On the day before the deadline to sign Yu Darvish Texas Rangers fans should think about what is most likely to happen. For the first time in the last several years the pitching staff should be able to enter the season without any major question marks. Combining a strong starting rotation with a great looking bullpen and perhaps an all-star filled lineup the Rangers may turn deadly.
At the end of the 2011 season it was announced the Neftali Feliz would be moving out of his role as closer and into a starting position. This was done with the knowledge that C.J. Wilson would most likely not be returning in 2012 and he would thus take over his starting rotation spot. Coming off of great years and returning to the rotation with Feliz will be Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. Also returning will be Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando. Ogando will likely be the odd man out when Yu signs and will likely return to the bullpen where he was dominate in the later portion of the 2011 series.
While the Rangers don’t have a clear ace in this year’s rotation what they will have is two starters that are easy 2’s, two starters that are easy 3’s and a four. I dont see running without an ace as an issue when one looks at what the club was able to with and without Cliff Lee in 2010 and while Wilson was dominate in the 2011 regular season, he was a hindrance to the club in the post season.
Derek Holland will likely start the season at the top of the rotation. While the 25 year old left hander has only two full seasons in the majors under his belt the change in Holland mentally from the beginning of 2011 until its close is phenomenal. I think that the Ranger southpaw has come into himself as a pitcher and can easily take up the mantle as pitching leader as Yu learns the league. His 2011 regular season numbers of were 12 wins and 5 losses out of 32 total starts, posted with an ERA of 3.95, a WHIP of 1.354 and a SO/BB ratio of 2.42. All of these numbers are improvements over the 2009 season, his other complete year. Holland should be able to replicate close to his 2011 numbers and put himself firmly in the Rangers rotation.
Matt Harrison is easily the most over looked of Texas’ pitchers. The 26 year old lefty is also coming into his second full season as a Rangers starter. Harrison began his career as a 3rd round draft pick in the 2003 draft by the Atlanta Braves and joined the Rangers as part of the Mark Teixeira trade. His 2011 regular season numbers were 14 wins and 9 losses in 31 starts. He also posted a 3.39 ERA with a 1.276 WHIP and a so/bb ratio of 2.21. Harrison’s 2011 were also improvements over his time in the bullpen. He should have an accomplished year as the Rangers 4th starter.
Colby Lewis comes in as the sole veteran on the staff. That may not mean a whole lot to some analysts but I believe that the fact that the 32 year old also played Japanese professional baseball he will have the ability to help Yu get used to the difference between that league and the Major Leagues. Lewis also will be the sole right handed pitcher on the staff that has been a starter before2012. His 2011 stats were 14 wins and 10 losses in 32 games started. Lewis posted a 4.40 ERA with a 1.213 WHIP and a SO/BB ratio of 3.02. He is never going to be much above a .500 pitcher and he should be regarded as the starter most in need of constant offensive help. As of right now Lewis will be the number 5 starter, although Manager Ron Washington has indicated that Lewis will be the opening day starter.
Neftali Feliz has been a phenom in the bullpen consistently hitting 100 miles an hour on the gun while he was facing a limited number of batters. The Rangers have Feliz working with former pitching great Pedro Martinez to get ready for his new role. Feliz will likely have the attention of both of the Maddux brothers on him throughout the year to make sure his numbers are stable and he doesn’t start to drift off like Ogando did in his role as starter last year. While his 2011 stats were obviously from the bullpen he shouldn’t fall off too much during his transition. His ERA was at 2.74 with a 1.174 WHIP and a SO/BB ratio of 1.80. Feliz needs to get this last ratio back to the 2010 number that he had of 3.94 which if possible will make him a possible 3 starter.
Yu Darvish will be the likely number 2 starter in the rotation. His 2011 numbers with the Nippon Ham Fighters are to die for, which alone with his career numbers and his projected ability is why the Texas Rangers put such a high bid on him to being with. His 2011 stats were a 1.44 ERA, a .828 WHIP and SO/BB ratio was 7.67. If Yu puts up similar numbers in the majors he will have him winning the Cy Young award.
To go along with a rotation of Holland/Yu/Harrison/Feliz/Lewis the Rangers also brought in a Special Assistant to the GM, pitching legend Greg Maddux. I wouldn’t be surprised if his role had everything to do with the transition of Yu and Feliz while his brother, and Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux watches over Holland/Harrison/Lewis and the pen. It will be telling what The Professor can do with these two talented pitchers.
As Always Go Rangers!