This will be the first of a four part series gauging the Rangers rotation, bullpen, offense, and defense in that order. I will weigh where the Rangers stand in each of these categories and aim to quantify how much they might need to improve in order to secure a playoff spot.
There has been a lot of talk about the exceptional amount of parity in the MLB this season and it seems justified given a quick glance at the standings across the board. Fourteen teams are three or fewer wins or losses from the .500 mark and several more are close too. Only three teams have a run differential of 50 in either the positive or negative range; the A’s +118 represents the runaway leaders in this area. The Rangers start to 2014 has been, by definition, mediocre as they currently sit 31-31 despite the plethora of injuries they have endured. The Rangers have exactly 100 games left on their schedule. Sure, 100 is an arbitrary number, but it is round and I figured I might spitball on what the Rangers could do with their remaining hundred face-offs in order to utilize the league-wide parity and claim a playoff position.
Nine teams are within 3 games or less from an AL Wildcard spot and that doesn’t even include last years champion Red Sox. Given the aforementioned parity I think winning just 88 games could mean a playoff spot for any of these teams, so lets set the bar at 88.
20 Starts: Yu Darvish
20 Starts: Colby Lewis
20 Starts: Joe Saunders
20 Starts: Nick Tepesche
20 Starts: 5 by Nick Martinez, 15 by Derek Holland
Here there is already a great deal of speculation. For one, this distribution is assuming no more injuries plague the rotation the rest of the way (that’s a lot to assume). Obviously, I am also speculating about the rotation and who could be removed upon Holland’s return. Still, given that Nick Martinez has already once been reassigned to the bullpen (where he played well) and that his low ERA (3.12) seems unsustainable (1.59 WHIP, 20:21 BB to K totals) I would figure he is most likely to give way to Derek Holland in the rotation.
Regardless, to win 58 more games this season (.580 the rest of the way) a couple things will have to go right for the Rangers including overall team health. Here is how I might break down the “mandatory” pitching performances in order to achieve that .580 winning percentage:
Yu Darvish: 2.50 ERA, 16 QS – Win 15 of his remaining starts
Colby Lewis: 4.50 ERA, 10 QS – Win 11 of his remaining starts
Joe Saunders: 4.50 ERA, 10 QS – Win 11 of his remaining starts
Nick Tepesche: 4.00 ERA, 11 QS – Win 11 of his remaining starts
Martinez: 4.50 ERA, 2 QS – Win 2 of his remaining starts
Holland: 3.50 ERA, 10 QS – win 8 of his starts
Totals: 59 QS, 58 Wins
This year all the MLB teams have combined have win 907 games and there have been 956 quality starts. The ratio of wins to quality starts is 1:1.054. By these numbers I would estimate the Rangers rotation must be responsible for 59-60 quality starts the rest of the way to help the Rangers claim 58 more victories. By this hypothetical distribution of wins, the Rangers would obtain 58 more victories in their remaining 100 games putting them, theoretically speaking, in line for a playoff spot.
But the Rangers starters have provided the team with just 21 quality starts (tied for second to last in the MLB with Arizona); league average in this category is 32 quality starts to date. Given most teams are around the 62 game mark, this means most teams are getting a quality start every other game from their pitchers. The Rangers pitchers simply have to do better; they need to limit the crooked innings and pitch deeper into games to give the offense a chance to secure victories. Colby Lewis and Joe Saunders especially must improve and solidify the back end on the Rangers rotation.
The chart below juxtaposes Wins to Quality starts around the MLB. As expected, there is a positive correlation between Wins and QS and the regression line is also given in black. The Rangers are represented by the red mark.
As you can see, the Rangers have more wins than their number of quality starts would lead you to believe they might have, so they have been coping despite inconsistent pitching. Regardless, to keep winning (especially with a negative runs differential) the rotation has to improve. Will it improve? And by how much? Will the Rangers even stay healthy? These are questions that can only be answered over the next hundred games.