.

There is a lot to know about this series, so we here at Bronx Baseball Daily have reached out to some Rangers bloggers to give you information on the team from their perspective.

Up first is Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report. The Newberg Report is a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and has been covering the Rangers since 2005 and Jamey has been covering them since 1998. So we get a good perspective of the Rangers from not just this year, but going way back to the 90′s.

A big thanks goes out to Jamey for helping us with this piece. I really love doing pieces like this because it brings us a different perspective and it wouldn’t work without the cooperation of my fellow bloggers. I think his answers are very informative and honest. I just hope his prediction is wrong.

Bronx Baseball Daily: How is Cliff Lee‘s back? How are Josh Hamilton‘s Ribs?

The Newberg Report: Lee is fine.  He tried pitching through the back problem without letting on that he was dealing with it, but once the club shut him down for a bit, he came back strong and is clearly pitching at the top of his game right now.  Hamilton is a different story.  He seems to be fine physically (although he didn’t look good throwing to the plate Tuesday night) – the issue seems more to be that he’s completely out of rhythm, a by-product of having missed all that time due to the injury.

BBD: Any other lingering injuries that we should be aware of?

TNR: Frankie Francisco missed the Rays series and is out for this series, too.  Big loss for the club.  Otherwise, the team is relatively healthy.

BBD: How do you feel about the decision to not use Cliff Lee on short rest?

TNR: He’s never done it, so there’s the unknown to worry about. I like the idea of Lee pitching Game Three, the first game of the series in Yankee Stadium, which also puts him in line to pitch a Game Seven.

BBD: Yankees fans are worried about Texas’ running game, tell me about that.

TNR: It’s not the biggest part of the offense but there are nights (like in Game Five against Tampa Bay) when the club creates offense in ways that it never used to.  Elvis Andrus is the primary threat (though he can get lazy on the bases at times too), but more than half the lineup poses a threat to run.  Texas attempted eight stolen bases in its eight games against New York this season and was successful every time.  Count on the Rangers running.

BBD: Tell us about the rest of the rotation?

TNR: C.J. Wilson has pitched well this year, particularly at the start of the season and the very end.  He seems to thrive in big games, and Texas is very comfortable with him getting the ball in Game One.  Colby Lewis was outstanding early in the season but lost some consistency with his command late in the year.  When he’s locating his breaking ball, he’s extremely tough.  Tommy Hunter is a classic number four on a good team, a workhorse who doesn’t have dominating stuff but who battles and chews up innings.  For a young pitcher he seems unfazed by the big stage.

BBD: Discuss Tommy Hunter, how does he matchup against AJ Burnett?

TNR: Hunter’s less capable of a masterpiece than Burnett, but has been far more consistent.  That said, the leash will be short, and if he’s not locked in, the club could go to Derek Holland early in relief.

BBD: What’s the state of the bullpen? Who’s hot, who’s not?

TNR: A season strength has hit a bit of a rut in October.  Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando weren’t at their sharpest in the Rays series, and Darren Oliver showed signs of fatigue.  He’s a huge key against the Yankees’ lefties, and the club is expected to add one more southpaw to the roster on Friday (Clay Rapada, Matt Harrison, or Michael Kirkman).  Darren O’Day is reliable.  Dustin Nippert should only show up in an emergency, or with the game out of hand.  Derek Holland is the X-factor.  He could be huge if the club needs to call upon the pen early.

BBD: What’s the state of the lineup? Who’s hot, who’s not?

TNR: The 2-3-4 spots (Young, Hamilton, Guerrero) struggled in the ALDS, while the next three in the lineup (Cruz, Kinsler, Murphy/Francoeur) were more productive.  Andrus was outstanding at the top, and Bengie Molina contributed.  Mitch Moreland and Jorge Cantu will split time at first base.

BBD: Who do you consider the most overrated/underrated players on the Rangers?

TNR: Young is the player who will get more attention than his productivity has dictated, but he’s still the heart and soul of the club and is capable of a big moment, as he showed in Game One in Tampa Bay.  The most underrated player is probably Murphy, who showed this year that he can handle left-handed pitching and, when he’s in a good groove, is tough on the best righties in the game.

BBD: How appropriate is it that the Rangers are facing two of their biggest stars of the past decade in Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs?

TNR: I think that story will get media play but A-Rod was gone before most of the current players arrived, and Teixeira’s departure has actually been a win-win, as Texas acquired Andrus and Feliz and three others for him in 2007, when it was clear that Teixeira wasn’t going to stick around once he reached free agency.

BBD: Give us a prediction for the series…

TNR: Rangers in six.  They take one of two in Arlington, get game three behind Cliff Lee, steal one of the remaining two in New York, and then end it in Texas in Game Six, which I wouldn’t rule out Lee pitching.

Thanks again to Jamey of The Newberg Report.

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