ALDS Preview: Savvy Rangers Could Outwit Young Orioles


Oct 6, 2023

It was a tumultuous year for the Texas Rangers. The AL Wild Card winners spent most of the season as the frontrunners in the AL West. Then, a rough stretch from August into September left them on the cusp of missing the playoffs entirely. Nevertheless, the Rangers persisted. On the penultimate day of the regular season, Texas clinched a postseason berth and, on the final day, was relegated to a wild card spot.

Yet, they are in the best-of-five Americal League Division Series, ready to take on the Baltimore Orioles. 

The O’s will be well-rested for the series opener, securing their first AL East crown since 2014 and first 100-win season since 1980. It might all be for naught, as a more experienced Rangers squad could overmatch a young Orioles.

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Learn to Fly

Much like it took the Orioles several years to compete in the regular season, learning to fly in the postseason doesn’t come naturally. Moreover, Baltimore’s roster comprises mostly inexperienced players, compared to a much more savvy Rangers’ lineup.

Besides Adam Frazier‘s five games, the Orioles don’t have any other playoff experience in their starting lineup. Likewise, there isn’t a pitcher in the starting lineup who’s made a playoff start. Kyle Gibson‘s 3.1 innings pitched as a reliever is all the experience the O’s staff can rely on. 

Rangers’ Playoff Experience

Led by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, the Rangers’ infield is loaded with playoff experience. Seager’s tasted glory with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Semien is on his fourth trip to the playoffs. Both hitters are fixtures at the top of the order and insulate some of the youngsters around them. 

Likewise, Texas’ bullpen is stacked with icy veterans. Will Smith and Aroldis Chapman have pitched in some of the biggest moments in the playoffs, giving them an edge against the Orioles’ hitters. 

Pitching Concerns

Baltimore enters the postseason with the most wins and seventh-best team ERA. However, their style is to pitch to contact, putting them at a disadvantage against the hard-hitting Rangers. 

Throughout the regular season, Orioles pitchers combined for the 12th-ranked opponent batting average and 13th-most strikeouts. That disconnect between production and output also puts them on a path with regression that could result in more runs given up. 

The Tampa Bay Rays out-paced the O’s in every pitching category this season, and the Rangers had no problems getting to them. Baltimore pitchers are on notice in the ALDS. 

Winning Pedigree

We also can’t discount Bruce Bochy‘s acumen as Rangers Manager. As we saw against the Rays, Bochy had his squad ready for whatever the home side threw his way, and Texas made the hosts pay. A similar approach against the Orioles could overwhelm an inexperienced Orioles squad. 

Over the past 14 years, Bochy has an impressive 38-17 postseason record. Conversely, it took Brandon Hyde five years to get Baltimore to the postseason, and he has yet to experience the amplified expectations of October baseball.

Rangers’ Series Win is the Play to Make

Inevitably, Orioles hitters will get to the Rangers staff, but that won’t be enough to offset the other deficits the youngsters face. Texas has a significant advantage in experience, and the longer this series goes, the more pronounced that edge becomes. 

The Rangers are short underdogs against the O’s, but they shouldn’t be. We’re backing Texas at even-money or better, expecting them to make their long-awaited return to the ALCS. 

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Thumbnail photo via Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

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