Coming out of Bakersfield Junior College, the Texas Rangers selected Colby Lewis as a sandwich pick in the 1999 draft (38th overall). A top prospect within the system, Lewis was rushed to the big leagues just 3 years later, where in 2003 Lewis posted a winning record of 10-9. The problem? Despite the winning record, he maintained a 7.30 ERA.
Four years, three MLB teams and a rotator cuff surgery later, Lewis found himself signing with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
What happened after that is a testament to both Colby Lewis’ work ethic as well as the creativity of the Rangers’ front office. In his first year back from Japan, Lewis posted a 3.72 ERA, and a strikeout rate of 8.8 per 9 innings. When the playoffs began, Lewis was slated to take the ball in the rotation behind only Cliff Lee.
And on October 22, 2010, one year removed from Japan, Colby Lewis played the starring role in the greatest moment in Texas Rangers baseball history.
Statheads will tell you that playoff numbers are a small sample size; that they don’t matter because they only represent a small part of the body of work. It is, and I agree.
But try to remember what life was like before 2010.
It’s tough. The 2010 season is something that can never be recreated. Part of being a baseball fan is enjoying the grind. Only a handful of teams make the playoffs, and only one team wins the World Series every year. Enjoying individual performances, enjoying the happenings of each game, these are the joys of the innocent baseball fan. Nolan Ryan never made the playoffs with Texas, and Pudge Rodriguez never got past the first round, and that was OK, because we witnessed greatness and fully appreciated it.
In 2010, the Rangers fan lost his innocence. When you stop being the underdog, you start focusing on the big picture so much it’s nearly impossible to enjoy what should be the fun of a division race. Nothing tastes the same after tasting the forbidden fruit, and that is inevitable. But another byproduct of the loss of innocence is that it’s easy to forget how much we appreciated what gave us joy before we moved on to bigger and better things.
Back before twitter exploded every single time a bunt was laid down, and before trading prospects for the best pitcher on the market at the trade deadline was debated as being a good move for the organization or not, going to New York to face the Evil Empire in the ALCS was a thrill within itself.
When Colby Lewis took the mound on October 22, 2010, only one Rangers pitcher had ever done so with the opportunity to propel his team to their first World Series hanging over their head: C.J. Wilson, who had yielded 6 runs in just 5 innings of work the night before.
8 innings later, Colby Lewis left that mound having only yielded 3 hits to New York, who would soon witness the Texas Rangers celebrate their first World Series berth.
Since then, with the addition of Yu Darvish and the maturation of Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and the rest of the pitching staff that has carried the Rangers to three straight playoffs, the 3.72 ERA Lewis put up in 2010 would rank fourth in the Rangers current rotation, just slightly edging out #5 starter Martin Perez. Could he help have helped this rotation this year? Absolutely. Are the Rangers in trouble without him? Probably not. How quickly things can change.
With a 4-1 postseason record and a 2.34 postseason ERA, Lewis remains the Rangers’ most accomplished postseason starter of all time. He’s accumulated 7.2 WAR over the past 3 seasons, seasons that the club paid Lewis less than $10 million.
Even though innocence has been lost, the dragon has not yet been slayed. Expectations have been raised dramatically since January of 2010 when the Rangers signed a 30 year old free agent from Japan, and that’s a good thing.
Colby Lewis may never walk off the mound at RBIA quite like he did that October night, but whether or not he ever pitches a game in a Ranger uniform again, Colby Lewis deserves a standing ovation from the home crowd for whom he raised expectations for so highly.