Texas Rangers Pitching Staff Enduring Role Reversal

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May 3, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen (54) throws a pitch during the sixth inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen (54) throws a pitch during the sixth inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Before the season began, the Texas Ranger’s bullpen was expected to be one of the leagues best. Meanwhile the Darvish-less rotation was expected to be middling at best. Early in the season however, things have materialized quite differently.

We all saw this one coming right? The Texas Rangers have one of the leagues best rotations, and worst bullpens early in the season. Behind Cole Hamels in the rotation, a ragtag group of question marks and grizzled veterans have combined to go 5+ innings in every single game this season, while compiling an AL best 19 quality starts, and 2nd best 3.06 ERA.

All of this has been accomplished while the Texas Rangers continue to await the return of rehabbing ace Yu Darvish from Tommy John. This was not the way it was expected to be, A.J. Griffin, the teams 5th starter and Yu Darvish place holder, has arguably been the most pleasant surprise of the season for the Rangers. Performing so well in fact that the Texas Rangers have begun to seriously consider going to a 6 man rotation, rather than kicking Griffin or someone else to the bullpen or the minors.

Meanwhile, the bullpen, which was supposed to be a bastion of this team, and shut opponents down from the 6th inning on. Has struggled so mightily early in the season, that they find themselves dead last in the AL in many important categories. Responsible for 8 of the first 12 Texas Rangers losses, the bullpen currently ranks last in the AL for ERA (4.95), BAA (.278), OPS against (.846), and HRs allowed (18).

Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers /

Texas Rangers

Some of the major pieces including Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman, have managed to perform admirably well out of the ‘pen, but other important pieces like Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Tolleson, Andrew Faulkner, and Keone Kela have had their struggles. Kela has hit the long-term disabled list, Faulkner has been dispatched to Round Rock, and Wilhelmsen may soon be shown the door as well if he can’t pull things together.

I expect the bullpen is not as bad as the early season numbers indicate, but they likely aren’t the world beaters some preseason prognostications led us to expect either. Come seasons end, this will not be the worst bullpen in the American league like it is now, rather we will probably see this bullpen finish somewhere around the middle of the pack.

So far, the unexpected dominance of the Texas Ranger starters has been enough to pick up the scuffling bullpen, and lead the team to a winning record through the first month of the season. Even if the bullpen never reaches the dominant level that was originally expected from them this season, the Texas Rangers could still go far this year. Set to be buttressed by the return of Yu Darvish mere weeks from now, this rotation looks capable of carrying a middling bullpen.

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