Last fall, impressed by the Texas Rangers’ unexpected run to the Major League Baseball playoffs, we declared that year’s team (only half-kidding) the greatest in franchise history. I typed the piece and based the argument on how the club had so spectacularly overachieved both expectations and their underlying performance statistics to wind up atop the American League West standings.
Did we jump the gun? Because it’s happening all over again, to a more extreme degree. Your 2016 Rangers so far have the best record in the American League, very nearly the best record in all of baseball. I was at the ballpark on Saturday and watched them man-handle a quality Boston Red Sox team. They are good.
Just maybe not as good as their current win-loss totals would suggest. The Rangers have an absurd 17-5 record in games decided by a single run. One-run contests typically come down to one fortunately timed hit or unfortunate error, a lucky or unlucky bounce of the ball for one team or another. If you look at the history of baseball, most teams in most years will have a record in one-run games that hovers within at least spitting distance of a .500 record, an equal number of wins and losses. One-run games often come down to luck, and luck tends to even out over time.
If the Rangers were to sustain this winning percentage in one-run games for the entire season, they would boast the third-best one-run-game record for a season in the history of the major leagues (which goes back to 1876). The Rangers right now have a better one-run record than did the 2012 Orioles (29-9), who posted the best such record in 122 years. (You might remember Baltimore beat Texas in the 2012 AL Wild Card game.)
No, it doesn’t seem sustainable. (Plus they’ve got three of their starting pitchers on the disabled list. How can they keep this going?) If you look at the statistics that most often correlate to wins, according to Baseball Prospectus, the Rangers should be in second or third place in the AL West. Then again, Texas was given a 6 percent chance of making the postseason at the end of July last year, and you know what happened then. So screw the statistics, right?