Throwback Tanner Scheppers – 2016 Playoff Pitcher
Sometimes, the help you’re looking for comes from the least likely of places. The Texas Rangers’ bullpen has been far from the complete shutdown corps that was expected before the season started. Indeed, they induce more heart attacks than you would like from a group of men who are called “relievers.” They’ve gotten the job done, by hook or by crook, helping Texas to one of its best seasons in recent memory, playing an enormous part in the team’s record-setting 36-11 record in one-run games. Now, as the Rangers look to wrap up back-to-back Division Championships and seal the best record in the American League, they’re getting another booster shot in the form of an old friend – Tanner Scheppers.
February 18, 2016: Texas Rangers Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona.
February 19, 2016: Texas Rangers hold their first workout.
February 20, 2016: Tanner Scheppers flies back to Texas with torn cartilage in his left knee. He will have surgery that will keep him out until after the All-Star Break – at least.
The reaction from the Texas Rangers’ fan base: Ho-hum, so what? With the names that Texas was bringing back, the ones they traded for and signed in free agency and the young prospects that were on the verge of Major League ready, Scheppers, coming off of two injury-riddled, lackluster seasons, had fallen out of the Bullpen Tree of Trust and would be maybe a September call-up.
After finishing another scoreless outing against Memphis on September 3rd, the Rangers are looking at a Tanner Scheppers that possesses a 1.12 ERA, two saves, 1.125 WHIP, 2.33 K/BB and a perfectly usable 95 MPH fastball.
The Rangers called Scheppers up, and the 29-year-old right-hander donned the old “52” again. On September 7th, he entered into a very low-leverage 8th inning against Seattle, with the Rangers down 8-3 against the Mariners.
That’s where it started. A week later, in a much higher-leverage situation in which the Angels had just taken the lead off of an ineffective Keone Kela, Scheppers appeared again. Two pitches, one ground-out, and a Jonathan Lucroy two-run bomb later and Scheppers had picked up his first win.
Then it was a thirteen pitch perfect outing the very next day. He then picked up his first save – a perfect 10 pitch outing – as the Rangers buried the Division hopes of the Astros. Scheppers had one bump in the road against Houston the next day, giving up two runs on a walk and two hits without retiring a batter. Just a week later, he entered into his highest-leverage situation yet.
6-3 Ground Out.
That, however, was nothing, compared to his performance on Wednesday night. Two and a third innings of extraordinarily efficient and effective relief pitching over just 23 pitches. The Rangers had clawed back to within a run and Scheppers allowed them to stay within reach. Despite the losing effort, Scheppers opened a lot of eyes, proved his versatility, endurance and far more importantly – his effectiveness.
Many times in the playoffs, it’s not the best team that wins, but the team that’s got the hottest momentum. Right now, manager Jeff Banister should be looking to put together the best team possible for his 25-man roster. Sometimes, veteran leadership and track record will put you on the team. In the case of those who don’t have veteran status, those who don’t have an established track record of playoff or high-leverage experience, the players who are hot right now should get preference.
Right now, in addition to Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Keone Kela, Tony Barnette, Alex Claudio, and your long man (one of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, A.J. Griffin, or Nick Martinez), who would you rather have:
Jake Diekman, who continues to maintain his left-handed velocity, but for the better part of a month-plus looks like he has absolutely zero clue where the baseball is headed once it leaves his hand?
Or Tanner Scheppers, who is coming in fresh, hot, motivated and effective?
There’s a week and a half left in the season. Can the lefty Diekman right the ship? Or can Scheppers persuade Banister to #TakeTanner to the playoffs?