It’s hard to make up ground in the wild card race when you’re first in line. It’s exponentially harder to make it the further down the line you are.
That’s what the Rangers are finding out. The hard way.
When you hear that the Rangers are only 3.5 behind the Angels for the second wild card slot, you think, Wow, that’s doable. A nice run and they are back in it.
Well, yes, they are 3.5 games back. But, no, they aren’t really 3.5 games back. Because the further down the pack they are, the larger those 3.5 games get.
Right now, there are five teams ahead of the Rangers for the second wild card slot. (With Toronto nipping at their heels a half game back.)
Okay, big deal. They can jump over five teams. No problem, right? It’s only 3.5 games.
Well, there are a few problems with that line of thinking.
One, the teams in front of them cannot all lose on a given night. With that many teams, often they are playing one another. Which means, one of them has to win. You can’t leap frog them all. Second, what are the odds they all lose, since they are all playing at about the same clip? You gain a game one day, lose it back the next.
With the number of teams you have to leapfrog, the best way to look at being in sixth and 3.5 games back as opposed being next in line and 3.5 games back, is this:
The Rangers are 1.0 away from Baltimore. They are 1.5 away from Tampa Bay. They are 1.5 away from Seattle. They are 2.5 away from Kansas City. They are 3.0 away from Minnesota. And they are 3.5 away from Los Angeles for the second wild card spot.
Add them up, 1.0 plus 1.5 plus 1.5 plus 2.5 plus 3.0 plus 3.5 and you get 13.0.
The Rangers are effectively thirteen games out of the second wild card slot. It’s the multiplier effect of having to jump over so many teams. You cannot catch every team at once. You have to catch one team at a time. Like Pac Man. Eat one dot, then go after the next one.
Maybe it helps explain why it has been so hard for the Rangers to gain any serious ground in the wild card race. In fact, they are losing ground, even though they are theoretically nearer in games behind.
The Rangers have gained two games in the wild card standings since the trade deadline. Yet (see above) they are in the exact same spot they were in at the trade deadline. In sixth place.
So, they’ve gotten closer but gained no ground. Because they’re not really 3.5 games out. They are more like 13 games out.
It’s like the wind chill factor. It may say three-and-a-half degrees on the thermometer, but is says thirteen below zero on your skin.
It’s like being three-and-a half miles away as the crow flies from the other side of the lake, but the only way to get there is to take the road around the perimeter of the lake that’s thirteen miles long as the car drives.
Look at the race since the trade deadline. The teams ahead of them are swapping places. The Angels and Orioles and Twins are moving up, while the Royals, Mariners and Rays are moving down. And, at 13-15 since the All-Star break and just 6-5 since the trade deadline, the Rangers are not doing anything to help themselves.
And, this week, the Orioles play the Mariners, then they play the Angels, while the Mariners play the Rays. Five of the teams in front of Texas are playing one another. So, they all can’t lose at the same time. Which means, the Rangers watch the big shuffle. And they aren’t being dealt a hand.
That’s the challenge with being thirteen games behind. Object in front of you are much further away than they appear.
Michael Fulmer (10-9, 3.59) vs. Martin Perez (6-10, 5.18)
Game time: 7:05