Texas Rangers: The Underrated Pitching Rotation

This is a post I wanted to write about since the MLB playoffs began; however, due to time restraints and my own self-doubt about this topic, I decided not to write a post about it. But now that the Rangers have made the World Series and Game One of the series is tonight, I decided this would be a perfect time to write this post.

At the beginning of the playoffs, I predicted the Texas Rangers to come out of the American League. I though Texas had the best all around team. We all know their line up is amazing (Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus make up more than 2/3 of the line up. How ridiculous is that!) and I really liked the big end of their bullpen when they acquired Koji Uehara and Mike Adams to lead into the dominant closer that is Neftali Feliz. However, one of the Rangers perceived weaknesses was their rotation.

Part of this perception is that they don't have a shut down, #1 ace. The Tigers had Verlander. The Yankees had C.C. Sabathia. The rays had James Shields. The Rangers number one man was C.J. Wilson, who was only made into a starter last year.

However, Wilson ended up as the fourth best pitcher in the American League in 2011 (in terms of WAR), behind Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia, and Angels pitcher Dan Haren. Wilson was an All-Star and a GOI deserved All-Star. In the AL Wilson was top 10 in ERA, FIP, xFIP, and K/9. Wilson had the talent and potential to hang into Game Ones like the rest of them.

As it turns out, Wilson has had a pretty awful 2011 postseason (0-2, 8.04 ERA) but it was not just Wilson that I liked the Rangers rotation, it is the back end of it that made me like their rotation. I thought the Rangers had the most complete rotation out of anyone in baseball. Outside of Sabathia the Yankees had no one. The Tigers had Doug Fister has their second pitcher (who was also awful in the postseason) and then relegated to starting Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer (who had pretty bad 2011 seasons). The Rays had a decent rotation but matched up poorly to the Rangers hitting staff (James Shields- 12.60 postseason ERA, Jeremy Hellickson- 6.75 postseason ERA, and David Price- 4.05 postseason ERA).

Admittedly some Rangers pitchers have not fared better (Derek Holland- 5.27 postseason ERA, Matt Harrison- 4.27 postseason ERA) but I was basing this post and my prediction at the beginning of the postseason (I also had been championing the Rangers as the best AL rotation thinking Boston would make the Wild Card, not the Rays).

That being said, the main reason I liked the Rangers rotation was how they performed down the stretch.

For starters lest talk about fantasy. In the last 30 days of the 2011 season- Colby Lewis was the 7th best pitcher, Derek Holland was the 10th best pitcher, and Matt Harrison was the 21st best pitcher. That's three pitchers in the top 25. Sure, that's fantasy, and we're talking about reality in this post, but I wanted to give you a reference point to how good the Rangers pitchers were before coming into the postseason.

In September and October, Wilson was the 2nd best pitcher in the AL and Harrison was the 4th. Derek Holland was the 14th best and Colby Lewis was the 20th. That comes out to an average of 10th best in the AL. For comparison, the Tigers averaged 14.25 and the Rays averaged 40.00. (NOTE: The Yankees started resting their pitchers so they did not have enough IP to qualify.)

In September and October, Derek Holland had a 2.20 ERA in 32.2 IP with 35 strikeouts. In that same time span Matt Harrison had a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP with 23 strike outs.

While Holland and Harrison were clutch down the stretch to help the Rangers earn the #2 seed in the American League (which ultimately led them to home field advantage throughout the playoffs so far) and kept away the pesky Angels, it has been Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando that have kept their playoff run alive.

After a 4.26 ERA in June and a 7.14 ERA in August (and because of how good players like Harrison and Holland were late in the year), Rangers Manager Ron Washington decided to move Alexi Ogando to the bullpen as his long reliever. As it turns out, Ogando has been the Rangers best "starting pitcher" because of it. Ogando leads all AL "starters" with a 0.87 ERA in the postseason. The Rangers have won all 7 games that Ogando has pitched in. He pitched two innings in three out of his four appearances verses the Tigers and did not give up an earned run in any of his appearances against the Rays.

Then we have Colby Lewis, the best starting pitcher (statistically) who has pitched (and started) more than one game in the American League. He has the fourth best ERA among AL starters (first is Ogando (has not technically started in the post season), second is Matt Moore (only one appearance) and third is A.J. Burnett (only one appearance)).

Lewis has a better 2011 postseason ERA than: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and C.C. Sabathia.

What does this all mean? Probably nothing considering they are facing the luckiest freaking team in the World Series: the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals last World Series was won based on smoke and mirrors (and mainly because the Tigers were so good they won their Championship Series easily and that rest hurt them in the World Series) and they won only 87 games that season. This season the Cardinals only won 90. The Rangers won 96 and did it in the more difficult league.

Anyways, while I think the Rangers have a better overall team than the Cardinals, the Cardinals will probably win anyways. I'm just pointing out that I like the Rangers rotation and pitching.