DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Close your eyes and take your mind to a world where the Astros don’t exist.
Imagine that Houston abandoned its beloved franchise and sent players like catcher Cody Clark — the owner of an impressive .105 average — back to AA where they belong.
Feel free and justified knowing you have cleansed the earth of one of sports’ most incompetent teams.
Now, slowly open your eyes and casually glance at the 2013 AL Wild Card standings.
Where are the Rangers?
The Blessed AL West
Over the past three seasons, no team can match what Houston has accomplished. The Astros have stumbled to three consecutive 100+ loss seasons, compiling a cumulative record of 162-321 (.335).
Their loss total has grown from 106 in 2011, to 107 in 2012, to 108 and counting in 2013. In the past 60 years, only the 2003 Tigers have lost more than 108 games in a season (119).
In the battle for the Silver Boot, the Rangers have faced off against the Astros six times each season since 2001 in Interleague Play. Texas has won 42 of 72 games – or 58 percent of those games – to claim the boot in eight of the past nine seasons.
More notably, Texas has won 14 consecutive series against their cross-state rivals.
With the Astros move to the AL West, Houston will now face off against each division opponent 19 times per year – not six.
A One-Sided Affair
17-2. Never before had the Rangers defeated a team 17 times in a single season. In fact, it has only happened three times in baseball since 1969. But the Rangers did it this season – and in dominant fashion.
In 19 games, Texas outscored the Astros 126 to 69 to finish the season an astounding 15 games over .500 — against Houston alone.
Texas currently sits +87 in runs scored, the fourth best mark in the AL. Two thirds of their run differential (+57) came in 19 games against the Astros. Yes, the Rangers outscored the Astros by three runs per game on average.
After losing the season opener in Houston, the Rangers took 17 of 18, including 11 consecutive to finish the season series.
The 2013 Rangers were dominant — when playing the Astros.
Erasing Houston’s Footprint
So how would Texas stack up against the AL in a league without the Astros? Let’s take a look.
To neutralize the “Astros-effect” across the AL, pretend that every game Houston played this season never happened. That leaves teams across the league with different game totals, so let’s use winning percentages to reconstruct the standings.
The AL playoff race would look drastically different.
Sitting just a tick above .500, Texas is no longer closely chasing the Rays and Indians for a Wild Card spot. Now, they trail Kansas City, New York, and even Baltimore – and by a significant margin.
Extrapolating the percentages to actual win totals, Texas would trail Tampa Bay by eight games and Cleveland by six games with four remaining. In other words, they’re well out of the race.
Applying the same logic to the AL West race yields similar results. While the Athletics also dominated the Astros in winning 15 of 19, removing the Astros just widens the gap in the AL West.
The 2013 Astros may be historically bad; they may be a joke. But the 2013 Rangers aren’t laughing.
They’re riding the worst team in baseball over the last 10 seasons to respectability – and possibility to the postseason.
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