Nolan Ryan: Texas Rangers will win 92 Games, AL West

 When you've got eight All-Star appearances, four of which you were the starting pitcher, had a season where you had a 1.69 ERA, the best hits per nine innings ratio in baseball history at 6.555, the fourth best K/9 in baseball history at 9.548, the second most starts in the modern era, the fifth most innings pitched in the modern era (5,386), 222 career complete games, 61 career shutouts, and you struck out just  a few batters in your time (like 5,714 of them), people tend to listen when you talk.

But when you say your team is going to win 92 games and take down the division when that squad hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999 and has only won one postseason game in franchise history, people may think you're a little bit wacky.

I, on the other hand, am not one to ever disagree with the great, Nolan Ryan.

Ryan told the media on Wednesday that he would be "disappointed" if the Texas Rangers didn't knock off the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Oakland Athletics to win the AL West this year.

"A lot of people won't agree with me," Ryan said. "… But I also think that we have a balanced ballclub, and I think our club is coming together in a way that I think they're ready to make that move."

On one hand, it doesn't seem so unrealistic to think that the Rangers could improve by just five wins from last season's fantastic total of 87. If you're looking at it on paper though, things may not look so easy.

Just look at what's around them. Texas is mired in a division where all four teams have a season win total projection of at least 79.5 by the oddsmakers at BetUS Sportsbook. The Mariners clearly made the splash of the offseason in this division when they picked up LHP Cliff Lee from the Phillies in a three-way deal that included Toronto's RHP Roy Halladay going to the City of Brotherly Love. No one expects the Halos to be as good as they have been in recent years, but they're still a team managed by Mike Scioscia, thus should never be counted out.

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Save OF Josh Hamilton, no one really underachieved expectations last year. Sure, the 2008 Home Run Derby star will probably hit more than ten homers this year, but can SS Michael Young be counted on to bat .322? Will CF Marlon Byrd's replacement duplicate his .283 average and 20 home run output? Will RHP Scott Feldman be able to win 17 games again? Will someone be able to produce like RHP Kevin Millwood has in years' past?

These are all fantastic questions that beg to be answered for Texas. However, I'll pose some oppose questions that are equally important…

Will 2B Ian Kinsler, a man that has had a lifetime .279 hitter really only bat .253 again this year? Will RHP Rich Harden be able to step into the rotation and pitch like the man who had a 1.77 ERA in the second half of the season with the Cubs in 2008 as opposed to the one that had a 4.09 ERA last year? Why can't DH Vladimir Guerrero return to his '08 form in which he knocked 27 homers and drove in 91 RBIs in '08? Who's stopping a bullpen which had almost every one of its members post a sub-4.00 ERA last year?

Last season, the Rangers kept the pressure on both the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card and the Angels for the AL West crown in spite of the fact that it only had the 10th best offense (4.84 runs per game) and the 18th ranked pitching staff (4.38 ERA) in baseball. Things not only can get better, but they will get better for a team that lost six of its L/8 games on the season.

The recipe is absolutely right for success in the Lone Star State… If for no other reason, would you like to be the batter that has to stand in the box as an angry Ryan is whistling a 98 MPH fastball at your head or be on the wrong side of a patented headlock?

92 wins? You got it boss. They say "Don't mess with Texas." This year, that slogan should change to "Don't Mess with the Rangers."

Why?

Because Nolan Ryan said so.

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Cappersinfo.com Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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