What have we learned the first trip through the Texas Rangers rotation?
Bookends are sturdy objects that are meant to hold a collection of books together. Weak bookends lead to a collection of books that fall down. We have now been through the Texas Rangers rotation one time. After these five games, the Texas Rangers have a 3-2 record. Beyond the actual game results, what have we actually learned about the rotation and the bullpen? Let's start by breaking it up into three sections, the bookends of the rotation, the middle 3 pitchers, and then the bullpen.
The Rotation Bookends
Jacob deGrom and Andrew Heaney were both highly sought after free agent signings. They serve as the bookends in Bruce Bochy's rotation. The first time through the rotation they were not as sturdy as bookends should be.
deGrom got it started on Opening Day against the Phillies. He started out strong with a quick 10 pitch, two strikeout first inning. He had to labor through the next 2.1 innings. He gave up six extra base hits, including a home run to Alec Bohm in the second inning. He ended up pitching 3.2 innings, and did have seven strikeouts to no walks, but also gave up five earned runs in that time.
deGrom had the velocity and stuff that was expected, but the control was not always there. It did not lead to any walks, but it did lead to him having to work harder and throw more pitches. Mainly it was fastball and slider command in the second and third innings that got him in trouble. The fastball was moving out of the strike zone and the slider was not enticing enough to consistently get the Phillies' batters to swing.
He was supported though by an offense that scored nine runs and ended up coming from behind to win that game 11-7. The bullpen held up the deGrom bookend by finishing off the game by only giving up two runs in their 5.1 innings pitched that day.
The other bookend to the rotation is Andrew Heaney. Lets just say after one start that Heaney's bookend has fell over, off the shelf, and is laying on the floor hoping someone picks it back up.
Heaney was not good last night and there is no way to sugar coat that. He pitched 2.2 innings against the Orioles and allowed 7 earned runs. It was punctuated by home runs from Ryan Mountcastle and Jorge Mateo. The Rangers ended up losing the game 7-2.
Heaney was missing with his fastball and was struggling to put hitters away. He located too many of his pitches over the heart of the plate. The Orioles took advantage when he did miss over the plate. They also did a good job laying off of his sweeper pitch that really was his put away pitch in 2022. Last night he threw 27 sweepers and 13 of them resulted in a swinging strike or called strike. 14 were either fouled off or resulted in a hit. His night ended when Jorge Mateo took one of the sliders deep to increase the lead to 7-1.
In the first turn through the rotation, we learned that the bookends for this rotation need to be better if this team is going to go anywhere. deGrom needs to have better command over the outer portion of the plate to right-handed hitters. He also needs to be more consistent from batter to batter. Heaney will need to have better command overall of all of his pitches. He can't leave so many in the middle of the plate. I expect both will be better this next time out.