So, what are the Rangers up against?

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On the one hand I want to be at least somewhat optimistic about the Rangers chances. I mean, there’s no way that Ron Washington can screw up the bullpen so badly a second time in one series, right?  There’s no way that a formidable Rangers lineup will remain so utterly impotent, right?  There’s no way they won’t do a lot more damage against lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner — at home no less — than they could do against Lincecum and Cain, right?

But then I look at the numbers and realize how dire things truly are:

  • Teams have taken a 2-0 lead in the World Series 51 times.  Forty of those teams went on to win it;
  • The last 11 teams that took a 2-0 lead at home have gone on to win it;
  • The last three teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series went on to win the thing in a sweep.

I mean, sure, you can point to the 1996 Yankees who went down 2-0 at home and went on to steamroll the Braves in the next four, but they were rather exceptional for that very reason. And, in hindsight, that was the beginning of a sustained run of excellence for the Yankees, the likes we haven’t seen since Mickey Mantle’s day. The exception that proved the rule, as it were. Unless the Giants sign Mark Wohlers between now and Sunday I don’t know that the 1996 Yankees’ example is very instructive.

So get the antlers and the claws ready, Rangers fans. Be prepared to scream your head off.  But likewise be prepared for this thing to end poorly, because it usually does for teams in the Rangers’ shoes.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉