Just like that, the calendar turned from 2015 to 2016. And just like that, the Rangers have gone from West Division champions to defending West Division champions.
All of a sudden, that division crown was last year. Objects in the rear view mirror are always much further away than they seem.
So what does 2016 look like?
It appears the Rangers’ roster is pretty much set. Barring something exciting, there won’t be a reason to wake up until spring training is over.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be compelling story lines in the spring—mainly Profar. But it does mean there won’t be compelling story lines until then.
The team we will see is pretty much the team we did see.
Hamilton, DeShields, and Choo are in left, center, and right. The infield is Beltre, Andrus, Odor, and Moreland. Chirinos will catch. Fielder will DH.
Four of the five starters in the opening day rotation were in the rotation at the end of last season: Hamels, Perez, Holland, and Lewis.
The bullpen is almost complete. All that’s left is defining roles.
The lineup is set. There are very few surprises. Maybe that’s why it seems like it’s been a boring off-season.
But this is a lineup what went to the playoffs. Is there any reason to think it can’t repeat?
Of course, repeating as a playoff team doesn’t mean the Rangers have to repeat what they did from July 22 on, when they went into supernova mode and overcame a nine-game deficit. It just means they need to be more consistent throughout the year.
Unlike the first three-plus months in the season when the offense was Fielder and Moreland and seven black holes, for the final two months of 2015 the offense was clicking up and down.
So it just takes balance.
Oh, and one more thing.
Really, when it comes down to it, the Rangers chances of repeating can be summed up in just one word: Adrian Beltre.
Adrian Beltre will be, as he has been, the straw that stirs the offense. It’s as simple as that. If Beltre produces, this team wins. If Beltre doesn’t, this team doesn’t. Same as it was last season.
If the Rangers aren’t going to go out and get that elite right-handed power bat, that elite right-handed power bat they have just has to do what it does best.
It’s a lot to ask of a guy who turns thirty-seven the first week of the season.
They couldn’t be asking a better guy.