ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Nolan Ryan predicted 92 wins for the 2010 Rangers, there were plenty of folks who figured he was setting the bar at a spot that wasn't particularly attainable. The club certainly played better in 2009, but were they ready to take a big step forward into the 90-win plateau?
When Ryan said 92 wins, he added that he would be "disappointed" if he club didn't win the AL West. Ryan firmly believed general manager Jon Daniels and his staff had assembled a team that should be on top of the division and he wasn't afraid to say so. Ryan made the prediction during spring training and it caught the attention of the players. By the end of the season, Ryan looked pretty smart, didn't he?
So I was surprised to read some of the comments following Ryan's prediction at Fan Fest over the weekend that the Rangers would win 90 to 95 games in 2011. Many of you feel like the Rangers won't get to the 90 wins they had last season.
The knee-jerk reaction is to say: Why predict 90 wins when the Rangers don't have Cliff Lee? But as Ryan pointed out to me on Saturday when I asked him about the prediction, he feels this is a better Rangers team right now in 2011 than they were headed into spring training in 2010.
I have to agree. There was no Cliff Lee in spring training for the Rangers last year, either. The addition of Adrian Beltre makes them a better club overall defensively and I think Brandon Webb seems like a more sure bet than Rich Harden was last year.
For Ryan to be right, however, the young pitching must produce. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have to put up similar numbers to last year and Webb must get healthy and contribute. But remember: 2010 started with Scott Feldman and Harden on top of the rotation and neither was in that rotation down the stretch.
Ryan decided to go with a window this year rather than one number. He started that window at the win total the club had in 2010. Did you expect him to predict fewer wins this year? Why would he do that? Most of the lineup that led the club to the World Series returns. Not having Lee certainly hurts, but I'm not so sure this club doesn't get to 90 wins in the regular season last year without Lee (they win the AL West without him, in my opinion...they were on their way to that before he arrived). But they don't beat Tampa Bay without Lee and that's why they got him.
Ryan also knows that Daniels and his staff could end up making a big trade deadline deal this year like they did in 2010. When Ryan predicted 92 wins last year, he had no idea Lee would end up a Ranger. Who knows what may happen in 2011, but the club still has one of the top farm systems in the league and can use them to add personnel if needed for the second half of the season.
I have no problem with the 90 to 95 wins prediction. It may be very difficult to win the AL West with 90 wins. That's probably another reason Ryan said 90 to 95 because he believes he has a club capable of winning the division again and to do that, they'll likely have to surpass last year's win total.
What do you think of Ryan's prediction? You agree or disagree with it?