1st Half Grades: The Pitching Staff


With the 50% of the schedule in the bank, this article focuses on how each Ranger has performed. Part Two deals with my 1st half grades for the pitchers, but here is Part One if you missed it.

My grading scale for judging these players is nonexistent; it’s as subjective as how I feel at this exact moment. The only caveat I’ll add deals with expectations; conflated with how well they have actually performed, each grade is relative to what was expected of the player.

Starters

Yu Darvish: B 

If his command is on-point, he’s the best pitcher in baseball. Yu is unrivaled in his assortment of pitches, especially considering the quality of each pitch. Something that’s undone a few of Darvish’s starts in 2013 has been the home run ball, as he’s already allowed as many this year (14) than he did in all of his 2012 campaign.

Derek Holland: A+

Can we stop arguing about his merit as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher? I’m certainly not going to be one of those people who praises him only after a dominant 2-0 shutout at Yankee Stadium; I’m simply acknowledging his transformation from a pitcher many wrote off after an average 2012 season, into what he’s become now, as a true #2 starting pitcher to slate behind Yu Darvish.

We can talk about inconsistency, and we can discuss the validity of this season’s sample size, but let’s just allow this image to resinate for one second:

Alexi Ogando: C+

He hasn’t been terribly healthy. He hasn’t been terribly effective when he has been healthy, but he hasn’t been ineffective, either. Assuming he returns from the disabled list, I’d prefer him to be used out of the bullpen — where his stuff plays up.

Justin Grimm: B-

Amazingly, Grimm has already thrown 77.2 innings in 2013, which is about 70.0 more than I would have predicted before the season began. His xFIP (4.10) is significantly lower than his actual ERA (5.56), which suggests he’s been better than his results have indicated. Regardless, the emergency work he’s put into Texas’s 1st half will be looked at as invaluable if this team manages to reach the postseason.

Nick Tepesch: B-

Ditto the last sentence I wrote about Justin Grimm.

Bullpen

Joe Nathan: B

The peripherals are uglier than the end product, but he’s only blown one save. Once he blows his 2nd and 3rd (which happens to closers, you know), Joe will be the perfect candidate to get cherry picked by the fan base/media as a huge issue.

Tanner Scheppers: A

Again, the peripherals stink. One simply cannot keep up a 1-point-something ERA with such a low strikeout rate (5.98/9). Earth and Tanner Scheppers will run parallel, again, at some point, but thus far he has been the best high-leverage arm on staff.

Robbie Ross: A

Before the year he seemed like a surefire candidate to regress from his brilliant 2.22 ERA season of 2012. I was wrong. His K rate is substantially higher in 2013 (9.16/9) than it was in ’12 (6.51/9), which is the primary reason why his current 1.88 ERA has a strong chance of holding firm in the 2nd half.

Jason Frasor: B-

The perception of him is quite a bit different than how he’s actually pitched. Designed to get same-handed hitters out, Frasor has actually been drastically better against lefties in 2013 — though the sample is also substantially smaller.

Neal Cotts: A

Can’t do much better than he’s been in 22.2 innings on the bump; his K:BB ratio is a staunch 26:8 at the moment. I imagine he will be a key member of the team through September, and hopefully the postseason as well.

Michael Kirkman: D

It’s hard to fathom how a guy with such good stuff generates such poor results. Before hitting the DL, Kirkman’s ERA was 8.18 in 22.0 IP. I hope his cancer fades away so he can try to establish himself in a new home.

Ross Wolf: B+

Josh Lindblom: C

Kyle McClellan: D

 

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  • Andy

    Derek leading the AL in fWAR at the halfway point isn’t something I think anyone could have expected. We can argue about his true rotation rank long term (is he a #1? #2? #3? whatever), but there’s no disputing he’s pitched like an ace thus far this year, and with 3 of the starters we expected to go through most of the year with on the DL, and Yu having the occasional Colby Lewis (and Derek ’12) start, Derek’s performance might be the most welcome surprise so far.

    • Eric Reining

      Can’t disagree. Yu Darvish’s ERA would look drastically different if he didn’t have such a high HR/FB%, but I’m not worried about him. Holland is a fine MORP, if that’s all he is. I see him as a #2 though.

  • Cliffolio

    Umm…where do you get your numbers? Baseball reference shows some different numbers for Derek and he’s 10th in the AL, not 1st.

    • Eric Reining

      FanGraphs (fWAR)!

      Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs have two entirely different formulas to come up with their WAR figures. FanGraphs relies on FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which pays attention to walk rates, strikeout rates, and how many home runs a pitcher allows (hence, all the things that are in a pitcher’s control).

      Baseball-Reference (bWAR) holds to a much simpler calculation. They look exclusively at how many innings a pitcher throws, and how many runs he allows.

      FanGraphs’ is my preference, because metrics like xFIP and SIERA help show a pitcher’s true talent level, and paints a more complete picture with the future in mind. It’s known as the predictive metric. Baseball-Reference, on the other hand, really only accounts for what has already happened, thus not telling us much of anything looking forward. It’s known as a reflective metric.

      Anyway, I hope this answers your question.

    • Andy

      I also prefer fWAR to bWAR, for the reasons Eric said. Also, anecdotally, fWAR seems to correlate better with what we see via the eye test.

      In 2012, Matt Harrison was an excellent pitcher for the Rangers. He pitched a lot of innings and stranded a lot of runners, and not surprisingly, led the rotation in ERA (aside from Feliz, whose body of work was much smaller than the others). He was the 3rd highest bWAR among AL pitchers (with 6.1), putting him behind Verlander and Price and ahead of guys like Sale, Hernandez, and a number of other guys who were aces or nearly so. I don’t think he was the 3rd best pitcher in the AL last year.

      Conversely, FanGraphs had him 10th in the AL with 3.7 fWAR. I think 10th best is a lot closer to his actual value last year. Harrison will probably never lead the league in fWAR because he doesn’t strike out a lot of guys and focuses mostly on making the hitters make poor contact. More so than guys like Yu, he relies on a good defense behind him. And the Rangers didn’t usually let him down, so he was quite effective, as his bWAR shows.

      Is Holland the best pitcher in the AL right now, as fWAR suggests? Probably not. Is he only the 10th best in the AL right now, as bWAR suggests? Probably not. I think he’s probably somewhere in the middle of those. He’s actually leading the league in HR/FB, which is one of the reasons he’s improved so much. Anyway, you can use whatever flavor of WAR you like, but just remember what each of them means.

  • BZ

    What about Perez? I know he didn’t have exposure in the first half, but he seems to have finally figured it all out.