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June 02, 2006

The Real Season Begins

Life is good. Despite Wednesday's blowout loss, Texas leads the division by 3.5 games and is the only AL West club playing winning baseball. Baseball Prospectus offers a wonderful, daily Monte Carlo simulation of the rest of the season, projecting records and each team’s probability of winning a division or wildcard. Depending on methodology used, BP predicts Texas has between a 67% and 73% chance of winning the division.

I wish I could believe it.

Now, I’m not a pessimist by nature (really) or some flake who derives happiness from failure. I do believe Texas has a respectable chance to win the West, but I wouldn’t concede a probability over 50%. Two reasons:

  • Oakland has a history of starting poorly and roaring to the finish.
  • Texas has a history of the opposite. Do they ever.

The Rangers’ annual summer swoon is no myth, no mordant function of selective memory. I wrote about several memorable post-All Star break collapses two years ago. That article only presented anecdotes, but deeper analysis confirms Texas’s history of collapse.

Longtime Ranger fans assuredly know that the franchise has a losing record over its 34-plus years in Arlington. What they may not know is that the team has a winning record through May 31st. The following chart shows the Rangers’ cumulative over/under as of every particular date of the season. For example, the Rangers have an all-time record of 114-100 on games played from the start of the season through April 15th, thus an over of 14 games. Through May 31st, Texas has an all-time record of 806-804 (+2). Afterwards, they’re skiing a blue slope:

Win %
3/30 - 5/31
806 - 804
6/01 - 10/07
1790 - 1970

The first two years in Arlington, when the team posted 100-loss seasons, tend to skew the data. Removing 1972 and 1973 gives Texas a winning record as late as July 14th. It also reveals a seven-week period of decay that has ruined many a season:

Win %
3/30 - 7/09
1336 - 1312
7/10 - 8 / 31
793 - 911
9/01 - 10/07
356 - 346

The Rangers allegedly unburdened fans of those painful memories during the late 1990s, but 2004 (leading the division at the All Star Break, finished third) and 2005 (30-20 through May, 49-63 to finish) reopened old wounds. In 2006, Texas has the talent to win the division and a collection of young players who don’t know or care about history. Here’s hoping they aren’t doomed to repeat it.

Posted by Lucas at June 2, 2006 06:32 PM