Injury Bug

Appearing in the World Series two straight times certainly requires talent, skill, and determination. It also requires a certain amount of luck. Part of that luck involves the ball bouncing your way, umpires blowing calls at key times, and the wind blowing balls in the direction that favors your team, another part of luck is far more important. Injuries, or the lack of them, can make or break a playoff run. 
In the past two season, the Rangers have been very lucky when it comes to injuries. Some key players have had stints on the disabled list, but they haven’t been during key times of the season. They also have had the good fortune of not having season ending injuries for any key players.

What has been even more favorable for the team, however, has been the health of the starting pitching. In 2010, the Rangers used a total of 10 starting pitchers. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that 142 of the 162 regular season games were started by Just 6 men, it doesn’t sound quite so bad. When you figure in that one of those six that received the majority of the starts was Cliff Lee, who was picked up midseason and only had 15 starts, it is even more remarkable. In all reality, the Rangers only had to find a fill in pitcher for 20 games all season.

Let’s look a little further at those fill in starts. Of the 20 starts by pitchers that weren’t in the original rotation, 16 of those were by Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. Those guys have been starters in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and have been serviceable at worst. That really leaves only four starts for the entire 2010 season that were made by pitchers that were not cut out for the job.

It’s quite clear that 2010 was a fortunate season when it came to the health of the starting pitching. As lucky as 2010 was in that area, 2011 was even better. It has been made clear by quite a few in the media that no Texas starting pitcher missed a start in 2011 due to injury. The original starting rotation for Texas started 157 of the 162 games in the 2011 season. Outside of that, Dave Bush started three games and Scott Feldman started two. Those five games were just to give rest to guys like Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, who had never been subjected to the rigors of starting for a full season.

That brings us to 2012. The Rangers used seven starting pitchers through all of the 2011 season, and have used exactly that many through 61 games in the 2012 campaign. Neftali Feliz was the first of the original starting five to go down. Feliz hit the disabled list with elbow inflammation. He was replaced in the rotation by Scott Feldman, who had been less than stellar, but has also been haunted by terrible defensive play behind him.

Derek Holland was the next to go down. He was recently placed on the DL for shoulder fatigue. His spot in the rotation was filled by Alexi Ogando. On Sunday, Ogando threw three perfect innings against the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately, Ogando strained his groin running out a bunt (he was safe) and was pulled from the game. The current word is that he is day to day. This whole situation sounds quite dire, but there is a bit of a silver lining. Prior to going on the DL, Holland had fought a stomach illness for more than two weeks. The bug caused him to lose around 15 pounds. The optimist will recognize that weight loss typically results in loss of strength, which may be a big contributor to the shoulder fatigue.

Although the recent pitching misfortunes are certainly less than ideal, it’s difficult to argue they weren’t due for some injuries. It’s never fun to see key members of your team go down, but the Rangers are a team that plans ahead. Injuries to the starting rotation are expected, even if they haven’t been commonplace recently. Fortunately, I believe this team is equipped to deal with whatever setbacks may come along.

Chris Kautz is a Senior Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Chris.Kautz@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @SDIChris.
Chris Kautz

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