Texas Rangers: Why isn’t Jose Leclerc seeing more opportunities?

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 02: Jose Leclerc (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 02: Jose Leclerc (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Jose Leclerc has been the most dominant arm out of the Texas Rangers bullpen in 2018. Yet, he has not gotten the workload he deserves. Why is that?

After pitching to the tune of a serviceable 3.94 ERA in 45.2 innings in 2017, 24-year old righty Jose Leclerc has been the best reliever for the Texas Rangers this year. He has a very impressive 1.80 ERA through 20 innings pitched. Leclerc has been nearly unhittable, allowing just seven hits in his 20 innings, good for a .111 batting average against. Control has continued to be an issue for Leclerc, as he’s issued 12 walks. However, with a WHIP of 0.95, the walks haven’t affected his efficiency.

With nearly 80 games of MLB experience and in his third year in the bigs, Leclerc is no longer a precocious youngster. So, the question begs to be asked, why has Leclerc appeared in only 20 games?

Leclerc’s comparative peers is shameful

Last year, Leclerc appeared in 47 games in just his second year in the major leagues. On his current pace, Leclerc will appear in 52 games for the Rangers this year, a five-game improvement upon 2017. That mark of 52 appearances would be tied for 135th most in MLB in 2017. Here are the ERAs of the pitchers Leclerc would be tied with at that mark: 2.85, 3.13, 3.22, 3.92, 4.20, 4.65. Notably, Leclerc’s 2018 ERA is over a full run lower than the best ERA of that group.

Texas Rangers
ARLINGTON, TX – APRIL 23: Jose Leclerc #62 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Oakland Athletics in the seventh inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 23, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Of all relievers in 2018 with at least 20 IP and a 1.80 or better ERA, the average number of appearances is 24. So, for a Texas Rangers team with a middle-of-the-pack bullpen minus Leclerc (3.92 ERA, T16th in MLB), why not use him more often?

He is excellent when throwing at least one inning

Its not as if Leclerc has struggled to complete full innings. In his 14 appearances in which he has thrown at least one full inning, Leclerc has a 0.96 ERA and has allowed just three hits and seven walks in 18.2 innings pitched. He’s even proven he can stay strong for more than an inning. In the six games in which he’s thrown more than one inning, Leclerc has a 1.69 ERA. To go even further, Leclerc has only allowed an earned run in one of those appearances. That was a May 3rd game against the Red Sox where he surrendered his first two runs of the season.

Command hasn’t proven fatal

It also has nothing to do with Leclerc’s command issues. Although still below league-average, Leclerc has improved his walk percentage drastically. His walk rate is down almost 10 percent from last season’s 29 percent. However, Leclerc’s walks haven’t come around to hurt him very often.

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Of his 12 walks, only three have come around to score as earned runs and only seven have been when he’s given at least a full inning of work. Walks obviously haven’t affected Leclerc’s dominance, but they are a small issue to keep an eye on for the future.

No reason to be used for spot outs

In addition to the Rangers’ sparing usage of Jose Leclerc, the substance of his appearances has bordered on criminal. In nearly half (8 of 20) of Leclerc’s appearances, he has been used for less than an inning. There’s no other team whose best reliever is used for spot outs as often as he is for whole innings. Of the aforementioned list of pitchers with at least 20 IP and a 1.80 or better ERA, the average amount of innings pitched is 25.1, over five full innings more than Leclerc has thrown.

Next: Needed changes to improve lineup balance

There is no real reason

Right now, there is no good reason why Leclerc hasn’t seen a) more appearances and b) more innings in those appearances. He has been one of the best relievers in baseball and should be used as such. The Rangers season is quickly becoming a lost cause; why not see if Leclerc can hold up to elite-level reliever usage? If the Texas Rangers brass think he is part of the future, they need to use him like it.