With each new playoff series, teams are allowed to reset their roster. That playoff feature is to the Texas Rangers advantage as they have not one, but possibly two top pitchers that could be coming back from injuries. It appears that Max Scherzer and perhaps even Jon Gray could be added to the ALCS roster. It still isn't clear on Gray, but with Scherzer all but a lock to be added, there will need to be at least one and maybe two players from the ALDS that are removed.
Looking at who might not make the ALCS roster is a two-pronged exercise. First, we should look at how the guys have been performing lately. If a pitcher has been dealing, then there is a much greater chance that they make the roster for the next round. On the flip side, if they have struggled recently, or even haven't been used at all in the playoffs, that might be an indication that manager Bruce Bochy has lost confidence in them.
Another thing to consider is the oppoent that the Rangers are facing. The Houston Astros are heavily a right handed hitting team, with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker as the notable exceptions. Michael Brantley also hits left-handed and will likely see some action as well. The thing about Alvarez and Tucker, is that they aren't normal hitters. Similar to Corey Seager, it really doesn't matter what arm the pitcher is using, they can flat out rake. In fact, Tucker actually has better splits against lefties this season while Alvarez only slightly drops off in slug.
With that primer, let's take a look at who might not be on the Texas Rangers roster for the ALCS when it is officially announced on Sunday.
One of the more inconsistent pitchers out of the Rangers bullpen this season has been Brock Burke. He has shown flashes of brilliance for a few games in a row, only to come out and give up several runs in his next outing. Overall, his numbers for the season aren't terrible, but they aren't indicative of someone that should be leaned on in a high-leverage situation. In 59 2/3 innings of work, Burke has a 4.37 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.223 WHIP, 52 strike outs, has allowed only nine walks, two hit batsmen, but has given up 13 home runs.
During the regular season the long ball has been his nemesis, as he tends to throw strikes. While Burke's regular season numbers aren't terrible, his one outing in this postseason didn't go well. When your ERA is the same as teammate Martin Perez's jersey number (54), you know things have gone south.
Burke's only appearance in the playoffs came in mop up duty in Game 2 of the ALDS. With the Rangers up by six runs Burke came on to start the ninth inning and get the team to the finish line. Unfortunately for Burke, he was only able to record one out, while giving up a hit and a walk before being lifted for Jose Leclerc. Leclerc would promptly give up a bomb to Aaron Hicks, thus having the two runners that Burke put on base being charged to him.
Being a lefty is also not in Burke's favor. As previously mentioned, the Astros are mainly a right-hand hitting team, and with the glut of lefties in the Rangers bullpen, Burke could find himself on the outside of this series roster.
You might be thinking that Matt Bush was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers last year at the trade deadline and isn't with the Rangers anymore. Well, you would be partially correct. He was indeed traded last season to the Brewers but is now back with Texas.
Bush hasn't pitched in the big leagues since June 30th of this year when he saw his ERA balloon to a grotesque 9.58. The day after his rough outing against the Pirates, the Brewers released Bush. With the Rangers bullpen woes, they claimed the familiar face and let him work on things in both Frisco and Round Rock. While in the minors Bush did well, but not well enough to be brought up to Arlington.
When Gray headed to the IL at the end of the regular season, Bush found himself on the roster of both the ALWC and the ALDS. He still hasn't got into a game since joining the club, and it would be quite the story if he made his way to the mound at this point.
Bush does actually have a small amount of playoff experience with the Rangers. In the 2016 ALDS against the Blue Jays, Bush saw action in two games. He threw 3 2/3 innings, allowing no runs and striking out six. Unfortunately, the Rangers were swept in that series, so his efforts were for naught. If one or both of the injured guys come back, Bush might not make the cut.
Cody Bradford pitched a fantastic 3 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS, earning the win. The native Texan was in control of his emotions and pounded the zone and pitched to weak contact. He actually recorded four strikeouts in the outing. Bradford is a long relief guy for the Rangers and that might play into the decision to not include him on the ALCS roster.
It really depends on if just Scherzer, or both he and Gray are added to the roster. If it is only one of them, it would be doubtful that Bradford would be left off after his ALDS performance. But if both guys are added, he might be on the outside looking in. The Rangers have several guys that can throw long relief out of the pen, so unless Bochy wants Bradford for mop up duty or to be used as a strategic lefty, there might not be a spot for him.
It should also be noted, that of the four players listed here, Bradford was the only one that was left off of the ALWC roster. Grant Anderson was on the ALWC roster and then was replaced by Bradford in the ALDS. Those decisions were at least partially based on the right-handed heavy Tampa Bay offense and the left-handed heavy Baltimore offense.
From middle relief, to closer, to dependable, to unreliable, Will Smith's 2023 season is the perfect analogy for the Rangers bullpen this season. Bochy obviously has a ton of respect for the veteran lefty. He even still trusts him, as he used him in a critical spot in Game 1 of the ALDS brining him in to face the left-handed hitting Gunnar Henderson. Smith would strike out the probable AL Rookie of the Year and keep the Rangers out in front 3 to 2.
That is the only action that Smith has seen in the playoffs thus far. As if listening to a broken record, we should remember once again the right-hand hitting Astros and where a situational lefty would fit into the series. Bochy has a history with Smith and trusts him, but will there be an opportunity to use him in this series? That is the question that we just don't know. We will find out tomorrow which direction the Rangers decided to go with the roster and which of these guys aren't going to be on the final list.
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