Texas Rangers: Pitching has Helped Sustain 2019 Success

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 03: Mike Minor #23 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 03, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 03: Mike Minor #23 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 03, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

As of Thursday, June 6th, the Texas Rangers are tied for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The pitching staff has helped sustain success into June.

The Rangers have definitely exceeded expectations going into June. Not only are they above .500, but they are contending for the playoffs. There’s still a lot of baseball left with 103 games to go, but not many predicted the Rangers would be where they are more than one-third of the way through the season.

The biggest reason the Rangers are where they’re at is their offense. No one would dispute that the 2019 Rangers’ lineup had serious potential. Joey Gallo’s breakout into an MVP-caliber season along with Hunter Pence’s finding of the fountain of youth has catapulted this lineup into one of the most dangerous in baseball.

We all knew that if the Rangers were going anywhere, the offense was going to have to lead the way. And they have. But one thing that has helped sustain this success is the pitching staff, especially lately.

The Rangers pitching staff had a terrible March/April with an ERA of 5.47. They even started off May pretty rough as well. However, following their five-game losing streak, the Rangers have a team ERA of 3.81 since May 15th.

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The biggest contributor has been Mike Minor, who signed a three-year deal worth $28 million in the 2017-2018 offseason. Minor had a decent 2018 in his first year back as a starter, but his 2019 campaign has been nothing short of stellar so far.

Minor boasts a 2.55 ERA, which is fifth-best in the American League and eighth in Major League Baseball. Even in games like Wednesday night against Baltimore where he isn’t commanding his pitches well, he finds ways to minimize damage and get outs. He’s been the very definition of an ace for the Rangers so far.

Not to mention his 4.2 WAR is tied with Mike Trout for the best in the American League and only second in the MLB to Cody Bellinger’s staggering 5.2 WAR.

Minor hasn’t been the only contributor. Additional efforts from Lance Lynn and Adrian Sampson have helped deepen the rotation. Even Ariel Jurado has turned in a 3.24 ERA in three starts since joining the rotation on May 18th.

Since May 15th, the Rangers are 11-5 when Minor, Lynn, Sampson, or Jurado have started or pitched with an opener. That is a huge contribution, given that Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly, and Edinson Volquez haven’t contributed well to the rotation.

Miller, Smyly, and Volquez made up three of the five rotation spots to start the season. Volquez may be done pitching altogether, Miller lost his spot in the rotation, and Smyly may be close to getting booted as well. Smyly benefited from an opener on May 29th against Seattle, so maybe that could be an option to get more out of Smyly.

We don’t want to forget about the bullpen, which also started off horrendously for Texas. Jesse Chavez, who was one of the better relievers in baseball a year ago, struggled from the start. Chavez had an 8.79 ERA in 12.2 innings in April, but since his first appearance in May, he has not allowed a run. His 19.1 scoreless inning streak is the longest of his career.

Jose Leclerc has had a similar season to Jesse Chavez. His first month of the season was so bad, manager Chris Woodward had to yank him from his closer role in favor of Shawn Kelley, who’s been the Rangers’ most consistent reliever. Leclerc has turned it around, however, only allowing three runs since the start of May in 15.1 innings.

The pitching staff is far from perfect. They still aren’t anywhere close to being an elite staff, but there are enough pieces in place to give some optimism for the remainder of 2019 and further into the future.

If Leclerc regains anything close to his 2018 form to go with Chavez and Kelley, the back-end of the bullpen starts to look very solid. The Rangers are currently getting great things from Minor and Lynn. Sampson and Jurado are showing promise in the opportunities they are getting.

The pitching hasn’t been great for the Rangers, but they’ve definitely been better than people thought they would be going into the season. That alone is something worth keeping our eyes open for as 2019 moves along.