What Happened To The Rangers Bullpen?
By Kenneth Nash
After a strong start to the season, the Rangers have dropped leads in three of their last four games and the late innings seem to be the problem.
Early this season, the bullpen seemed to be a bright spot for this Rangers team but as of late, it seems to be the crutch. Texas has dropped three of their last four games all of which they were leading late in the game. Keone Kela, Alex Claudio and Kevin Jepsen all take responsibility each surrendering 3 runs or more in their innings of work and taking the losses in their respective outings. Truth be told, the bullpen looks tired and very hittable.
Call to the Pen
This is a startling trend for a team that really has no room for error. The bullpen has allowed 16 runs in 11 innings of work over those three losses and has cost this team wins. As a whole, the Rangers pitching staff has the 7th highest ERA at 4.86 and teams are hitting .282 against them. Although the pitching staff was a question mark, not many predicted this dismal of a start.
In an effort to bolster the bullpen a bit, Texas called Jose Leclerc back up to the Major League roster and he made an appearance Monday throwing a scoreless 1.2 innings. Still, the Rangers will be looking for some stability in relief. Extending their starts is answer number one. Texas starters went no more than 5.2 innings in those losses meaning the bullpen was required to throw more than 3 innings each game. While normally that does not sound like an overtly outrageous task, this pitching staff is not built to have dominance late in games. With no real defined and established roles in the bullpen, it’s hard for relievers to pick up a rhythm when it comes to their appearances. Beyond just innings, the Rangers threw five relievers Friday and Monday with four relievers appearing Saturday. Relying on five plus pitchers to be good in any given game is not a manageable task especially with this level of talent.
I would expect Jeff Banister and the Rangers to focus on lengthening the outings of their starting pitchers so they can use three or fewer relievers in any given game. Limiting the variables in game will give this team the best opportunity to win games.