Texas Rangers: Why the ‘opener’ strategy is not here to stay
By Travis Koch
The ‘opener’ strategy has made its way into the game scheme of the Texas Rangers. It’s a nice change of pace, but the strategy is not a positive sign for the team.
The Texas Rangers have now used the ‘opener’ strategy on multiple occasions over the last few weeks. This includes the first two games of the series vs. the San Diego Padres. Reliever Connor Sadzeck opened Friday night’s eventual win and reliever Alex Claudio opened last night’s game which resulted in a win.
Texas has had some success with the strategy; however, don’t expect them to carry on with it for too much longer.
The Rangers are using an opener for two reasons: (1) they now have 18 pitchers on the roster due to September call-ups and (2) they only have one starting pitcher that they can trust.
Fast forward to next season and hopefully the Texas Rangers won’t have to use an opener very often. Obviously, they won’t have 18 pitchers to work with on opening day. Instead, they’ll have maybe 13 (5 starting pitchers and 8 relievers). There will therefore be less flexibility in pitching personnel.
As of this moment, Mike Minor is the only starter that is guaranteed to take the ball for the first pitch of the game. The rest of the staff is vulnerable to the use of an opener. The goal is to have a more reliable starting rotation next season. Texas will have to sign a couple starting pitchers and hopefully those signees will liken Minor in being able to pitch from the first inning on.
That’s the idea, right? Just look at a few of the better starting rotations in Major League Baseball…
You don’t see the Houston Astros using an opener, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, or the Cleveland Indians. Those rotations are far and away better than the Rangers’, but those rotations have set the bar for success.
Yes, the above average Tampa Bay Rays have benefited from the opening strategy, but they are using it in its true strategic form. The Texas Rangers are using it in part for strategy; however, also as part of a cop out for their lack of quality starting pitching.
The consistent use of an opener would be a bad thing for the Rangers if they opt for it in 2019. That would mean they didn’t do much to improve the starting rotation over the offseason.
More from Texas Rangers News
- Early 2023 MLB mock draft has Texas Rangers selecting an Ohtani-lite
- 3 Texas Rangers outfield trade targets not named Bryan Reynolds
- Did Jacob deGrom really mean what he said at his Texas Rangers press conference?
- Martin Perez accepting the qualifying offer looking like solid deal for the Rangers
- 4 outfielders the Texas Rangers can still pursue this winter
The ‘opener’ strategy is legitimate and I don’t expect it to fade anytime soon. With that said, it should only be used on occasion. Starting pitchers don’t want their routine tampered with by having to wait to enter a game. Imagine a time in which the opener gives up three runs in the first inning. Do you think the “starter” would like to enter the game in the 2nd inning with his team already down three runs?
Plus, it’s best to save relief pitchers for relief situations. They are most important in the late innings and a team needs to monitor relief use in case a game goes to extra innings.
It’s a nice strategy, but there is certainly some flaw to it. Expect the Texas Rangers to revert back to the old-fashioned way to start next year. They are having some fun with it now in a lost season; however, they’ll take matters more seriously come March 28th of 2019.