Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Texas Rangers - Looking at the Rotation

A fitting end to my look at the AL rotations, the reigning AL champs: the Texas Rangers. The Rangers lost C.J. Wilson to the Angels this offseason, but still look poised to make a run at the playoffs. Texas has a relatively young and so far fairly dominant rotation, and with that... let’s take a look.

Derek Holland by the numbers looks fairly pedestrian so far, but a lot of the damage came in back to back shabby performances to end April, in neither game was he particularly bad, but he did give up 12 combined runs over 13 innings to end the month. Holland’s groundball/flyball ratio is a touch low, but those two rough starts could have a lot to do with that. He’s not giving up a lot of homeruns, and his strikeout and walk rates are fairly close to his career marks, so that’ll probably stay more or less the same. There’s not a ton that’s out of line for Holland aside from his home run rate being almost 4 points lower than his career average, and that will probably come up a little bit. I would be quite surprised if Holland doesn’t continue having mostly strong starts and bring his ERA down a little bit as the season wears on.

Neftali Feliz has looked pretty darn good as a starter so far though his walk rate(14) and his innings totals(26) are a bit high, and a bit low respectively. Feliz skipped a start against the Yankees after pitching an 8 inning complete game. In all reality, stretching Feliz out into a starter is a process, so his innings total will probably be lower this year than a lot of other starters, and it’s something that Texas likely planned for going into the season and will have to live with. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to say about Feliz, he’s not striking out as many batters as he did from the pen (no surprise) and he’s not looked to have changed his approach much, which is probably for the best. Feliz will probably see some more bumps in the road this year, but he’s shown pretty good poise and will likely be able to hang around in the rotation all year if there’s not a very compelling reason to change that by mid season.

Matt Harrison had a very good year last year, but two ugly starts have made his ERA look a whole lot less attractive in the early going this year. Harrison is doing a very good job of keeping the ball on the ground and has lowered his line drive rate a bit, but this early on it’s hard to say any of that will continue throughout the year. I almost feel like I’m being a bit defensive of groundball pitchers, but balls seem to be finding gaps on Harrison so far, and that will likely normalize throughout the season. If you’re keeping the ball on the ground as a pitcher, good things tend to happen in the long run, and I stand by that. Overall Harrison will probably do just fine and despite a few rough starts in the early going, there’s not a whole lot that says he shouldn’t get better results over the course of the season.

Colby Lewis had a great 2010, an exactly league average 2011, and is currently making for a very strong showing in the early season so far. Lewis navigated his first 5 consecutive starts in quality start fashion before  looking somewhat less than impressive in his 6th start. Lewis’ stat line so far hasn’t looked too terribly different than the last two years aside from a higher than desirable line drive rate (20% of fly balls). Lewis will probably start walking a few more batters, as he’s walking less than ½ as many batters this year than he has over the past two but with that if he’s getting more ground balls he’ll be fine, and might even keep up a pace that’s not worlds apart from what he’s doing now.

Yu Darvish has since his first start been every bit what was advertised. Darvish has made a lot of teams look almost foolish through the early goings, and while he’s had two rough outings, looks to more or less be adapting to the 5 man rotation just fine. I like that Darvish has been keeping the ball on the ground about 50% of the time, but he’s giving up an awful lot of line drives which will probably translate into more hits as the league gets more exposed to the Japanese phenom. Similarly his BABIP is higher than one would expect at .327, and while that’s almost 30 points above the league average, there’s no precedent set for Darvish as an individual pitcher yet. As it stands, Darvish looks great, though some stats lead one to believe that he’s not going to keep up anything like his current pace over the full season. Darvish is however a very smart pitcher and will likely make adjustments in season to help himself continue seeing success as he learns the league as well.

Overall the Rangers are in an interesting spot they have Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, and Colby Lewis all coming off the books after this year, and even more of their core players capable of leaving after the 2013 season, the Rangers have spent a lot to put this team together, and may have to spend even more to hold it together over the next two years. Clearly the Rangers are poised to make another deep run into the playoffs, but it’s not likely that they are prepared to retain all of their best players into their late 30s just to keep this group around, doubly so if they fall short of the world series again this season. Texas is very well balanced and should make another exciting playoff run this year, but if the Angels can start clicking, they might cause some late season trouble for this Rangers team.

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