Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
News broke yesterday that Derek Holland underwent knee surgery to repair an injury suffered by falling down the stairs. The Rangers were probably slight favorites to win the American League West following a busy offseason. It was immature to give the West to Texas since Oakland has been significantly better than Texas the last two seasons and they too have improved this offseason. The West was shaping up to be a good race with Texas, Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles all potentially contending for the division. Texas reloaded in a big way this offseason. Oakland improved on the West’s best team. Seattle made the biggest splash of the offseason with Robinson Cano and may be ready to compete this year given their strong starting pitching. Los Angeles is a team to watch as they have vastly underperformed. This may a good year for them to bounce back as they finally will not face the pressure of expectations. Since every team in the division has improved will Holland’s injury cost Texas their shot at the West division title?
With Holland’s injury one of Texas’ few weaknesses, their rotation, has become a glaring issue. Before Holland’s injury Texas was set to go with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Matt Harrison, and, most likely, Colby Lewis. It is possible that Nick Tepesch or Alexi Ogando land the rotation spot. The rotation for the Rangers was already questionable because the team was set to rely on Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis. These two are coming off major injuries. Harrison is a quality starter when healthy but he has had two back surgeries in the last year. Lewis pedestrian at best but when healthy he eats innings. Lewis has been fighting hip injury for two years now so expecting much from him may be folly.
With Holland gone for half the season the rotation will now have four large question marks. Yu Darvish should be reliable but Perez, Harrison, Lewis, Tepesch and Ogando are less than sure things. Perez had a fantastic year last year and while the Rangers hope he maintains form it will not be a shock if he struggles in his sophomore effort. As mentioned before Harrison and Lewis are coming off injuries so even if they stay healthy they may take time to bounce back to peak performance. Tepesch was underwhelming last year and has little upside. He is a stop gap at best. Ogando has also struggled with injuries over the last two years and while he has been a solid starter he cannot seem to stay healthy when in the rotation. Having three injury concerns and two young, mostly unproven, young pitchers in a team’s rotation is not a recipe for success.
The rotation was already potentially problematic but now the Rangers have a definite issue. Without Holland the rotation is a glaring weakness for Texas. Perhaps Jon Daniels fills Holland’s spot with a free agent or via trade but rumor has it that Daniels will only add players for depth. Daniels claims that he is only going to add pitchers for depth. Daniels is known to talk down any potential actions the Rangers might take so take his comments with a grain of salt.
The news of Holland’s injury radically changes Texas’ outlook on the 2014 season. The team was solid in all phases of the game including a tough rotation going into 2014. Without Holland the Texas rotation suddenly goes from having the potential to be a top rotation in the American League to likely being an average rotation. It is hard to imagine the loss of one player could so drastically change the season’s outlook but Holland was a crucial piece in Texas’ thinnest position. Texas would have been better suited to lose a bullpen piece or position player. Holland loss is particularly hard because he was one of the most durable pitchers for the Rangers. Texas was counting on Holland for his two hundred innings this season. He is also the second best starter in Texas so his loss is a big one.
Is the season over for Texas? Are their playoff hopes shattered? Of course not. The team has tremendous upside and the potential to overcome even a big loss such as Holland. Baseball is not played on paper. Perez and Harrison in particular will need to step up to replace Holland’s production for Texas to be successful this year. Perhaps Daniels will fill Holland’s spot with a big name like, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Mashiro Tanaka or David Price, but if he does not Texas could really struggle in 2014.