The Banister Effect
After Ron Washington departed from the team late in the 2014 season, the Rangers front office decided that it was time for the Jeff Banister era to begin in Texas. The book on Banister had been that he’s an electric personality, and that his honesty, integrity, and sincerity can win over every person in the room. Despite the reports of Banister being a hard worker and an honest man, Rangers fans were anxious to see how that translated to play on the field. After 48 games in the 2015 season, Banister has shown that he is without a doubt a different manager than the man he is replacing – who was also the winningest manager in the history of the franchise.
One of the biggest changes in philosophy that Banister has shown, is his desire to ride a hot arm or bat rather than to stick it out when a veteran struggles. Banister has made it clear that his only goal is to win as many ballgames as possible, and he will run out the players that he believes give the team the greatest chance to do that, without any favoritism. He has made Rule-5 Draft Pick Delino DeShields a fixture in the lineup. Another manager might continue to play the incumbent Leonys Martin every day, but Banister’s loyalty is to winning games, and he will continue to run out DeShields as long as he believes he is the best man for the job. He has managed the entire roster this way – he even benched 11-year veteran Shin-Soo Choo for a few games after his dreadful April.
Banister’s bullpen management is certainly unique, and it has also yielded tremendous results. Not many fans would consider this bullpen a team of world-beaters, but Banister has managed to maximize their abilities and deserves praise for the results we have seen. He’s done things such like leaving Alex Claudio on the mound for 61 pitches over 3.1 innings on May 25, even though he had never recorded more than five outs as a reliever in his career. He has given high-leverage innings to Ross Ohlendorf, who signed in the offseason as a minor league free agent, Keone Kela, a 22-year-old rookie who, prior to this season, had only recorded 38.2 innings above A ball, and Shawn Tolleson, who earned his first career save in his 123rd career appearance on May 20.
In stark contrast to the unsolicited advice of many armchair managers on Twitter, Banister has used his ragtag group of relievers to a tune of a 3.51 ERA, a .230 opponent’s batting average, and they have left 81.3% of baserunners stranded on the bases since he stripped the roles from the bullpen in mid-May. It’s no surprise that the team has gone 8-3 in their last 11 games, with six of those wins by a margin of three runs or fewer – wins that rely on sharp appearances from the bullpen.
The more time that passes, the more effect Banister seems to have on this team. It shows up on the field. This team looks loose and focused. This team looks comfortable. After two months, the Rangers are still a sub-.500 team at 22-24, but it’s clear that they are on the upward swing after a slow start in April. The Rangers may not make the playoffs in 2015, and they might not even contend, but the leadership and stoicism from Banister will undoubtedly lead this team to success in the near future.