The Bullpen is Struggling
The Rangers’ 2015 season has taken us on a wild ride. At times, the season has felt like a rollercoaster. We have all seen players slump and rebound, players injured and return, and a player getting hot and cooling off. This young season has had those moments as well, but when those moments happen team-wide it can be concerning and disheartening. It can feel like altogether something different.
Recently, the offense has started coming to life from the drought we felt in April. In the month of May, the offense has averaged 4.92 runs per game vs. April’s 3.5 runs per game. The team batting average in April was .210 and in May we have seen a .269 team AVG. Power is also up, as we have seen five more homeruns so far in May as we saw in all of April. The run support and returned power have made games more fun to watch and gives more confidence in our starters being able to get the win.
The starting pitching has also been a positive as of late, with the exception of Ross Detwiler, but that’s a separate article to tackle another time. We have seen great outings from Colby Lewis who is rocking a 2.40 ERA with a 3-2 record. April’s Player of the Month, Nick Martinez, has been fantastic with his 1.88 ERA, the 7th lowest in MLB. This past Sunday, Wandy Rodriguez had six K’s and held the Rays to one run in a game the Rangers won 2-1. Even with Detwiler’s 7.22 ERA and Yovani Gallardo’s five bombs allowed and the 15 walks he has given up, I am still pleasantly surprised with our starting pitching, especially now that we have turned the corner into mid-May.
With the offense and pitching giving a slight bit of stability, the loosest rivet in this wild rollercoaster that is the 2015 season has been the bullpen. The bullpen has been inconsistent and undependable. The most recent changes to the pen are Spencer Patton being optioned to Round Rock to make way for Kyuji Fujikawa. On Thursday, Fujikawa pitched a shutdown inning of relief against the Royals. Rangers also designated Stolmy Pimentel to make way for Sam Freeman. Freeman also pitched a few innings of relief against the Royals. He took over for Anthony Bass who gave up a run on a RBI single by Alcides Escobar. Freeman had his own troubles when he gave up a two-run homer by Eric Hosmer. Before the pen hit the mound, the Rangers were still in the game trailing 3-2. After the three run 6th inning, the Rangers were unable to recover.
This is similar to the saga of Tuesday night against the Royals. The 7-6 loss in 10 innings had three of those seven runs given up by the bullpen. Alex Claudio, Neftali Feliz, and Stolmy Pimentel were responsible for those three runs late in the game. Pimentel gave up the game-winning homer to Alex Gordon. The next day he was designated for assignment to make room for Freeman. A similar story, Spencer Patton’s last outing on Saturday against the Rays, he gave up a homer in the 7-2 routing of the Rangers at the Trop. He was optioned five days later.
These are only the most recent changes to a pen that has yet to have consistency. The current bullpen is Shawn Tolleson, Keone Kela, Bass, Claudio, Freeman, Fujikawa, and closer Neftali Feliz. It now finally consists of a few left-handed relievers in Sam Freeman and Alex Claudio.
Before the recent changes, the bullpen had a 4.56 ERA and had given up 16 homers with seven of them coming from the first batter they faced – the latter stat being most in the majors. We will have to wait and see how the addition of Freeman and Fujikawa changes the dynamic in the bullpen. The addition of another lefty is a definite plus.
If the current bullpen issue can be solved, Jeff Banister will have some dependable arms to count on late in games. The frustrating factor to the current problem is, for the most part, the starters have been pitching later in games giving less pressure to the bullpen. So you would assume we shouldn’t even be in this position. However, that is the state of the bullpen.
A potential solution is moving Ross Detwiler to the bullpen, which would give another lefty to the pen. I would feel good about Detwiler pitching one inning and feel that would be productive. This solution only gives another question of who would be your 5th starter. If you can think of a suggestion for that dilemma leave a comment and tell me, I’d love to know!
When the Rangers were losing eight of the last ten games in April, I did not imagine mid-May we would be discussing the struggling bullpen as one of the greater problems. No doubt that even after the recent bullpen moves, there are more changes still to come. For now, I plan to enjoy watching the revived offense, the recently stellar pitching, and wait to see the most incarnation of the bullpen start to improve.