Texas Rangers: Reviewing Pitching’s First Half of 2017

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 09: Robinson Chirinos
ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 09: Robinson Chirinos /

 The first half of baseball is in the books. The Texas Rangers are 43-45 and in third place in the American League West standings. Furthermore, they’re 16.5 games behind first place. This is season has been a roller coaster for the Rangers.

The Texas Rangers are a mediocre team, as hard and painful as it to admit due to the fact that they’re the two-time defending American League West champions. Overall, the team is quite a mess, but the biggest woe is pitching.

This season, at least four starting pitchers found themselves on the disabled list, one of them being Cole Hamels, who missed eight weeks due a strained right oblique muscle. Yu Darvish, who’s in his contract year, has done a good job of staying healthy, however, he’s not having the season fans were hoping he would have. Darvish leads the rotation in wins, however he’s 6-8 and on a four-game losing streak and Texas is 1-8 in Yu’s last nine starts. As of yesterday, Darvish is fifth all-time in Texas Rangers history in strikeouts with 934, passing Colby Lewis. Furthermore, he’s only two strikeouts away from tying Nolan Ryan.

Cole Hamels is 4-0 and since his return from injury, he’s collected two straight wins. He’s lucky to have been given no-decisions in a few bad games he’s had this year. He’s 4-0 for the first time in his career. Hamels is 26-6 in his 52 regular season starts in a Rangers uniform. Furthermore, Texas is 38-14 in those 52 games. Hamels’ biggest woe in Arlington is him being 0-2 in the playoffs.

No one can forget that disastrous 10-1 loss to Toronto in game one of the ALCS series, which Texas ended up being swept despite coming into the playoffs with the best American League record in 2016. Hamels was on the mound for that game and he didn’t last long, allowing seven runs on six hits in just 3.1 innings. Furthermore, Hamels is 33 and having an aging pitcher that is close to being past his prime as the top ace will not take a ball club very far. Sooner or later, Texas will need to move on.

Speaking of Darvish and Hamels, rumors have gone around stating that Texas is looking to trade one of them. but nothing’s happened yet. As we know, Darvish is becoming a free agent at the conclusion of this season and Hamels is under contract until at least 2020.

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Martin Perez is again having a rough year as he’s 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA. In early June, Perez was 2-6. He did have a brief stint on the disabled list due to an injury on his non-throwing hand. In his last four starts, Perez has earned two wins and two no-decisions and his performance has been decent. According to CBS sports, the Rangers are planning to have Perez step on the mound on July 14th against the Royals when the season resumes.

Andrew Cashner, who signed with Texas as a free agent during the off-season is 4-7. After a rough 0-3 start, Cashner has gone 4-4, picking up respectable wins against the Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, and the Philadelphia Phillies. His ERA is currently 3.54. His biggest struggle is striking out batters, his season-high being striking out five batters, which he did in a losing effort in Seattle. Cashner’s total strikeouts this season is 40 while pitching 81.1 innings. Overall, Cashner is not terrible and he’s doing okay. However, in any case, he needs to pick up the pace.

Last but not least is A.J. Griffin. He disappeared in late May when he was placed on the ten-day disabled list. Last month, Griffin shifted to the 60-day disabled list. It’s unclear when Griffin is returning. It’s probably safe to say the Rangers won’t be re-signing him. He got off to a strong 4-0. After losing two straight, things went downhill a little bit. Things took a turn for the worse on May 26th. In his start against Toronto, Griffin left the game after pitching just 1.1 innings. This season, Griffin has been on the disabled list twice this season. Griffin is one of those pitchers that can either have a good or bad game. In other words, when he steps on the mound, anything can happen and you don’t know what to expect.

Pitchers such as Tyson Ross, Nick Martinez, Austin Bibens-Dirkx are three pitchers that earned the opportunity to start due to the injury-plagued starting rotation. Bibens-Dirkx is a 32-year-old rookie and he’s 3-0 this season. Bibens-Dirkx has pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and the Chicago Cubs. However, he had never played at the major-league level. He began this season in Round Rock. Texas called him up May 7th. He made his debut on May 17th as a reliever, pitching one inning against Philadelphia, where he earned his first major-league strikeout. He may be 32 years of age, but he’s doing great. In any case, he must keep it up.

Tyson Ross signed with Texas back in January. Ross, 30, has never had a winning season in his career. He’s 2-1, which is the best start to a season in his career. He started the season late due spending time on the disabled list while recovering from surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. Ross made his debut on June 16th, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing two hits, two runs, and striking out five batters. Texas won 10-4.

Starting this season as a relief pitcher, Nick Martinez earned the opportunity to start games. After a rough 0-2 start losing to the likes of the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres, he picked his first win as a starter this season against Detroit. A loss to Boston resulted in him falling to 1-3. Last month, Martinez earned two wins, picking up victories against Toronto and the New York Yankees before returning to his duties as a reliever and sent back to the minors.

Bullpen has had its ups and downs. The biggest mess is the Sam Dyson situation. Starting the season as Texas’ closer, Dyson fell apart falling to 0-2 and suffering his first blown save in Texas’ opening series. Last month, Texas sent Dyson to San Francisco. Dyson leaving Arlington with a 1-6 record and four blown saves truly is a shame. Dyson was a member of the Team USA roster that won the World Baseball Classic this year. He played a key role in helping the USA bring home title by pitching six perfect innings.

At the moment, Texas is in a tie with the New York Yankees for most blown saves this season with 17. Their 13 saves places them 29th in the league. Furthermore, they’re 22nd in holds with 39.

The bullpen’s record is 14-18. Keone Kela leads the bullpen in victories with four, Jose Leclerc leads them in holds with eight, and Matt Bush leads them in saves with ten. Speaking of Bush, he was relieved of his duties a little bit ago after suffering his fifth blown saves. Since then, he’s yet to allow and run and has struck out five batters while allowing one hit in four innings. Texas doesn’t have an official closer at the moment. Kela at the moment is one the disabled list due to shoulder inflammation. The injury is not serious and he may return for Texas’ series in Kansas City later this week. Most of all, Jake Diekman, who’s missed the entire first half due to surgery to remove his colon. Not having him around certainly has affected the bullpen. Last month, Diekman said he hopes to return this month.

Overall, from what we’ve seen this season from Texas’ pitching. It’s at the point to where anything can happen. It’s basically what I explained regarding Griffin. It’s not just him. All of a sudden, the Rangers play against a team that is expected to beat them, but the opposite happens. Just last week, Cashner humiliated Boston. On June 9th, he pulled off an upset win against the Nationals. Just yesterday, Darvish was expected to lead Texas to victory against the Angels and instead Texas lost 3-0. Cole Hamels, as well. He’ll come into a game with momentum and then all of  sudden he falls down. The bottom line is, Texas’ pitching is full of surprises and anything can happen.