On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2012 season. On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2011 season.
The Opponent: The White Sox changed as much as any team in the offseason as they said goodbye to manager Ozzie Guillen, starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and right fielder Carlos Quentin. All of them were key parts of good White Sox teams in recent years, but a rough 2011 made it incumbent on general manager Kenny Williams to shuffle the deck. What's left is a team that's not clearly contending nor are they clearly rebuilding, something that rarely works out all that well.
2011 Rewind: The Sox finished the year 79-83, although it seemed like they were actually worse than that. The biggest culprits were dreadful seasons from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham. That trio was supposed to carry a heavy offensive load, but they fell flat and the White Sox fizzled as a result.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - John Danks (8-12, 4.33 ERA in 2011) vs. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40); Saturday - Jake Peavy (7-7, 4.92) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95); Sunday - Gavin Floyd (12-13, 4.37) vs. Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39)
What's Hot: It's Opening Day! Not really all that much more anyone needs to add to that, is there?
We mentioned the White Sox retooling on the fly this season and there are some positive signs on that front. Third baseman Brent Morel finished 2011 on a really hot run and he's entering the prime years of his career while right fielder Dayan Viciedo has shown some flashes of real ability. Speaking of flashes, don't blink if Addison Reed comes in to relieve during this series. If you do, you'll miss one of the righty's triple-digit offerings.
Holland might not be starting on Opening Day, but there's not much question that he's looking like the most obvious candidate to jump into the shoes vacated by C.J. Wilson. Maybe Yu Darvish gets there by the end of the season, but Holland's going to need to break from the gate well to establish the Rangers staff.
What's Not: The good news for the White Sox is that Dunn, Rios and Beckham need to be simply bad in order to take a quantum leap over last season. The bad news is that it will take a lot more than that to fix a generally mediocre offense.
The failure to find a center field option not named Josh Hamilton might wind up meaning little to the Rangers, but it would have been nice for the Rangers to try something to fill the biggest hole on the team. It should make for some fun sniping on the contract front if Hamilton gets hurt, anyway.
Mike Napoli had a career year in 2011 with numbers that looked a lot like those of Mike Piazza. The chances of regression seem high, although even a slight backslide would leave the Rangers with a highly productive bat at catcher.
Familiar Faces: Danks remains one who got away, of course, but this category really belongs to Robin Ventura. The new White Sox manager was a very good player for a very long time, but seems destined to always be remembered as a 46-year-old Nolan Ryan's punching bag. The Rangers won't play the video at the Ballpark this weekend, which is probably the classy move. Just watch it here instead.