Pitchers In Review: April

pitchers
The Rangers have completed their first month of the 2014 season, and currently sport a 15-13 record, which is good for second-best in the American League (at the time this was written). We all knew that the pitching situation was less than ideal coming out of Spring Training, and we were not sure what to expect. There have been some surprises thus far—some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Here’s April (including March 31st) in Review for the adventure that has been the Texas Rangers pitching staff.

Good:

Yu Darvish and Martin Perez have functioned effectively as a two-headed monster for the Rangers. Darvish has picked up where he left off last season, and Perez has made such a huge step in his development, it is hard to remember that he is just 23. Even after both pitchers posted their worst pitching performances of the season to close the month versus the A’s, they both sport an ERA under 3.00. Darvish has kept the ball down effectively, and has only given up 1 homerun in 31.1 IP, which is about 4 times better than the rate at which he gave up homers last season. Darvish’s WHIP is a little higher than desired, above 1.2, and that is a by-product of allowing right-handed batters to hit above .250 against him. Darvish has done more than his fair share to keep the Rangers in the games in which he starts, including striking out more than a batter per inning on average, but as the story typically goes, he has not gotten any run support (2.09 per game), so he only has one win on the season.

Perez, on the other hand, is tied for the league lead in wins with four.  He had a beautiful streak of 3 consecutive starts of 8+ IP and 5 or fewer hits allowed, including back-to-back complete-game shut-outs (there have only been 3 CGSO’s by the rest of the league combined). We knew about his plus-changeup, but it has been extremely effective this season. Against that pitch, he has allowed a .097/.152/.161 slash line and 11 of his 26 strikeouts. Perez has been awesome, and this staff needed him to be this good in a bad way this season.

Robbie Ross, who spent the last two seasons in the Rangers’ bullpen has been surprisingly effective as a starter thus far. After allowing a batting average of .412 against lefty batters last season, I was concerned about how good he would be, but he has been back to the Robbie Ross of 2012, allowing just a .200 BA to those same hitters. With the exception of two of his six starts, Ross has been great on the mound, and even with those two clunkers, he still sports a ERA of 3.86 and 7.7 K/9 IP. It will be interesting to see where Ross goes from here. Will he continue to improve as a starter and figure out how to be consistently effective, or will he go the route of Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch of last season, who were effective in April, and then were torn apart after the league figured them out?

Colby Lewis is back! Matt Harrison is back!

Bad:

Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers starter on Opening Day has been atrocious. I forced myself to look at his stats, and this is what I found: 9.82 ERA, .913 OPS (including 1.045 to the opponents’ 7-9 hitters), 12 of his 27 runs allowed have come with 2 outs in the inning, and more crooked numbers. He’s on the DL with some sort of muscle soreness/inflammation thing, which I believe to be a phantom-injury in order to keep him off the mound for the time being.

The entire bullpen is on the bad list with 4 Blown Saves and 6 losses have come out of the bullpen. Surprisingly, this effort has been led by Alexi Ogando (6.28 ERA) and Neal Cotts (5.91). The team has already used 11 different pitchers out of the bullpen, and few have proven to be consistently effective. Nick Martinez, pitching out of the pen for the first time, went five innings while allowing no runs on 2 hits. Martinez being an effective piece of this bullpen would go a long way in stabilizing the situation.

New-comers:

The following made their Rangers debut this season: Joe Saunders, Pedro Figueroa, Nick Martinez, Daniel McCutchen, Hector Noesi, Aaron Poreda, Seth Rosin, Shawn Tolleson.

Out of that list, the following are still on the Rangers 25-man Roster: Nick Martinez, Aaron Poreda, Shawn Tolleson

It’s been interesting to say the least.

Notable Facts:

The team ERA is 4.28, which is good for eighth-best in the American League, but only fourth-best in the AL West (only Houston has a higher ERA, 4.87).

This season, Yu Darvish has only faced 5 batters while pitching with a lead.

Martin Perez’s 26-inning scoreless streak is the longest in the Majors so far this season.

Only the Yankees and White Sox (19) have used more pitchers than the Rangers (18) this season, in either league.

Tanner Scheppers is the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela (1981, Los Angeles Dodgers) to make his first career start on Opening Day. Like Scheppers, Valenzuela also spent the previous season as a reliever. Unlike Scheppers, Valenzuela won his first Major League start.

Hayden Smith
Hayden was born and raised in the Metroplex, and is a senior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is on a mission to visit all of the Major League parks in the nation, and is only 10% there. He would bring back Josh Lewin, like any real fan would.

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