STACK will be providing one-of-a-kind coverage leading up to and during the 2011 MLB Playoffs. Here, we preview the American League Divisional Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, uncovering the elite training methods used by two potential impact players: Rays 3B Evan Longoria and Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are the hottest team in baseball after erasing a nine-game deficit to claim the AL wild card. Evan Longoria capped the remarkable comeback with a 12th inning walk-off home run against the New York Yankees, setting up a rematch of the 2010 ALDS, which the Rays lost to the Rangers in five games.
This September will be a month to remember for Longoria.He posted a .454 on-base percentage, .589 slugging percentage and a sensational 1.043 OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Longoria will have to continue that momentum into the ALDS to give his team any hope of knocking off the defending AL champs, but the Rays will also be counting on his stellar defense to keep Rangers batters off the bases.
To expand his range at the hot corner, the two-time Gold Glover performs exercises such as the Band-Resisted Shuffle, designed to improve his first-step quickness. "I believe the biggest thing is agility and speed training," says Longoria. "It has really benefited me with that first-step quickness and being able to get to a few balls that maybe some guys couldn't get to."
The Band-Resisted Shuffle has offensive advantages, too. Longoria: "It strengthens your legs and hamstrings and stabilizes your core. Power comes from your core and legs, and all the things I'm working on are trying to generate as much power as I can from my abdominal muscles down."
Inside the Numbers
My, what a difference a year makes. In 2010, Longoria dominated the Rangers, hitting .417 against them, with a .464 on-base percentage and a whopping .917 slugging percentage in 24 at-bats. His OPS was 1.381.
This year was different, not in a good way. In 30 at-bats against Texas, Longoria hit .233, with a .378 OBP/.467 SLG/.845 OPS. He will have to turn things around in the ALDS.
No question, the Rangers can put runs on the board. The big bats of Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton—not to mention Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler—propelled them to an American League leading .283 batting average and a .460 slugging percentage (second in the AL).
Rangers manager Ron Washington will call on left-handed pitchers C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland for Games 1 and 2, but the team's fate could depend on the right arm of starting pitcher Colby Lewis. And that's good news for the Arlington faithful. Last post-season, Lewis posted a 3-0 record, becoming the first pitcher in club history to win a playoff home game.
To build upon his record-setting 2010 campaign, Lewis teamed up with fitness coach Pat Brown in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., this past off-season. Twice a week he performed a grueling "Hour of Power" circuit that targeted his upper body, lower body and everything in between.
"The circuit is high volume to work on Colby's conditioning while also working hypertrophy; we want to keep the muscle full with a lot of power," says Brown, owner and operator of Lifetime Fitness.
Lewis does his upper-body lifts through a full range of motion, which helps his flexibility and keeps his shoulder healthy for the grind of the 162-game season.
The training proved effective: Lewis pitched 200.1 innings this season, just a shade below the 201 he tossed in 2010.
Inside the Numbers
In his lone start against the Tampa Bay Rays this season, Lewis pitched eight innings, allowing four hits with eight strikeouts, in a 3-0 Rangers win at Tropicana Field in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
- Game 1: Friday, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. EDT @ TEX
- Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:07 p.m. EDT @ TEX
- Game 3: Monday, Oct. 3, 5:07 p.m. EDT @ TB
- Game 4 (if necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 4, TBD @ TB
- Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, Oct. 6, TBD @ TEX
Regular Season Series: Rangers won 5-4
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock