The Colby Lewis Dilemma


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Colby Lewis’ career has had more peaks and valleys than the vast majority of players skilled enough to play in the Major Leagues.  Colby was a first round draft pick by the Rangers back in 1999 and has since experienced both jarring setbacks and tremendous success.  Colby Lewis twice led the Japanese league he played for in strikeouts.  Major league teams twice in a calendar year released Lewis.  He has possessed mid 90’s heat and had to later rely on high 80’s cunning.  He has undergone rotator cuff surgery, surgery for a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, and had hip resurfacing surgery too.  Colby Lewis pitched and won the clinching game that sent the Rangers to their first World Series ever.

Colby Lewis has shown resilience most athletes are simply incapable of.  Ranger fans recognize his poise and his determination and love him for it, but Colby Lewis might have finally run out of gas.

This season Lewis has simply been atrocious.  He has just twice given his team a quality start and his stuff is no longer major league quality.  Opponents are hitting .353 of him, resulting in a sky high 1.83 WHIP.  In 84 innings this season he has allowed 127 hits, 11 of which have left the ballpark.  For the Rangers to compete, they cannot have that sort of production from any member of their rotation.

So when should the Rangers pull the plug on a man that has given his all for so long? Should the answer be up to me, I would give him another 13 starts.  In 67 remaining games, he should theoretically take the ball 13 more times; that is the time he will have to work with to prove himself yet again.

There are, albeit, a few bright spots for Colby this season.  For one, from a physical standpoint he has come back from an unprecedented hip injury and proved himself to be healthy.  Lewis has not once been skipped in the rotation since coming off the DL and has made 16 uninterrupted starts.  His average fastball velocity is actually up to 88.7 mph from his 2012 average of 88.0 mph, probably a result of a more engaged lower half throughout his windup.  Additionally, he has limited his walks and nearly has a respectable 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio; he will be susceptible to base hits for the rest of his career regardless of how long that is, so it is integral that he limits the free passes.

The question is: how much time does Colby need to sort out his new post-hip surgery mechanics? Sixteen starts in not exactly a brief sample size but his numbers of late suggest some modest improvement.  In the three starts leading up to his most recent disaster in Texas, Colby was 1-1 throwing 18.1 innings, giving up 22 hits but no walks to go with 21 K’s.  I think most teams would take those numbers from a 4 or 5 starter, especially one with a history and strong presence in the clubhouse.

The Rangers are not going to compete in 2014 and have no legitimate replacement for Lewis anyway.  It does no harm to continue to let Colby sort himself out and prove that he can progress with more time.

1.   13 starts: 5.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2:1 K to Walk, 15 homeruns allowed

2.   13 starts: 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.5:1 K to Walk, 12 homeruns allowed

3.   13 starts: 4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 3:1 K to Walk, 10 homeruns allowed

Should, hypothetically, one of these lines be Cobra’s numbers the rest of the way, which would be enough to give him another shot next year?  What is the threshold in performance he must meet or surpass to secure himself just another chance in a career full of chances, some of which were seized and others not, but all of which were sought after with unparalleled grit.

With Jason Frasor the newest member of the Kansas City Royals, Colby Lewis is now the oldest member on the Rangers pitching staff and ready to turn 35 just after the All-Star Break.  Nearly half his life has been lived since he signed with the Rangers out of high school, what would it take to keep him in Ranger Red and Blue for one more campaign?  That, as usual, is up to Colby and Colby alone.