The Texas Rangers snagged another series win over the Astros, but Jose Leclerc still looks lost on the mound in the 9th inning. What’s the fix?
Sunday afternoon was another happy one for Texas Rangers fans as they picked up a series win over the Houston Astros for the 2nd time this season. It brought Texas within a half game of the Astros in the division and a game and a half of the AL West-leading Mariners. They also moved back into a Wild Card spot marking an impressive and surprising start to the 2019 campaign. All these bright spots have a bit of a shadow though as lockdown closer Jose Leclerc looks anything but right now.
Leclerc was called upon in the 9th inning of Sunday afternoon’s game to see out a 3-run lead and the 6th win from their past 7 games. But Leclerc, who has struggled in his recent outings, saw that lead disintegrate quickly as he gave up a leadoff homer to George Springer, and subsequently issued 4 walks while recording just 2 outs. His pitch count shot to near 40 for the inning and he was pulled with bases loaded and 2 outs for Shawn Kelley who recorded the final out.
After the outing, Leclerc’s ERA has jumped to an eye-popping 7.88 and a 1.88 WHIP that shows he cannot get people out. Floating through the Rangers Twitter-verse, there were many calls for Texas to remove Leclerc from the closer role moving forward and possibly give him a stint in Triple-A to right his proverbial ship.
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Diagnosing the Problem
As an armchair pitching coach, I have my own ideas about what Leclerc’s problems are. Watching his past couple of outings, there seems to be a major problem with locating his fastball. Leclerc’s high-90’s fastball is the whole crux of his pitching arsenal and sets up hitters for his great breaking stuff. However, when his fastball is lacking, his whole game plan on the mound can fall apart.
Over his past outings, we’ve seen him leave his pitches over the plate numerous times leading to giving up some big hits in important spots. Because of that, we’ve seen him lose some confidence that is so crucial for a closer. Sunday, it seemed he tried to trust his stuff a little bit more, but because he still doesn’t have the right feel on the mound, he was wild which led to the walks.
What Does the Skipper Think?
After the game, Chris Woodward was asked about Leclerc and his recent struggles. Woodward noted that he thought Leclerc could be tipping his pitches on the mound which is leading to the elevated batting average against. However, I think how wild he was today at least confirms that there’s more than that wrong.
Woodward did dispel any questions on the plans for the 9th inning role moving forward, choosing to stick by his 25-year old flamethrower. Woodward wants to figure out why Leclerc is struggling soon and plans to get him back on the mound quickly.
The Texas Rangers desperately need Leclerc to get everything fixed though as they’ve tapped him to be the long-term closer for the club. They handed him a nice extension early this year that upped his salary considerably and will have him in Arlington through 2022 with a couple of team options that could keep him here until 2024.
Let us know your thoughts on Jose Leclerc and his struggles in the comments below.